Annual Festival of Lights kicks off the season Nov. 17th
ST. LOUIS, Mo. – That magical time of the year – aka “the holidays” – sweeps into St. Louis giving residents and visitors alike a flurry of seasonal events and activities to enjoy.
From the holiday parade kicking off the season, twinkling light displays, live entertainment to shopping the St. Louis way, opportunities to partake in family traditions abound this holiday season.
It’s not surprising that St. Louis, filled with great attractions, cultural venues and exciting things to do offers a heaping serving of holiday fun, much of it free or with a modest charge.
Welcome the Holidays
The Ameren Missouri Festival of Lights, celebrating St. Louis’ heritage, cultures and traditions, ushers in the holiday season in Kiener Plaza Nov. 17th. The event features musical performances, Christmas Village activities and free skating on the Winterfest skating rink. A festive fireworks finale follows the lighting of the Salvation Army Tree of Lights.
For many, the 2018 Ameren Thanksgiving Day Parade (Nov. 22) signals the official beginning of the holiday season when it steps off in downtown St. Louis. More than 130 parade units, including musical floats and displays, giant helium balloon figures, animal units, restored antique cars and firetrucks, and marching bands — and, of course, Santa — are on tap.
Before the parade, runners of all ages descend on downtown St. Louis for the annual Turkey Trot STL 5K run. The run follows the parade route through downtown St. Louis.
The magical story of a boy’s search for the meaning of Christmas comes to life when real trains depart St. Louis Union Station for a round-trip journey to the North Pole on the Polar Express Train RideTM. Trains begin running on Nov. 16 and continue on selected dates through Dec. 30, 2018.
Twinkle, Twinkle and More Twinkle
No other city gussies up for the holidays like St. Louis. From an explosion of sparkling lights in Kiener Plaza downtown to Wild Lights at the Zoo, you’d need a calculator to tally the number of colorful lights adorning the city for the holidays.
Brewery Lights at the Anheuser Busch Brewery kicks off the holidays with a public lighting ceremony (Nov. 15th). Then it’s open Thursday through Sunday through Dec. 30th with drive-through tours Monday through Wednesday evenings.
The Missouri Botanical Garden will be clad in a million dazzling lights for Garden Glow (Nov. 17th-Jan. 1st).
The Saint Louis Zoo transforms into a holiday wonderland with U.S. Bank Wild Lights (select nights, Nov. 23rd-Dec. 30th). Visitors can stroll among more than one million twinkling lights, view whimsical animal-themed displays and watch “The Polar Express 4D Experience” at the 4D Theater.
Another twinkling holiday favorite is the annual Way of Lights Christmas display (Nov. 16-Jan. 1) at the Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows. More than a million lights and displays with life-sized Biblical statues stretches over a mile and a half “journey to Bethlehem.”
For many families, a trip to Winter Wonderland at Tilles Park (Nov. 21st-Dec. 30th, Closed Dec. 24th) is a holiday tradition. Youngsters and adults alike delight in millions of twinkling lights and numerous holiday scenes.
Experience holidays as they were celebrated in the early 1800s at the Historic Daniel Boone Home Dec. 7th-8th and 14th-15th when thousands of candles illuminate life on the edge of the frontier.
At Santa’s Magical Kingdom (Nov. 16th-Jan. 6th) in Jellystone Park near Six Flags St. Louis in Eureka, visitors can traverse not one, not two, but three tunnels of sparkling holiday lights.
Catch the Holiday Spirit – Onstage
Nothing spreads holiday fever like attending a live performance—and St. Louis has an exciting selection of holiday classics for all ages.
Perennial favorite A Christmas Carol (Dec. 6th-9th) returns to the Fabulous Fox Theatre for a fully-staged musical version of Charles Dickens’ classic tale. That classic holiday movie — A Christmas Story — is brought to life on stage at the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis Nov. 28th-Dec. 2nd, Dec. 4th-9th,11th-16th and 18th-23rd.
For a whimsical diversion, check out A Charlie Brown Christmas Live on Stage (Dec. 6th), an adaptation of the classic animated television special at Stifel Theatre. Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas! The Musical, described as a total delight for both kids and adults hits the Stifel Theatre Dec. 13th-16th.
For a totally different twist on the holiday, book tickets for A Magical Cirque Christmas (Dec. 4th) with jaw-dropping magic, breathtaking circus acts, and angelic voices singing favorite Christmas carols at the Fabulous Fox Theatre.
