The holiday season is upon us! Whether you have years-old traditions or want to add something new to your holiday happenings, here are some events and things to do this Thanksgiving Week along Lake Michigan's South Shore. 

Friendship Botanic Gardens in fall - Michigan City

Get Outdoors

When you’re planning to eat your weight in food on Thanksgiving, you can also plan a way to work off all those calories! There are a number of group activities planned throughout Northwest Indiana on Thanksgiving Day. Before your big meal, join the competitive Pumpkin Plod 10K Run / 5K Walk in downtown Highland or take part in Valparaiso's Turkey Trot 5K, both holiday traditions for many in the region. Bring the whole family to Friendship Botanic Gardens in Michigan City from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. for their annual Gobble Gobble Turkey WalkKids will get to have fun walking the trails and embarking on a paper turkey scavenger hunt for a prize at the end!

On Black Friday, #OptOutside with Lake County Parks. Take an afternoon hike at Lemon Lake in Crown Point or go on an Owl Prowl at Gibson Woods Nature Preserve in Hammond.

If you're just looking for an easy walk to get out of the house for a while, check out these trails for the lazy hiker. Enjoy the autumn landscapes at Gabis Arboretum in Valparaiso and the Indiana Dunes Great Marsh Trail in Beverly Shores or spend some time strolling the streets of Rensselaer to check out art by muralists from around the world.

Family watching bison at Kankakee Sands

Wildlife Viewing

Another location to hike mentioned in the blog is Kankakee Sands, where you'll also find a herd of roaming bison! The bison were introduced to the area in 2016. A viewing area is set up just off US Highway 41. The staff suggests planning to stay for a few hours. Start at the viewing area and you might get a good sighting. If not, drive around the pasture. If you still aren’t able to see the bison, maybe take that hike along a trail for an hour or two, and then return to the viewing area to try again.

Speaking of wildlife viewing, the number of Sandhill Cranes migrating to Jasper-Pulaski Fish and Wildlife Area is almost at its annual peak. Last fall there were 30,000+ cranes counted at peak time! Grab your binoculars and head out to the elevated platform to watch the cranes enjoy spending the holiday week with each other.

Ice skating in Central Park Valparaiso

Ice Skating

The ice skating rinks around the region will begin to open around Thanksgiving week, weather permitting! Crown Point plans to open its NHL-sized ice rink at Bulldog Park on Thanksgiving weekend as does Deep River Waterpark. Valparaiso plans to have Central Park Plaza's ice skating rink ready to go by November 13, 2023.

Fair Oaks Farms Forest of Lights

Celebrate the Holidays

Take in the Forest of Lights at Fair Oaks Farms beginning November 17, 2023! Stroll through their nature path with all the trees and tractors lit up for the holidays. They have warming stations where you can enjoy bonfires, s'mores and hot chocolate. You can purchase your tickets at their Holiday Market where you can also pick up some fresh baked goods and festive décor. 

Plan a lunch or dinner with your household in their private, heated igloos right in The Farmhouse Restaurant's backyard. The igloos are all decorated with their own themes and are a great setting for small family get-togethers, date nights, or a fun night with friends!

Make a mini-vacation out of it with a stay at the on-site Fairfield Inn and Suites by Marriott.

Christmas Tyme Lights

Harvest Tyme Family Farm has a new Christmas Tyme Lights walk-through! Explore a half-mile walking trail with classic holiday tunes, millions of lights, festive displays, hot cocoa, fresh-baked cookies, campfire s'mores and visits from seasonal characters. Tickets will be sold on their website here.

Crown Point Santa Parade

On Friday after Thanksgiving, the City of Hammond is having its annual tree lighting celebration where you can also write letters to Santa, decorate an ornament and see live reindeer! Then on Saturday, head to downtown Crown Point to see the Santa Parade beginning at 10:00 a.m. Santa will be arriving by helicopter and will be there to say hello to all the children and families before heading to the Square!

Parlor Doughnuts is having a Santa's Toy Drive Photoshoot at their Munster location on November 25 and their Valparaiso one on November 26, 2023. Donate an unwrapped toy and experience a magical Parlor Express-themed photo booth with Santa and his elf. Proceeds will go to support the Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots and Salvation Army Angel Tree organizations.

Ready to start shopping? At Hobart's Holiday Market on November 26, 2023, find holiday crafts, decorations, gifts and sweet treats. At the LaPorte Christkindlmarket, it’s a German Christmas! Happening November 22, 24 & 25, 2023 at the LaPorte County Fairgrounds, the market will feature the magical sights and sounds of German-style Christmas markets done with small-town American style! 

Kids checking out "A Christmas Story" Comes Home

Get ready for the next holiday at the “A Christmas Story” Comes Home exhibit at the Indiana Welcome Center in Hammond. Stop in to see the seven animated window displays depicting scenes from the holiday movie from November 11 to December 30, 2023! Don’t forget to schedule a time to get your photo taken with Santa on most weekends starting right after Thanksgiving. Make sure to check out the gift shop to find something for everyone on your list.

However you decide to fill your Thanksgiving Week along the south shore of Lake Michigan, stay safe and we hope you enjoy it! Happy Thanksgiving from all of us at the South Shore CVA.