Can’t Miss: Honolulu City Lights

Here’s your guide to the Dec. 3 opening night tree lighting ceremony and block party, and take photos with Santa throughout the month.

 

For many local families, it’s not the end of Thanksgiving or Mariah Carey songs at the mall that herald Christmas—it’s the arrival of Shaka Santa and Tūtū Mele at Honolulu Hale. There’s a lot going on this year with the Honolulu City Lights, so we put together everything you need to know, from where to go for yummy food to when to bring the keiki to meet Santa.

 

What It Is

Presented by the City and County of Honolulu and nonprofit Friends of Honolulu City Lights, the 38th Annual Honolulu City Lights returns in full holiday spirit this year. The celebration kicks off with an opening night block party and parade; the lights will remain up at Honolulu Hale throughout the season, along with a 50-foot Christmas tree, larger-than-life holiday figures and a wreath exhibit. There will also be special events across the grounds throughout the month.

 

When and Where

Honolulu City Lights will be on display at the Frank F. Fasi Civic Center grounds through Monday, Jan. 2. Opening night is Dec. 3, with festivities beginning at 5:30 p.m. and continuing until 10. Shaka Santa and Tūtū Mele arrive on Nov. 29.

 

Honolulu City Lights Ron Slauson 2

Photo: Ron Slauson

 

Opening Night 101

The celebration kicks off with Mayor Rick Blangiardi’s tree lighting ceremony at 5:30 p.m. Be prepared for a popular and busy event, especially with the comeback of the Public Workers Electric Light Parade, back from a two-year hiatus. Consider getting there by 4:30 p.m. to find a free parking stall at the municipal lot off Beretania Street near the intersection with Alapa‘i. Streets near the parade route in Chinatown and Downtown will be closed from 5 p.m. and you can expect traffic delays, so plan accordingly.

 

The parade, which begins at 6, is expected to feature 1,000 marchers, two floats, 15 vehicles and 11 bands. It starts at ʻAʻala Park and proceeds along King Street to Honolulu Hale. The holiday festivities and merriment continue on Punchbowl Street and the Frank F. Fasi Civic Center grounds with an array of food trucks and live entertainment at the Sky Gate Stage set up between the Mission Memorial Building and the Fasi Municipal Building.

 

Wondering where to set up camp? You’ll find fewer crowds in the Chinatown and Downtown area between River Street and Fort Street Mall, but parking might be a challenge: You’ll need to get into the area and find parking before the road closures, and you might have to wait until the parade is finished to exit the lots. (Streets are expected to reopen around 11 p.m.)

 

The largest crowds will be in front of Honolulu Hale, where you can get the best views of the tree lighting ceremony and parade. So you could park at the municipal parking lot and walk a few blocks downtown for a less crowded experience, or arrive early to snag a spot outside the Hale.

 

PS: Don’t expect to camp out in areas near Alapa‘i and Kawaiaha‘o streets, as this is where parade-related vehicles will be parked and where bands will board their buses.

 

Here’s the schedule for the evening:

  • Visit with Santa in Santa’s Village (Mission Memorial Auditorium): 5–10 p.m.
  • Tree Lighting Ceremony at Honolulu Hale: 5:30 p.m.
  • Public Workers Electric Light Parade beginning at ʻAʻala Park: 6 p.m.
  • Block Party – Punchbowl Street and Frank F. Fasi Civic Center grounds: 6–10 p.m.
  • City Employee Christmas Tree Exhibition in Honolulu Hale Courtyard: 6–10 p.m.
  • Wreath Contest Exhibition in Lane Gallery: 6–10 p.m.

 

Postparade entertainment at Sky Gate Stage:

  • Crossing Rain: 7:30–7:55 p.m.
  • Ei Nei: 8–8:30 p.m.
  • Nesian N.I.N.E.: 8:45–9:15 p.m.
  • Sean Naʻauao & Friends: 9:25–10 p.m.

 

Opening Night Food 

On opening night, food booths will be open from 6 p.m. on Punchbowl Street. Vendors include Agnes’ Portuguese Bake Shop, Da Hub/Kealoha Seafoods, Da Mochi Guys, Dick’s Lechon, El Gallo, Island’s Finest Shave Ice, Leeward Drive-Inn, Linaka’s Catering, Noni To Go, Olay’s Thai Food Express, Sausage Fest Hawai‘i, Steak Farm, Zach’s Event Catering, Trydis and Waimānalo Country Farms.

 

Honolulu City Lights Ron Slauson

Photo: Ron Slauson

 

Mark These Nights for the Rest of December

From Dec. 4 to 31, the Christmas tree exhibition and the Wreath Contest Exhibition in Lane Gallery will be open daily from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. On Dec. 4, 9–11, 16–18 and 21–25 from 6 to 8:30 p.m., you can visit Santa in Santa’s Village inside Mission Memorial Auditorium. You’ll have to take your own photos—there won’t be a professional photographer on-site.

 

A free Milk & Cookie Night is scheduled for Saturday, Dec. 17, 6 to 8 p.m., sponsored by the Hawai‘i Foodservice Alliance. The cookies are prepackaged from the Honolulu Cookie Co.

 

Note: Sadly, there will be no keiki rides this year—fingers crossed they’ll return in 2023.

 


SEE ALSO: The Ultimate Guide to Holiday Happenings on O‘ahu


 

What to Eat

Make an evening of it by bringing a mat or lawn chairs and eating dinner under the holiday lights. From Dec. 4–17, 6–9 p.m., Da Mochi Guys, Linaka’s Catering and Trydis will be selling food on the Honolulu Hale grounds. From Dec. 18–30, 6–9 p.m., it’ll be Jen’s Catering, Lū‘au Bomb, Sasa’s Gourmet and Sausage Fest Hawai‘i.

 

Tips

  1. If crowds are not your jam, visit on a weekday evening. We’ve found that weekends are typically more packed, as are dates closer to Christmas and the new year. You could visit during the day for even fewer crowds, but you’ll miss out on the full spectacle of holiday lights at night.
  2. If you can’t make it to the parade, you can watch it live from home on ‘Ōlelo Channel 53 at 6 p.m.
  3. Bring jackets, especially for little ones, as it can be cool and windy at night.
  4. There’s a restroom inside Honolulu Hale and there will be a mobile restroom on opening night on the Civic Center grounds behind Mission Memorial Auditorium.
  5. You can skip the traffic and parking by taking a Holiday Lights Tour, which runs nightly Dec. 4–25 from Victoria Ward Park through downtown to Honolulu Hale. Tickets are $25 for adults and $17 for those ages 3–11. Reserve a spot at holidaylightshi.com.

 

More information and holiday ornaments are available at honolulucitylights.org