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The best of Indy’s north suburban holiday festivals

Young couple enjoying Christmas in Zionsville

If you live in or around Carmel, Whitestown, Westfield or Zionsville, you have lots of fun options this winter holiday season.

Some events are great for families, others are really just for adults. Some take place outside, and others, thankfully, are snugly inside. Here are some ideas for those cold pre-holiday afternoons and evenings ahead we think you and your family may enjoy:

Carmel ChristkindlmarktCarmel Christkindlmarkt

Where: 10 Center Green; CarmelChristkindlmarkt.com

When: Now through Sunday December 23 | Closed Mondays and Tuesdays; Wednesdays 4 – 9 p.m.; Friday/Saturday/Sundays, 12 to 9 p.m.

What: Carmel’s Christkindlmarkt is an outdoor “village” of traditional German foods and gifts surrounding a holiday ice skating rink. Watch the ice skaters while you explore the authentic German market. Browse through unusual German ornaments, handmade items and collectible bier steins.

Why it works: Good German food and beer, and hot chocolate to warm you inside. A feast for the eyes, the nose and the heart!

Bonus: There’s even a Kids Corner with activities.

Cost: No admission fee.

ice skatesThe Ice at Center Green

Where: 10 Center Green, Carmel; theiceatcentergreen.com

When: December 1 through December 23 | Thursdays, 4 to 9 p.m.; Fridays through Sundays, 12 to 9 p.m.; closed Mondays – Wednesdays.

What: An actual old-fashioned outdoor ice rink open for public skating, located between the Palladium, and the Tarkington and Studio Theatres

Why it works: Burn off a little pre-holiday stress on the rink with your kids.

Bonus: $4 skate rental for all ages – or bring your own.

How much: 10 and under, $8; 11 and up, $11.

Holly Jolly Jamboree

Where: Cool Creek Nature Center, 2001 E. 151st Street, Carmel 

When: Saturday, December 8, 2 to 4 p.m.

What: Hamilton County Parks and Recreation gets merry as its staff welcomes Santa and Mrs. Claus. Silly Safaris will be on hand to present its Indiana Reindeer Reserve program, bringing along an actual reindeer.

Why it works: What kid doesn’t love getting nose to nose with a real live reindeer?

Bonus: Craft projects for the kids – and cookies are available.

How much:  Free

The Polar Express – “drive-in” movie for kids

Where: Carmel Clay Public Library

When: Saturday, December 15, 6 to 8 p.m.

What:  Carmel Clay Parks and Recreation takes the concept of the drive-in movie inside – to the delight of kids ages 4 to 10 (parents must stay for the movie).

Why it works: Kids make their own Polar Express train car. Bring your own box to decorate, a pillow and a blanket. Carmel Clay Parks will provide art supplies, popcorn, and juice.

Bonus: This brilliant twist on a holiday kid-movie favorite adds a bold paintbrush-filled dollop of creativity. We love it!

How much: Registration is required. Cost is $20.

Art on MainART on Main

Where111 West Main Street, Suite 140, downtown Carmel; www.carmelartonmain.com

When: Saturday, December 8 | 5 – 9 p.m.

What: Shop for small original works of art. The perfect place to shop for hard-to-gift friends and family.

Why it works: Good way to support Indiana local and regional artists.

Bonus: Holiday treats while you shop? Door prizes? We’re in!

How much: Shopping is free, of course. Items are priced for gifting.

Indiana Wind Symphony: "Holiday Dreams"

Where: The Palladium at the Center for the Performing Arts, 1 Center Green, Carmel; (317) 843-3800; TheCenterPresents.org

When: Thursday, December 6 | 7:30 p.m.

What: The Indiana Wind Symphony provides a soothing wind instrument infusion of holiday tunes through the years, beginning with "It's the Most Wonderful Time," and continuing through "White Christmas," and classics from "The Nutcracker" and Handel's "Messiah."

Why it works: If this doesn’t get you humming holiday tunes as you shop, wrap and decorate, there’s no hope!

Bonus: There's an absolutely heart-warming "Silent Night" sing-along. Sigh….

How much: Tickets range from $5 to $40.

"White Christmas"

Where: The Palladium at the Center for the Performing Arts, 1 Center Green, Carmel; (317) 843-3800; TheCenterPresents.org

When: Wednesday, December 12 | 2 and 7:30 p.m.

What: The Palladium is nationally known for its Great American Songbook series. Here, they have broadened that interest to include classic musical films. This 1954 movie is a great example of the golden age of Hollywood. "White Christmas," stars Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, and Rosemary Clooney.

Why it works: It is ever so much better to share the experience of this adorable movie with a group of friends and family.

How much: Admission is $10

Cookies with Mrs. ClausCookies with Mrs. Claus

Where: Clay Terrace Whole Foods’ food court area; clayterrace.com

When: Saturday, December 8 | 11 a.m. – 1 p.m.

What: Kids and families enjoy milk and cookies with the marvelous teller of holiday classic tales, Mrs. Claus

Why it works: If there is a better way to take a breather from holiday shopping with the kids than warm cookies, milk and a Christmas story, we haven’t heard of it!

Bonus: No reservations needed. Just drop in with the kids.

How much: Free

Holiday Trolley

Where: Holiday Trolley will stop in the Arts & Design District, Carmel City Center, the Indiana Design Center, and Center Green for the Christkindlmarkt and Ice at Center Green; www.carmel.in.gov

When: Saturdays, December 1 – 22 | 2 - 9 p.m.

What: Enjoy a warm trolley ride up or down the Monon Trail to easily get around Carmel’s Arts & Design district.

