The holiday season is upon us, and downtown Missoula – America’s Great Neighborhood – is the destination for those looking for an authentic holiday experience.
Small Business Saturday: With the goal of supporting local businesses that strengthen our communities, American Express launched a national campaign in 2010 to encourage all Americans across the country to shop at locally-owned, small businesses. By 2016, Small Business Saturday transactions were estimated to be more than $15 billion dollars in the United States.
Downtown Missoula has been with the program since 2011, and this year our very own Kristen Sackett, marketing & events director, was tapped to showcase the successes of downtown Missoula’s Shop Small promotion, alongside American Express at the International Downtown Association Conference.
Small Business Saturday takes place the Saturday after Black Friday and before Cyber Monday, and more than 100 Downtown businesses will have hard-to-resist offers and promotions throughout the day. Stop by the MSO Hub (140 N. Higgins) to meet Sackett between 10am-3pm for free hot chocolate and promotional flyers on all the discounts. Remember parking is free on Saturdays.
Festival of Trees: A long-standing Missoula tradition, the Festival of Trees was gifted to the Missoula Downtown Association by Mountain Home Montana. With proceeds supporting the MDA, the Missoula Downtown Foundation, and Mountain Home, this year’s festival will take place on the top floor of First Interstate Bank (101 E. Front) December 1-3.
With fantastic views of downtown and the entire Missoula Valley, this new venue will be dressed to the nines with beautifully-decorated trees and wreathes, and several special events will be held there during the weekend:
The Tour of Trees will be Friday, Dec. 1 from 11am-6pm and Saturday, Dec. 2 from 12-5 pm with more than 30 trees, wreathes, garlands and other items decorated in the theme of Traditions from Around the World. Local musicians will be on hand to provide entertainment. Admission is $2 per person, and the tour includes the Lobby as well as the majority of the top floor.
The Holiday Soiree will be Fri., Dec. 1 from 7-9 pm and include a Live Auction of two 7-foot trees, and a Mouse House. More than 30 small trees and holiday gifts will be available through the silent auction. For adults only, the Soiree is $50 will feature live music, hors d’oeuvres by Bravo Catering, and a no-host bar.
Saturday evening’s feature will be the Parade of Lights viewing party from 5:30-7 pm. Admission is $25 per person, and attendees will have a unique opportunity to view the annual holiday parade in the warm, welcoming and festive atmosphere from the top floor. Hors d’ouevres and a no-host bar will be offered for all attendees.
This year’s festival will also feature three Teddy Bear Teas: Saturday, Dec. 2 at 10 am; Sunday, Dec. 3 at 9 am; and Sunday, Dec. 3 at 11 am. All children are invited for tea and cookies, arts and crafts, and entertainment. Visit with Trolls’ Princess Poppy on Saturday and Santa Claus on Sunday. Children are encouraged to bring their teddy bear or other stuffed animal friend.
The 15th Annual Parade of Lights will kick off Saturday, Dec. 2 with Santa’s Arrival at 1 pm. Photos with Santa will take place at the Florence Lobby (111 N. Higgins) until 5 pm, and nearly 30 downtown businesses will be hosting entertainment, children’s activities, holiday gift making, cookie decorating and so much more.
The Parade of Lights starts at 6 pm at the corner of Higgins and 4th and moves north on Higgins to the Historic Northern Pacific Depot. Free cocoa is available for all, and the Lighting of the Tree is slated for 6:30 pm. As always, parking is free throughout Downtown on Saturday.
Horse-Drawn Carriage Rides: Thanks to Lithia Ford of Missoula and The Resort at Paws Up, folks can enjoy FREE horse-drawn carriage rides every Saturday & Sunday from 11 am to 4 pm between November 25 and December 17 on East Pine Street.
Downtown Window Decor: No Holiday Season is complete without taking a casual stroll in Downtown Missoula to view all the beautifully-decorated windows. Each year the Missoula Downtown Association hosts a window-decorating contest and online voting by the public. Voting ends December 19, and five categorical awards will be distributed. Vote online at www.missouladowntown.com.
Downtown Gift Cards: With nearly 200 destinations for its use, the Downtown Gift Card is an excellent gift for family, friends, co-workers and clients. Available in any denomination, Downtown Gift Cards can be purchased at the Downtown Missoula Partnership office (218 E. Main), the MSO Hub (140 N. Higgins), and online at www.missouladowntown.com.
In addition to these community-oriented activities, Downtown Missoula has several other special holiday events this season:
- A Christmas Carol Dec. 1-17 at MCT
- Missoula Symphony Holiday Pops Concert Dec. 2-3 at UM Dennison Theater
- Missoula MADE Fair Sun., Dec. 10 at UM Adams Center
- The Nutcracker by Garden City Ballet Dec. 15-17 at UM Montana Theater
For more information on these or other holiday activities in Downtown, visit www.missouladowntown.com or call 406-543-4238. This holiday season shop Downtown and enjoy all the ways in which you can connect to America’s Great Neighborhood.
Linda McCarthy is the executive director of the Missoula Downtown Association