It's the holiday season and some of us are feeling a bit frazzled with the stress of shopping, finding things for the kids to do over winter break and meeting end of the year deadlines.
Take a deep breath and make plans to visit one of Indy's attractions during the 12 FREE Days of Christmas. I hope you noticed the 'caps lock' on the word FREE. Besides not having to spend a dime, it's a great way to spend some quality time with family and maybe even learn something new. You could even make an adventure out of it by telling the kids you have a surprise for them on each of the 12 days leading up to Christmas if they make good choices!
All you have to do is mark your calendar for these events on the following day. No coupon is needed, just show up and enjoy!
Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians & Western Art (10 am-5 pm)
New this year, travel west and experience the lives of four different families. Build a totem pole, climb aboard a stagecoach or shop in a Chinese emporium. Don't miss the Eiteljorg's brand-new holiday experience Jingle Rails: The Great Western Adventure. Immerse yourself as seven G gauge model trains wind past the great landmarks of Indianapolis taking you out to great places in the West—the Grand Canyon, Mt. Rushmore and Old Faithful. All of these landmarks are incredibly crafted out of natural materials (bark, twigs and nuts) in exquisite detail. The Eiteljorg is the only museum in the Midwest to offer an extensive collection of Western and Native American art and artifacts. Learn about the many indigenous tribes of North America and the diverse cultures of the West. www.eiteljorg.org
Circle of Lights® presented by the Contractors of Quality Connection and Electrical Workers of IBEW 481.
The much-loved decor includes 26 larger-than-life toy soldiers and sailors surrounding the Circle, along with 26 peppermint sticks. Additionally, 52 garland strands with 4,784 colored lights are strung from the top of the Soldiers & Sailors Monument to its base. The scene is complete with 90,000 twinkle lights in trees that add shimmer to the area's walkways. The holiday display remains lit through early January 2011. www.indydt.com
Tuesday, December 14
James Whitcomb Riley Museum Home (10 am-3:30 pm)
Experience a Victorian Christmas in historic Lockerbie Square with festive Christmas greenery and wreathes. The Hoosier Poet, and author of Little Orphant Annie (Riley), spent the last 23 years of his life in the late Victorian preserved home that was built in 1872. The home itself features simple, elegant decorations and small gifts and party favors that would be typical of the period. The Christmas tree is special because it includes actual Christmas postcards that citizens from across the country sent to Riley after he was recovering from a stroke in 1911. http://www.rileykids.org/about/riley_museum/
Meredith Nicholson House (10 am-3 pm)
The Indiana Humanities Council will open its doors to the public and invite guests to tour the house of Indiana author Meredith Nicholson. The Council, which encourages Hoosiers to think, read and talk, will also host a variety of humanities-inspired programs during the day. Mr. Nicholson's home was built in 1904 and was one of the first Georgian Colonial Revival style homes in Indy. www.IndianaHumanities.org
Mistletoe Music Festival at the Indianapolis Artsgarden (times tbd)
Indianapolis area high school and grade school choirs will get you in the spirit of the season as they sing a variety of holiday tunes. www.indyarts.org/artsgarden
Wednesday, December 15
Indy Wine Trail &/or restaurant discounts (this date is the only one that has any 'major qualifiers')
There are two separate offerings on this date. One features wineries while the other revolves around restaurants. Free tasting at each of the seven wineries on Indy's Wine Trail along with a free wine glass when mentioning the promotion www.indywinetrail.com . Or free dessert with the purchase of an entrée at select restaurants. A list of those restaurants will be posted on our Web site closer to the date www.visitindy.com/12free.
