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Holiday Events in Ithaca

This holiday we will continue to create new traditions and support our local community. We’ve curated some of Ithaca’s most exciting 2021 holiday events to help lift our holiday spirits and spread holiday cheer. From where to shop small and Santa sightings to a queer holiday burlesque spectacular and the Winter Lights Festival this winter will be merry and bright! 

Shops and Markets

two people shopping at sparks and ember

Winter Solstice Market on December 21 will fill Press Bay Alley with beautifully made local provisions and crafts. Open from 3:30 to 7:30 pm you can enjoy food and drinks while you stroll and visit with vendors, live music will keep the atmosphere festive. This annual market brings together feelings of old world charm and quirky Ithaca. 

Visit the Factory Holiday Art Market this year December 3-5 at Artist Alley, the basement level of the South Hill Business Campus. Find great gifts and shop from over 35 artists in a factory setting. A fun and COVID thoughtful event - please wear your masks. There will be plenty of parking, the market is also on the TCAT bus route.

The wine-themed Holiday Shopping Spree is back this year November 20-21 & December 4-5 from 10 am to 5 pm along the Cayuga Lake Wine Trail. To keep guests and staff safe tickets are sold in bundles of 4. Guests will sit amongst tables of 4 that are spaced 6 feet apart. Tickets include 6 wineries, with food and wine samples served at each. a souvenir wine glass for each person, plus two Cayuga Lake Wine Trail serving boards to take home! 

Shows, Performances, & Festivals

women cheersing one another
Photo Credit Allison Usavage

You won’t find a lot of traditional holiday practices, such as an official Christmas tree lighting or other ceremonies. Instead, we embrace the quirkiness of the season and the togetherness that this time of year brings with fun activities such as the Annual International Rutabaga Curl on December 18th this year. Bring the whole family to this wild, wacky and ridiculous event. You’ll see MCs, referees, protestors, a chorus, instrumentalists, camera/radio crews and more rutabaga lore than you ever knew existed. You’ll have ample time to practice throwing and to alter your rutabaga to your liking.

Celebrate the season at the Winter Lights Festival presented by Tompkins Trust Company in downtown Ithaca December 3 - 11, 2021. For two weekends enjoy immersive, interactive, illuminated light sculptures as you shop, dine and engage in the holiday festivities. Including Silent Discos, Ice Bar, and Glow Bar, the 11th Annual Chowder Cook-Off, and live outdoor entertainment

The holiday tradition returns to The State Theatre with the Ithaca Ballet presenting the The Nutcracker on December 17th and 18th. 

HUNG With Care is a queer holiday burlesque spectacular, now in its 8th season. The original, fully scripted show is a scintillating sleigh ride of yuletide classics featuring performances from New York City’s premier cabaret artists with talents ranging from burlesque to dance, circus acts, drag, live singing and so much more. This show contains adult language and themes. All attendees must be 16+. Click here to buy tickets.

Holiday decorating

christmas tree and wreath along a brick wall

Some will say November is too early for tree shopping. Others have a tree up the day after Halloween. Evergreen decor will be widely available after thanksgiving.

From Friday, November 26th through Sunday, December 19th you’re invited to create family memories at Moore Tree Farms. Come find the perfect U-cut, pre-cut, or live Christmas Tree as well as wreaths, ornaments, and decorations. Saturday, November 27th from 10 am-1 pm the Newfies Newfoundland dogs from the Genesee Region Newfoundland Club will haul trees from the field!  

Hunt's Christmas Tree Farm in the Finger Lakes offers U-cut and pre-cut Christmas Trees along with wreath-making classes, and food on the weekend! They are open from November 26th through Tuesday, December 23rd.

Spreading Holiday Spirit

making a wreath

The Cass Park Ice Rink has public skating times nearly every day of the week, beginning as early as 9:15am and even going to 9:30pm on Saturdays. Skate rentals are available in sizes toddler through adult. While you're in the area, visit the Ithaca Children's Garden and then go to Ithaca Bakery for a warm beverage and a hearty sandwich or pastry treat.

Looking to snap some unique family photos? Have you considered posing with alpacas? The Holiday Open Farm Days at Shepherds Creek Alpacas begin on Black Friday, November 26th, continue through to Small Business Saturday, Nov. 27th, and every Saturday until Christmas from 10 am to 4 pm. Be sure to visit the Farm Shop for unique and beautiful alpaca holiday gifts.

Looking for other ways to get into the holiday spirit? What about a Wreath-Making Class? Dec. 3-4, learn to make a beautiful evergreen wreath to decorate your home for the holidays! A variety of fresh-cut greens, a wreath ring, wires, and ribbons are supplied. Bring any special decorating materials you would like to use to personalize your wreath such as dried chili peppers or ornaments along with pruning shears and gloves. Space is limited to 10 students for this in-person class. Vaccination cards and mask-wearing are required. Click here to register.

Santa Sightings

santa propelling down a building on the commons
Photo Credit Downtown Ithaca Alliance

Nothing brings the season to life more than a visit from Santa! He’ll be greeting guests at two places this season, on the same day thanks to his magic flying sleigh! 

Watch the annual tradition of Santa Arriving in Downtown Ithaca on Saturday, December 11th! Before the man in red arrives, enjoy live entertainment featuring performances by United Dance Troupe and the Fall Creek Brass Band. At 12 pm Santa and his elves will enter Downtown Ithaca in the most unique way possible: rappelling down from the roof of Center Ithaca onto Trolley Circle. You won’t want to miss this, so don't be late!

Bring your camera or phone to snap free photos with Santa and his sleigh outside at the Bernie Milton Pavilion. Don’t leave without stopping in at Alphabet Soup to write a letter reminding Santa of your family’s holiday requests. While there, purchase a toy to donate. Alphabet Soup has partnered with local organizations to collect toys for local kids.

Santa will also be visiting Moore Tree Farm the same day from 10 am - 1 pm! Be sure to bring your wish list because Santa will be chatting with all the good girls, boys and parents!

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2022 Visit Ithaca Travel Guide
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Ithaca/Tompkins County Convention & Visitors Bureau
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