Santa in a vintage Cadillac? LGBTQ carols? Balkan folk dancing? If your holiday traditions haven’t changed in a while, then it’s time for a reboot – and Tacoma’s arts and culture scene is full of ways to do it. Holidays are celebrated around the world in dozens of cultures, and exploring some of them is a great first step toward the peace on earth we all wish for.
Plus, it’s just fun! From stage shows to film, art to dance, music to markets, here are some ways to transform your holidays with new traditions.
On Stage
Tacoma’s theaters are bursting with inventive holiday cheer.
At Tacoma Little Theatre’s “Holmes for the Holidays,” (Dec. 6-29) set in the 1930s, an actor’s holiday party goes horribly wrong with a murder that he must channel his stage persona to solve – the great Sherlock himself. Or try “Twas the Night Before Christmas,” (Dec. 14-28) a comic take on the classic poem where some mice and an Elf-B-I agent have to find Santa’s missing list.
At Tacoma Musical Playhouse, “Elf the Musical” (Nov. 29 – Dec. 22) will have you embracing your inner elf loud and clear, just in time for the Sing-Along with Santa (Dec. 7) and Big Band Christmas (Dec. 9). And don’t forget Camp TMP Honor Program’s classic “A Charlie Brown Christmas.” (Dec. 14-24).
A Charlie Brown Christmas at Tacoma Musical Playhouse
Tacoma Music Playhouse puts on A Charlie Brown Christmas
Puget Sound Revels this year takes its yuletide folk joy to the Balkans, with singing, dancing and storytelling to have you dancing in the aisles. Dec. 14-18, Rialto Theater.
Christmas Revels from Puget Sound Revels
Puget Sound Revels' Christmas Revels has Balkan folk dancing to celebrate the season.
Everyone knows “The Nutcracker” – but do you know The Tale of the Hard Nut? Tacoma City Ballet presents the full story of the classic holiday tale in The Nutcracker and the Tale of the Hard Nut, an original prequel based on the German fairy tale, in a show with glamorous costumes and stunning sets. Dec. 13-15, Pantages Theater.
The Nutcracker and the Tale of the Hard Nut by Tacoma City Ballet
Tacoma City Ballet presents The Nutcracker and the Tale of the Hard Nut at the Pantages Theater
And at Tacoma Arts Live, “A Christmas Carol” comes to life on stage with lush costumes and the magic of live theater. Dec. 21, two shows.
Tacoma Arts Live Christmas Carol
Ebenezer Scrooge has a change of heart in A Christmas Carol at the Pantages Theater
On Screen
If Christmas is getting just a little too cozy for you, then get to The Grand Cinema for “Rare Exports,” a Finnish action/horror/family movie featuring a terrifying carnivorous Santa and something monstrous buried beneath a mountain.
Rare Exports at the Grand Cinema
Milk and cookies aren't exactly on Santa's menu in Rare Exports, the Finnish action/horror/family/Christmas film
Or why not a little Tim Burton with your tinsel? “The Nightmare Before Christmas” screens Dec. 22 at Theater on the Square.
Music and Song
Seattle Men’s Chorus has been jazzing up the holidays for years, and they’re back in Tacoma for another rip-roaring show from one of the largest LGBTQ choruses in the U.S.
Tacoma Concert Band presents “Angels in the Architecture,” featuring some of the most beautiful classic melodies of the season, plus transcriptions of rarely performed works with a holiday theme. Dec. 6, Pantages Theater. Free for ages 18 and under.
Tacoma Concert Band Holiday
Tacoma Concert Band's Angels in the Architecture
If Handel’s “Messiah” isn’t part of your holiday traditions, then now is a great time to start, with Symphony Tacoma, chorus and soloists bringing sparkling choruses (“Hallelujah”) and arias to life. Dec. 20, St. Charles Borromeo Church. They’re also playing their annual “Holiday Favorites” concert with special guests the Tacoma Refugee Choir on Dec. 8, Pantages Theater.
Or, if all those carols are getting too much, try “Baroque in the Ballroom” with the Northwest Sinfonietta and trumpet soloist Judson Scott. Dec. 21, Courthouse Square Ballroom.
Lights, Markets, Art and Cadillacs
The biggest memories often come from the smallest things. The annual Model Train Festival at Washington State History Museum is where tiny trains travel through immaculate landscapes and families can come together to drive a freight train simulator and make train-related prints. Santa may even make an appearance. Dec. 20 - Jan. 1
Model Train Festival at Washington State History Museum
Kids and adults make memories at the Model Train Festival at Washington State History Museum
Zoolights at Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium is a 31-year holiday tradition, with over 700,000 LED light displays. But joining the polar bears, octopus and other favorites this year are baby animal displays – try spot them all! Nov. 29 – Jan. 5.
Zoolights at Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium
Those who miss Zoolights at Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium will be green with envy. Those who don't will just be green
Tacoma Night Market comes to the Museum of Glass for the holiday season, complete with glassblowing demos from Hilltop Artists (Nov. 30) and other artists (Dec. 28). And don’t miss the annual Fire & Ice Festival, with performances, activities and the chance to make your own fused glass ornament. Nov. 23 – Dec. 31.
Tacoma Art Museum kicks off the holiday season with a visit from Star Wars designer Colin Cantwell (Dec. 12) and a Winter Celebration of ballet, ornament-making and more (Dec. 19).
Tacoma Art Museum Winter Celebration
Tacoma Art Museum's Winter Celebration embraces arts of all kinds
Join fellow Tacomans in the annual downtown Holiday Tree Lighting (Nov. 30) or the First Night Tacoma 2020: Tree of Life (Dec. 31), a family-friendly New Year’s Eve celebration with live performances, “World’s shortest parade,” hands-on activities, a 9 p.m. “Kids’ Countdown,” and Holiday Night Market.
Or get out in nature at Winter Wildland at Northwest Trek Wildlife Park, where animals enjoy holiday treats. Dec. 28-29.
Winter Wildland at NW Trek
The animals enjoy holiday snacks at Winter Wildland at Northwest Trek Wildlife Park in Eatonville
Finally, Santa’s sleigh gets a major upgrade at LeMay – America’s Car Museum these holidays. Snap a photo with the Man in Red in a 1906 Cadillac Model K Tulip Touring Car (and bring a toy for the Toy Rescue Mission drive to make someone else’s holiday special). Dec. 14-15, 21-22.
Santa at LeMay - America's Car Museum
Santa at America's Car Museum taking a break from his Caddy to test the simulators