Downtown in December has grown into a massive holiday celebration 

Santa makes a special visit to help celebrate the Bricktown Tree Lighting Festival. This year’s event is 5-7 p.m. Friday at 2 S. Mickey Mantle Drive. | Photo provided - QUIT NGUYEN
  • Quit Nguyen
  • Santa makes a special visit to help celebrate the Bricktown Tree Lighting Festival. This year’s event is 5-7 p.m. Friday at 2 S. Mickey Mantle Drive. | Photo provided

For more than a decade, Oklahoma City has welcomed winter and the holidays with dozens of Downtown in December events. When people flock into the city, officials make it easy to tell that this is a special time of the year with all of its festivities.

The 15th annual Downtown in December kicks off this month and runs through year’s end. Organizers are eager for community residents and visitors to see just how seriously Oklahoma takes the holiday season.

Downtown in December started in 2001 as a relatively modest event. City officials just wanted to put up a Christmas tree in a place where everyone could see it.

“It really started with the Bricktown tree lighting festival,” said Staci Sanger, Downtown in December marketing manager.

Oh, how it has grown.

“Really, downtown is a destination during the holiday season and … there is lots to do,” she said. “Every single year, it grows dramatically. This year, we have four or five new events.”

This week, Downtown in December kicks off 5-7 p.m. Friday with the Bricktown Tree Lighting Festival. Mayor Mick Cornett lights the tree at Third Base Plaza, 2 S. Mickey Mantle Drive. Event admission is free and open to the public. Santa will visit to take free photos with kids, Sanger said.

“What is really special [is] the holidays feel different,” Sanger said of Downtown in December. “It’s really exciting to stop at one event, realize you came down for one but you started exploring three others. So you really start to explore your city more. It’s really a special time.”

click to enlarge QUIT NGUYEN
  • Quit Nguyen

What’s new

For adults, a new feature this year is the Miracle on the Canal pop-up bar.

“It’s going to be a festival holiday themed pop-up bar that’s only going to be here a month or so,” Sanger said. “That will be really exciting to see.”

For guests who enjoy live music, Legends Night in Deep Deuce, located just north of Bricktown, features live jazz in a district renowned as an influential historic powerhouse of the genre and creative expression. Icons Jimmy Rushing and Charlie Christian honed their chops while playing in this district. African-American author Ralph Ellison penned the poem “Deep Second” in tribute to Deep Deuce. Legends Night runs 7-11 p.m. Dec. 17.

“Legends Night in Deep Deuce has to be one of the new ones I’m most excited about,” Sanger said. “This [showcase] is special because the entire agenda is holiday music. And some of these artists knew or played with Charlie Christian back in the day, or their parents did. They all have incredible stories.”

The night before, historic Deep Deuce again hosts its Christmas Crawl. It starts 6 p.m. Dec. 16 and includes eight participating venues. At 9 p.m., participants can meet at Deep Deuce Grill, 323 NW Second St., to share holiday stories and make merry. It’s free to participate in the crawl and get-together, and guests are encouraged to bring donations to benefit Infant Crisis Services. Guests can RSVP at okccrawl.com.

click to enlarge Oklahoma City Thunder mascot Rumble leads runners during Downtown in December’s Sandridge Santa Run. This year’s event is Dec. 10. | Photo provided - QUIT NGUYEN
  • Quit Nguyen
  • Oklahoma City Thunder mascot Rumble leads runners during Downtown in December’s Sandridge Santa Run. This year’s event is Dec. 10. | Photo provided

‘Boots on the ground’

“This year, we have 32 or 34 events,” Sanger said. “It has really grown; I am surprised with how big it’s gotten. … We start planning in March [and] get boots on the ground mid-August. This August, we started to see all these new events roll in. Our most recent event joined Downtown in December in October, so it’s still growing.”

Visitors can see light displays in Automobile Alley, Bricktown, Film Row, Crystal Bridge Tropical Conservatory at Myriad Botanical Gardens and along the Bricktown Canal.

Admission to most Downtown in December events is free, including holiday-themed Bricktown Water Taxi rides along the canal, which last 20-30 minutes, start at the main taxi dock and loop through the district. Rides run 6-9 p.m. Thursday-Sunday through Dec. 31. Bricktown Water Taxi is closed Christmas Day. Dec. 9 and 16, taxi riders also can enjoy live music provided by American Banjo Museum.

Events span Bricktown, Deep Deuce, Oklahoma City Museum of Art, Myriad Gardens, Leadership Square, Midtown, Devon Ice Rink, Devon Energy Center, Civic Center Music Hall, Film Row, Automobile Alley, 6 Santa Fe Plaza and other locations across downtown Oklahoma City.

Activities feature shopping, dining, ice skating, tours, district crawls, water taxi rides, a 5K race and 1-mile fun run, Santa visits, snow tubing, Red Earth Treefest, pet and dog events, pop-up shops and performing arts productions from Reduxion Theatre Company, Oklahoma City Ballet, Lyric Theatre of Oklahoma, Oklahoma City Philharmonic, Canterbury Voices and more.

Dec. 3, 10 and 17, swing by Devon’s Saturdays with Santa at Devon Energy Center, 333 W. Sheridan Ave., any time between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. for family-friendly craftmaking, train rides and live music. Bring a camera and register to meet the jolly bearded gift-bearer himself.

Both the Skirvin Hilton Oklahoma City and Sheraton Oklahoma City Downtown Hotel also are hosting events throughout December.

Everything culminates Dec. 31 with Arts Council Oklahoma City’s annual Opening Night blowout event, which has helped visitors ring in the New Year since 1987.  Learn more about Opening Night 2017 at artscouncilokc.com/opening-night.

Visit downtownindecember.com for more information and a full lineup of events.

Print headline: Seasonal flurries, Downtown in December hosts dozens of holiday events across multiple districts through Dec. 31.
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