Growing up in central Indiana, the holidays weren’t complete without a visit to downtown Indianapolis. We’d drive around the circle to see the Soldiers and Sailors monument lit up like a giant Christmas tree. Some years we’d have tickets to the Symphony’s Yuletide Celebration. Other years we’d catch a performance of the Nutcracker at Butler.
From 1922 until 1992, the true highlight of the Indianapolis Christmas scene centered around the department store L.S. Ayres. I graduated high school and moved away from home in 1993, so I was part of the last generation of Hoosier kids who knew the wonder of the holidays that existed within L.S. Ayres. My mom was (and still is!) a recycler of holiday gift boxes, and so for years after Ayres was gone, we still received gifts in their iconic holiday boxes – bright red boxes with a Christmas tree in the corner.
Like my mom’s Christmas boxes reappearing every year long after Ayres had shut its doors, the Indiana State Museum has managed to bring back the nostalgia of Christmas in Indianapolis long ago. Each year the Museum hosts a very special exhibit, Celebration Crossing. While elements of the exhibit change every year, one thing remains the same: recreating the best parts of that beloved Hoosier holiday tradition.
We had a very special chance to preview the exhibit last week before it opened to the general public. We gazed at the beautifully recreated L.S. Ayres store windows.
The kids rode the Santa Claus Express through a winter wonderland, and marveled at the original. It now sits on display at the Museum, after dutifully transporting nearly 30,000 children a year to Santa’s house. I marveled at the fact that this is likely Elena’s last year to ride the little train, as she sat with her knees nearly touching her chin!
And finally, we paid a very special visit to Santa in his charming little house. I’ve taken the kids to countless Santas all around town throughout the years, and I’m telling you this: the Indiana State Museum Santa is THE BEST. You won’t find a more patient Santa in a lovelier setting anywhere else in central Indiana (and a sleigh full of reindeer better than the Santa that once dropped Eli twice in a row)!
The holidays are a busy time for all, with special events and obligations tugging us every which way. If you only make time for one activity this holiday season, consider making it a visit to Celebration Crossing. Whether you’re passing on a treasured tradition from your childhood onto your children, or simply starting a new one, you won’t be disappointed.
Celebration Crossing is open now through December 31, with Santa and Mrs. Claus entertaining guests through December 24. Find more details, including hours and the location of the Museum, on the Indiana State Museum’s website. Happy Holidays!
Whether you’re a fellow Midwesterner looking for fun places to visit in your own backyard or you’re traveling to our great region for the first time, you’ll find lots of ideas on my Pinterest board dedicated to Midwest Travel!