Holiday Weekend Getaway in Hamilton County, Indiana
Our family recently took a trip to Hamilton County, Indiana where we got to experience a unique take on the holiday season.
Our weekend getaway started early Saturday morning. The drive to Hamilton County from the Louisville area is just over two hours. We arrived at our hotel around 10am and started exploring the city of Carmel. Our first stop was The Museum of Miniature Houses in the Arts & Design District. During the winter, the museum has special events scheduled. On this Saturday, children were invited to participate in an ornament workshop. My six year old daughter said this was her favorite activity of our trip. While our children worked on their ornaments, with the assistance of the very friendly ladies working at the museum, my husband and I walked around looking at the several houses.
Don’t doubt this museum-it really is intriguing. My husband said that taking the time to look at the details of the miniature houses allowed him to imagine and learn about homes and families from time periods many years ago. I liked the miniature houses that were replicas of actual family homes. My daughter made up her own scavenger hunt of counting how many pets could be found in each house. My son commented on how friendly and welcoming everyone was at the museum.
We bundled up and walked around the Arts & Design District. We wanted to find a place to grab a cup of coffee, but ended up having so much fun finding the next very realistic statue along the sidewalks and snapping a picture with it. There is plenty of shopping, art and places to grab a bite to eat in this area, but we headed to our next stop.
We drove a few minutes away to the Carmel Christkindlmarkt. I was most excited about this stop on our trip. I lived in Germany for a few years as a child and can remember the German Christmas markets very well. The city of Carmel is gorgeous and the market was beautifully done. We arrived around noon and made sure to sign up for the first ice skating session. Ice skating sessions are 1.5 hours and have an admission and skate rental fee. The rink is not suitable for the plastic walkers for beginner skaters to use, so our children spent a lot of the time holding the rails as they skated. The rink is very large and it never felt overcrowded during our skate time.
German huts surround the ice skating rink where visitors can find a variety of food, drinks and gifts to purchase. There is traditional German fare like bratwurst, lentil soup, roasted almonds and gluhwein. The raclette seemed to be the most popular food choice at the market. Watch as melted raclette is scraped on your toasted baguette and then topped with meats and condiments. I enjoyed a currywurst with red cabbage and German potato salad and my kids ate a walking waffle topped with Nutella. We thought the food prices were very reasonable.
There were several vendors selling German items such as nutcrackers, advent calendars, beer steins and traditional wooden candle windmills. Many of the items were way out of our price range, but I was excited to find a vendor selling Lebkuchen. These gingerbread hearts are a common sight in German markets and offered a bit of nostalgia for me. The market also had great gluhwein boot mugs early on in the opening weeks of the market, but quickly sold out. There were replacement coffee mugs for an affordable $5 souvenir.
Overall, we thought the Christkindlmarkt was pretty authentic. There are a few hiccups with the walkways getting jammed, but the atmosphere was absolutely enjoyable and charming. Make sure you bundle up, take part in the outdoor ice skating rink, enjoy a hot beverage around one of the fire pits while listening to the entertainment on the stage and try to see the market when it’s sparkling in Christmas lights. It is a beautiful sight at night! There is a holiday trolley service that will run you back to the Arts & Design District if you want to head back for more shopping or eating.
After a short rest at our hotel, we made our way to dinner at Bazbeaux Pizza back in the Arts & Design District. All of the restaurants looked very busy. We had to wait for about 30 minutes to be seated, but once we were seated, the service was fast. The aromas in this restaurant were amazing. Everyone created their own individual pizza and we appreciated that they were accommodating to each of our requests. My husband requested no cheese (yes, no cheese) and my son wanted just a plain buffalo chicken and cheese pizza. Everything came out just as requested and tasted amazing. The prices and portions were all satisfactory.
On Sunday morning, we enjoyed breakfast at Carmel’s Bub’s Café. This quaint café is worth the stop. It didn’t take much convincing to order their homemade granola after each of us were given a sample once we were seated. I ordered their California Scramble and my husband had their Egg Sandwich and substituted the sausage for their elk sausage. Our children split an omelet (and still had leftovers) and everyone shared their famous HUGE donut holes. There are several sweet and savory options on the menu and a variety of warm drinks. My husband and I both commented that the café reminded us of the old Lynn’s Paradise Café in Louisville. The café has delicious food, with generous portions and a great family-friendly atmosphere.
We took a 25 minute drive to Noblesville to do some holiday shopping at the Hamilton Town Center. This outdoor shopping center has all of the big name brands and reminded us of The Paddock Shopping Center in Louisville only about four times the size. Santa was available for pictures at the center and there were beautiful Christmas decorations all around. We picked up some stocking stuffers and small teacher gifts at the Home Grown Indiana boutique. There were locally made soaps, bath bombs, jewelry, wood signs and more. Although the center has plenty of restaurant options, we made our way to our next stop for lunch.
Rosie’s Place located in the Square in Noblesville is heavenly. We arrived for a late lunch and the place was hopping! While we waited to be seated, I picked up some treats to take home with us. There are baked good options galore at this restaurant. You have to try their macaroon and signature gooey butter cookies. When we visited they had an egg nog butter cookie that was wonderful with a cup of coffee. The restaurant service was phenomenal. We asked our server to recommend two sandwiches for us to share. My husband and I shared the Turkey Bacon Grill and The Black Goat. The combination of flavors on these sandwiches were perfect. Check out their menu online to see what was on these sandwiches. oth kids enjoyed something from the kid’s menus. For around $5, the portions were huge and the side item choices were great also. There were traditional kid choices like chips, but also sliced apples and sweet potato fries that I wish I had chosen as my side item! Hot food, breakfast and salads are also on the menu. We don’t think anyone will go hungry at Rosie’s Place.
The Square is reminiscent to La Grange in Oldham County, Ky with the railway tracks and old store fronts. I loved the old courthouse in the middle of the shopping. We found Santa’s hut located near the Hamilton County Museum of History. Families can visit Santa and leave letters for him during the hours posted near his hut. All of the trees, stores and posts were decorated for the holidays and we’re sure it’s beautiful to see at night. I found some more presents at Linden Tree Gifts and explored the area for a few more minutes. Visitors can enjoy the shopping, history, art and parks located near the Noblesville Square.
If your family is having a hard time choosing which holiday events to do this season, we recommend making the short trip to Hamilton County, Indiana for a different experience. The Christkindlmarkt is beautiful, the people in Carmel were welcoming, there are plenty of places to shop for gifts and the variety of food is delicious!