My husband was convinced it would be a holiday death march. I was more inclined to believe it would be all dancing reindeer and sugarplum fairies. How much Downtown in December can you pack in — and enjoy — in one weekend? We were about to find out.
Downtown in December, for those uninitiated, is the annual holiday celebration spread throughout downtown, from Nov. 26 to Jan. 2, 2011.
Now in its ninth year, that means ice skating, Christmas lights, evening canal rides and Santa zipping around on a Segway. (I’ve heard rumors that’s addressed as his alternate mode of transit in the lost verse of “’Twas the Night Before Christmas.”) Over the 40 nights of Downtown in December, there are 14 different events or sights from which to choose. We studied up and made our game plan: three days, nine items to check off our list. Let’s go.
String the lights
Lights, lights everywhere. Throughout Bricktown, along the canal, lining Automobile Alley, it’s like a Technicolor dreamscape downtown.
The bright lights come out at night, a perfect time to bundle up and take a stroll, or snuggle down into one of the decorated carriages in Bricktown. We opted for walking. Plus, all those twinkling lights? Absolutely free.
The centerpiece is the 32-foot-tall Christmas tree towering above Couch Park, just a few blocks away from Bricktown. It’s blanketed in lights and is very “Clara in ‘The Nutcracker.’” It made my own 6-foot-tall tree feel very small and jealous.
Back in Automobile Alley, OK CityScape, 1100 N. Broadway, has relocated from Penn Square Mall to become a Downtown in December attraction. The open space has been transformed into an adorable cartoon world, with brightly painted walls and fluffy “clouds” hanging from the ceiling.
Using more than 2 million Legos, OK CityScape re-creates 20 metro buildings — from the Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum to the Colcord Hotel — with minute details hidden in each scene. Check out the bottom window of the Skirvin to spy a tiny Lego waiter serving a tiny Lego lunch, or peek in the maternity ward of St. Anthony to “awww” at new Lego mothers with their itty-bitty Lego babies.
There’s a Lego play station for kids (or, ahem, adults) and lots of interactive features. OK CityScape is open until Dec. 31, and admission is $5 for adults, $3 for children. Proceeds benefit Oklahoma City Educare.
Ride and glide
Next up, ice skating.
The popular rink, set up outside the Civic Center in Bicentennial Park, is lovely at night. We grabbed a few friends and laced up. With skate rentals, admission is $8. I’m not exactly Kristi Yamaguchi (and how much does that reference date me?), but I grew up skating on frozen lakes, so I was most excited to get out on the rink. Not so excited? The f riend I conned into joining us who had never, ever been ice skating. We were prepared to point and laugh.
The rink was crowded with every level of skater, from the tweens in the middle showing off their spins to the fall-happy boys who took to ice skating with a recklessness you don’t see too often. My friend disappointed us by not falling once, although she also only let go of the railing about three times, and I think I saw a one-legged 80-year-old pass her, so there was that.
We warmed up with cups of tongue-scalding hot chocolate, waved at Santa who pulled up on his Segway and headed to the Bricktown Ballpark for snow tubing.
This redeemed my husband’s holiday death march claims, since we were finally in his domain. He grew up ski jumping — he even went to the junior Olympics — so launching himself down icy slopes comes naturally.
The baseball diamond-turned-joy ride was indeed icy; the slopes — not so much. But the speed of the track made it fun.
There are two different heights of slopes riders can choose from: one for older kids and adults, and one for the little kids, although I saw a curious number of adults sticking with the tame kiddie slope.
Tubing is $10 for a 90-minute session, and some of the sessions can be booked full, so check out the schedule online.
Finally, we ended our weekend of holiday fun with a canal ride. From 6 to 9:30 p.m., Thursday through Sunday, canal rides are free. We hopped aboard a boat with Capt. Rick at the helm and settled in.
The lights in Bricktown are gorgeous from canal level, and Capt. Rick peppered the ride with jokes and trivia about the district. Protected by the buildings on all sides, the night was calm and cool — a perfect ending to the winter weekend.
So how much fun was it? Grumbling was kept at a minimum by all parties involved. I’d call that a success.
Downtown in December continues through Jan. 2, 2011, and includes much more than we were able to get to in just three days. For more information, visit www.downtownindecember.com.