It’s the most wonderful timeee of the year! Or something like that… While the day-to-day “wonder” of winter can sometimes look a little drab with all the dark and dreary days and endless car scraping (seriously, where does all the ice come from???), Indiana in winter is a delightful place to bundle up and make warm and fuzzy memories with the ones you love most.
Temperatures in Indiana’s winter months vary. Drastically. Like so unpredictable. But on average, temperatures from December-early March range from a frosty 22 degrees to a (comparably) toasty 46 degrees.
Since the Northern part of the state borders Lake Michigan, it experiences the lake snow effect and gets significantly more snowfall than the southern portion of the state. Northern Indiana records about 80 inches of snowfall each year, while Southern Indiana reports as low as 14 inches. So yeah, just a litttttle bit different.
Whether it’s enjoying a gorgeous holiday light display, exploring a cave with your loved ones, or even enjoying a smooth drink inside an igloo, Indiana has plenty of things to break you out of your annual funk this winter.
Check out a few of these other posts:
- 14 Wondrous Things To Do In Kentucky In Winter
- 12 Cozy Things To Do In Winter In Louisville, Kentucky
- 15 Red River Gorge Cabins In Kentucky (With Hot Tubs!)
The Best Things to do in indiana in winter
Indiana is kind of the home of Christmas… I mean, they have a town called Santa Claus for Rudolph’s sake! Not only that, but an authentic German Christmas market, a magical historical home with its halls properly decked, and even a toboggan run that will bring out anyone’s inner child. So let’s check out some of the best things to do in Indiana in winter!
Check out Indianapolis during the Holidays
Experience the magic of the holiday season in the “crossroads of America”! The capital of Indiana, Indianapolis, is located a little under two hours from our humble home of Louisville. As a central location to four major highways (hence the “crossroads of America” nickname), it’s no wonder that Indianapolis is home to a wide variety of winter activities and holiday traditions. Here are some holiday activities in Indianapolis you won’t want to sleep on:
- Winterlights: From late November to early January, the Garden at Newfields is aglow with more than a million and a half dazzling lights. Bring wonder and warmth to your holiday season as you watch the Landscape of Light dance to the Nutcracker. Explore the decked halls of Lilly House, with stunning trees and whimsical art installations by local arts as you wander toward the Winter Market. Enjoy a spiced cider, hot cocoa, a giant cookie, or even Sun King Brewing Co.’s Electric Reindeer brown ale (yes, please!).
- Jingle Rails at the Eiteljorg Musem: Unleash your inner child at this one-of-a-kind holiday adventure featuring a G-scale model train wonderland containing nine working model trains that wind through a stunning miniature landscape, expertly built out of all natural materials and decorated with holiday lights. Featuring miniature versions of local treasures of downtown Indianapolis, such as Monument Circle and the Eiteljorg Museum itself, these tiny trains travel through the national parks of western North America and even make their way all the way over to legendary natural and human-made landmarks! Kids and adults alike are sure to marvel at the wonders of this creative masterpiece.
- Veal’s Ice Tree: This mind-boggling and utterly massive ice sculpture is nearly impossible to describe- all the more reason to see it for yourself! Created with nearby pond water, this 1961 backyard accident has transformed into an annual tradition enjoyed by the masses. Veal’s Ice Tree is formed every January and is open for visitors until it melts in April. You don’t want to miss out on seeing this nearly 35-feet (and growing!) ice sculpture dancing with color and holiday flair.
To experience all that Indianapolis has to offer this season, book a night or two in this modern and cozy abode with enough room to sleep the whole family or all your best friends and located close to all the best winter attractions Indianapolis has to offer!
Stock Up on Gifts at a German Christmas Market
Experience the old-world charm of Christmas in Germany at the Carmel Christkindlmarkt! Voted Best Holiday Market of 2021 by USA Today’s Readers’ Choice travel awards, this open-air holiday market exudes the festive ambiance of an authentic market and may be one of the coolest things to do in Indiana in winter!
Peruse a vast array of products sourced from Germany and other German-speaking European countries. A blend of traditional German foods, drinks, and gifts (like hand-painted mugs and bier steins) are sold from small, wooden huts. Burn off some steam at the beautiful outdoor ice skating rink at the center of the market before enjoying a traditional Bavarian pretzel washed down with a German beer.
Check out the Christkindlmarkt Express, a train display set in a miniature European village. Head over to the Winter Pavillion for some top-notch entertainment by a variety of talented singers, choirs, and performers.
- Snuggle up after a day at the market in this gorgeous ranch home right in the heart of Carmel, with two cozy living rooms perfect for watching holiday movies with a mug of cocoa! Carmel is located about 2 hours from Louisville and 30 minutes from Indianapolis, so there are plenty of things around to do and explore all weekend long!
