Everything You Must Do in Oahu This Holiday Season

If we had a nickel for every time a mainlander announced how weird it must feel to celebrate the holidays in balmy beach weather -- well we’d have enough money to buy a parka we thankfully don’t need. Indeed, we might not get to see our state blanketed in white, and fireplaces are more for decorative purposes, but we wouldn’t trade our island-style holiday happenings (many of which take place in the temperate outdoors) for anything. From turkey trots to holiday block parties to Santa paddling his way to shore via an Outrigger canoe, here are dozens of end-of-year activities to check out this season.

Hawaii Theatre Center Na Leo Pilimehana
Na Leo Pilimehana 2018 | Hawaii Theatre Center

Choose From a host of holiday shows at the Hawaii Theatre Center

Through December 15
The first show of the season happens to the be the hilarious Ginger Minj Holiday Extravaganza, where the bawdy belle tells both outrageous (and true!) stories of Christmas past, followed by a duo of Marine Corps Band Toys for Tots nights, Hawaii Symphony Orchestra’s A Very Merry Holiday Pops, the award-winning all-female Na Leo Pilimehana’s Hawaiian Holidays 2019, and finally the Gay Men’s Chorus of Honolulu’s traditional-meets-campy Jazzy Holiday Jam. If you can’t find a performance you like, then your Scrooge side is officially showing. 
Cost: Prices vary

Support local kupuna by loading up on their cool crafts 

November 23
The 45th Annual Mayor’s Craft and Country Fair taking place at the Blaisdell Center is a chance for more than 30 Department of Parks and Recreation senior clubs to sell a variety of homemade goods from holiday mementos to pottery and plants, so show up, stock up, and chat up a kupuna. Proceeds from the sales will go straight to the clubs, used to cover expenses for next year’s programs. Oh, and if you’re 55 or older, you can sign up to compete in a wreath contest or – even more fun! – a karaoke competition. So, start practicing those falalalalas now.  
Cost: Free

Bring a loved one who needs extra time to see Santa

November 24
Ala Moana
Thanks to a partnership with Autism Speaks and other local organizations, Ala Moana Center is dedicating an entire day to something called the Santa Cares program. The idea is to make visits with Santa more comfortable for both children and adults with special needs and abilities. Staffers will offer visitors additional assistance and extra time in addition to a more low-key, less stressful environment to make the experience more enjoyable for participants. It’s a merry idea, indeed. Reserve a time slot here.
Cost: $40 to $50 including photo packages  

Pick out a locally grown Christmas tree

Through December 25
Instead of sifting through pre-cut, mainland-grown trees this year, head down to the island’s Christmas tree farm, where you can skip through fields of a variety of pine trees until you find the perfect pick to tower over your gifts. A Helemano Farms worker will cut down the tree –which might be a Norfolk Pine, Leyland Cypress or other variety – and you can take home your fresh pine with the peace of mind that it won’t brown before Christmas.
Cost: Trees start at $50

Take a trot before it’s time for turkey

November 28
There’s going to be a lot of serious eating on Thanksgiving Day and you’ll be lamenting about overindulging before you know it. So, start the day off on a health-focused note with one of Oahu’s biggest Turkey Trots. The Honolulu Marathon Clinic, in partnership with Mid-Pacific Road Runners Club, will put on its 45th Annual Turkey Trot beginning at Queen Kapiolani Park Bandstand with four-mile and eight-mile out-and-back options as well as a more leisurely two-miler around the park and zoo. Runners and walkers are encouraged to don Thanksgiving-related gear and registered participants will get malasadas from Leonard’s Bakery at the finish line. You deserve it.
Cost: $15 in advance; $20 the day of the race

