click to enlarge Old Capitol Holiday Walks take place through Dec. 22. Enjoy festivities downtown Wednesdays 4-7 p.m. and Saturdays 10 a.m.-7 p.m. - CREDIT: DOWNTOWN SPRINGFIELD, INC..
CREDIT: Downtown Springfield, Inc..
Old Capitol Holiday Walks take place through Dec. 22. Enjoy festivities downtown Wednesdays 4-7 p.m. and Saturdays 10 a.m.-7 p.m.

Downtown is a can't-miss destination for the holidays, thanks to the organizers of this year's Memorial Holiday Fest, presented by PNC Bank, and Downtown Springfield Inc.'s Old Capitol Holiday Walks, presented by INB. Both events are taking place in coordination over nearly four weeks in downtown Springfield starting the Saturday after Thanksgiving, celebrated nationwide as Small Business Saturday. In addition, the LRS Skating Rink, presented by Sangamon CEO, opened downtown on Nov. 6.

Volunteers and staff from the Springfield Memorial Foundation and Downtown Springfield Inc. have been meeting for months to coordinate free activities that will surprise and delight people of all ages.

Festivities will take place on Wednesday evenings and Saturdays between Nov. 27 and Dec. 22, with most options being free. There's so much going on that the organizations are closing down streets around the Old State Capitol to cars on Saturdays. There will be a shuttle, as well as golf cart service for people with mobility issues, from designated parking lots. Free parking is available at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum garage, Horace Mann lots, the Hoogland Center for the Arts garage and downtown meters.

"When COVID prevented us from hosting Festival of Trees in 2020, we started thinking more broadly about how to make future holiday events more accessible to all of Springfield and the surrounding communities, as well as more impactful in a post-pandemic world," said Melissa Hansen Schmadeke, executive director of the Springfield Memorial Foundation. "Partnering with downtown was the obvious choice, as community health and economic health are intertwined. Supporting local businesses and creating a safe holiday experience went hand-in-hand for us."

Springfield Memorial Foundation has retained its signature decoration of the Festival of Trees in Holiday Fest – dozens of creatively decorated trees – that can be viewed this year in downtown storefronts.

Tree designs include a Warming Tree at the downtown YMCA, 601 N. Fourth St., decorated with scarves, hats and mittens. Families in need will be able to take items from the tree. A tree built out of books by the Springfield Art Association will be at Lincoln Library, 326 S. Seventh St. Trees decorated by students in high schools and middle schools around Sangamon County can be viewed in the windows at INB, 322 E. Capitol Ave. Decorated wreaths will also be displayed at the Illinois State Museum, 502 S. Spring St. A full map is available at memorial.health/smf at the Events tab or in a pamphlet available at participating downtown shops.

The Holiday Tree provided by Ace Sign Company, located on the Old State Capitol Plaza, will be lit in a public ceremony at 4:30 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 27.

"DSI's Old Capitol Holiday Walks have always been a meaningful part of my family's holidays and I'm so excited to share everything we've programmed with the Springfield Memorial Foundation with my kids and grandkids," said Cathy Schwartz, the chairwoman of the DSI planning committee.

Children are always the stars of the show when it comes to downtown's holiday experiences. They can take pictures with Santa Claus in his sleigh on the Old State Capitol lawn, and drop off their wish lists in the Santa mailbox decorated by the Springfield Art Association nearby on the plaza. Families can take a free carriage ride around the Old State Capitol thanks to support from the Community Foundation for the Land of Lincoln.

New this year is a Polar Passport. When children visit four specific destinations, they'll receive a stamp. The four locations are the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, where they can view the Gingerbread Village; the Old State Capitol, where they can meet Santa or ice skate (for a fee); Kidzeum, where they can make potholder gifts with their handprints or skate on the Sock Skating Rink (for the price of admission) and the Illinois State Museum, where they can visit The Mary Ann MacLean Play Museum and look at decorated wreaths.

Carolers and a living window display based on Disney's Frozen by the Hoogland Teens will greet families when they turn in the passports at the Hoogland Center for the Arts. Four stamps earn a free pass to the Kidzeum.

