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Your Ultimate Guide to the 2018 Honolulu City Lights Opening Night

Jingle all the way over to Honolulu Hale to celebrate the best time of the year.


Shaka Santa

Photos: Ron Slauson


Christmas just ain’t Christmas without Shaka Santa, Tūtū Mele and the gang. Come visit them, meet Santa Claus and more at this year’s Honolulu City Lights opening night on Saturday, Dec. 1. Prepare for this lit tradition by reading our guide of what to expect, where to park, tips and more. Have fun rocking around the (Honolulu Hale) Christmas tree. 


What It Is

Every year since 1987, Honolulu Hale lights up with festive decorations, colorful ornaments and handmade wreaths, signaling the (unofficial) start of the holiday season in the Islands. The free event, hosted by the city and the Friends of Honolulu City Lights, features an opening night filled with a parade, entertainment, food, photos with jolly old Saint Nick and the main spectacle: an 80-foot Norfolk pine, harvested from Olomana School, adorned with ornaments. Check out the community wreath contest featuring local artists and the trees inside Honolulu Hale decorated by city workers.


SEE ALSO: Mistletoe Tavern Pop-Up Serves Holiday Cocktails Downtown




When and Where

Honolulu City Lights opens on Saturday, Dec. 1 with a block party at 4 p.m. at Honolulu Hale featuring food and keiki rides, followed by the electric light parade and tree lighting ceremony at 6 p.m. The parade, hosted by local deejay Shannon Scott and comedian Pashyn Santos, will start at River Street, proceed on King Street past Honolulu Hale and end at Kawaiaha‘o Street. The Honolulu Hale courtyard will open at 6:30 p.m.


There will also be free photos with Santa in the Mission Memorial auditorium and a holiday concert near the Sky Gate beginning at 7:30 p.m. Opening night festivities wrap up at 11 p.m.


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Where to Park

Free parking will be available at the Fasi Municipal Building lot at the corner of Beretania and Alapa‘i streets.


Due to the parade, there will be parking restrictions and multiple street closures starting at 11 a.m. on Dec. 1. 




What to Eat and Drink

Grab some grub from any of the 15 food trucks stationed along the Diamond Head side of Punchbowl Street from 4 to 10 p.m. Vendors include Burgers on Bishop, Island’s Finest Shave Ice, Uncle Lani’s Poi Mochi and Waimānalo Country Farms.



Catch performances near the Sky Gate by Nā Hōkū Hanohano award winner Nathan Aweau, ‘ukulele virtuoso and composer Taimane, singer and dancer Aaron Night and the Kamehameha Elementary Schools chorus.



Get there early. Free parking at the Fasi Municipal lot will likely fill up quickly. Lines are typically the longest when Honolulu Hale opens at 6:30 p.m. There will be a one-way-in, one-way-out traffic flow for crowd control.


Bathrooms inside Honolulu Hale will be available once the courtyard opens at 6:30 p.m. Starting at 4 p.m., there will be an “executive restroom trailer” on the grounds.


Head downtown for the best (and arguably less crowded) views of the parade along Tamarind Park. Park at any of the public lots in the area.


All of the floats and decorated city vehicles featured in the parade will be parked between Honolulu Hale and Alapa‘i and South streets until 8:30 p.m. for anyone to take photos with up close.


If you can’t make it to opening night, ‘Ōlelo will be broadcasting it live on channel 53 beginning at 6 p.m. You can also catch rebroadcasts on the following days:

  • Dec. 16 at 8 p.m.

  • Dec. 17 at 4 p.m.

  • Dec. 24 at 10:30 p.m.

  • Dec. 25 at 3:30 p.m.




What to Expect After Opening Night

The city lights will be open daily from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m., including on Christmas Day, through New Year’s Day (Jan. 1). Santa will be available for photos daily from 7 to 9 p.m. through Dec. 24. (Remember to bring your own camera to take pictures.)


Following opening night, a few food vendors will be stationed at the city lights throughout December:

  • Dec. 2 to 16: Jen’s Catering, Mel’s Concession, Taste Tea and Yellow Ribbon Fries

  • Dec. 17 to 31: Ahi Assassins, Thirsty Coconut, Hawai‘i Cold Brew Company and Uncle Lani’s Poi Mochi


This year’s official city lights ornaments will be on sale at Macy’s and First Hawaiian Bank branches. All proceeds go toward funding future city lights events. Ornaments cost between $24 to $48 each.


Check out other special events tied to the city lights celebration held throughout December at Honolulu Hale:

  • Toys for Tots collection drive on Dec. 5 from 6 to 8 p.m.

  • Free family movie night featuring Despicable Me on Dec. 15 from 7 to 9 p.m.

  • Free milk and cookies night on Dec. 22 from 6 to 8 p.m.


For more information, visit honolulucitylights.org.





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