Carmel, IN (WCIA) Just outside of Indianapolis is an area that is especially ready for visitors this time of year. Carmel, Indiana, may be in the Midwest, but it’s as welcoming as the North Pole when it comes to celebrating Christmas. You can even bring along your four-legged family members for the fun.

The Carmel Christkindlmarkt is a finalist as one of the greatest in the country, according to 10Best. As someone who has visited quite a few both here and in Europe, I have to agree.

I visited Carmel Christkindlmarkt a few years ago and loved it, so I was happy to come back this year for the preview of the 2021 event. It’s better than ever with lots of authentic German food, drinks, and gifts. The booths are centered around an ice skating rink, and you’ll also find entertainment, visits from Santa, and demonstrations.

There is no charge to enter the Christmas Market, which will be open Wednesday-Sunday until December 24th. It’s all outdoors so dress warm.

Ironically, the last time I visited a city as dog friendly as this one it was also named Carmel, specifically Carmel-by-the-Sea in California. We spent some time at Clay Terrace Dog Park, which is one of many in the city.

Home2 Suites, which just opened in Carmel last year, is also pet-friendly and an ideal place to center your getaway. It’s just about a mile from the heart of downtown. The suites are large with complete kitchens and there is a complimentary hot breakfast.

Downtown Carmel is filled with places to shop, eat, and drink. We decided to check out Peace Water Winery. This unique place is home to California made wines. Another concept this locally owned company has adopted is that half of the tips are given to charity and you can decide which one by putting money into the envelope of your choosing on the charity wall.

We liked all the wines we tried, especially the Wishful White and the 21 Windows. Peace Water Winery does not serve food, but they encourage you to order in from local restaurants. We chose Muldoon’s. It was just a few doors down and a good place to get a New York Reuben and a burger. The winery supplied the dog treats.

Another place you might want to stop at before you leave Carmel is Jack’s Donuts. The handmade donuts here are fresh and delicious, and come in unusual flavors such as Peanut Butter Iced, Applesauce Cake, and Chocolate Nut Stick.

Peace Water Winery, Muldoon’s, and Jack’s Donuts are part of the Indiana Foodways Alliance, which includes 21 trails across the state cover everything from Coffee & Tea to Tenderloins. You can pick up a passport on their website to win prizes as you taste your way around the state.  

Just a short drive away is Forest Park, where you can take the Nickel Plate Express on a Reindeer Ride with Santa and carolers, serving cookies and hot chocolate.

Connor Prairie is fun with the family any time of year, but they have some special plans for the next few weeks that include story time, creative projects for the kids, and a peek inside Santa’s world.  For those looking for more activity, there’s the 150-foot Polar Bear Plunge tubing hill and, new this year, Frosty’s Skating Rink.

You can extend your holiday explorations in Indianapolis. The Indianapolis Zoo will present “Christmas at the Zoo” through December 30th.  

Newfields, which will be presenting Winterlights through January 2nd, will also have a celebration for Chanukah on December 5th. “Latkes & Lights” will display Stars of David and Menorahs throughout the windows and lawn of the Lilly House, along with Chanukah music, beverages, and latkes (potato pancakes).

For more information on activities in Carmel and the surrounding area, visit the Hamilton County website.

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Also, be sure to check out more of her travel stories at my Wine And Spirits Travel blog.