Q&A with Carmel Project Manager, Event Coordinator about Carmel Holiday Trolley

Ryan Zhang, Arjun Purohit

How did the Carmel Holiday Trolley begin?

It was either 2013 or 2014 and (the) Holiday in the Arts District event had horse-and-carriage buggy rides, but we were always dealing with the cold weather and the horses and a friend of mine actually had bought a San Francisco trolley and drove it from San Francisco to Carmel and he was looking for different ways to use it. And I thought, how much fun would that be to not have truck rides going through downtown during the Holiday in the Arts District event. So the first year the city hired the trolley and it went from 2 to 5 p.m. and it went up and down. We had a little circuit that it drove people around. (There were) about 26 people per trolley and from that point forward, it grew to the point that now we will have it Friday nights and Saturday nights. We’ll have two of them both nights. Friday nights (are from) 5 to 9 p.m. and Saturday nights (are from) 2 to 9 p.m. and we will start the weekend of November after Thanksgiving and we’ll go all the way through Dec. 18. So that’s kind of how it’s just evolved and got more and more popular every year. A lot of people especially with the Christkindlmarkt. Our goal for the trolley is to be able to allow people (and) guests in our own community to get around the city during the holidays. They can shop, they can eat, they can go to restaurants, I mean you can jump on the trolley at Holder Mattress. And you can get off at Agave or you can drive down to Bubs and get ice cream or you can go to the Christkindlmarkt and shop or you can get up the city center and the new stop this year is going to be Elm Street and Monon. We’re going to add that in for people to get to Midtown.

Are there any new additions to the Carmel Holiday Trolley this year?

Other than the fact this year that we added the November weekends versus just December we get for this year we’ll have a banner on the back of it so people will be able to see it each of this we are adding the new Elm Street and Monon stop so it’ll go by the Fork and Ale between Java House and Fork and Ale and it’ll stop on the corner so people can get to and from Sun King and Fork and Ale and that’s a new stop this year.

What do people see on the rides?

(There are) holiday lights all over the city. They can go from location to location. Let’s say you want to go up to Cake Bake. You can ride the trolley to Cake Bake, get off and have dinner, get back on the trolley (and) it will drive you around the fountain and all the lights on the city square (then) to Christkindlmarkt. You can get off at the Christkindlmarkt, you can shop, you can jump back on and every location will have a big red enclosed tent, so if it’s cold and chilly out, you can stand under the tents and you won’t have to worry about getting really cold and then it can take you downtown and you’ll see all the lights of downtown and it’s a really Norman Rockwell picturesque type of experience.

Is there anything special about the holiday lights?

There’s a variety of different lights in Carmel. We’ve got the new Monon lights which when you walk the Monon you can go walk through the tunnels of lights. We’ve got the igloos out this year which will have lights and then you can sit inside and the whole main street is lit up. And like I said, the city square is lit up, the fountain in that whole area is lit up (and) it’s just magically beautiful.

Would you encourage families to go on it?

Oh, absolutely. It’s free, open to the public, complimentary (and) doesn’t cost a cent. There’s a Santa’s House at the Indiana Design Center, which is open on Saturdays, from 2 to 5 p.m. You can bring your kids, you could take them to Santa, you can drive around the city and see the lights and it (will) not cost you anything and you have a traditional holiday experience with your family.

Why might a Carmel High schooler want to go on it?

Just I think for the fun, the experience, it’s an experience. I know high school kids can get on it together. Let’s say you’re downtown and you want to get to the Christkindlmarkt and you don’t want to have to walk across town. Jump on the trolley, ride it around, get off at the Christkindlmarkt and go ice skating at the Carter Green with the ice skating rink. Actually, you can even park over at the Indiana Design Center if you don’t want to fight parking over by the Christkindlmarkt and get on the trolley and you can ride it around, you can ice skate with your friends, you can do the Christkindlmarkt, you can go up and get Bubs and get ice cream and get back around to the design center and get in your car and leave.

And is the trolley doing anything differently because of COVID-19?

Basically, we will be monitoring how many people can ride at one time so that it’s not packed. The windows will be open, so that there’s air coming through and and and filtering through the trolleys. We’ll be taking precautions to make sure that they’re clean and wiped downSo we’ll be doing a lot and people obviously can wear a face mask if they feel comfortable wearing them. They don’t have to but they can. So hopefully those will be the precautions that will help make it safe.

So the trolley is meant to be a way to commute rather than serve as entertainment?

Oh, it is entertaining. There are people who go to San Francisco and when they’re in San Francisco, one of their goals is to ride one of the trolleys because they’re famous out there for their trolley rides. So see for you, as a high school student, you’re getting a first-time experience. And they’re all decorated and holiday and festive and fun. So it’s a good experience for high school kids to expand their horizons, do something different.

Could you describe one of your experiences on the Carmel Holiday Trolley?

