Event Finds: Downtown

1) Honolulu City Lights

Just because Hawai‘i's balmy weather never dips below 60 doesn't mean we don't know how to rock around the Christmas tree. Each December, Honolulu decks its halls with its annual city lights display - a month-long celebration spreading the holiday spirit throughout Downtown O‘ahu.

An annual tradition for more than 30 years, hundreds of thousands of residents from across O‘ahu hele (move) on to Honolulu Hale (hah-leh) to make merry and check out the brightly lit displays, bedecked Christmas trees and wreaths in Hawaiian themes, rides and food trucks. The star of the event is Honolulu's 21-foot Shaka Santa - a large Hawai‘i-themed display which has been wishing visitors a Mele Kalikimaka (meh-leh kah-lee-kee-mah-kah or Merry Christmas) for generations.

If you can, mark your calendar for the Christmas kickoff event the first Saturday of December, which features a lighting ceremony of Honolulu Hale's 50-foot Norfolk Christmas tree in the front lawn, live Hawaiian entertainment, and a 60-unit electric light parade along King Street. Bring your camera and keiki (children) for one-of-a-kind family photo that will have your (freezing) friends and family back home turning a bright shade of Christmas green with envy.



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2) Honolulu Night Market

Who says New York is the only city that never sleeps? When the sun sets, Honolulu comes alive with the fashionably dressed sights, pulsing sounds and delicious smells of Honolulu Night Market. Held every third Saturday of the month, this nighttime fete is the place to see and be seen with art demonstrations, fashion shows as well as some of the island's favorite food and fashion vendors.

Founded by local entrepreneur Poni Askew of Street Grindz (who also got the wheels rolling on the popular Eat the Street food truck rally), Honolulu Night Market has an edgy and hip vibe that caters to both urban trendsetters and families alike. Grab a bite at one of the popular food trucks (think: tater tots from Miso and Ale and a slice from Kiawe Pizza) then browse the rows of local vendors to pick out a few one-of-a-kind gifts for loved ones back home as well as some unforgettable pieces for yourself. Then wile the night away taking in live art demonstrations, fashion shows and engaging arts and crafts. And don't forget dessert!

Honolulu Night Market takes to the (Auahi) Street the third Saturday of every month from 6 p.m. - 11 p.m. For more information visit www.honolulunightmarket.com/.


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3) Eat the Street

Put the brakes on looking around for a place to eat. If it's the last Friday of the month, hit the pavement and Eat the Street at the island's uber popular monthly food truck rally.

Since Eat the Street launched in 2011 the event has put the pedal to the medal, transforming the kama‘aina (local) preconception of food trucks (or lunch wagons as the locals call them) into mini gourmet kitchens dishing up innovative treats. Past attendees have pigged out on themed menus featuring everything from bacon and musubi (a ball of rice, pronounced moo-soo-bee) to chocolate and cheese. If you're still looking for directions to navigate Hawai‘i's food truck craze, we have our top tips to help you avoid event traffic!

  • Arrive early. Eat the Street starts at 4 pm so plan ahead to arrive a little before four so you can park yourself in front of your favorite trucks!
  • Plan your attack. A day or two ahead of time, check out their website at www.eatthestreet.com or check out their social media to see what trucks will be there and determine what your must-try dishes are.
  • Buckle up! Part of the fun of an event like Eat the Street is the pulsing atmosphere and hordes (which translates to yes, lines) of people. Be prepared to go bumper to bumper for your meal.

If you've parked yourself at Eat the Street in the past, don't forget that the party has taken to the streets and moved a few blocks away to 1011 Ala Moana Boulevard (in the old Fisherman's Wharf location).  The new site offers more parking, better seating and our personal favorite - a more stunning ocean view and glimpse of the Hawaiian sunset. 

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4) ARTafterDARK

After dark Hawaii’s art scene lights up at Honolulu Museum of Art’s ARTafterDARK. For a $25 entrance fee, guests can take advantage of the event, which artfully mixes entertainment, food and drink booths with fine works from the museum’s galleries.

Each month art aficionados and party hoppers alike paint their faces and sculpt their hair to the tune of the event’s theme, which has included everything from Bollywood and jazz to hot Havana nights and the 80s. After getting your fill of food, drink and dance, squeeze in some time before last call to check out the museum’s more than 50,000 works from van Gogh, Picasso and Monet to various Asian and Hawaiian artists.

Limited street parking is free on Beretania and Kinau Street after 6 p.m. Parking lots are also available nearby at the Honolulu Museum of Art School (1111 Victoria) or at the First United Methodist Church off Beretania for $5. ARTafterDARK is on display the last Friday of every month from January through October from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. For more information visit the ARTafterDark website.

