Check Out Indiana’s Winter Delights

Do you have room in your holiday calendars for a few wintry Indiana activities? Maybe you’re in need of something to entertain your children over winter break, or you’re in search of fun activities to get yourself in the holiday spirit.

We’re enjoying fairly mild weather now, but there are plenty of activities in Indiana to explore whether the weather is great – or frightful. If you’ve got time in December to get out and enjoy some sights and sounds of the season, here are a few things central Indiana has to offer:

  • Festival of Trees: The Indiana Historical Society has 80 Christmas trees decked out in Hoosier-related flair through January 6. Dates, times and ticket prices are available here. You can also check out the Indiana Experience while you’re there.
  • Lights at the Brickyard: What’s more Hoosier than the Indianapolis Motor Speedway? Take a drive around the oval and cross over the yard of bricks while you take in over 2.5 million twinkling lights (set to music, if you choose). This year’s expanded route is more than two miles long. Be patient on the weekends for long lines, but weeknights experience typically lighter traffic. Get tickets and times.
  • Christmas at the Zoo: Another Indianapolis staple, Christmas at the Zoo features the animals that don’t mind the cold and lights throughout the property. Get tickets online.
  • Jingle Rails at the Eiteljorg: If model trains are your thing, this is the place to be. Nine working model trains zip past Indiana landmarks and then out west to some of America’s natural and man-made wonders. New this year is a model train trip to Hollywood. The event runs through January 15. Tickets and dates available here.
  • L.S. Ayres Tea Room: Though L.S. Ayres department store closed downtown in 1990, the Indiana State Museum has recreated the famed L.S. Ayres Tea Room as a restaurant with a heaping side of nostalgia for those that recall dining in the original. It’s impressive – the ambiance and lighted windows give the feel of being on the eighth floor of the department store. The tea room is open through January 7 and includes special events such as Santa’s Holiday Breakfasts and Tea with Raggedy Ann.
  • Polar Bear Express: Put on by the Indiana Transportation Museum, the Polar Bear Express train ride departs from Kokomo or Logansport and features an approximately 75-minute trip, complete with candy canes, hot cocoa, a holiday story read aloud and, of course, visits from Santa and Mrs. Claus. Tickets are $35 per person (kids too) and reservations are required.
  • Veal Family Ice Tree – For several years, my family lived near Shelbyville and when we’d drive on Interstate 74, my brother and I would always keep an eye out for the colorful ice tree that peaked out among the foliage. That’s the Veal Family Ice Tree! While this one is definitely off the beaten path, it’s a nostalgic place for many. The ice tree typically takes shape in January and is melted by March. This one is, of course, dependent on the weather. So, if you’re one of those that loves a freezing winter, take advantage of a Hoosier original! Check their Facebook page for updates.

We know there are many more things to do in Indiana during the winter months than what we have highlighted here. Did we miss one you love? Let us know in the comments! What do you enjoy doing this time of the year?

Christmastime in Indiana

Winter Wellness: Keep It Simple

This column was originally posted at Inside INdiana Business:

Braving the brisk air for a jog may be the last thing you want to do when you wake up. Pursuing indoor activities is a rewarding alternative. Head to the gym or pop in an exercise DVD. Short on time? No problem. You don’t have to use a treadmill or lift weights. Spend two or three minutes doing stretching exercises. Take deep breaths as you prepare for the day ahead.

During your workday, keep active. Conduct standing or walking meetings. In addition, discuss projects in person with co-workers rather than always using e-mail. Or call them and stand up while you’re talking. Nine times out of 10, if I’m on the telephone, I’m moving.

If those options don’t appeal to you (it’s all about personalizing your initiative), try one of these simple desk exercises. Grab a Frisbee or paper plate and turn it upside down. Then put it under your desk and move your legs back and forth on the carpet. It’s a great way to work lower leg muscles.

Looking for inexpensive strength training tools? Use resistance bands (also called therapeutic bands) to stretch. Another idea is to replace your traditional office chair with a stability ball, which helps improve posture and works core muscles. If that is not an option, you can still engage your abs by sitting up straight on the edge of your chair and slightly leaning back.

Prefer something more social? Take a stroll on an indoor path with co-workers. After hours, create your own walking route at a shopping mall. And if the weather isn’t too chilly, venture outside and have fun! Take a scenic walk through the woods at a park or go sledding.

Did you know that you don’t have to exercise for long periods of time to reap the benefits? Ten minutes here and there – adding up to approximately 30 minutes a day – can make a big difference. The key is figuring out how you can incorporate physical activities into your normal day based on what you feel you are capable of doing and what interests you.

Take the stairs. Walk up an escalator rather than standing in place. When you’re grocery shopping, push your cart through every aisle. Small steps add up.

The holidays bring good tidings and… lots of temptation. Why not take a walk after a big meal with family and friends? Also, instead of sampling all of the festive foods you crave, enjoy one or two things and savor them.

Many people will enter 2013 with a resolution to stop smoking. It’s an important step that can dramatically improve your health and well-being. The QUIT NOW Tool  offered by the Wellness Council of Indiana is a valuable resource to assist Hoosier employees in their smoking cessation efforts.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, each smoker costs his or her organization $3,391 annually in direct medical costs and lost productivity. That’s a huge impact. Remember: Healthy employees lead to healthy workplaces with happier, more productive team members.

The best gift you can give to yourself is good health. Find what works for you and makes you happy. That’s how you truly make a lifestyle change.