Oh, it’s great. I have been on a trolley when a Santa Claus jumped on the trolley and rode with everybody on the trolleys singing ‘Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer’ and singing Christmas carols and just having a blast. I’ve been on a trolley when there are little kids and they’re just looking up the windows and they’re so excited about how much fun this is. And it’s such a neat experience and the lights are all twinkling inside and they got holly and some garland wrapped around. And I think people jump off and go to Bub’s and get ice cream and these kids are just having a ball. It’s just a really neat holiday experience. I don’t really think you can limit the fun by age if that makes sense. Whether you’re a little two, three, 4-year-old, or you’re a high school kid or you’re an elderly 60 to 80 year old. It’s the magic of the holidays. It’s fun. It brings Carmel to life.

Is there anything I haven’t asked that a reader might like to know?

I think the fact that this is a complimentary holiday experience that I think that that is really really a neat part of it. You can go shopping like Holder Mattress at the Indiana Design Center has wonderful gifts, you can ride the trolley and go (to stores), you can shop, you can be there for 30 minutes, come back out, grab the next trolley. It’s just a really, really nice way to be able to get around Carmel, but do it in holiday style. 

Why was this event created?

So we try to promote a walkable community. And so the trolley kind of was introduced to allow people to just park their cars once and then be able to enjoy being able to shop, dine and take in kind of the holiday decor around the city. So it allows for safe transportation along with them being able to have a little bit more protection from the elements of the weather and allows them to travel between the (Carmel) Arts and Design District in the city center area.


How many trolleys are there?

There’s two. 


What things can you see on the holiday trolley?

The holiday trolley basically goes from (the) Arts and Design District up through our city center. So it goes along Rangeline and then Third Avenue. So people would be able to see the holiday decor and storefronts that people have decorated during the holidays such as along Main Street (and) along city center. It’ll stop off at the Christkindlmarkt, so they’ll be able to kind of see what the market looks like. So it kind of gives them a chance to kind of see our central core of the city during a holiday time with lights and window displays and anything that’s holiday-themed that we have throughout the city.

What days does the holiday trolley run?

So the trolley runs on Fridays from 5 to 9 p.m. Saturdays from 2 to 9 p.m. And it starts on Friday, Nov. 26 and goes through Saturday, Dec. 18. 

So the trolley is more of a method of transportation rather than an activity?

It’s kind of like a bus. It is not (an activity). It’s just a mode of transportation.

Why would a CHS student want to go on one?

(It) gives them something to be able to do with their friends to where they’re not driving, they’re not having to worry about parking and allows them to experience the holiday decor. It allows them to get on at one stop and be able to stop at different points through the route, be able to get off and if they want to eat with their friends or want to eat with their family or there’s shopping that they’re wanting to do, it just kind of allows them to be out of the elements of the weather just like the adults. (It) allows them to get out of the elements of the weather, allows them to be safe (and) not have to worry about stopping if they want to go to Bub’s Burgers and want to eat dinner, but then they want to go down to the market. So instead of them having to move their car and try to find parking, they get on the trolley and with their friends and can ride the trolley and go to all those locations.

How do you get on one of these trolleys?

So there’s six different stops between the area of Main Street down to City Center Drive or where the Palladium is and there’s six stops along those ways. So at each trolley stop, one can get on or one can get off. So it’s at different points. 

Is there anything different about the holiday trolley this year?

This year, we’ve added a stop in our midtown area, which that’s where Midtown Plaza is where the big screen TV screen is. We’re also adding a tracking system so that people will be able to track where the trolley is so that if they’re at one stop, then they’ll be able to look on an app and see how far away the next trolley is. So those are really the two big things that we’ve added this year.

Is the trolley doing anything differently because of COVID?

Not that they have made us aware of. Obviously, it’s the normal restrictions that everybody else is abiding by that if you’re not vaccinated, then you need to wear a mask. There’s nothing specific that they have told us or that there are any restrictions that are in place.

Is there anything special about Carmel’s holiday lights?

Our city is kind of known for our holiday lighting. We do tend to try to light up the city as much as we can. It is something that we only offer during this time. So it’s just it’s festive, and it puts people in the holiday mood and it’s just something to see for these next few months.

Could you describe your experience on a holiday trolley?

It was, it was convenient. It was fun. The time that I was on, there were people that came out and sang. A lot of people, if they’re in the holiday spirit, I feel like each person may have a different experience. But I mean, mine was convenient. It was fun. And it was cheery.

As Carmel’s Project Manager, what do you do with the holiday trolley?

So my role is I help with the route, I help promote it and advertise it. I’m the liaison between the city and the actual event coordinator.

And is there anything I haven’t asked that a reader might like to know?

We just encourage people to use it. And come out and enjoy our holiday experiences. Hopefully, it gives them a chance to be able to see more and do more and experience the city in a unique, festive way.