Here in Hawaii, we have the best of both worlds: We still have amazing holiday light displays, but don’t have to suffer frostbite while viewing them! Which is why I think a trek to the annual Honolulu City Lights display is one of my all-time favorite holiday excursions.

So, if you’re visiting Hawaii this holiday season, here are three reasons you’ll want to carve out some time to visit Honolulu Hale (City Hall) for the bright lights and BIG Santa:

1. Opening Night: Opening night for Honolulu City Lights is a time to celebrate, and the organizers of the event pack the night full of fantastic performances, food vendors, games, and displays.

  • 4 p.m.: food booths open, and the keiki (children) rides begin
  • 6 p.m.: tree lighting ceremony begins, along with an electric light parade
  • 6:30 p.m.: lighting of the Christmas Tree by Mayor Kirk Caldwell
  • 7:30 p.m.: holiday concert begins, photos with Santa
  • 11:00 p.m.: opening night festivities end
a christmas tree lit in the night

Photo: Honolulu City Lights

The annual tree-lighting ceremony is one of the most anticipated events in Honolulu, and it marks the beginning of Honolulu City Lights.

2. A Rich History:

  • 1985: Mayor Frank F. Fasi created a free event that included a lighted tree on the main lawn, decorated tree display in the courtyard, holiday concert and displays of light on the trees and buildings from downtown to the civic center.
  • 1987: The month-long holiday event is named “Honolulu City Lights”. The City Christmas tree was originally decorated with strings of colored lights and a traffic signal control box was used to change the colors. You could hear the box clicking from green/yellow/red but no one cared. They were happy because the big tree would change colors.
  • 1989: Standing 21-feet high and weighing 2-tons, Shaka Santa was the first of the large displays to debut.
  • Early 1990’s: The Snow Family, Mrs. Claus (now called Mele), the alphabet blocks, gnomes, bears, and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer were added.
  • 1991: One of the most popular elements, the Public Workers’ Electric Light Parade, was added
  • 2001: After 9/11, a huge, lighted American flag was installed on the front lawn by the big tree and all the outdoor display figures wore red, white and blue ribbons
  • 2009: A limited edition commemorative silver ornament was created in honor of the event’s 25th anniversary
  • 2014: A limited edition commemorative gold ornament was created in honor of the event’s 30th anniversary
people dressed up as tree lights

Photo: Honolulu City Lights

Street performances during the Electric Light Parade delight keiki (children) and grown-ups, too!

3. The Entertainment Line-Up: This year, there’s an all-star line-up to kick-off the month-long event. This year’s holiday concert’s featured headliner is KAPENA, one of Hawaii’s premiere music performers. The band will be followed by Hawaiian music vocalist Ami Hanaialii Gilliom. From there, you’ll enjoy a hula performance by Halau Hula O Hokulani. The concert wraps up with Kalei Gamiao.

Because the festivities kick-off mid-afternoon, that leaves you all morning to experience Oahu’s culture, scenery, and adventure. Book your Oahu adventure package through Hawaii Aloha Travel, and choose the activities that suit you best. Whether it’s the Aloha Plate Tour, a Circle Island Tour, a trip to Sea Life Park, or parasailing above Waikiki, when you book your vacation experience through Hawaii Aloha Travel, you get discounted prices and a customized package just for you.

Just make sure you’re back in time for the Honolulu City Lights opening night!


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