As with Halloween and this fall’s festivities, the holiday season is not immune to COVID-19. 

Shortly after Thanksgiving weekend, the positivity rate for coronavirus began skyrocketing again across the country — Indiana included. More than 35 out of 92 counties are in the red zone, with the rest of the map in the orange, according to the Indiana COVID-19 dashboard and map. 

A red zone calls for additional guidelines to minimize the high positivity rate and community spread. The guidelines include restrictions on the size of social gatherings, large events and business capacity while advising vulnerable populations to stay home. 

This means the holiday season may look a little bit different this year. But don’t fret, there are plenty of socially distanced activities out there to celebrate safely. 

A majority of the celebrations this year can be divided into three categories: train rides, lights and light shows, and museums. 

Here you can find other ways to celebrate the holidays while staying as safe as possible: 

Train rides

Sullivan Hardware & Garden Express train ride and Santa visit

  • Sullivan Hardware & Garden is located at 6955 N. Keystone Ave., Indianapolis.
  • Time slots sell out quickly, and many are already full. 
  • Tickets cost $25. One ticket provides space on one car on the train (fits up to four adults or the equivalent—babies and toddlers can sit on laps) and one visit with Santa. So each family needs their own ticket. Don’t buy a ticket for each person—that will cost a lot more! 
  • There will be three Santas at three different North Poles during the Santa experience. However, the same number of tickets will be sold per hour as last year.
  • COVID-19 protection measures include an entirely socially distanced experience along with a no-contact visit and photo with Santa. UV light systems have also been installed to kill germs in the air. Sullivan Hardware & Garden says while it will not have its usual communal toy stations, it will have individually wrapped crafts for each kid.

Lights and Light Shows

Christmas Nights of Lights

  • Drive-thru light show (through Jan. 3) at the Indiana State Fairgrounds.
  • Enter 42nd Street side gate 12 from dusk until 10 p.m.
  • Thirty-minute duration.
  • Cost is $7 per person; children 3 and younger are free. Or take advantage of the carload special: $30 for up to seven passengers.
  • The drive-thru experience is a low-risk holiday activity because families will not have to leave their vehicles. 

Christmas at the Zoo

  • A walk-through light exhibition (through Dec. 30).
  • The Indianapolis Zoo is located at 1200 W. Washington St., Indianapolis.
  • Hours are 5-9 p.m. Sundays-Thursdays and until 10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays.
  • Visits are included with regular admission and free to zoo members.

A Merry Prairie Holiday

  • Conner Prairie, 13400 Allisonville Road, Fishers.
  • Advance tickets cost $16 for visiting guests, $8 for members; gate tickets are $20 for visiting guests, $10 for members, and kids 2 and younger are free.
  • Conner Prairie will be “abiding by all CDC recommendations, including the mandatory wearing of masks by staff and guests ages 5 and older in ALL areas (you may remove your mask while drinking and eating),” according to safety protocols listed on its website.

Winterlights at Newfields

  • Winterlights 2020 is an entirely outdoor experience (through Jan. 3).
  • Newfields is located at 4000 N. Michigan Road, Indianapolis.
  • Tickets are $20-$25 for adults, $13-$17 for youths 6-17, free for kids 5 and younger.


The Eiteljorg Museum’s Jingle Rails: The Great Western Adventure

  • The Eiteljorg Museum complies with all state and local public health requirements for remaining open and clean during the COVID-19 pandemic, including: wearing face masks inside the building, sanitizing hands upon entering, providing a noninvasive temperature scan taken by museum staff, maintaining six-foot social distancing from others inside the building, adhering to the blue “permission lines” on the floor mandating spacing around exhibits, and washing hands after using the restroom, sneezing or blowing one’s nose.
  • Tickets vary in price from $0 for advance tickets for those 4 and younger and members only, $2 for Jingle Rails access pass card holders, $8 for youth advance tickets, and $15 for adult advance tickets. 
  • Tickets are valid for one day and time slot only and include general museum admission for one person. The time on your ticket is your entry time to Jingle Rails. Only 16 visitors are allowed in the exhibit at one time. 
  • You can also see the Jingle Rails exhibition via livestream any time the museum is open, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 12 p.m.-5 p.m. Sunday.

The Eugene and Marilyn Glick Indiana History Center’s Festival of Trees

  • Offering both an in-person and virtual experience at 450 W. Ohio St., Indianapolis.
  • Through Jan. 9 (closed Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day).
  • The center’s in-person holiday hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, noon to 5 p.m. Sunday. (Friday will have extended hours of 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.)
  • Ticket prices are $13 for adults, $12 for seniors (60 and older), $2 for access pass members, and free for children 5 and younger, IHS members, educators, first responders/healthcare workers and military. 

Sydney Byerly is a reporter for, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.

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