A rosy-cheeked little boy in a green winter cap slides down a slippery snow hill as onlookers wait for their turn to don an inner tube and race toward the bottom of the frozen shoot. While patrons are experiencing the sights and sounds of winter, they are actually in the middle of downtown Waco, enjoying one of the perks of the city’s holiday kick-off event, Waco Wonderland.
The three-night event first began when the Public Improvement District (PID) of Waco wanted to create an event that would celebrate all that downtown has to offer.
“The PID was looking for a cornerstone event to have in downtown,” said Jonathan Cook, director of Community Events and Promotions for the City of Waco. “At the time we’d had some other organizations do what we called ‘Christmas at the Square,’ but it sort of fell by the wayside over the years. So, the timing was just right to start something new.”
Waco Wonderland will celebrate its fifth year in December, and has become one of Waco’s most popular events.
This year’s festivities will begin December 1 with a Ferris wheel, food truck cuisine, a visit from Santa, a tree lighting ceremony and a fireworks show.
“Saturday (Dec. 2) we go all day, starting with the early-morning Wonderland Run that is a partnership event with Waco Communities in Schools,” Cook said.
The day’s events also include a holiday parade at 10 a.m. that will travel down Austin Avenue, and the popular snow hill that will open at 3 p.m. The director said patrons can buy $5 wristbands, which act as an all-you-can-ride pass for the snow hill and the Ferris wheel.
“Although the wristbands are $5, we try to keep the event affordable for families. There is no gate or entry fee to attend the event,” he said.
The holiday kick-off event continues on Sunday, Dec. 3, with a return of the snow hill, a petting zoo, and the Mistletoe Market where patrons can browse different arts and crafts booths.
“We also have a large entertainment stage that will be set up all three days,” Cook said. “We’ll have different church groups and choirs singing and doing different performances.”
While Waco Wonderland only lasts three days, Cook said that the event will be promoting other holiday-themed events throughout the month including a holiday dinner sponsored by the Waco Farmer’s Market and an upscale antique shopping experience called the White Buffalo Market.
“Whether you’re a grandparent or a child, this is one of those events that everyone can come out and enjoy,” he said. “It’s a really great time to come to downtown and celebrate the holiday season.”
For more information and a complete list of activities, visit wacowonderland.com.
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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.