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) 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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3) 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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4) 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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5) 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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