ICVA and Arts & Entertainment, etc. and Marketing and Children's Museum and PR and Eiteljorg Museum and Indiana State Museum and Indianapolis Museum of Art and Restaurants and Tourism & Hospitality and Retail and Communications and Media & Marketing and Real Estate & Retail and Sports Business

Holiday promotional campaign helps Indianapolis venues boost their attendance

November 17, 2008
 "On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me ..."

Well, everyone knows it's a partridge in a pear tree. But for local purposes, the answer is free admission to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame Museum.

Visitors checking out the city's rich racing heritage Dec. 13 can do so at no charge, thanks to its participation in an Indianapolis Convention & Visitors Association campaign featuring assorted attractions and restaurants.

The 12 Free Days of Indy Christmas promotion runs through Dec. 24 and gives patrons of several city destinations the opportunity to enjoy them without the cost. The promotion includes free admission to the Indianapolis Museum of Art on Dec. 18 (admission is free anyway, but special activities will be available to mark the winter solstice), the Indiana State Museum on Dec. 22, and The Children's Museum of Indianapolis on Dec. 24.

Also, on Dec. 15, wine connoisseurs will receive a complimentary glass to taste samplings from wineries on the Indy Wine Trail. And, on Dec. 23, several downtown restaurants will treat diners to a free dessert with the purchase of an entree.

This is the third year for the campaign, which sprung from the ICVA's efforts to better promote city destinations during the holiday season. It seems to be getting some notice. USA Today has committed to featuring the package, ICVA spokesman Bob Schultz said. The association also is hopeful other regional and national media outlets, as well as "The Today Show," will devote space and time to the campaign.

"People like free and they like packaged," Schultz said, "so both of those came together."

New this year is the free dessert offer from 14 downtown restaurateurs, including Buca di Beppo, McCormick & Schmick's, Palomino, Ram Restaurant & Big Horn Brewery, and The Claddagh.

One of downtown's more notable attractions, the NCAA Hall of Champions, again is absent from the lineup. After participating in the inaugural year, the museum has been missing the past two and is temporarily closed after fire damaged an exhibit in 2007.

Veterans of the promotion say it provides an opportunity to give back to the community while exposing more people to their venues.

"It's just a nice opportunity to persuade folks who may be a little timid to check it out and come on down," state museum spokeswoman Becky Weber said.

Those who do can take in three exhibits: "Chocolate," which runs through Jan. 4; "On My Honor, Girl Scouts Since 1912," which runs through February; and "Celebration Crossing," which begins Nov. 28 and runs through December.

The latter is a holiday show in which youngsters can visit with Santa Claus. Children also can ride on the Santa Claus Express train and make crafts. In addition, the original train that debuted in 1958 will be on display.

Typically, Indiana State Museum admission is $7 for adults, $6.50 for seniors, and $4 for children ages 3 to 12.

The Children's Museum offer on Christmas Eve runs from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., the normal time it is open that day. Children can enjoy the annual Jolly Days Winter Wonderland exhibit and, of course, the Yule slide.

Free time is nothing new for the museum. It offers it the first Thursday of each month. Other full days of free admission are President's Day in January, Martin Luther King Jr. Day in February, and El Dia De Los Nios-or Day of the Child-in April.

Children's Museum admission usually is $13.50 for adults, $12.50 for seniors, and $8.50 for children 2 to 17.

As the holidays approach, the hustle and bustle of the season tends to take its toll on the hospitality industry. So it's no wonder that a free promotion can provide a lift.

The ICVA campaign helped The Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art triple its attendance for a day, spokesman Anthony Scott said. Its free day this year is Dec. 21. The cost otherwise is $8 for adults and $3 for children.

The Indianapolis Motor Speedway experiences a bump as well, spokesman Ron Green said.

"It's an opportunity for us to expose the museum to potentially a new fan," he said. "It's a good promotion."

The Speedway museum will forgo its $3 charge Dec. 13.

After three years, though, the ICVA is contemplating whether to make changes to the promotion. Officials are pondering whether to start the campaign later so many of the free days fall between Christmas and New Year's Day, when children are on winter break.

With school out of session, parents outside of Indianapolis might be more inclined to travel to the city and stay the night, thus aiding the local economy even more by spending money on hotel rooms and dining out.

But officials of the attractions are hesitant to commit, Schultz said, because their gate receipts get a lift from students home from school during the holidays.

The promotion also complements annual holiday productions such as the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra's "Yuletide Celebration" and Indiana Repertory Theatre's "A Christmas Carol."
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