Tis the season for decking the halls, favorite festivities and merrymaking. Here in the Olympia region, we’re all about handcrafting the season of cheer with events and happenings that support locally-owned businesses and artisans, finding magic in small-town traditions and creating memories.

This season, Oly on Ice, the region’s first ice skating rink, returns bigger and better than ever! Community tree lightings continue and a “Noon Year’s Eve” for the littles is the perfect headstart to the New Year. Check into a cozy hotel or bed and breakfast, find one-of-kind- gifts from a variety of shops, fuel the festivities with artisan coffee, craft beer, wine and spirits, and locally inspired eats and then select your favorites from this curated calendar of holiday events. Holiday plans made! 

Top Holiday Events in Thurston County


  • Lace up those skates for "Oly on Ice". Slip on your long socks and your warmest sweater, the beloved pop-up ice rink returns right on the waterfront with views of the capitol building and the Olympic Mountains. The rink runs Nov. 22-Jan. 20 at Isthmus Park. Prices start as low as $3-$12, with special discounts for seniors, foster, military and first responder families. 
  • Head "Downtown for the Holidays". Kick off the holiday season on Dec. 1 at downtown Olympia's "Downtown for the Holidays" celebration, a festive seasonal tradition. Enjoy carriage rides, photos with Santa, a parade and a tree-lighting ceremony. Bundle up and stroll downtown for the kick-off of Twinklefest, where downtown business decorate with lights and window displays that will stay up throughout the season.
  • Brunch with Santa at Olympia Oyster House. Take photos with Mr. and Mrs. Claus at “Brunch with Santa” every Saturday and Sunday from 9-11 a.m. from Thanksgiving to Christmas at the Oyster House! Work with elves on fun, festive crafts like Christmas ornaments and letters to Santa. Reservations are required. If you come from Oly on Ice, present your receipt for a 25 percent discount on hot cocoa and fish and chips.
  • Pick your perfect Christmas tree. A tradition in the Olympia region for more than 40 years, Hunter Family Farm operates its u-pick tree farm Nov. 29-Dec. 23. Find a premium pine and take a wagon ride or explore the farm, barns and holiday pop-up shop. Santa visits the first two weekends and opening day from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Enjoy an old-fashioned tractor-drawn hayride out to the Christmas Tree Forest at Schilter Family Farm! Open Nov. 29-Dec. 22. Santa visits the first three Saturdays of the season from 12:20 p.m.-3:30 p.m. and don't miss the hot cider donuts to round out your visit. 

Women at the Schilter Family Farm during Christmas
Photo by Clickery Photography at Schilter Family Farm

  • Celebrate the classic tradition of "The Nutcracker". This year marks the 50th anniversary of Ballet Northwest. Mark the occasion and join Clara and the Nutcracker Prince for the time-savored, holiday classic, Dec. 13-22. An Olympia holiday favorite for 35 years, the production features stunning sets, beautiful costumes and more than 200 local dancers and guest artists from New York, Salt Lake City and Cuba.
  • Delight in festive comedy and concerts. This upcoming season the Washington Center for the Performing arts presents a festive line-up of shows. Laugh your way through the misfortunes and mishaps of "O Christmas Tea: A British Comedy" or listen to the sounds of the season with the festive and fantastic Derik Nelson & Family at "Home for the Holidays". Head over to Olympia's local theatre house Harlequin Productions for "Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Christmas Carol", a festive and magical holiday mystery for the whole family!
  • Learn a craft from local makers and watch art in action. At Arbutus Folk School, workshops and classes teach a variety of talents. The fall and winter offerings range from holiday ceramics to woodworking and blacksmithing. During the holidays, take part in Christmas Ornament Finishing, Ceramic Pagan Nativity Scenes and other festive classes.
  • Pop into a holiday pop-up. This December, Dillinger's Cocktails, Kitchen & Rum Room will transform for the holidays with a festive "Miracle" pop-up, complete with kitschy holiday decor, seasonal cocktails and nostalgic energy. The pop-up will be one of 80- around the world, offering seasonal drinks in a festive setting.
  • View beautifully decorated Christmas Ships. Deemed as one of the most popular family and community activities in the area, the Parade of Lighted Ships offers guests a plethora of festive ships to view while brightly lit on the water. Soak in the views from one of the best viewing spots at the Port Plaza Tower (in front of Anthony's Homeport.)

Lighted Ship Parade
Photo by Doug Walker

  • Shine bright with a tree lighting festival or parade. Get into the holiday spirit and choose from a variety of tree lighting festivals including the Tumwater Christmas Tree Lighting Festival or the 33rd Annual Tenino Tree Lighting. These events are filled with holiday cheer, Christmas carols, Santa and of course a ceremonial lighting of the tree. Other options to celebrate include the Yelm Christmas Parade and Lacey Parade of Lights and Light of the Christmas Trees. Cozy up with a hot cocoa while soaking in the views of holiday-inspired floats and Santa himself waving at the littles.
  • Noon Year’s Eve at Hands On Children’s Museum. Bring the littles for a daytime New Year’s Bash they won’t forget. With a ball drop every hour and activities like Harry Potter wand-making, face painting, dancing, parades and much more, big smiles and an early bedtime are almost guaranteed!
  • Plunge into the New Year. Start 2020 the chill way at the Polar Bear Plunge! The event begins with music and festivities followed by a dip in Long Lake! Or stay warm and dry on the land and cheer on the swimmers. 


Do it for the "gram" or it never happened! Share your traditions, trees and tasty treats with us by tagging social posts #DecidedlyDifferent and connect with us on FacebookTwitter (@Experience_Oly) and Instagram(@ExperienceOly).

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