Adults are not left out of the fun, either. Shoppers can earn red tickets for purchases at more than 30 locally owned downtown businesses, with the possibility of winning up to $1,000 in DSI's Red Ticket Giveaway. Shoppers also earn red tickets by grabbing a new, holiday-themed Parklet Passport, a guidebook to treats and live performances at the parklets installed recently outside various downtown businesses. Rounding out the many shopping options will be a Mistletoe Market located next to Willow & Birch on Washington Street.

"We are thrilled to have so many community partners joining us," said Kayla Graven, executive director of Downtown Springfield Inc. "It's our hope that these holiday activities will be a bright spot for the whole community after a tough two years."

***All activities will follow social distancing and masking guidelines***

Wednesday evenings

Visiting Santa Claus

Lawn of the Old State Capitol

4–7 p.m.

LRS ice skating rink

Lawn of the Old State Capitol

5–8 p.m.

Tickets online at sangamonceo.com/ice-rink/

Free performances

Old State Capitol Plaza

4 p.m. and 6 p.m.

Late shopping hours

Until 7 p.m.

Free carriage rides

Pickup on Washington Street between Fifth and Sixth streets

4-7 p.m.

Rides leave every 10 minutes. Carriages are cleaned after each ride.

Kids craft-making and sock skating

Kidzeum, 412 E. Adams St.

4–7 p.m.

Requires paid admission to Kidzeum. On the first floor, children can make potholders adorned with their handprints. Other arts and crafts will be available. The Sock Skating Rink will be on the third floor.

Hoogland Teens Living Window of Disney's Frozen

Hoogland Center for the Arts

5 p.m. and 7 p.m.

The Gingerbread Village

Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, 212 N. Sixth St.

Free admission from 4–7 p.m. with a donation of personal care items for the Springfield Salvation Army Warming Center

Mistletoe Market

Next to Willow & Birch, 521 E Washington St.

4–7 p.m.

Saturdays

Streets closed to cars from Washington Street to the north, Sixth Street to the east, Monroe Street to the south, and Fifth Street to the west. In addition, the east-west Adams Street between Fifth and Sixth streets will be closed. Free parking at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, Horace Mann, the Hoogland Center for the Arts and downtown meters. Golf carts available to assist people with mobility issues from 10 a.m.–7 p.m. There will also be a shuttle that continuously circles the event area from 10 a.m.–7 p.m.

Late shopping hours

Until 7 p.m.

Visiting Santa Claus

Lawn of the Old State Capitol

10 a.m.–1 p.m., 1:30–4:30 p.m., 5–7 p.m.

LRS ice skating rink

Lawn of the Old State Capitol

11 a.m.–7 p.m.

Tickets can only be purchased online at sangamonceo.com/ice-rink/

Free Performances

Old State Capitol Plaza

11 a.m., 2 p.m. and 5 p.m.

Free carriage rides

Pickup on Washington Street between Fifth and Sixth streets

2-7 p.m.

Rides leave every 10 minutes. Carriages are cleaned after each ride.

Kids craft-making and sock skating

Kidzeum, 412 E. Adams St.

9 a.m.–7 p.m.

Requires paid admission to Kidzeum. On the first floor, children can make potholders adorned with their handprints. Other arts and crafts will be available. The Sock Skating Rink will be on the third floor.

Hoogland Teens Living Window of Disney's Frozen

Hoogland Center for the Arts

10 a.m., 1 p.m. and 4 p.m.

The Gingerbread Village

Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, 212 N. Sixth St.

Free admission from 4–7 p.m. with a donation of personal care items for the Springfield Salvation Army Warming Center

Mistletoe Market

Next to Willow & Birch, 521 E Washington Street

2–7 p.m.

Special Events

DSI's Holiday Farmers Market

Nov. 20 and Dec. 18

Union Square Park

8 a.m.–Noon

Free parking at the ALPLM parking garage

Springfield Jaycees Holiday Light Parade

Dec. 4

5:30 p.m.

Lisa Clemmons Stott is the former executive director of Downtown Springfield Inc.

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