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Welcome Winter in Indiana’s Cool North

No bah-humbugging allowed when the holidays and winter roll around in Northern Indiana! If you’re entertaining family for the annual yuletide get-together, looking for your own festive jaunt, or just want to shake off any winter blahs, head out for dazzling lights and festivals, entertainment of all kinds, and plenty of outdoor activities. During the holiday season and well into the New Year, take time to discover all that makes winter wonderful in Indiana’s Cool North. (All December dates listed are for 2019; all January and February dates are for 2020)

Festival Fun

Santa’s Candy Cane Express

Where: Hesston Steam Museum, Hesston
When: November 30, December 1, 7, 8


Christmas magic reigns as the Candy Cane Express chugs out of the station at the Hesston Steam Museum in the LaPorte County community of Hesston. The annual event features train rides and a visit with Santa.

Bremen Holy Walk

Where: Bremen
When: December 6 & 7

The story of the first Christmas comes to life at the Bremen Holy Walk as visitors trace the journey of Mary and Joseph from the community of Bremen to a farm outside of town in a unique live dramatization of the birth of Jesus. On the way to the manger, walkers visit a Biblical-era village.

Shipshewana Ice Festival and Chili Cook-off

Where: Shipshewana
When: December 27 & 28

Works of art emerge from huge blocks of ice as professional ice carvers create amazing sculptures. Roam the streets of downtown Shipshewana to watch the artists in action.Then taste masterpieces of a different kind at the chili cook-off.  Shipshewana Ice Festival

Holiday Lights

Festival of Lights at Washington Park

Where: Michigan City
When: December 7 - January 4

More than 5 million individual bulbs set Michigan City’s Washington Park aglow, lighting up a variety of holiday and traditional displays on view as you drive through the park. The displays feature a variety of themes, some lighthearted, others nostalgic and still others stunning panoramas.

The Gift of Lights at the Potawatomi Zoo

Where: South Bend
When: Friday-Sunday, November 29 - December 22


The Potawatomi Zoo is proud to present The Gift of Lights, a holiday lights experience. The Gift of Lights will run Friday through Sunday, November 29 to December 22, 5 to 9 pm (last admission at 8:30).  More than a million lights will be wrapped around trees and in free-standing displays. Hot chocolate, coffee, adult beverages, and light snacks from concessions will be available for purchase.

Shipshewana Lights of Joy

Where: Shipshewana
When: Thursday-Sunday, November 15 - December 29

Visitors love Shipshewana at holiday time, and now there’s even more reason to visit: the fantastic drive-through light display, Shipshewana Lights of Joy.  More than 2 million LED lights illuminate both whimsical and religious scenes along the mile-long route.

Sunset Hill Farm County Park – Lights Drive

Where: Valparaiso
When: November 23 - January 1

Dazzling light displays in this Valparaiso park get visitors in the holiday mood as they drive past an array of scenes, many custom-made by Sunset Hill’s maintenance staff. You’ll see unique lighted, moving scenes such as a 20-foot-tall roller coaster, Santa and his reindeer, and an Indiana farm.

Outdoor Escapes

South Bend – Skating, Tubing and Skiing


Grab your hat and mittens and embrace winter in South Bend!  The new ice trail  and pond has just opened at Howard Park and is the new premier winter destination.  The Merrifield Park Ice Rink offers skating and skate rentals several days a week. Squeals of delight fill the air on the innertube runs at Ferrettie/Baugo and St. Patrick’s County Parks. St. Patrick’s also offers three special cross-country skiing nights.

Elkhart – Skating and Snowy Adventures

Skaters love the NIBCO Water & Ice Park, complete with an ice rink and path, skate rentals, and a warming facility with concessions. Cross-country skiers head for the groomed trails at Ox Bow County Park in town and Bonneyville Mill Park a few miles away. Both parks offer sledding and snowshoeing too.

Indiana Dunes – Special Winter Hikes

Winter turns the Indiana Dunes into a quiet wonderland perfect for hiking along snowy woodland trails and among sandy dunes. Head out yourself anytime or join naturalists at the Indiana Dunes State Park in Chesterton who lead special hikes during the holidays–one on Christmas Eve morning for a stroll through the dune forests and another New Year’s Day for a more rugged trek through the high dunes.

Valparaiso Ice Skating

At Valparaiso’s open-air William E. Urschel Pavilion, you’ll hardly notice you’re outdoors. A roof protects you from any wintry elements, and lights, music, and a well-maintained rink make ice skating a dream. Part of downtown’s Central Park Plaza development, the pavilion includes an indoor area for skate rentals and hot drinks during the winter months.

Indoor Fun and Games

Mishawaka – Bouncing, Bowling and More

The whole family can work off that excess energy that being cooped in the winter can create by cutting loose at two great venues in Mishawaka. At Sky Zone, everyone loves to jump  on wall-to-wall trampolines and dive into a foam pit. Strikes & Spares Entertainment Center features bowling, glow-in-the-dark mini golf, go-karts and arcade games.

Blue Chip Casino, Hotel & Spa

Where: Michigan City

Here’s an ultimate winter escape for a few hours or a few days! At the Blue Chip Casino, Hotel & Spa in Michigan City, the beat goes on 24/7 year-round with 65,000 square feet of gaming space, including 1,700 slot machines and 40 table games. Add in musical entertainment, fabulous food, luxurious lodgings and a pampering spa to complete the fun.

Super Museums

  • Hall of Heroes Superhero Museum, Elkhart – Holy Museum, Batman! Even Robin would be amazed at this super fun museum filled with comics, toys, displays and even Captain America’s shield and a replica of the Bat Cave.
  • Kidsfirst Children’s Museum (and more!), South Bend – Youngsters will love finding out what it was like to learn in a one-room schoolhouse and live in a cabin through hands-on exhibits. It’s part of The History Museum complex where you can tour a Victorian mansion and 1930s worker’s cottage.
  • LaPorte County Historical Society Museum, LaPorte – Exhibits about fancy cars, women who made history, pioneer life, and a murderous legend, plus a huge collection of rare guns fill this fascinating museum

Shows and Sports

South Bend – Performing Arts

The historic Morris Performing Arts Center provides an outstanding venue for Broadway shows, the South Bend Symphony Orchestra, plus other entertainment. Also in town, Notre Dame’s DeBartolo Performing Arts Center features concerts, theater performances and film.

Shipshewana – Blue Gate Theatre and Shipshewana Event Center

This state-of-the-art complex includes the intimate Blue Gate Theatre, featuring for the holiday season a heartwarming  inspiration tale, The Christmas Tree Ship.

Elkhart – The Lerner Theatre

Built in 1923 as a movie house, this historic theater has been completely renovated. It features concerts, theater and films. During the holiday season, various holiday productions are scheduled, including The Nutcracker.

Notre Dame – Hockey and Hoops

Experience thrilling action as the Fighting Irish compete in men’s basketball and hockey and women’s basketball at the University of Notre Dame in South Bend.


For gift shopping or post-holiday bargains, here are some ideas: