Downtown Tacoma’s halls will be decked more than ever before thanks to Franciscan Polar Plaza’s open-air ice skating rink and surrounding festivities taking place at Tollefson Plaza Nov. 25 through Jan. 2. What was once a glaring eyesore in downtown will be filled with public art, holiday cheer, affordable Christmas trees and a 4,000-square-foot ice rink. Across the street in the Tacoma Art Museum plaza, the festivities will continue on Dec. 3-4 and 10-11 with a European-inspired holiday market featuring items made by local vendors.
“The market is very much inspired by a real European market, where we’ll be selling gifts and items that you can’t find every day,” said organizer Justin Mayfield.
Mayfield, executive director of Local Life Tacoma, is back with Two Five Trees in his third year of bringing the holiday spirit to Tacoma. Traditionally priced below market value, Two Five Trees has become a local favorite among many and is just as much about community as it is about selling trees.
“Two Five Trees could have easily been placed in a K-Mart parking lot in a high-traffic area, but the idea of placing it in a multi-million dollar plaza downtown was really exciting,” Mayfield said. “We want people to see that there are some grassroots efforts going on to really activate our public spaces.”
Acclaimed artist Jeremy Gregory is creating a large-scale, 27-foot mural to bring the space to life, creating what organizers are calling a part Who-ville/part Bavarian village atmosphere.
The public art displayed on the plaza won’t stop there, as Tacoma Art Museum is holding a competition for local artists, whose work will be displayed prominently near the skating rink. The museum is calling for 12 artists or groups to decorate a mystery item on Nov. 19 at 10:30 a.m. The competition will take place at the museum, and each team will have two hours to decorate the item. The winner will receive fame, glory and free tickets to the skating rink.
Tacoma Art Museum Deputy Director Cameron Fellows is hopeful Polar Plaza will become an annual event.
“We want this event to become part of the fabric of Tacoma,” he said. “I hope that each year, the ice rink helps to enliven the community and the people who live nearby.”
Polar Plaza is open Nov. 25 through Jan. 2, from 4-10 p.m. Monday through Friday (Nov. 26-Dec. 16); 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Saturdays and 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Sundays. The skating rink will have extended hours during the week between Dec. 17 and Jan. 2, from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Admission prices for adults and children: $8, and $2 for skate rentals. Members of Tacoma Art Museum and all active duty military and their family receive $1 off admission. For more information, visit www.polarplaza.com.
Polar Plaza Events
Two Five Trees
Nov. 25-Dec. 20
Pick out your affordable Christmas tree this year at Two Five Trees, located on Tollefson.
Plaza next to the ice rink.
Nov. 25, 7 p.m.
Enjoy live music from 80s cover band Big Huge.
Polar Plaza Celebration
Nov. 26, 4:30 p.m.
Skate with Santa and friends, and witness the official ribbon cutting ceremony with Mayor Marilyn Strickland. The Kent Valley Figure Skating Club will also perform at 6 p.m.
Let it Snow
Dec. 4, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Start the winter festivities off right with this free community festival at the Tacoma Art Museum.
Dec. 3-4 and 10-11
Do a little holiday shopping from local vendors, enjoy hot beverages and skate with the family at Polar Plaza from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Dec. 5, 6:30-8:30 p.m.
Come out and skate with the Seattle Thunderbirds hockey team and Cool Bird from 6:30-8:30 p.m.
Dec. 16, 8-10 p.m.
Wear your totally tubular 80s garb to receive $1 off admission, and enjoy live music from the band Igneous Rocks.
Ugly Sweater Night
Wear your favorite ugly holiday sweater and receive $1 off admission