Your Guide to the 2017 Honolulu City Lights

Have yourself a merry (and well-planned) time.

SEE ALSO: Your Ultimate Guide to the 2018 Honolulu City Lights Opening Night


Honolulu City Lights
Photo: Tammy Seymour


You know the holidays are officially here when Honolulu Hale gets lit (literally). Starting Saturday, Dec. 2, through Monday, Jan. 1, the City and County of Honolulu and the Friends of Honolulu City Lights bring back the bright and merry tradition for its 33rd year. The theme is “It’s a Zoo Out There,” with 56 new animal-themed ornaments adorning the city’s 50-foot holiday tree. Inside Honolulu Hale will be trees decorated by city employees and a community wreath exhibit made by local artisans and participants, themed “Merry Menagerie!” Food, keiki rides, souvenir vendors, and multiple activities and events will take place throughout the month.


Excited? We are, too! But read this guide before going, because knowing what to expect goes a long way in making sure you have the jolliest of times. 


SEE ALSO: 2017 Honolulu City Lights Opening Night


What You Need to Know About Opening Night

On Saturday, Dec. 2, Honolulu City Lights begins with a tree lighting ceremony led by Mayor Kirk Caldwell at 6 p.m. Kathy Muneno will emcee and Nainoa Thompson, Polynesian Voyaging Society president and master navigator, will ceremoniously illuminate the holiday tree at 6:30 p.m., triggering the corridor of lights and displays down King and Punchbowl streets.


The parade also begins at 6 p.m., on River Street; expect excellent (and less crowded) viewing along Tamarind Park and through Downtown. The procession of festooned city vehicles and school marching bands leaves ‘A‘ala Park and goes down King Street, led by the parade’s crowd-favorite mascot, the dancing “City Lights.” Shannon Scott and Mele Apana will serve as parade hosts.


Honolulu City Lights
Photos: Ron Slauson


The opening night also includes a free holiday concert near the Sky Gate, with 2017 Nā Hōkū Hanohano Male Vocalist of the Year Josh Tatofi and entertainment by the Kamehameha Elementary Schools Chorus, Kūpaoa and Mark Yamanaka, and Mailani Makainai.


Can’t make opening night? No worries. Opening night festivities, including the tree lighting ceremony, parade and concert, will be cablecast live at 6 p.m. on ‘Ōlelo Channel 49. Rebroadcasts will be shown on ‘Ōlelo Channel 53 on the following dates and times: Wednesday, Dec. 13, 7 p.m.; Sunday, Dec. 17, 8 a.m.; Sunday, Dec. 24, 1:30 p.m.; and Monday, Dec. 25, 1:30 p.m.      


Where to Park

Take advantage of the free parking available in the city’s municipal lot, with entry from the left lane of Beretania Street, just past Alapa‘i Street. If you want to park in Chinatown to see the parade, try any of the lots in Downtown.


SEE ALSO: Downtown Honolulu Parking Guide 2017


Honolulu City Lights


What to Eat

On opening night at 4 p.m., expect food and beverages from vendors below:


  • Leonard’s Bakery: malassadas and puffs

  • Quik Stop Foods: burgers, hot dogs, spiral fries, fish and chips, garlic shrimp and frozen chocolate-dipped bananas

  • Uncle Lani’s Poi Mochi: poi mochi and poi icing

  • Dick’s Lechon: Filipino dishes

  • Frozen Fun aka Slush Puppy: slush, shave ice, popcorn and cotton candy

  • Olay’s Thai Food Express: Thai dishes

  • Island’s Finest Shave Ice: shave ice

  • Waimānalo Country Farms: fresh squeezed lemonade and sweet tea

  • Papa John’s: pepperoni and cheese pizza


After opening night, food and beverages from the vendors below will be available for purchase nightly from 6 to 10, through Saturday, Dec. 30:


  • Leonard’s Bakery: malassadas and puffs

  • Kettle Corn Hawai‘i: popcorn, hot dogs, shave ice, nachos, corn on the cob and cotton candy

  • Island Maid: teri burgers and slush drinks


Of course, you can also bring your own food and enjoy an evening picnic on the grounds.


Honolulu City Lights




  • Arrive early. Lines are longest when Honolulu Hale opens at 6:30 p.m. Due to the crowd, a “one way in, one way out” directional traffic flow is in place for opening night only. Visitors can enjoy the outside exhibits first, then come inside to see the trees and wreaths after 8 p.m., when the crowd thins a little. For the rest of the month, the attractions are open from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m., so consider heading over at 4 or 5 p.m. to avoid the biggest crowds.

  • Bathroom 101. An executive restroom trailer will be available on the Civic Center grounds from 4 p.m. through the evening. The restrooms in Honolulu Hale will also be available once it opens at 6:30 p.m.

  • No cash? The Friends of Honolulu City Lights have commissioned two ATMs that will be located on the grounds and in front of the Municipal Reference Center for opening night only. There is also an Aloha Pacific FCU ATM in the Hale. Most of the food vendors will be accepting cash on opening night. Leonard’s Bakery and Polynesian Underground Blinkies (novelty items) accept credit cards.

  • Say hi to Santa. He’ll visit keiki in the Mission Memorial Auditorium from 7:30 to 9 p.m., with picture taking sponsored by Hawaiian Telcom. Keiki can also visit with Santa at the Gingerbread House in the Honolulu Hale Courtyard nightly from 7 to 9, through Sunday, Dec. 24. Families are asked to bring their own cameras to take photos.


Events Throughout the Rest of the Month

Thursday, Dec. 7

Toys for Tots Collection featuring The Pacific Outpost of the 501st Legion, near front steps of Honolulu Hale. 6 to 8 p.m.            


Friday, Dec. 8

DTL Free Photo with Santa Night, Honolulu Hale Courtyard. 6 to 8 p.m.            


Saturday, Dec. 16

7-Eleven Hawai‘i Free Family Movie Night featuring Moana, on the Civic Center grounds. 7 to 9 p.m.            


Sunday, Dec. 17

Performance by Hālau Hula O Kapunahala O Nuʻuanu YMCA, near front steps of Honolulu Hale. 5 to 6 p.m.


Friday, Dec. 22            

Hawaiian Values Snack Co.’s Free Milk and Cookies Night, near front steps of Honolulu Hale. 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.


530 S. King St.,