Synonymous with the holidays is the Nutcracker, and St. Louis has Nutcrackers galore.
Who can resist Moscow Ballet’s Great Russian Nutcracker (Dec. 2nd-3rd), also at the Fabulous Fox Theatre. The Saint Louis Ballet performs its version of The Nutcracker at the Touhill Performing Arts Center Dec. 14th-16th and Dec. 19th-23rd. For contemporary versions, the Hip Hop Nutcracker takes stage at the Fabulous Fox Nov. 30th. Jazz St. Louis Big Band performs a special showcase of Duke Ellington’s Nutcracker Suite Dec. 18th-20th at Jazz at the Bistro.
Sweent Sounds of the Season
Musical events add to the holiday festivites and St. Louis has an impressive array of offerings.
Grammy Award-winning saxophonist and premier contemporary jazz artist, Kenny G, brings his The Miracles Holiday and Hits Tour to the Touhill Performing Arts Center Nov. 30th. Also at the Touhill, the Ambassadors of Harmony, a 120-man chorus from St. Charles, Mo., combines comedy and the lighter side of popular holiday songs with classic carols and sacred music of the season Dec. 7th-9th.
Tony Award-winning Leslie Odom, Jr. returns to perform with the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra in an extraordinary evening of melodies from his Simply Christmas album Dec. 2nd. Trans-Siberian Orchestra brings its The Ghosts of Christmas Eve: The Best of TSO and More tour to Enterprise Center on Dec. 6th. For a special holiday performance, The Saint Louis Symphony Chorus and acclaimed soloists meld their voices to perform the beloved classic, Handel’s Messiah at Powell Symphony Hall Dec. 7th-9th.
Another fun performance is Home Alone in Concert, the beloved 1990s box office hit shown on the big screen with the SLSO and a children’s chorus performing John Williams’ delightful score live Dec. 14th-16th. For a stirring holiday experience, attend the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis’ special concert of Christmas favorites at the 14th Annual Christmas at the Cathedral Dec. 1st-2nd.
Ice skating is a St. Louis holiday tradition and there are several places to enjoy it.
Skaters can enjoy the Winterfest Ice Rink and Kiener Plaza’s beautiful lights in the heart of downtown Thursday-Sunday, Nov. 17th-Dec. 23rd; open daily Dec. 24th-Jan. 1st. Bring your skates to skate FREE.
Steinberg Rink in beautiful Forest Park is open Nov. 9th-Feb. 28, 2019 with extended holiday hours. With the downtown Clayton skyline as a backdrop, Shaw Park Ice Rink offers outdoor skating beginning Nov. 23rd.
Missouri Botanical Garden hosts Chanukah: Festival of Lights (Dec. 2nd), a traditional Jewish holiday celebration featuring Israeli music and dance, a Menorah-lighting ceremony and Chanukah merchandise.
The Garden also hosts Kwanzaa: Festival of the First Fruits (Dec. 26th), a contemporary African-American holiday that centers around the feast table of the harvest. The event includes a Kwanzaa ceremony, storytelling, crafts displays and authentic African drumming and musical performances.
Holiday Haul in St. Louis Style
Holiday shopping in St. Louis isn’t a chore to mark off your list – it’s an adventure. St. Louis’ famed cultural institutions – the Saint Louis Zoo, the Saint Louis Art Museum, Missouri History Museum, Saint Louis Science Center, Missouri Botanical Garden and the Gateway Arch – which are so much fun to visit, are fun to shop, too. Not only can you tick those hard-to-buy-for loved ones off your list, you’ll rest assured your gifts are unique treasures.
Or take to St. Louis’ awesome neighborhood boutiques and shops in the Delmar Loop, Washington Avenue, Maplewood, Ferguson, Cherokee Street, Webster Groves, Kirkwood and old town St. Charles for great gift buys. IKEA St. Louis is “the” place to find home furnishings and tasty Swedish meatballs when you want a shopping break.
Thinking upscale? Check out Plaza Frontenac with Saks Fifth Avenue, Nieman-Marcus and other high-end shops. Bargain hunting? Head to Chesterfield where you’ll find St. Louis Premium Outlets®.
For all of St. Louis’ exciting events this holiday season, visit explorestlouis.com/events/.
Explore St. Louis is the driving force behind St. Louis’ $5.8 billion convention and tourism industry, the official destination marketing organization of St. Louis City and County and operator of the America’s Center Convention Complex.