You might never fulfill your dream of racing in the Indianapolis 500, but cruising around the track in your own vehicle at 5 miles per hour might be the next best thing
Lights at the Brickyard is like a holiday dream come true for race fans, but you don’t have to be a fan of racing to enjoy this holiday tradition. More than 2.5 million lights and 500 different displays illuminate the historic Indianapolis Motor Speedway, turning it into a festive wonderland that everyone can enjoy.
The first thing to know about Lights at the Brickyard is that it is a drive-through experience, so you get to see everything from the comfort (and warmth!) of your own car. Once you enter the gate, you’re directed to the ticket booths. After you pay, a friendly person dressed like an elf will tell you to dim your headlights. They will also suggest setting your radio to 105.7 FM to listen to some holiday tunes while you drive. Do it! The music really adds to the holiday ambiance.
The magic begins immediately as you drive onto the IMS infield. Millions of lights and dozens of different displays light up the night sky, including nursery rhyme characters, monster trucks, pirates, sea creatures … and, of course, Santa Claus, reindeer, and busy little elves. It was fun for the kids to point out everything they saw along the way. “Look! I see Santa with a flag!” “I see a green race car!” It was like one huge holiday game of I-Spy. Some of the most fun displays were the ones that were shaped like tunnels that we could drive through and be surrounded by thousands of lights. Kids get a kick out of driving through tunnels. (Confession: Adults do, too!)
This year, a light display was created to honor the late Jim Nabors, who was a steadfast figure of the Indy 500 race with his rendition of “(Back Home Again In) Indiana,” which he would sing before the start of almost every Indy 500 race.
The tour meanders for more than 2 miles, leading you to the front stretch of the racetrack. It’s a little (OK, a lot!) awe-inspiring to drive on the same track that many famous drivers have also driven. You also get to drive over the historic Yard of Bricks, which is where the race traditionally starts and finishes, and through Gasoline Alley, where crews work on cars before the race.
The drive-through tour took about 30 minutes from start to finish, but even that didn’t feel like enough time take in all the beautiful displays. The kids were clamoring to go through again, but each ticket only allows you to drive through one time. Guess that means Lights at the Brickyard gets a green flag to become one of our holiday stops next year!
Lights at the Brickyard runs until Dec. 30. Admission per car is $25 Monday-Wednesday, $30 Thursday-Sunday. For vehicles with more than 15 people, admission is $50. Hours are 6 p.m.-9 p.m. Sunday-Thursday, and 6 p.m.-10 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Open Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. A Speedy Pass can be purchased online, which allows visitors to skip the ticket booth and go straight to the tour. Visit www.indianapolismotorspeedway.com/events/lights for more info.
Nicole Sipe is a freelance writer and editor in Indianapolis. A Southern California native, she enjoys exploring Indy with her husband and two sons.