Downtown for the Holidays, a longtime Olympia Downtown Alliance tradition,  is a kickoff to the merry season, taking place this year on Sunday, December 1. Holiday activities in Olympia abound at this jolly, fun filled family event. Sip and stroll while enjoying the day’s events, like the annual WSECU Jingle Bell Parade and the Tree Lighting Ceremony with the backdrop of decorated downtown storefronts. From hot chocolate, to ice skating, to a visit from Santa, Downtown for the Holidays, showcases the best downtown Olympia has to offer.

Olympia Downtown Alliance Downtown For the Holidays WSECU Jingle Bell Parade Llamas
Starting at 1:00 p.m., the WSECU Jingle Bell Parade will launch at Capitol Lake and wind its way to Sylvester Park. Photo courtesy: Olympia Downtown Alliance

Downtown for the Holidays is the Olympia Downtown Alliance’s largest event, gathering thousands of people throughout Capitol Way, Fifth Avenue and Sylvester Park for the WSECU Jingle Bell Parade and surrounding activities.

This year, Oly on Ice is back and is part of the winter fun! From 10:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. on December 1, skaters can glide around the 5,000-square-foot ice rink at Isthmus Park.

Starting at 1:00 p.m., the WSECU Jingle Bell Parade will launch at Capitol Lake and wind its way to Sylvester Park. This year, the parade was moved to an earlier time to allow attendees to make a day of exploring downtown to experience the full range of activities offered at Downtown for the Holidays.

Brit Kramer, event partner for Downtown for the Holidays says the parade’s best viewing spot will be near the corner of Fifth  Avenue and Capitol Way, where parade commentary will be presented by Ty Flint of MIXX96.1.

“The parade is really community based,” says Kramer. “We welcome anyone, you just have to pre-register online to be a part of the parade. So, families, organizations or community groups of all kinds are welcome to march in the parade. It’s a cute little parade that is quite festive.”

Olympia Downtown Alliance Downtown For the Holidays WSECU Jingle Bell Parade Santa and Mrs Claus
Santa and Mrs. Claus will be at the Sylvester Park gazebo from 1:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. on December 1. Photo courtesy: Olympia Downtown Alliance

From 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m., horse drawn wagon rides will be regularly departing from Sylvester Park. Sponsored by Batdorf & Bronson Coffee Roasters, sip on hot chocolate while taking a tour through downtown. At 1:15 p.m., the Alleluia! Handbell Ensemble will ring in the holiday season with some merry tunes at the Batdorf & Bronson Coffee House on Capitol Way.

Find out if you’re on the nice list this year while visiting with Santa and Mrs. Claus under the Sylvester Park gazebo from 1:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. Dinea de Photo will be available to photograph, with the option to purchase images.

Prior to the Tree Lighting Ceremony, Apple Tree Productions, will preview pieces from their December program at Sylvester Park. In its seventh year of operation, Apple Tree Productions is a local children’s theater program available to students in the Puget Sound region.

Throughout the afternoon, there will be time to browse the downtown shops, and enjoy the decorated storefronts, as a part of Twinkle Fest, an annual decorating contest hosted by City of Olympia Parking & Businesses Improvement Area (PBIA), which runs through the holiday season. After touring the downtown shops, visitors have a chance to win prizes by voting on their favorite storefront display.

Olympia Downtown Alliance Downtown For the Holidays WSECU Jingle Bell Parade Store Decoration Twinkle Fest
Throughout Downtown for the Holidays, there will be time to browse the downtown shops and enjoy the decorated storefronts, as a part of Twinkle Fest, an annual decorating contest organized by the Olympia Downtown Alliance that runs through the holiday season. Photo courtesy: Olympia Downtown Alliance

The grand finale of the afternoon is the annual Tree Lighting Ceremony at Sylvester Park. As opposed to installing and disposing of a new tree each year, a permanent holiday tree, a Korean fir, was planted by the Washington State Department of Enterprise Services at Sylvester Park in April of 2017 as a more sustainable holiday tree option. The growing tree will be officially lit at the 4:00 p.m. ceremony with a live performance by the Olympia High School Chamber Choir.

“I would bring my family and friends to enjoy Olympia at its best,” Kramer says about Downtown for the Holidays. “This is where we collate around our biggest event of the season and just enjoy all the festivities. I think everyone will be in a happy mood and just really wanting to share and enjoy the season.”

Downtown for the Holidays will take place on Sunday, December 1 from 1:00 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. To learn more about Downtown for the Holidays, the WSECU Jingle Bell Parade, the Tree Lighting Ceremony and additional festivities, visit the Olympia Downtown Alliance website.

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