Why it works: So many reasons: Shopping-weary feet, cranky kids, dropping temperatures.

Bonus: No parking hassles!

How much: Free

Christmas in the Village

Where: Corner of Main and Cedar Street, Zionsville

When: Saturday, December 2 and Sunday December 3 | 11 a.m. – 3 p.m.

What:  Come meet Zionsville’s favorite Santa in residence at the Santa House. Enjoy horse-drawn wagon rides throughout the village, as well as musical entertainment from strolling buskers, choral groups, musicians and bands.

Why it works: Zionsville’s historic charm is heart-warming, especially during the holiday season. There’s a giant Christmas tree right in the middle of the cobblestone street, for goodness' sake!

Bonus: Soak up the hometown atmosphere – it’s free – while you get some serious shopping done.

Westfield in LightsWestfield in Lights

Where: Downtown Westfield; westfieldwelcome.com

When: Saturday, December 1 | 3  – 7 p.m. 

What: A downtown Westfield tradition! Book a horse-drawn carriage ride through downtown Westfield and enjoy the evening with family and friends.

Why it works: Lights, jingle bells, even live reindeer!

Bonus: Plenty of free attractions like train rides, pictures with Santa and Frosty, a gingerbread house competition, live music, and food and retail vendors.

How much: $40 per carriage (up to 4 adults and 2 small children per carriage) for 20-25 minute ride.

Santa on a tractorChristmas on the Farm

Where: Traders Point Creamery, 9101 Moore Road, Zionsville; traderspointcreamery.com

 When: Saturday, December 8 at 9 a.m. | Sunday, December 9 at 2:30 p.m.

What: Celebrate the sights, sounds, and spirit of Christmas on the Farm at Zionsville’s freshest working farm and creamery. Visit Santa in the Red Barn. Sing along with live holiday music. Take in the beauty of the farm on a sleigh-hayride, then treat yourself to organic eggnog, hot chocolate, and a festive menu at the Jingle Bell Cafe.

Why it works: This is a working farm. Kids can see chickens, cows and calves! And oh my, taste that eggnog!

Bonus: Make a reservation at the Loft Restaurant for a special holiday brunch, available 9 a.m. – 2:30 p.m., Saturday and Sunday. Reservations required.

How much: $15, children under age 1 are free

Children’s Festival in the Village

Where: Main Street, Zionsville

When: Saturday, December 8 | 11 a.m. – 3 p.m.

What: Snowflake Seek & Find is a great way for kids and parents to do a little shopping together. Pick up a Snowflake card at Akard True Value Hardware, the Chamber Office, or at most retail locations in Zionsville’s shopping district (Main Street). Match the snowflakes on your card with those in participating shops while you browse. Enjoy musical entertainment all along Main Street.

Why it works: Once your snowflake card has been completed, children can trade it in for a free cookie to decorate at zWORKS (85 E. Cedar Street). 

Bonus: Barrel Train rides will be available for families and kids in the Old National Bank (385 S. Main Street) parking lot from 11 a.m. – 3 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.

walking dog in snowZion Nature Center Paw Print Ornament & Dog Walk

Where: Zion Nature Center, 690 Beech Street, Zionsville

When: Saturday, December 8 | 1 – 2 p.m.

What: Take a nature walk with your (leashed) furry family members at the Sanctuary trail. Explore the sights and smells of the woods in winter. Before you leave, make a lasting memory of the moment – and your pet – by making a paw print ornament.

Why it works: Take a break from the hustle and bustle and get back to nature with your best four-legged friend. Great family event.

Bonus: Pine trees! Trails! Wags!

How much? Registration is required at www.zionnaturecenter.org but the event is free.

Tiny WonderlandTiny Wonderland 

Where: Whitestown Municipal Complex, 6210 Veterans Dr., Whitestown, IN 46075; eventbrite.com 

When: Friday, December 14, 3 - 8 p.m. | Saturday, December 15, 10 a.m. - 6 p.m. | Sunday, December 16 | 10 a.m. - 3 p.m.

What: Whitestown Parks and Recreation welcomes you and your family to explore dozens of Tiny Houses crafted by some of the best builders in the nation – all decorated for the holidays. Crafts for the kids and festive local brews from Moontown Brewery.

Why it works: Awww! Tiny intricate houses all decorated with lights!

Bonus: Live music, food trucks and beer.

How much: Pre-sale tickets for Tiny Wonderland are $10 each and good for the entire weekend! Children 10 years and under get in free!

More Christmas charm in the heart of Zionsville

Where: Throughout Zionsville’s Main Street retail area

When: Saturday and Sunday, December 15 and 16, and Saturday and Sunday, December 22 and 23 | 11 a.m. – 3 p.m.

What: It’s not too late to visit with Santa at the Santa House (corner of Main and Cedar Street) or take advantage of horse-drawn wagon rides through the village (rides pick up at Robert Goodman Jewelers).

Why it works: Very simple: Zionsville is quite charming with plenty of restaurants to duck into when you get tired. Plus, retail therapy is a thing, right?

Bonus: You may bump into the strolling Dickens Carolers!

How much: Atmosphere is free.

So, Hoosiers, what are YOUR favorite family and adult holiday traditions in and around Indy’s far northside? Let us know in the comments below!

Indianapolis Realtor Kristie SmithAbout the Author
Kristie Smith
Kristie Smith is the founder and CEO of the Indy Homes Real Estate Team. She is a REALTOR, and is one of the most recognized and accomplished Indiana real estate agents. Ranked among Central Indiana's top 10 real estate teams, the Indy Homes Team specializes in relocating families moving to the Indy area, as well as Helping People on the Move locally in Indy.

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