Local Cultural Events With New Wrapping

Institutions like the Eiteljorg and the ISO are refreshing their holiday traditions this year.
Cultural organizations tend to give the same gifts every December. Visit the IRT’s A Christmas Carol and you’ll get the same story and same wonderful snow-covered set. The Santa Slide at The Children’s Museum reappears annually without much need for change. That’s part of their comforting pleasures. But some packages benefit from a seasonal sprucing-up. Here, what’s new at four holiday staples:


ISO Yuletide Celebration 
What it is: A musical variety show featuring the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra as well as guest hosts, dancers, and singers. Launched in 1985, it accounts for 15 percent of the symphony’s total annual attendance, with more than 43,000 patrons attending last year.

What’s new: Hosts Josh Kaufman (who led the show in 2016) and Angela Brown (who last hosted in 2014) return, bringing along a new dance group, Expressenz. Tweaks to the core lineup of acts this year includes a mock musical competition spoofing Kaufman’s The Voice victory.


Christmas at the Indianapolis Zoo
What it is: Celebrating its 50th year (it claims to be the first animal park in the country to offer a holiday lights program), the Zoo hopes to top last year’s record-breaking 136,000 guests. And that’s during an off-season month for animal attractions when there’s competition from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and
Newfields light shows.

What’s new: Last year’s addition was a new Santa’s Village. This year’s biggest change is the schedule: For the first time, the Zoo will be open Monday and Tuesday evenings.


Jingle Rails at the Eiteljorg Museum
What it is: An expansive model-train layout, illuminated with holiday lights, featuring scenery depicting national parks, Western landmarks, and Indianapolis attractions. It
typically draws between 35,000 and 40,000 guests during its nine-week run.

What’s new: For its ninth season, “Jingle Rails” has added a Route 66 scene and a replica of the Hilbert Circle Theatre. The mini State Fair also returns after a year off.


Festival of Trees
What it is: Begun in 2014 with 25 decorated trees on display at the Indiana Historical Society, the exhibit now occupies almost every corner of the IHS, with the total up to a forest-like 81. It’s credited with a 200 percent increase in the IHS’s daily attendance during the holiday season, leading to extended hours.

What’s new: Many trees will be trimmed differently, and the 30-footer parked in Eli Lilly Hall will be Indiana-themed this year. For the first time, the exterior will be decked in lights, and Santa will make an appearance every Saturday.