 Can’t make the Friday night fun? Don’t forget that during daylight hours, Waikiki Parc guests score free admission by flashing their Parc Key Card.

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5) Made in Hawai'i Festival

There are many things that make us feel "lucky to live Hawai'i" and among them are the special tastes and products that make Hawai'i home. And for three days each summer, the latest and greatest made-in-Hawai'i food, art, fashion and crafts can be found in one place - the Made in Hawai'i Festival at the Neal S. Blaisdell Exhibition Hall.

The $5 entrance fee (children ages six and under are free) opens the doors to a world of cooking demonstrations featuring island chefs, samples as well as locally made food products, beverages and produce - including always-popular island treats from around the state like Molokai bread from Kanemitsu Bakery, gourmet peanut butters from North Shore Goodies and Adoboloco's searing hot sauces from Maui. All without ever having to catch another plane.

If you're looking for a one-of-a-kind souvenir or planning some early Christmas shopping, we're pretty sure you'll also run into Santa's elves stocking up on Hawai'i-made gifts for all the nice people on their list wishing for Hawaiian accessories and artwork. If you need a little break from the sampling and shopping, the Made in Hawai'i Festival also features Hawai'i-grown musicians, allowing guests to soak in performances from Na Hoku Hanohano Award-winning artists like Cyril Pahinui, Maunalua and Melveen Leed. We recommend going on day one so you can come back on days two and three.


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6) Art + Flea

Pop in at Honolulu's most popular pop-up. A monthly event now hosted amongst the warehouses at Ward Village, Art + Flea features more than 60 independent local vendors, performance arts, crafts and tasty treats. The event has taken flight as an urban market supporting the local creative community with buzz-worthy bargains on unique arts and crafts, personally produced music, original apparel and vintage items.

Since flea-ing their old Queen Street location, Art + Flea takes place every last Thursday of the month from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. at new digs behind Marukai Market at Ward Villages. For a $3 admission fee, participants enjoy access not only to DIY discoveries, but also up-and-coming bands, local DJs and themed food contests.

Artfully created by co-founders Aly Ishikuni and Nicole Franco in 2010 as an outlet for local vendors and artists to grow their businesses, today the street market is a great spot to find little known locally made and sourced products for family and friends back home.

Photos Courtesy of Jeff Villamin.

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7) Chinese New Year in Chinatown

Light up your Lunar New Year with live music, ethnic delicacies, entertainment and other traditions in the heart of Honolulu. Oahu's annual Chinese New Year festivities takes place each year between mid-January to mid-February in the heart of Chinatown. The city shuts down several streets to pave the way for the thousands of residents and visitors who flock to this traditional block party each year.

The Lunar New Year, or Spring Festival as it is occasionally called, is an important social and economic holiday not just in China, but celebrated around the world. Tied to the lunar-solar calendar, the holiday is a time to honor household and heavenly deities and ancestors.

Unlike the traditional New Year, the exact date for the Lunar New Year changes year after year since it is determined by the lunar calendar. Head out just before sunset to catch the popular Chinese New Year parade which traditionally starts at the Hawaii State Capitol and features that year's Narcissus Festival Queens and their court, local cultural groups, lion and dragon dance associations and a roaring favorite - a 150-foot long dragon.

Following the parade, stay for the evening block party which includes lion dancing, martial arts demonstrations, street vendors, firecrackers, live music, and our favorite -- lots of delicious and auspicious foods! Fill up on favorites such as jai (vegetarian monk's food), gin doi (Chinese doughnut) and gau (a New Year pudding cake) from street vendors and nearby shops around North Beretania Street.

Gung Hee Fat Choy and the best of luck soaking in this year's festivities!


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8) ARTafterDARK May 2016

Is your Friday night a blank canvas? Easel your way over to the Honolulu Museum of Art's ARTafterDARK. The May 2016 event is sponsored by the Waikiki Parc and themed after the Hokule'a's "Worldwide Voyage" offering guests a passport to an artfully themed evening of entertainment, food and drink booths and amazing art.

The special May 27 event, invites art explorers to chart their course and celebrate Hokule'a's ongoing journey around the globe. For one evening let down your sails and fill your palette with food and drink. Guests can also show their support for the Polynesian Voyaging Society as they create a special Aloha ‘Aina Peace Flag and soak in a special screening of the Hokule'a's current travels. All between exploring the museum's more than 50,000 works from Van Gogh, Picasso and Monet to various Asian and Hawaiian artists.

ARTafterDARK is on display the last Friday of every month from January through October from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Limited street parking is free on Beretania and Kinau Street after 6 p.m. Parking is also available nearby at the Honolulu Museum of Art School (1111 Victoria) or at the First United Methodist Church off Beretania Street for $5.


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