Catch a rockin’ Hawaiian Thanksgiving-themed show

November 28
If you’re looking to buck the usual Thanksgiving tradition this year, what better way to do it than with hula, fire-knife dancing, and Elvis impersonators? The Royal Hawaiian’s six-night-a-week Rock-a-Hula show -- which features musical acts, dance, and performances representing periods from the 1920s to modern day -- will do a special Thanksgiving holiday show, offering multiple dinner options, meet-and-greets with the cast, and cocktails depending on the package you choose. No, they won’t be serving turkey, but the point is to switch things up this year, right? 
Cost: $66-$111 for children; $109-$185 for adults

Commemorate Pearl Harbor with the first parade of the holiday season

November 29
Join thousands of spectators who line torch-lit Kalakaua Avenue along Waikiki Beach to take in this impressive annual parade that honors survivors and veterans in memory of the attacks. 
Cost: Free

Get craft (and full!) at the Blaisdell Center

November 29 - December 1
The 33rd Islandwide Christmas Crafts & Food Expo will feature hundreds of local artisans hawking handcrafted items and edible offerings for all your gift-giving needs. You can also catch some entertainment and maybe win some prizes while you’re at it.
Cost: $7

Experience a wild winter wonderland

November 29 - December 24
The massive Hawaii Convention Center will outdo itself this year with its nearly month-long Winter Wishes festival boasting an indoor ice-skating rink, music, craft workshops, keiki activities, food and drink, a gingerbread house display, Christmas tree forest, and, of course, plenty of appearances by Santa. There’s so much to do within the festival, you’ll likely want to hit it up more than once. 
Cost: Tickets start at $10

Say hello to Santa Marty

December 2 - 24
As per usual, Royal Hawaiian Center is boasting a massive holiday tree at its Royal Grove (clocking in at 34-feet tall this year). While any time is a good time to stroll by and take in the tree, on Monday and Wednesday evenings, guests can catch the jolly Santa Marty under the tree who will be making himself happily available for photo opps -- but only for those who believe. On Friday nights, you can find him inside Santa’s Halle (on the second level of Building A).
Cost: Free

Get your holiday shopping done early at A Pinch of Salt

December 7
Those on your nice list are in for a treat because this annual holiday shopping event will provide you with access to unique merchants with one-of-a-kind offerings that you won’t find at mainstream retailers -- all while supporting local artists and crafters. Bonus: The event is also pet friendly so fur babies can get in on the pre-holiday fun. 
Cost: Free

Get your grindz on at the Honolulu City Lights block party

December 7
The anticipated opening of the Honolulu City Lights will feature a six-hour extravaganza featuring the lighting of the Mayor’s Tree on the Honolulu Hale grand lawn, the unveiling of the employee Christmas tree display and public wreath exhibit in the courtyard, a holiday concert at Sky Gate, and the highly anticipated electric light parade down King Street. You can also expect free photos with Santa in the Mission Memorial Auditorium, and lots of food with a roster of vendors set to include Hawaiian Honey Cones, Shaka Shrimp, Waimanalo Country Farms, and Leonard’s Malasadas. The lights will remain on display through January 1 and you can look for additional special nights throughout the month. 
Cost: Free

Join the community in holiday spirit at the Kaimuki Christmas Parade

December 7
More than 40 groups representing schools, area businesses, scouts, and local government will spread Christmas cheer as the annual parade marches from St. Louis High School/Chaminade University up Waialae Avenue to Koko Head Avenue. The event will also include the lighting of the Kaimuki Christmas tree atop Pu'u O Kaimuki, an appearance by Santa and free malasadas at Pipeline Bakeshop. Get your coupon here
Cost: Free

Greet a canoe-riding Santa along the ocean

December 7
Who needs chimneys, anyway? Santa will arrive on our shores proudly reindeer-free, rowing his way onto Waikiki beach via an outrigger canoe and then stopping to take pictures in the Outrigger Waikiki Beach Resort’s lobby.
Cost: Free

Festival of Lights Boat Parade
Festival of Lights Boat Parade | Hawaii Kai Towne Center

