It’s a Wonderful Christmas in Indiana, Pennsylvania

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There are several Pennsylvania towns that are perfect destinations to get you in the Christmas spirit. However, few can match the beauty and charm of Indiana, Pennsylvania.

Located a little over an hour outside of downtown Pittsburgh, Indiana might be best known for the university that sits in the heart of the town, but it also can lay claim to being one of the most Christmasy places in all of America.

Every year, the Christmas season in downtown Indiana, Pennsylvania, kicks off with the “It’s a Wonderful Life Festival and Parade” on the Friday night before Thanksgiving. Over the course of an hour, dozens and dozens of local clubs and businesses walk their decorated floats through downtown Indiana, waving to the crowds and throwing candy to the waiting kids on the sidewalks. There’s even a Jimmy Stewart impersonator dressed as “It’s a Wonderful Life” protagonist, George Bailey.

The It's a Wonderful Life Parade in downtown Indiana, Pennsylvania.
The It’s a Wonderful Life Parade in downtown Indiana, Pennsylvania.

In many respects, the parade is simply a large local parade, the type that you could find in many towns across Pennsylvania. However, because of the quaintness of Indiana, the parade feels like the kind of parade that George Bailey would be proud of. And, like George Bailey, the parade seems somehow special and unique, despite its relative humbleness.

Following the parade is a tree lighting ceremony, complete with Christmas carols and roasted marshmallows. During the evening, many of the shops and restaurants downtown remain open late, creating a festive atmosphere throughout the entire downtown area. After the parade, head to the old Indiana Theater in downtown for a showing of “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

Roasting marshmallows at the It's a Wonderful Life Festival in Indiana, Pennsylvania.
Roasting marshmallows at the It’s a Wonderful Life Festival.

Even if you can’t make it to the parade, however, visiting Indiana, Pennsylvania, at Christmastime is still worth it.

For those looking for a bit more of the “It’s a Wonderful Life” inspiration, The Jimmy Stewart Museum is located in downtown Indiana. Since Stewart grew up in the town, it has always had a special connection to him, making the museum a logical extension of his legacy.

The Jimmy Stewart Museum in downtown Indiana, Pennsylvania.
The Jimmy Stewart Museum in downtown Indiana, Pennsylvania.

While the museum is worth visiting at any time of the year, the holiday season is a popular time thanks to the holiday decorations. It’s a great place to visit for anyone that wants to learn more about the actor’s life and legacy.

Even better, during the Christmas season, the museum plays “It’s a Wonderful Life” on weekends in their on-site theater. Giving you the chance to see the movie while surrounded by Stewart’s memorabilia.

After visiting the museum, take a stroll down Philadelphia Avenue, the main artery through the town’s downtown area. All along the street are quaint, small-town shops set up with beautifully decorated windows. You’ll not only find a good meal and a great cup of coffee to keep you warm (try Caffe Amadeus), but you’re also sure to find some great gifts for your family and friends.

Another great Christmastime activity in Indiana County is visiting a Christmas tree farm. Known as the self-dubbed “Christmas Tree Capital of the World,” Indiana County, Pennsylvania, has 17 Christmas tree farms. At several of the farms, like Flemings Christmas Tree Farm just outside of downtown Indiana, visitors can not only pick and cut down their own tree, but they can also enjoy the farm’s Christmas shop.

Fleming's Christmas Tree Farm in Indiana County, Pennsylvania.
Fleming’s Christmas Tree Farm in Indiana County, Pennsylvania.

Overall, I was really impressed with Indiana, Pennsylvania, as a Christmas destination. If you are looking for a quaint town to visit this holiday season, I doubt you’ll find anywhere more Christmasy than Indiana, PA.

Note: My visit to Indiana, Pennsylvania, was hosted by the local visitor bureau. However, the opinions expressed are my own.

Looking for more holiday destinations? Check out the best Christmas lights in Pittsburgh and our favorite towns to visit during Christmas in PA.

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3 thoughts on “It’s a Wonderful Christmas in Indiana, Pennsylvania”

  1. Thank you for posting this. My husband, Rodney, our son, Brandon and myself were all born and raised in Indiana PA. We moved to Pensacola FL 8 yrs ago and I always tell everyone about my home town. Most people think I am talking about the state of Indiana. Now they can see for themselves the memories that make me love Indiana. I have shared it on my Facebook. Stay warm and God bless. Merry Christmas* Sis Mary Semsick

  2. Great post! Indiana is an incredible town in which to live not only for the reasons you stated above for the Christmas season, but throughout the entire year. What I am post proud of, the town also seriously supports the arts and its artists… young and old alike. During its annual Westsylvania Jazz and Blues Festival, a high school group is always featured. There are two artist councils in town, the Indiana Artists Association and the Indiana Arts Council. The IAA supports visual artists at The Artists Hand coffee shop and art gallery… a GREAT place to buy the art of local artists. The IAC hosts a spring exhibition of artwork from all county schools with almost 1000 pieces of art on display at the Indiana Mall. Then IUP has a great College of Fine Arts which present many free exhibitions in its three on-campus museums. The college also is home the the Lively Arts, the organization which brings incredible performing artists to our community including Broadway musicals, international soloists and dance troupes, and other world class performances… all to our little community. We are indeed blessed, not only with a great Downtown Indiana organization which oversee the “It’s a Wonderful Life!” celebrations, but with a large based of community-minded businesses and residents. It’s not wonder it’s a wonderful life in Indiana, PA. Jim, keep up the great work at Uncovering PA… I’ve discovered a lot of wonderful finds about our state through your posts.

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