Top 10 Joyful Wonders at Lighting Up Shipshewana: A Spectacular Holiday Experience

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Top 10 Joyful Wonders at Lighting Up Shipshewana: A Spectacular Holiday Experience

As the holiday season approaches and the first part of November gives way to the end of fall and the beginning of winter, the small town of Shipshewana, Indiana, transforms into a festive wonderland. The annual Lighting Up Shipshewana event marks the beginning of the Christmas season and draws visitors from near and far. 

If you’re available around the end of November, there is no better way to kick off your holiday season than with a visit to Shipshewana for their annual kickoff of the Christmas season. But knowing how to plan can be challenging if you’ve never been to Shipshewana. Don’t worry! I took care of the hard work for you!

Here are the top 10 things you must see and do at this magical annual event, each promising to make your holiday experience unforgettable.

1 – Experience the Joy of Lights Parade

Center your visit around the Joy of Lights Parade, a highlight of the Lighting Up Shipshewana event. I attended my first Joy of Lights Parade in 2023 and was instantly charmed by the warm and cozy atmosphere. The whole town felt like I had stepped into a scene from a Lifetime Christmas movie.

The event’s organizers know what they’re doing with this small town Christmas light parade. I sat across from the main stage and enjoyed musical performances throughout the afternoon leading up to the main event – the Magical Shipshewana Light Parade, which begins at 7 pm.

You’ll get to witness the spectacle of beautifully decorated floats adorned with Christmas lights, illustrating the spirit of the holiday season. The parade showcases community participation, creating a heartwarming atmosphere. Floats are often accompanied by music and performances, making it a lively and engaging experience for all ages. And in case you wonder, the Amish participate in the parade and enjoy the fun with the rest of the crowd!

The parade kicks off with a dramatic reading of the Christmas story and a live nativity acted out. Then, the Christmas light parade kicks off the season where the beautifully decorated downtown is on display, complete with Shipshewana’s Lights of Joy.

The lighted Christmas tree that is part of the Lighting Up Shipshewana event

2 – Indulge in Local Food Vendors at the Lighting Up Shipshewana Event

You’ll want to arrive early the day before the parade because no festive experience is complete without delicious foods, and Shipshewana knows how to do food trucks! Local food vendors set up their trucks amidst the downtown shops. You can enjoy everything from pizza to donuts to French fries. I highly recommend a stop at Shawna Rae’s bakery and café. Shawna Rae is a whiz in the kitchen and speaks my favorite love language – food!

chocolate and vanilla cupcakes on a glass plate
a colorful image with fresh vegetables

Be prepared for a massive crowd – it gets bigger as parade day wears on, so keep a close hand on your partner and kids! But the entire town has a beautiful, family-friendly atmosphere, so don’t be surprised to find people randomly smiling at you as you walk up and down the streets.

3 – Visit the Blue Gate Shops and Restaurants

No visit to Shipshewana is complete without a visit to the famous Blue Gate shops and Restaurant. If you try to eat at the Blue Gate on Parade afternoon, prepare yourself for a very long wait. When I was there, the wait time was over 2 hours. Fortunately, we had eaten there the evening before, so there was no waiting for us on parade day!

And in case you’re hoping to secure your spot in advance, know that the Blue Gate doesn’t accept reservations. So come early and plan to wait if this is a must-do on parade day. The experience is worth it. The first-come, first-served policy adds to the excitement and anticipation. Once inside, you’ll be greeted with warm hospitality and an array of traditional Amish dishes that will delight your taste buds. Oh! And save room for a slice of pie!

a round plate with a piece of homemade raspberry cream pie
Raspberry Cream Pie is just one of the many choices at Blue Gate.

4 – Enjoy Live Music & Characters

Build some time into your schedule to listen to the fantastic talent showcased on the main stage throughout the day. And as you wander through town, keep an eye peeled for some holiday-themed meet and greets. 

Look for Shippy, the town mascot, and Santa Claus. Live reindeer are also on sight and wandering the crowd. There are photo moments galore all around town on this special day, so bring your camera and be prepared!

The pink-haired Hip Grandma poses with Shippy, the mascot for Shipshewana at the Lighting up Shipshewana event
I found Shippy!

5 – Join in the Fun at the Davis Mercantile

The Davis Mercantile is a must-visit, with its festive decorations and unique features. With four floors and 21 stores, you’ll find plenty of exciting finds. You can get a great start on your Christmas shopping at one of the unique gift shops or pick up all the supplies you need to work on your next quilt at Lolly’s Fabrics.

the exterior wall of the Davis Mercantile with a mural of the Davis Hotel
There are beautiful murals all around town.

Don’t leave the Mercantile without snacking on a JoJo’s Pretzel. And when you’ve finished licking your fingers, make your way up to the fourth floor, where you can catch a spin on one of the hand-carved farm animals on the 1906 Dentzel Carousel. My favorite part of this experience is the view from the window out over the town while you ride. The Davis Mercantile is an ideal spot for photo opportunities and to soak in the holiday mood.

the pink-haired Hip Grandma poses in front of a pair of chalk designed wings
The pink-haired Hip Grandma gives a thumbs up while riding a carousel

6 – Witness the Spectacular Lighting Ceremony

As soon as the parade is complete, the entire crowd is invited to come to the main stage area and reconvene for the annual lighting of Shipshewana ceremony, where the town lights up in a spectacular display. This moment marks the official beginning of the Christmas light season and is a sight not to be missed. The ceremony often includes music and speeches, enhancing the communal spirit of the event.

