A dark, December night is suddenly illuminated by bright, colorful fireworks that not only excite the children watching below, but also serve as a kick-off to holiday festivities in the downtown Waco. The event is Waco Wonderland, and for five years, this festive experience has brought local families together to celebrate the season.
“There’s always been holiday events in Waco, but with Waco Wonderland, we have been able to establish a good tradition for families,” said Jonathan Cook, director of Community Events and Promotions for the City of Waco. “It’s really cool to see kids come back year-after-year with their parents, grandparents and siblings.”
The event, which takes place Nov. 30 – Dec. 2 at Heritage Square on Austin Ave., starts with a fireworks display and tree lighting ceremony on Friday evening. Saturday activities begin bright and early with the Wonderland Run.
“We work with Heart of Texas Communities in Schools to produce [the run],” Cook said. “It’s an all-ages run that goes through downtown Waco. It’s a lot of fun. We encourage people to dress up.”
The run leads right into the event’s annual holiday parade, presented by Family of Faith Worship Center, that travels down Austin Avenue. After the parade, Wonderland attendees are invited to ride the Ferris wheel, take a train ride, or slide down a three-story, three-lane snow hill that is made of more than 80,000 pounds of ice.
“We try to keep these attractions affordable for families. We offer $5 wristbands that allow patrons to visit the Ferris wheel, train and snow hill as many times as they want.”
Waco Wonderland also includes a kids’ area full of arts and crafts sponsored by HEB, Santa’s House where children can meet the big man himself, and a petting zoo that will be available Sunday afternoon.
But this event isn’t just for kids. Waco Wonderland also includes the Mistletoe Market that offers a variety of crafts, collectibles and unique finds from local businesses.
The weekend-long event is just the beginning of the December festivities in downtown Waco. The city will also play host to Christmas at the Silos, a First Friday block party, and outdoor movie showings.
Jessa is the Editor-in-Chief of Hooray for Family and the mom of three energetic children. She has a BA in Mass Communication/Journalism from the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor, and is a long-time resident of Central Texas. When she isn't writing and editing, she enjoys playing board games with her kids, teaching Sunday school and channeling her creativity into craft projects.