Pokagon Toboggan Run
Hasten down a hill at high speed at the Pokagon Toboggan Run! Located near Angola, Indiana (about a 4-hour trek from Louisville), this 30-foot tower has dips and valleys for days, with a 90-foot vertical drop over the course of a quarter mile. This mere half-minute long thrill ride runs at a bone-chilling rate of 35-40 miles per hour- that’s some serious speed!
The Toboggan Run is open on weekends with or without snow from late November to late February. If you are not feeling the need for speed, spend some time in Pokagon State Park hiking the pristine, snow covered trails, such as the 8-mile long Hell’s Point Challenge trail, rent a pair of cross country skis, or even try your hand at ice fishing.
- Snuggle up after a day of frosty adventuring with your family in this cozy home away from home, conveniently located on a bike trail that leads directly to the beautiful Pokagon State Park.
Visit Santa Claus, Indiana
What better place to uncover the holiday magic than the classically festive town of Santa Claus, Indiana? The name says it all- brimming with Christmas spirit and oodles of things to do over the holidays, this Southern Indiana destination is the perfect place to spend some time this holiday season.
The origin of the quirky town name came to be in 1846, when the town was established. Due to the approaching holiday season and the unfortunate discovery that the name “Santa Fe” was already claimed by another Indiana community, locals jokingly began to call their town “Santa Claus”, and it has stuck ever since!
Here are some can’t miss activities in Santa Claus:
- Santa Claus Christmas Store: Drop by this extraordinary shop to peruse a wide selection of beautiful gifts, collectibles, ornaments, and Christmas treats just in time for the holidays.
- Santa Claus Museum & Village: Discover the story of Santa Claus, Indiana and take a peek into the Christmases of yesteryear with antique toy displays, a large collection of Santa’s of every shape, size, and interpretation, and decades of children’s letters to Santa Claus. Stop by the original Santa Claus Post Office to pen a letter to Santa and wait in anticipation as it is answered by one of Santa’s Elves!
- Santa’s Candy Castle: Stop by this historic 1935-built castle for a large selection of old-fashioned and rare candy, decadent hand-made confections, 35 flavors of hot cocoa, and even frozen hot chocolate!
- Festival of Lights: Drive through nine miles of dazzling holiday light displays in Christmas Lake Village!
Make the holiday spirit last all weekend at Santa’s Lakeside Cottages. Conveniently located in the heart of Santa Claus (which is only an hour and fifteen minutes from Louisville), these cozy cottages can comfortably fit the whole family (and all of the holiday goodies you buy!) and even offer a Reindeer Express Train around the entire property.
Christmas at the Seiberling
Witness the artful transformation of the elegant Seiberling Mansion into a gorgeous holiday home complete with a stunning collection of dozens of delightfully decorated trees spread across 20 rooms!
This Victorian mansion is home to the Howard County Museum and is located in the town of Kokomo, Indiana, which is a little under 3 hours away from Louisville. Each year, the mansion is converted into a merry masterpiece by local organizations and individuals in an event known as Christmas at the Seiberling.
Take a cozy, guided tour of the mansion to admire the seasonal decor on a specialty Christmas at the Seiberling Candlelight Tour. Cast a vote for your favorite tree to be selected as the People’s Choice. Christmas at the Seiberling runs from late November-December 30th, so be sure to come uncover the charming history of Kokomo’s holiday traditions this holiday season.
- Turn in for the night after an evening of holiday grandeur in this super cute and comfy bungalow, equipped with historic charm and everything you’ll need to unwind and enjoy the season.
Enjoy a Drink in an Igloo
Urban Vines Winery and Brewing Co., located in Westfield, Indiana (about 2 hours from Louisville), has been serving up a vast selection of handcrafted beers, wines, charcuterie boards, AND kickin’ live music since 2017. Indiana’s first winery and second brewery, this local hot spot offers tastings of their award-winning wines, views of a sprawling meadow in the warm weather, and a fun outdoor(ish) seating option for when it gets cold outside…
Indianapolis’s original heated igloos! Perfect for enjoying a snowy day while still keeping warm, these igloos are toasty, private, and make for a wonderful place to sip a great glass of wine and munch on a decadent slice of artisan pizza over engaging conversations with friends. Igloos are available November through March, and can seat up to ten of your closest pals.
- Top off your wintry night out by staying in a real-life fairy tale cottage. Enjoy the outdoor fire pit, and the indoor fire place, to be the coziest people who ever lived!