See a whole lot of holiday lights sail on by

December 7
Hawaii Kai
The 23rd Annual Festival of Lights Boat Parade -- a longstanding tradition at the marina -- will feature a bevy of boats decked out in colorful lights and ready to cruise the waterway. To amp up the event, the waterfront will feature entertainment and family fun starting at 3pm. 
Cost: Free 

Help a teacher at the Mahalo I Kau Kumu Holiday Fair

December 13-14
The shopping center will be holding a holiday school supply drive to help teachers help kids. Drop off a donation and get a $10 gift card you can spend with one of the local vendors who will be set up on Friday night and all day Saturday. It’s a winter win-win.
Cost: Free

Run, walk, stroll, or strut through downtown in Christmas costume

December 15
Grab a pair of sneakers and your ugly Christmas attire because it’s time to put the sweat in sweater at the Make-A-Wish 7th Annual Jingle Rock Run. Make your way through downtown beginning at the Honolulu State Capitol Building for a very good cause -- helping local keiki battling serious illnesses by making their wishes come true. Walkers, joggers, runners, strollers, and even pets are invited to participate and there will be activities for little ones, food trucks, and other fun surprises along the way. 
Cost: $30-$40

Snap a pic with strolling Santa

December 20-22 and 24
Santa isn’t about to sit still at International Market Place. He’ll be strolling the multi-level mall like everyone else, donning his board shorts and aloha shirt each year. Guests are invited to cruise around, snap a pic with Mr. Claus, and get a free cookie. Who could say no to that? You can catch him from 3pm to 10pm on the 20th, 21st, and 22nd, and then from 3pm to 6pm on the 24th before he’ll be taking off to fulfill his annual duties.
Cost: Free

Alohilani Resort Waikiki Beach
Alohilani Resort Waikiki Beach | Fox Greenberg Public Relations

Have a morning meal with Santa

December 21
If your kids have always wanted to sit down to scrambled eggs with St. Nick, head to the Alohilani Resort Waikiki Beach where you’ll find Santa up bright and early, ready to mingle and take photos with his pint-size fans. Families can feast on a traditional buffet of pancakes, roast potatoes, Portuguese sausage, pastries, and a yogurt bar along with kid-friendly fare like cheesy scrambled eggs and little smokies. Mrs. Santa will host cookie-decorating sessions and the hotel’s ballroom will transform into a play-centric holiday wonderland complete with a bouncy castle, face painting, and live music.
Cost: $50 for adults, $20 for children 5 to 12, free for ages 4 and under. Tickets here.

Catch some of the state’s top jazz players do A Charlie Brown Christmas

December 24-25
Sure, those catchy tunes made famous by the Peanuts gang will be stuck in your head until the new year but it will be well worth the ear bug. During the two shows per night at Blue Note, talented trumpeter Mike Lewis will partner with some of Hawaii’s top jazz musicians and play songs from the soundtrack to A Charlie Brown Christmas, originally written by composer and pianist Vince Guaraldi.
Cost: $25-$45

Ring in the New Year with fireworks -- lots of fireworks

December 31
Multiple locations
Ushering in a new decade is a momentous occasion -- one that requires the snap and sizzle that only a fireworks display can provide. You can likely catch one no matter where you are on the island. Pyrotechnic shows are set to go off (mostly right around midnight but be sure to check the time for the specific show you’re interested in) at Aloha Tower Marketplace, Hilton Hawaiian Village, The Kahala Hotel & Resort, a barge off Kahala Avenue, Four Seasons Resort at Ko Olina, and, of course, Waikiki Beach. For the Waikiki display, you can tune into Hawaiian 105 KINE FM to catch some music that’s perfectly choreographed to the fireworks. 
Cost: Free

Sign up here for our daily Honolulu email and be the first to get all the food/drink/fun in town.

Lizbeth Scordo is a food, travel, and lifestyle writer. Follow her on Instagram @modlizbeth and Twitter @LALizbeth.