Written by Olivia Bauso
All images provided and granted permission to use directly by the highlighted organizations themselves.

ROC-ing around the Christmas Tree (And Other Rochester Holiday Activities)

Now that Thanksgiving is passed, we can officially talk (and sing) about the most wonderful time of the year! Without all the “too early for Christmas” hate, of course.

Every family has their own tried and true Christmas traditions, but here in Rochester, there are certain holiday activities you just don’t miss. Whether you’re new to the city or planning a day trip to the 585, these are the December events to add to your wish-list.

RPO’s The Nutcracker and Gala Holiday Pops

via Rochester City Ballet
via Rochester City Ballet

For lovers of the ballet, classical music, and dancing paper mache rats, The Nutcracker is the ultimate Christmas kick-off. Its “timeless tale of wonder” whisks the audience away to a magical land of sparkling snow as members of the Rochester City Ballet move to Tchaikovsky’s score performed the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra in the iconic Kodak Hall at Eastman Theatre. Phew, that’s a lot of Rochester name-dropping in one sentence. The Nutcracker runs November 27-Dec 1.

Following the Christmas cult classic, the RPO will perform everyone’s favorite carols and joyful melodies featuring a 200-member choir for added cheer in Gala Holiday Pops from December 20-22.

It’s A Wonderful Life in the South Wedge

via Business Association of the South Wedge Area
via Business Association of the South Wedge Area

Come on down to the South Wedge for the day and visit Rochester’s not-so-best-kept secret neighborhood. For eleven years, local businesses have organized to showcase the best in local entertainment, vendors, food, and drink for one day of Holiday neighborhood fun.

Free to the public, the event will attract over 4,000 people throughout the day to Star Alley, which will be decorated in classic Christmas fashion. (Holly, garland, old-timey carolers… the whole thing.) Children’s activities will be available, including an “Angel Gets Its Wings” activity and ornament and stocking decorating. The event runs from 11 a.m.- 4 p.m. on December 7, concluding with a screening of It’s A Wonderful Life at the Cinema Theatre.

Roc Holiday Village

via Tomas Flint
via Tomas Flint
via Tomas Flint
via Tomas Flint

Last Christmas, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Park transformed into a winter wonderland for Rochester’s first annual holiday festival. This year, the festival is back with an expanded schedule of an additional day, added hours plus a special New Year’s Eve celebration.

For 14 days, enjoy free ice skating, a shopping village, food and drinks, Santa’s workshop, hand-crafted goods, pop-up restaurants, winter igloos, special events, live music, private parties, nightlife and visits from Santa himself right in downtown Roc. Think Rockefeller Center meets Lilac Fest. Plus, from Dec. 27-29, Santa’s Workshop will change into a free gaming room (with shuffleboard, pinball, arcade games, air hockey and more. Shopping vendors will also be swapped out for food and drink vendors that weekend.

The City of Rochester Roc Holiday Village opens Friday, December 6 and continues through Sunday, December 29 on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays.

Genesee Brew House Keg-Tree Lighting

Every brand hops on the holiday bandwagon in some way or another. But Genesee Brewery has made its annual Keg-Tree Lighting one of those “It’s not Christmas until…” moments. The first of several lightings of the weekend (see below), the Keg-Tree is truly the most “Rochester” holiday symbol of all.

On December 6 for the sixth year, Genesee Brewery will flip the switch on its towering 520 keg tree outside Genesee Brew House followed by a celebration. The Brew House will serve Keg Tree Ale and Cinnamon Cream Ale, alongside eight food trucks on-site. Rochester Kettle Corn will also serve sweet and savory seasonal treats. Admission to the event, which last year drew more than 6,000 people, is free and will run from 5 to 9 p.m.

Liberty Pole Lighting

via Mike Bradley

During the second night of Roc Holiday Village, make a pit stop at Main and Liberty Pole Way for the annual lighting of the one and only Rochester Liberty Pole. Sure, it’s lit all year, but nothing says “Christmas” quite like a Mayor-sanctioned relighting of Downtown Roc’s iconic landmark. Right?

Enjoy Santa, Rudolph, Elves, and local sports team mascots as they greet kids at the Liberty Pole at 5 p.m. on Saturday, December 7. Free coffee & hot chocolate will be provided by nearby Grace Road Church. Following the lighting, a holiday parade from to Dr. MLK Jr. Park will officially kick off the Holiday Village and real Christmas tree lighting.

Looking for more? Honorable mentions include Holidays at the Market, Holiday Bazaar at The Yards, Handmade Holiday, Holiday Homecoming at the Eastman Museum, A Christmas Carol at Geva Theatre, and The Garden Factory Holiday Light Show.

Whatever you do to get in the holiday spirit this year, may it be merry and bright!