Experience tHE POLAR EXPRESS™ Train Ride
Grab your whole family and embark on THE POLAR EXPRESS™ Train Ride for an exciting and nostalgic, 80-minute journey on your way to the North Pole! Each year, the French Lick Scenic Railway brings the magic of the season and the classic story of The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg to life on this picturesque train ride. From the ticket punching to the hot cocoa and delicious cookies served by dancing chefs, few details from the timeless tale are left untold.
Eat, drink, and be merry as you sing carols led by Elves, enjoy the onboard entertainment, and create memories you will never forget! Be sure to glance out the train windows every now and then to catch a glimpse of the peaceful, wintry landscape of French Lick as well as the old-fashioned, rustic rail yard. Watch with enthusiasm as your little ones are presented with their first Christmas gift of the season- a silver sleigh bell handed out by the big man in red himself- Santa Claus.
THE POLAR EXPRESS™ Train Ride runs in November & December each year, with the ticket sales going on the January of that year. By August the tickets are usually sold out – so if you want to ride the train hop on them. All aboard!
- Enjoy a weekend full of warm and fuzzy feelings in French Lick with the ones you love in a homey Charming Craftsman Bungalow, located just a few blocks from downtown French Lick. Enjoy a warm cocoa in the indoor sunroom as you watch snow drift from the peaceful sky and reminisce holidays past. French Lick is located about an hour and twenty minutes from Lousivlle, making it the ideal place to enjoy a weekend away from home.
Hit the Slopes
Sometimes when winter hits the call of the prisitine white slopes call to you. Luckily, there are a few ski runs right by Louisville!
- Paoli Peaks – Spend your day skiing down the wooded hills of Paoli Peaks! About 46 miles from Louisville, Paoli Peaks welcomes skiers, snowboarders, and those who enjoy snow tubing. With the beauty of snow covered trees and views of the valley below to inspire you, choose from 1 of 17 runs to soar down. Later, you can stop in their cafeteria-style restaurant (with more seating than your average airport) when you need a slice of pizza as big as your head. Click here to check out their First Timer’s Guide.
Located about 4 miles from Paoli Peaks, this private and cozy cottage is the perfect place to warm up for the night after a long day on the slopes. Curl up around the fire pit and enjoy the peaceful quiet of winter with your partner.
- Perfect North Slopes – With ski runs beautifully nestled near lines of tall trees, Perfect North Slopes is perfect for anyone looking for a smaller, more manageable ski/snowboarding experience. One-hour and thirty-minutes from Louisville, you’ll find skiing, snowboarding, and scenic hillside outlooks open all day long–with snow tubing available for half the day. And, of course, when your thighs are on fire after all the shushing, there’s a no-frills restaurant where you can grab a pizza or a burger–and a stone fireplace (with real fire!) where you can grab some warmth.
Cuddle up for the night in a room overlooking the Ohio River at the DoubleTree Hilton in Lawrenceburg, located about 7 miles from the slopes and featuring all of the amenities you could want out of a hotel.
Visit Evansville, Indiana
A metropolitan hub where Southern Indiana meets southeast Illinois and northwest Kentucky, Evansville, Indiana is a friendly, ever-expanding city located along the Ohio River and about 2 hours away from Louisville. With innumerable amazing local eateries, a rich cultural heritage, and a vast array of activities to do inside, outside, and everywhere in between, head to the city of Evansville this winter and take your pick of all the finest the city has to offer.
- Ritzy’s Fantasy of Lights: Each year, Garvin Park is transformed into a “fantasyland” with more than 70 spectacular light displays! Flying reindeer, dancing bears, and waving Santas- oh my! View the 25-feet tall, mostly animated displays while snuggled up with the ones you love in a horse drawn carriage (weather-permitting, of course). Or, experience the magic of the dazzling lights in the comfort of your own car- make sure to tune your radio to the station provided by the event to set the tone with festive Christmas tunes!
- Angel Mounds State Historic Site: Step back in time on a chilly walk through one of the best-preserved, pre-contact Native American sites in North America! Nearly 575 acres comprise the site, which includes an interpretive center, recreations of Mississippian buildings, and a nature preserve with hiking and biking trails and an 18-hole disk golf course. Take some time to learn about a 1,000-year old culture while admiring the pristine winter landscape on a hike across the four mile Angel Mounds Loop Trail.
- Evansville Riverfront: Take in the sights and sounds of the spectacular Ohio River by taking a lovely (albeit chilly) stroll along a brick-paved pathway. The streets of downtown Evansville are beautifully illuminated over the holidays with twinkling lights and festive holiday decorations. Stop off for a bite to eat
- Eat an Amazing Meal: Warm up with an amazing meal at one of Evansville’s dozens of local restaurants! Start your day with a delectable doughnut…or shall we say, cronut? Parlor Doughnuts serves up delightful and eclectic flavors of layered doughnuts, such as raspberry pistachio, dreamsicle, or maple pecan and amazing coffee perfect for starting the day off right. Grab a savory, signature Neapolitan style pizza for lunch followed up by in-house made gelato at Pangea Kitchen. Top off your day with a vibrant blend of Asian flavors in dishes such as ramen, fried rice, and a positively mouthwatering plate of Honey Toast at 2nd Language.