Before attending the lighting ceremony, I briefly visited with Mr. Mel Reigsecker, owner of the Blue Gate Empire, who explained how the town converts its 54-foot windmill into the annual Christmas tree. I can’t give away all the town secrets, but suffice it to say that Mr. Reigsecker is a man of great vision. If you get the opportunity to meet this unpretentious man, be sure to take it. He is full of compelling stories of the history of Shipshewana and his exploits in building many of the esteemed businesses around town.

7 – Conclude Your Visit Downtown

At the conclusion of the parade, you will still have time to explore downtown Shipshewana. The shops along the streets of this quaint town stay open as late as 9 pm on parade night. As you wander, you’ll encounter the friendly community of Shipshewana, making the experience even more personal and memorable.

As you stroll through the shops, you’ll find locally-owned gems like Cherry Pickers, home of professional pickers and custom furniture builders, and Riverwood Pottery, home of functional and handcrafted nature-inspired pottery. One of my favorite shops is Kidz Kreations, where the order of the day is custom-made dolls for girls (and boys) of all ages. Of course, I had to bring home a little remembrance from each shop. Imagine the damage I could have done if I had a bottomless pocketbook!

The exterior of the store in Shipshewana called "Cherry Pickers"
Owners Mark & Stephanie Liechty have an amazing story!
a wall filled with various pieces of hand-made pottery
So much handmade pottery! Gorgeous!
The Pink-Haired Hip Grandma poses with a handmade Amish doll from Kidz Kreations in Shipshewana
I had so much fun making this sweet little doll for my granddaughter to play with.

Need a Place to Stay?

8 – Take in NOEL in the Michiana Event Center

The annual NOEL event, presented by Shipshewana Majestic at the Michigan Event Center, is a spectacular highlight of the holiday season in Shipshewana. Scheduled on various dates throughout December, this event promises an unforgettable Christmas celebration.

NOEL is more than just a Christmas show. It is an immersive experience that combines the magic of Christmas with daring acts and the greatest story of all time, the birth of Jesus. I love the unique performances and the live animals. What an atmosphere!

NOEL is something like Ringling Brothers meets the Christmas story. This unique show is appropriate for all ages and will hold the attention of even the youngest viewers. Plan on a blend of traditional holiday spirit and thrilling entertainment. 

The Michiana Event Center is near the Lights of Joy drive-through light show entrance, so give yourself plenty of extra time to maneuver through traffic as you arrive and depart. 

9 – Theater performance at the Blue Gate Theatre

If you’re looking for something less thrilling but still want a lot of fun and to see some fantastic talent, consider tickets to the annual Christmas show at the Blue Gate Theater. I have been to this theater more than once, and the Theater Company does a great job weaving a heartwarming story and song into a festive and fun Christmas show. 

Each year, the theater stages a specially crafted Christmas production that combines the charm of a traditional holiday tale with the unique cultural flair of Shipshewana.

Before the show begins, find the QR code in the program to enter the drawing for tickets to another performance. The Blue Gate draws for every performance, and if you’re lucky enough to win, you’ve got a built-in excuse to come back!

Michigan Road Trips banner image with pink background and navy and white words, including an image of Michigan

10 – Drive Through the Grounds of the Shipshewana RV Park

After parade day, you can take in the Lights of Joy display on the grounds of the Shipshewana RV Park. This drive-through display is a 1.8-mile course of Christmas Light Scenes. The entire park is beautifully lit up for the Christmas season. It becomes a canvas for displays that cover everything from the nativity to a tribute to our US Soldiers to classics like Rudolph and the Abominable Snowman.

Pack a cup of hot chocolate and some Christmas cookies while you cruise through this one-of-a-kind light display. The light show is an ideal spot for making memories amidst the glow of thousands of lights.

a shot of christmas lights in the dark background
1.8 miles of these beautiful lights!

Wrapping It All Up

The Lighting Up Shipshewana event offers a blend of traditional and unique experiences. Don’t be shocked if it becomes a new favorite annual holiday experience. From the delightful parade to the spectacular drive-through light display, there’s something for everyone to enjoy in this small midwestern town that packs a powerful punch! Make sure to add Shipshewana to your holiday plans for an unforgettable experience filled with lights, laughter, and the joy of the season!

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Frequently Asked Questions:

Is Shipshewana decorated for Christmas?

Yes, Shipshewana, Indiana, is known for its festive decorations during the Christmas season. The town, famous for its Amish community and rich cultural heritage, transforms into a winter wonderland with beautiful holiday lights and decorations. You will enjoy festive lights and decorations and find plenty of Instagrammable spots for perfect selfies! Shipshewana’s streets, shops, and public spaces often feature holiday-themed decorations. Visitors can enjoy the warm glow of lights, festive displays, and Shipshewana’s unique charm during this season.

The pink-haired hip grandma poses on a snowman display.
Instagrammable spots are everywhere in Shipshewana!

What are the dates for the Shipshewana Flea Market 2024?

The Shipshewana Flea Market in 2024 will be open from April 30th through September 25th. This outdoor market, known for its wide range of products and festive atmosphere, will operate on Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 8 am to 4 pm EST. Additionally, the market will have special weekend and holiday dates and hours, providing ample opportunity for visitors to explore the numerous stalls and vendors. The flea market grounds cover 40 acres of outdoor shopping.

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