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While the freezing temperatures make it tempting to stay indoors, you shouldn’t pass up the chance to see Indianapolis in its winter glory. If you’re willing to put on your winter clothes and brave the cold, you’ll find that there’s plenty of winter fun to be had out there. Check out this list of the best things to do with your family in Indianapolis during winter.

Go to Monument Circle After Sundown

Every winter, Monument Circle in downtown Indianapolis transforms into an illuminated wonderland during the Circle of Lights Festival, which is held on Thanksgiving Day. The festival features its own unique version of a Christmas tree with more than 50 garland strands and 4,700 LED lights engulfing the iconic Soldiers and Sailors Monument. Around the monument, you’ll see larger-than-life structures depicting soldiers, sailors, and peppermint sticks.

The lights on the “Christmas tree” are turned on right after Thanksgiving and remain lit until the beginning of January. On the first night of the festival, there’s a big celebration that includes live music and a visit from Santa.

chocolate cafe in Indiana

Savor Sweet Treats at the Chocolate Cafe

Another great way to spend a winter day in Indianapolis is to satisfy your family’s sweet tooth at the famous Chocolate Cafe. Located on Monument Circle, this cafe delights visitors of all ages with its wonderful selection of cakes, baked goods, chocolate-dipped fruit items, and chocolates. It also serves delicious ice cream and sundaes, which are worth trying despite the cold weather. If you’re looking for something to warm you up, you can choose from an array of hot chocolates, coffees, and specialty beverages, which are all served with a chocolate-dipped spoon.

Additionally, Chocolate Cafe offers plenty of to-go items, such as cookies, malt balls, and pumpkin turtles. If you want to get a gift for a relative or friend, you can create a custom treat box or basket by picking your favorites from hundreds of items. The cafe is open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. from Monday to Friday and from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday.

Experience Christmas at the Zoo

Indianapolis Zoo has the honor of being the first zoo in the United States to hold a holiday light display. Introduced in 1967, Christmas at the Zoo will feature a more extensive light display this year to create a warm, festive atmosphere throughout the zoo. Besides admiring dazzling holiday lights, make sure you bring your kids to the new Santa’s Village, where they can meet Santa himself, see Santa’s sleigh and reindeers, wind through a mirror maze, and get up close with penguins. The great thing about Christmas at the Zoo is that it’s included in the regular admission.

Christmas at the Zoo runs from Nov. 21 to Dec. 30, but it’s closed on Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Eve, and Christmas Day. Opening hours are 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. from Sunday through Thursday and 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.

Have A Merry Prairie Holiday at Conner Prairie

If you don’t mind taking a short drive out of town, it’s a good idea to attend the ever-popular A Merry Prairie Holiday at Conner Prairie. Located about 20 miles north of Indy, Conner Prairie is an outdoor museum that promotes Indiana’s rich natural and cultural heritage through immersive, hands-on experiences. During the holiday season, it holds a special event called A Merry Prairie Holiday, which offers plenty of fun activities for the family. Other than stunning light displays, this event also features festive rides, a sledding hill, Santa’s workshop, holiday treats, and live music.

A Merry Prairie Holiday is open from 5:30 to 9:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday from Nov. 27 to Dec. 20 and Tuesday and Wednesday on Dec. 22 and 23. Admission is $20 for guests and $10 for members.

Go Skiing at Paoli Peaks

If you want to go on a family ski trip, Paoli Peaks is a great option. With a skiable area of 65 acres, this ski resort features 16 trails, a 300-foot vertical descent, nine lifts, and a variety of terrain to suit the needs of all types of skiers and snowboarders. It also has a snow-making system that’s capable of producing 12 inches of snow a day as well as a ski rental shop, pro shop, cafeteria-style restaurant, and ski patrollers who respond to skiing accidents and emergencies. Lessons are available for skiers and snowboarders of all skill levels.

Situated about 99 miles south of Indianapolis in Paoli, Paoli Peaks will open on Dec. 19 this year. Passes go on sale Dec. 8, and availability will be extremely limited this season, so make reservations far in advance. Daily rates start at $42 for adults, $39 for children ages 5 to 12, and $39 for seniors age 65 and up.

Frequently Asked Questions About Winter in Indianapolis

Q: Is it really cold in Indianapolis during winter?

A: Yes, Indianapolis is similar to most other places in the Midwest in that it experiences extremely cold temperatures. From December to February, the average temperature ranges from 29 to 39 degrees Fahrenheit. January and February are the coldest months of the year.

Q: Does it snow a lot in Indianapolis?

A: Indianapolis receives a good amount of snowfall throughout winter. Snow on the ground averages 2.7 inches in December to 4.2 inches in February.

Q: Are hotel rates lower in winter?

A: Yes, winter is considered off-season in Indianapolis, so you can expect to get good deals at most hotels.

Q: When is the best time to travel to Indianapolis during winter?

A: It depends on the type of activities you plan to do. If you’re properly bundled up, you can have a great time in Indianapolis regardless of the time of your visit. However, the city feels lively and festive around Christmastime because of its beautifully illuminated streets and abundance of special holiday events. If you’re a skiing enthusiast, you should plan your trip for February when fresh powder is the deepest.

So, that’s the list of top things to do in Indianapolis during winter according to the staff at Alvarez Law Office. If you’re an Indy local and have some favorite activities you wish to share, feel free to drop us a line. We’ll surely add them to our list.