Downtown will serve up even more goodies this year during the holidays.
The annual Downtown in December festivities will include no less than four new attractions, along with returning favorites such as the Devon Ice Rink, Chesapeake Snow Tubing at the Brick, and the Automobile Alley Lights on Broadway.
“Not only do we try to make the event bigger and better every year, we always try to expand our schedule of events,” said Gentry McKeown, communications coordinator for Downtown Oklahoma City Inc.
Presented by Devon Energy, Downtown in December is a monthlong holiday extravaganza with attractions ranging from zip lines and museum outings to light displays and visits from Santa Claus. In keeping with the event's tradition, the festivities officially kick off with the SandRidge Tree Lighting Festival from 6 to 8 p.m. Friday at Mickey Mantle Drive and Flaming Lips Alley, across the street from the Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark.
Old St. Nick and Mayor Mick Cornett will flip the switch to light the lavishly adorned tree at 7 p.m. Less a ceremony and more a party than years past, McKeown said the event will include live music by Banana Seat, family-friendly activities, free pictures with Santa, live ice sculpting and free treats such as hot chocolate, cookies from Nonna's and popcorn from Harkins Bricktown Theatres. Admission is free.
Shoppers looking for handmade, locally produced goods can peruse Downtown in December's inaugural Winter Market from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Dec. 7-9 on the Great Lawn of the Myriad Botanical Gardens. Presented by OU Medicine, the free outdoor market will showcase more than 40 vendors selling crafts, decor, jams, artwork and other handcrafted and specialty items. Food vendors, treats like hot cocoa and cider and live music also will be part of the new event.
“It's a good place for people to go and buy some unique presents,” McKeown said. “We're kind of trying to model it after the winter markets in Europe.”
Another new free attraction, Continental Resources Free Movie Mondays, has already proven popular. At 7 p.m. every Monday throughout the holiday season, Continental Resources will host free screenings of family-friendly holiday movies such as “Arthur Christmas,” “White Christmas” and “Home Alone” at Harkins Bricktown Theatres. Attendees must register at www.DowntownInDecember.com at least five days before the screening.
For families looking for a more action-packed option, Little Willie's Triple Dog Dare will challenge physically fit folks and families with a stair-climbing event Dec. 1 at Leadership Square.
Santa's Adventures on the Oklahoma River, a new Downtown in December event in the Boathouse District, will feature a 200-foot zip line, a children's kayaking activity, candy cane rock-climbing wall and more.
“I think a lot of people associate the Oklahoma River with summer sporting events, but they like to keep people coming out year round,” McKeown said.
Devon's Saturdays with Santa, which were introduced last year, will move to downtown's new landmark, the Devon Energy Center, and each week, the free festivities will have a different seasonal theme. For instance, the tower's rotunda will be transformed into “The North Pole,” complete with two live reindeer, on Dec. 1.
“It was wildly popular,” McKeown said. “Now that the Devon Tower is officially open ... we're moving everything over there. So it'll be a good opportunity if people haven't actually seen the inside of the tower to go in there and take it all in. Of course, the holiday decorations at Devon are spectacular.”
The Devon Ice Rink, Downtown in December's signature and most popular attraction, will return to the Myriad Gardens and grow 20 percent larger this year. At the Myriad Gardens restaurant space, families also can meet a certain jolly ol' elf at Breakfast with Santa on Dec. 16.
“Every year we try ... to give people something new,” McKeown said. “We're especially proud of the fact that we offer a lot of free or affordable ways for families to enjoy the holidays downtown.”