Thursday, December 16
Indianapolis Museum of Art (IMA), Oldfields-Lilly House & Gardens & Winter Solstice (11 am-9 pm)
The IMA is one of the top ten general art museums in the USA and one of the ten oldest. Oldfields, the J. K. Lilly, Jr. residence, will be decorated in the style of the 1930s and 1940s, when Christmas cheer often had to overcome Depression-era budgets or wartime shortages. And of course, it's all topped off with ice carving, musicians playing seasonal favorites, craft activities, hot beverages and fun during the Winter Solstice celebration. www.imamuseum.org
Friday, December 17
President Benjamin Harrison Home (time 10 am-3 pm)
Holiday season at the authentically restored 1875 Italianate home of President Benjamin Harrison, our 23rd President, features Victorian holiday adornment. The decor includes feather trees, Harrison family toys and ornaments, plus a replica of the first decorated White House Christmas tree – a tradition begun in 1889 by Harrison. "Model Trains Make Tracks" is a new special holiday exhibit of model trains, which highlights a working HO-scale model train and scenics representing the southwest portion of Benjamin Harrison's notable 10,000-mile cross-country train excursion in 1891. Also, "From Bustles to Ballots". Women's Suffrage Exhibit is featured in the reconstructed carriage house located behind the home. www.pbhh.org
Morris-Butler House (10 am-3 pm)
This beautifully restored 1865 home showcases the architecture, history, culture and society of Indianapolis during the 19th century. A museum property of Historic Landmarks Foundation of Indiana and accredited by the American Association of Museums, it is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. www.indianalandmarks.org
Skating at the Indiana Fairgrounds (12 noon – 2 pm & 2:30-4:30 pm)
Enjoy a free skating session on Indy's premiere ice surface at the historic Pepsi Coliseum, home of the United States Hockey League's Indiana Ice. A great family outing before the chaos of the holidays, the free sessions are noon to 2 p.m. and 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. with skate rental available in the Pro Skate Shop. For more information, visit http://www.in.gov/statefair/fairgrounds/skating/."
Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame Museum (9 am-5 pm)
The Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame Museum is located inside the famed 2.5-mile IMS oval made famous by the Indy 500, which celebrates its centennial in 2011. More than 75 automobiles and motorcycles, representing a variety of races, are on display at the Hall of Fame Museum at all times. Many are shocked to learn the track itself is so large that you could fit the Roman Coliseum, Vatican City, Wimbledon Campus, Rose Bowl, Yankee Stadium and Churchill Downs inside the 2 1/2-mile oval. Since 1911, the track has been the home of the "Greatest Spectacle in Racing," the Indianapolis 500. The Brickyard 400 has quickly become one of NASCAR's most coveted races since the inaugural event in 1994. And now, fans are treated to a thrilling motorcycle race each year called the RedBull Indianapolis GP. www.indianapolismotorspeedway.com.
Indiana Medical History Museum (10 am-3 pm)
The nation's oldest surviving pathology laboratory, this building originally provided physicians in the late 1800s with state-of-the-art facilities to study mental and nervous disorders. Today, the museum uses its more than 15,000 artifacts to educate visitors about the developments, which made today's advanced medical treatments possible. www.imhm.org
Celebrities and Santa at the Indianapolis International Airport (1-4 pm)
The Indianapolis International Airport will host "Celebrities and Santa" as part of the season's 2010 Holiday Showcase. The celebration will include a special holiday program, photo ops, visits with Santa, and an abundance of activities. Visitors will be invited to register to win opportunities for merchandise and trips. Event parking will be free with proper validation. www.indianapolisairport.com
The NCAA Hall of Champions will be offering special discounts for the holidays in addition to free admission on this date. Shop like a champion while experiencing the lives of 400,000 student-athletes, 23 sports and 88 championships. Spend $35 or more and get a free NCAA Vintage Final Four poster. There will also be complimentary hot chocolate available. After your holiday lists are complete, come explore the 1930's retro gymnasium, interactive sport simulators, competitive gear used by student-athletes and much more. The NCAA Hall of Champions is located in the White River State Park just north of the Indiana Convention Center. www.ncaahallofchampions.org
The Scottish Rite Cathedral will offer free building tours of the beautiful architectural landmark at 12 noon, followed by a 3 pm free concert featuring the Scottish Rite Chorus, Orchestra and Cathedral Organ, (one of the largest theater organs in the city of Indianapolis). Following the concert, free cookies, coffee and milk will be provided. Free parking is available in the lot west of the Cathedral, off North Street. www.aasr-indy.org
