Making Holiday Memories at The Washington Center this Season

washington center
Through its many local partnerships and generous supporters like board member Jim Haley and sponsor Thurston First Bank, the Washington Center is able to provide a professional space for non-profit artists and performers to use.
washington center events
The falling snow outside The Washington Center is a magical moment for many children attending events at the downtown theater.

The holidays are all about making, and reliving, memories. Family traditions, yearly rituals, and the smell of that once a year recipe baking in the oven are all part of the excitement and nostalgia of the season. For many families, annual outings and events form the framework around which special holiday meals and gatherings are planned. A trip to cut down the Christmas tree, dressing up for the Nutcracker, driving through the neighborhood to view holiday lights, or venturing over the river and through the woods to Grandmother’s house are all events that mark traditions of the season.

When planning your family’s holiday outings this year, include a few of the exciting events from The Washington Center for the Performing Arts, held both at the Kenneth J. Minnaert Center for the Arts at South Puget Sound Community College and at The Washington Center in downtown Olympia. The wide variety of events celebrate all aspects of the visual and performing arts forming lasting memories and traditions for your family to last through the years.

When most people think of “theater” and “holidays” they instantly hear the familiar strains of Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite in their heads. For many children, a performance of the Nutcracker is one of their earliest live theater memories and one that lasts a lifetime. In Olympia, we are fortunate to have two accomplished ballet studios offering multiple performances of this classic ballet. The Washington Center hosts eight performances of Ballet Northwest’s The Nutcracker on their mainstage for two consecutive weekends, December 11 – 13 and December 18 – 20. Studio West Dance Theatre’s six performances occur December 17 – 20 at SPSCC’s Kenneth J. Minnaert Center for the Arts. Either of these productions will delight young and old alike and never fail to put you in the holiday spirit.

gingerbread house
Visit The Washington Center on November 28 and 29 to view the spectacular gingerbread houses created by local teams all to raise funds for SideWalk.

In addition to our love of The Nutcracker, there are many more experiences to be had at The Washington Center this holiday season. It all kicks off November 28 with the SideWalk Gingerbread Village. This annual display of talent (free and open to the public) showcases the gingerbread creations of local teams benefiting SideWalk, a local agency aiming to end homelessness in our area. Visitors are invited to view the houses, and vote on their favorite, on November 28 and 29 from noon to 4:30 p.m. The houses will then be auctioned off, becoming the centerpiece of lucky family’s holiday décor. On the evening of November 28 the Sidewalk Gingerbread Social occurs at The Washington Center – a chance to enjoy not only the displays, but desserts and drinks all to raise funds for this worthy cause. Tickets for this 21+ event can be purchased here.

The highlight on Sunday, November 29 is Downtown for the Holidays. This collaborative event brings together downtown merchants and the community to kick off the holiday season with music, festivities, and a holiday parade down Capitol Way. The Washington Center joins in the fun, inviting visitors to view the gingerbread house display as well as wander through the lobby, taking in their annual quilt exhibition featuring the art of Sew Many Stars quilting guild. Since 1997, The Center has hosted quilts from this local group as a beloved holiday tradition. “For The Washington Center staff, the arrival of the quilts signals the traditional start of the holiday season,” shares Marketing Director Anne Larsen Matheson. Meet the artists themselves at the December 3 reception in their honor.

washington center
Throughout the holiday season, The Washington Center offers holiday shows and events for the whole family both at their downtown location and at the Kenneth Minnaert Center for the Arts at SPSCC.

Cap off the Thanksgiving weekend, and kick off the holiday season, by joining friends and family for “Mamma Mia! The Movie”. The annual movie sing-along at The Center has quickly become a well-loved tradition and this year’s feature is sure to please. Sing along to ABBA favorites and don your best bell-bottoms and beads for the costume contest.

Fans of NBC’s hit show “The Voice” will flock to The Washington Center to see the 2012 Voice finalist Chris Mann performing hits from his album “Home for the Holidays.” The classically trained singer has just completed a North America tour as The Phantom in “The Phantom of the Opera” and will blow you away with his powerful vocal performance on December 3.

If classic holiday music puts you in the spirit, you are in luck. The SPSCC Choir and new SPSCC Band present their Fall Quarter Concert on the Minnaert Center mainstage on Friday, December 4 at 7:30 p.m. Full of holiday classics and sing-along favorites, this concert is for all ages. The following night, audiences will delight in the orchestral sounds of the 70 piece SPSCC Orchestra as they perform their versions of beloved holiday tunes. Tickets for all Minnaert Center shows can be purchased through The Washington Center box office or at

student orchestra olympia
Alexus Kaminski plays cello with SOGO and will be part of the free December 21 performance of the Messiah at The Washington Center.

The final event of the holiday season features SOGO (Student Orchestras of Greater Olympia) in a free, public performance of Handel’s Messiah on December 21 at 7:00 p.m. This classic, inspiring piece showcases SOGO’s collaboration with local conductors and soloists. Come to listen, sing, and be inspired.

Enjoy the offerings of The Washington Center for the Performing Arts and make memories this holiday season. And don’t forget…throughout the season, your children can dance in “the snow” falling in front of The Washington Center, which may just be one of the best memories ever.

Tickets and schedules for all events above can be found online here.

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