With all of the options for wintry entertainment in Evansville, you’ll surely need a place to stay for the weekend! This gorgeous, modern townhome located in the vibrant Haynie’s corner is centrally located to all the things to do in Evansville and accommodates the whole family.
Explore Marengo Cave
Skip the slopes and ice rink this winter and head straight underground this winter! Despite the outside temperatures reaching bone-chilling, below freezing temperatures, caves stay at a consistent, cool temperature year round because the earth and rock act as insulation.
Marengo, Indiana’s own Marengo Cave offers two tours- The Crystal Palace, a 40-minute tour through winding, formation-filled rooms and huge flowstone deposits, and Dripstone Trail, a 60-minute tour known for its delicate soda straws and totem pole stalagmites. Crouch, crawl, and scramble the passages and wade through an underground river on the Underground Adventure tour.
- Marengo is located about 45 minutes outside of Louisville, so you could pop over for a quick day of exploration orrr you could make it an overnight adventure with a stay in Blue River Bungalow, a newly renovated yet totally vintage building that served as the site of the early Milltown Post Office.
Go Horseback Riding
What better way to take in the beauty of winter than atop a handsome horse? At Natural Valley Ranch in Brownsburg, Indiana, you can do just that! Natural Valley offers picturesque views, a peaceful vibe, and 30 to 60-minute guided trail rides along more than 50 acres of scenic trails all year round (weather permitting, of course). Enjoy the serenity of the frigid forest while listening to the hooves of your horse crunching through the icy leaves.
Hop off your horse and grab your littles (and a basket) to drop by Santa’s Candy Cane Hunt at Natural Valley Ranch! Visit the animals at the petting zoo, enjoy a snack, and let your kiddos loose to find the candy canes Santa dropped when he was visiting the ranch for milk and cookies!
- Since Brownsburg is located about two hours from Louisville, plan to enjoy a family-friendly weekend away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life in this newly renovated home complete with everything you’ll need for a sweet weekend in.
Go Ice Skating in a Winter Wonderland
Skating can be such a magical time, gently gliding on the ice, the trees covered in snow with twinkling lights in the distance… Or it can be a bit more like that scene from Bambi, legs going in every direction, fighting to stay up. But I have faith in you – you can do it! And what better way to learn than on these gorgeous outdoor ice rinks in Indiana:
- The Ice Rink at Holliday Park: Since 1916, Holliday Park in Indianapolis has been a local staple for outdoor recreation and the study of nature. Over the last 100 years, the park has surely fulfilled this mission and has taken recreation to the next level by adding an ice skating rink to its repertoire of outdoor amusement options. As you skate, you can take in the marvelous ruins that still stand in the park. So don your warmest winter garb and make some warm (yet also super cold?) memories with those you love most.
- Central Park Plaza: Six months of winter fun? Sign us up! Central Park Plaza is a year-round venue in the heart of downtown Valparaiso, Indiana (about 4 hours from Louisville) that offers fun cold weather activities from mid-November to the beginning of March. The open-air pavilion situated in Central Park Plaza is converted each year into a hub of winter enjoyment with its 80 by 120 foot outdoor ice rink, neatly tucked under a towering arched roof. Music played on a state-of-the-art sound system and colorful lights set the stage for a memorable ice skating experience for all ages and ability levels.
- Nibco Water and Ice Park: Located in Elkhart, Indiana (about 4.5 hours away from Louisville), this ice skating rink is no ordinary rink – but a gorgeous winding pathway around trees, benches, and lights – like something out of an old movie! Definitely up there on the most scenic ice skating rinks I’ve ever seen!
Want to soak up all that Valparaiso or Elkhart has to offer and recharge before your four-hour drive back to Louisville? Bring the kids and alllll their friends to this modern home in Valparaiso that sleeps 10 and has plenty of room for family game night, or this Mainstreet loft in Elkhart with loads of charm.
What did you think of our Indiana in winter post? What questions can we answer? Drop us a comment below!
Before you go, be sure to check out these other posts:
- 14 Wondrous Things To Do In Kentucky In Winter
- 12 Cozy Things To Do In Winter In Louisville, Kentucky
- 15 Red River Gorge Cabins In Kentucky (With Hot Tubs!)
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Disclaimer: Our visit to Indianapolis was sponsored, and all opinions, bad jokes, and asides are my own!