Monday, December 20
Indiana State Museum's Celebration Crossing (9 am-5 pm)
Nostalgia reigns supreme at holiday time and Celebration Crossing, the museum's holiday exhibit, delivers on all fronts. The annual exhibit opens on November 26 with all of the much-loved traditional events, plus some new activities sure to please visitors of all ages. Santa and Mrs. Claus welcome children of all ages, while just outside their house the L.S. Ayres Santa Claus Express train is open for business throughout the exhibit from November 26 – December 31. Kids love to ride it and you'll notice a few adults, too. Note: Timed Tickets to Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition are available for an additional fee, with advance reservations recommended." www.indianamuseum.org
Conner Prairie Interactive History Park (10 am – 4 pm)
The sights and sounds of holidays past come to life with family activities inside Conner Prairie's cozy welcome center and throughout the outdoor 1836 Prairietown. In the welcome center, guests can stroll through a wonderland of icing, gumdrops and sprinkles atop remarkable gingerbread creations, visit with the Gingerbread Man and a Victorian era Santa Claus, craft a holiday decoration to take home, enjoy a theatrical presentation, play with 19th century toys and explore Discovery Station. Guests can also bundle up and stroll through the outdoor 1836 village of Prairietown, where they can help residents prepare for the holidays ahead and take care of winter tasks the 19th century way, and tour the William Conner's home. www.connerprairie.org
Wednesday, December 22
Rhythm! Discovery Center (10 am-8 pm)
Indianapolis' newest downtown attraction is a place for visitors of all ages to experience rhythm and percussion. Explore a wide variety of percussion instruments and artifacts from around the world through interactive exhibits and dynamic multi-media experiences. You will learn about rhythm, its role in society and connections to daily life. Rhythm! Discovery Center is very hands on and invites visitors to play over 150 percussion instruments, including an 8-foot gong drum! www.RhythmDiscoveryCenter.org
Thursday, December 23
Eugene and Marilyn Glick Indiana History Center (10 am – 5 pm)
Step back in time by walking through—and into—scenes recreated from pictures the Indiana Historical Society's vast collections, complete with costumed interpreters in You Are There. Settings include at a WWII-era store, an automobile repair and fuel station and a violinmaker's shop with You Are There. Take a hi-tech walk through the past with Destination Indiana, which includes 188 time-travel "journeys" at touch-screen stations and several more facilitated journeys at its 22.5-by-7.5-foot cinema screen. Get a taste of how to take care of your own family treasures with the Fortune History Lab, or enjoy the live music of Hoosier legend Cole Porter. Also on display will be several holiday-related covers of the Saturday Evening Post, and all things leg lamp (a la A Christmas Story) are available in the Basile History Market. Discover the IHS's state-of-the-art research library, publications, educational programs, special events, gift shop and café, all situated along the historic Central Canal. www.indianahistory.org
Friday, December 24
The Children's Museum of Indianapolis (10 am-2 pm)
Visit Jolly Days Winter Wonderland at the world's largest children's museum and enjoy traditional holiday favorites such as the two-story Yule Slide, Jingles the Jolly Bear and explore "outdoor" fun at the Snow Castle and Ice Fishing holes. Warm up your imagination with lots of cookie fun in the kitchen, and help Santa's reindeer prepare for their flight! Be sure to stop by and see Santa to get in those last minute holiday wishes. The museum is a hands-on world of discovery which is the largest of its kind in the world featuring a 4-story tall Chihuly blown glass sculpture, which towers above a suspended glass ceiling. Underneath, kids create their own sculpture with pre-formed acrylic orbs. The $25 million Dinosphere exhibit features real juvenile and family dinosaur fossils and children are even able to dig for faux fossils in the Dinosaur Dig. Other fun includes sailing a boat and exploring life under ground in ScienceWorks, or taking a ride on a real, working Carousel. www.childrensmuseum.org.
The cost savings for some of these activities is $15 per person. So, it really is a good value and a great way to see what's going on in Indy. Please note that some of the attractions may have different hours this month and some of the historic homes have crowd limits for safety purposes.
Kimberly Harms has four children (5-24) along with a grandchild and is the associate director of media relations at the Indianapolis Convention & Visitors Association, www.visitindy.com. You can follow her on Twitter @kimberlyharms.