Holiday Happenings Throughout Thurston County

Thurston County is a fantastic place to visit any time of the year – offering mild weather, outdoor activities galore, a variety of arts events and festivals, great shopping, and more. But if you find yourself here at the holidays, you’re in for a myriad of December-only treats.

Trees & Decorations

One good thing about our short winter days – when darkness falls before the workday ends – is that we can enjoy all the holiday trees alight across Thurston County even longer.

Many of our communities hold tree lighting ceremonies in late November and early December, but visitors can enjoy the twinkling lights amid evergreen boughs anytime.

In downtown Olympia, the community tree is found at Sylvester Park and Capitol Way. Lacey’s tree is at Huntamer Park in Woodland Square on 7th Avenue SE. In Tumwater, the tree is lit up at Tumwater City Hall at 555 Israel Road SW.

Take in the majestic, 30-foot tall state holiday tree on display in the Capitol Building rotunda. The noble fir from Port Blakely Tree Farms of Tumwater is decorated with 5,000 LED lights.

Governor’s mansion holiday tours take place on December 14th and 17th, with twelve 60-minute tours each day. Reservations are required for this popular holiday tradition and can be made by calling the Department of Enterprise Services’ State Capitol Tour Office at 360.902.8880.

Neighborhood lights are always a hit with young and old. Arguably the most popular lit-up location is The Lights at Ken Lake, at 2228 Lakemoor Dr. SW in Olympia. Last year visitors dropped off enough non-perishable items to fill seven large boxes, and donated almost $1,600 to support local food banks.

Another favorite holiday light location is Harvest Drive in Tumwater, where the homes at 817, 833, and 826 illuminate nearly every surface – Santa has even been known to make an appearance on the weekends.

Thurston Talk’s list of last year’s popular holiday light spots also serves as a good guide for finding more of this year’s most impressive displays.

Seeing Santa Himself

Getting the kids a meeting with the Big Guy in Red is simple this time of year, of course. And options abound for all, whether you’re heading to the mall to finish up (or start) your Christmas shopping, or prefer to wander downtown to do their gift-buying.

Santa and his elves have set up their annual photo-snapping shop at Westfield Capital Mall, where little ones can tell Ol’ St. Nick what’s on their wish list and get a photo package complete with enough wallets to satisfy all the relatives.

Olympia photographer Cortney Kelley has been shooting portraits with Santa in her downtown studio for four years. A bargain at just $10 for a 5×7, her studio is open on December 10th and 17th from noon to 4:00 p.m. Santa hands out darling little bells to visiting children, while supplies last. And pet portraits are also welcome.

Cabela’s offers free pictures with the Jolly Old Elf in their gift department, on December 10th, 11th, 17th, and 18th from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.

West Olympia’s McLane Black Lake Fire Department is one of several area fire stations that transports Santa through various neighborhoods at the holidays, carrying his lit-up sleigh, blasting Christmas carols, and collection non-perishable food items for local food banks.

Lacey Fire District 3 and the Tumwater Fire Department also shuttle Santa around in style so he can meet with area children and help parents get into the holiday spirit.


We all know shopping isn’t the reason for the season, but for most of us it’s an inevitably huge part of the holiday hubbub. Thurston County is chock full of fantastic shopping options, from local, independent boutiques to big box stores that offer selection and stupendous sale prices.

If you’re trying to work quickly and efficiently down a long list, make your first stop Westfield Capital Mall in West Olympia. With over 90 stores, Westfield Capital Mall will surely have something for everyone you’re buying for.

Lacey’s South Sound Center just off the Sleater Kinney Road exit also offers a mix of big and small retailers, anchored by Target, Sears, and Kohl’s. You’ll also find Michaels Craft Store, Marshall’s, Hill’s Hallmark Shop, Radio Shack, and much more.

Thurston Talk recently profiled a myriad of downtown Olympia holiday shopping choices.

Olympia Nutcracker
Photo: Courtesy of Ballet Northwest and Jerome Tso

Arts Events

The Nutcracker is on many people’s holiday must-do list. The magical ballet is being performed by two different Olympia troupes this year. Ballet Northwest puts on its annual production at the Washington Center for the Arts, while Studio West Dance Academy hits the stage at the Kenneth J. Minnaert Center for the Arts at South Puget Sound Community College.

We’ve all seen the film version of A Christmas Story, with Ralphie’s Christmas quest for a Red Ryder BB gun and all the ensuing hilarity. This year, Olympia Family Theater puts its spin on the comical classic at the Kenneth J. Minnaert Center for the Arts at SPSCC. Catch a sneak peek here.

Harlequin Productions stages Stardust Serenade – the 17th and final show in this popular holiday series that’s directed by Linda Whitney and written by her alter ego Harlowe Reed. Set in 1940s, the show marries swing, nostalgia, laughs, and celebrity impressions for a memorable, merry time.

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