washington center downtown holidays
Snowfall outside the Washington Center, sponsored by local businesses, creates magical holiday memories for visitors. Photo courtesy: The Washington Center for the Performing Arts.

Since 1985, The Washington Center for the Performing Arts has been a hub of artistic and cultural expression in the South Sound. Not only is it the largest performing arts center in the region for touring, professional performances, but it provides a venue for over 25 community partner organizations to affordably showcase their artistic endeavors in a professional stage setting.

The Washington Center shines as a successful example of public/private partnership benefiting an entire region. The Washington Center structure is owned publicly by The City of Olympia while the daily operations, staff, and production work is accomplished by the not-for-profit organization tied to the facility. As a non-profit organization, the group works tirelessly to generate income through their big-name touring shows as well as with donor dollars through Friends of the Center memberships and their permanent Artistic Endowment. The income generated allows The Washington Center to fulfill its charge of providing a professional performance and display space for smaller, local groups to utilize for productions at significant discounts.

And, included in the outreach efforts of The Washington Center are events and experiences designed to welcome the greater community through their doors to experience live theater and engage with the wide variety of arts genres often offered for free.

One of the most beloved of these community events is Downtown For the Holidays. Held this year on Sunday November 29, this annual event is organized by the Olympia Downtown Association in partnership with merchants and businesses throughout downtown Olympia. Free activities are held all day long throughout the downtown core and include several unique family experiences at The Washington Center.

gingerbread village olympia
Thoughtful details and whimsical touches are what make the handcrafted creations at the Gingerbread Village so special. Photo credit: Lucie Khadduri.

A highlight for young and old is the SideWalk Gingerbread Village. The spectacular, themed gingerbread houses are created by teams of local volunteer bakers and builders in an effort to raise funds for SideWalk and their mission to end homelessness in Thurston County. The Gingerbread Village is open Saturday, November 28 and Sunday, November 29 from noon to 4:30 p.m. in the Washington Center Black Box. Vote on your favorite for a $1 donation. The displays will all be auctioned off at Saturday night’s Gingerbread Social – a dessert and cocktail themed evening celebrating the holidays while supporting Sidewalk.

Throughout the day Sunday, families will wander the streets of downtown, sipping lattes and hot cocoa, enjoying live music at the Sylvester Park Gazebo, taking photos with Santa and cheering groups participating in the annual holiday parade starting at 3:00 p.m. Downtown for the Holidays is completely free and reflects the spirit of community unity and support that is a cornerstone for The Washington Center. “We are the community performing arts center in this region and we feel its important for people to come through our doors, see our decorations, and know we are open to the public and welcome them to come visit,” shares Washington Center Director of Marketing Anne Larsen Matheson.

After touring the Gingerbread Village, slip through the glass doors into The Washington Center lobby and be prepared to be amazed. Since 1997, the Washington Center has hosted a spectacular quilt show, decorating the walls and halls of The Center throughout the holiday season. The quilts showcase The Center’s commitment to all genres of art and their support of local arts group’s creative work. The quilts are the handiwork of Sew Many Stars quilting guild and feature the talents of some of the area’s best quilters. The quilts are already hung, signaling for Center staff the unofficial start to the holiday season. Quilts will be featured through January 4 with an artist’s reception to be held December 3 at 6:00 p.m.

washington center downtown holidays
The lobby of The Washington Center will be open to visitors during Downtown for the Holidays featuring an exhibit by Sew Many Stars quilters guild. Photo courtesy: The Washington Center for the Performing Arts.

Cap off the evening with a Washington Center favorite – the annual free community movie Sing-Along. In years past, audiences have joined in the fun for The Sounds of Music, Grease, and the classic holiday movie, White Christmas. This year, channel your inner-hippie for a splash of 70’s fun with Mamma Mia! The Movie. Pre-performance, audience members will be led through a vocal warm-up by host Lauren O’Neill who will also cue you to chime in on each musical number. Free and open to the public, The Washington Center Sing Along is a perfect end to a day spent enjoying downtown Olympia.

Full details on the Olympia Downton Association’s Downtown for the Holidays can be found here. To learn more about the full line-up of holiday shows being featured at The Washington Center for the Performing Arts, visit them online.

“We want to welcome people to downtown during the holiday season that might not otherwise come to The Washington Center or to downtown,” shares Matheson. “We really are the community’s theater and hope people come and enjoy the wide variety of events we are hosting throughout the season.”

olympia youth chorus
The Olympia Youth Choir is just one of the many community groups who uses The Washington Center throughout the holidays. Photo courtesy: The Washington Center for the Performing Arts.

The Washington Center for the Performing Arts

512 Washington St SE, Olympia

360-753-8585 / Box Office – 360-753-8586



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