5 Things to Know About Theatre of Lights

Camille Cobbs, Old Sacramento

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! The businesses of Old Sacramento take the holiday season very seriously – as soon as the clock struck midnight on November 1st, pumpkins, bats and Evangeline’s costumes went into storage and out came the garland and lights!

On November 6th, the Holiday Tree was delivered, and over the past couple of weeks, more than 20,000 lights were strung around it. Up went the ornaments and bows, and the 2nd story balconies on K Street are coming to life with stage sets.

Why the stage sets, you ask? Because on November 22nd, the 9th Annual Theatre of Lights season begins! Many of you have experienced the magic of this production before, but for the new kids on the block, let’s walk through 5 things you’ll want to note to enjoy the biggest holiday show of the region!

1. Wait – What is Theatre of Lights??

Hey, I’m glad you asked! Theatre of Lights combines the retelling of Sacramento’s early days with a live enactment of the famous holiday poem, “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas.” Charles McClatchy, founder of today’s Sacramento Bee, visits us from the past to share what it took to get the great city of Sacramento started. He then reads the Christmas poem, and we’re visited by St. Nick himself.

But watch out! Jack Frost shows up to put a freeze on the holiday party! You’ll have to come on down to find out how the epic battle between Santa and Frost ends – perhaps you’ll end up being the hero…

2. When is Theatre of Lights?

You’ll have plenty of time to see Theatre of Lights during the next few weeks: the show runs every Thursday-Sunday after the kick-off show on November 22nd, with two performances a night at 6:00pm and 7:30pm. Special performances will also take place on December 19th and 20th with a finale show on Christmas Eve. You’ll probably love it so much that you’ll want to come watch more than once 😉

3. What’s the inside scoop?

Take notes: we are about to share some tips and hints that are not known to the general public.

Photo lovers: here’s your chance to snag a free photo with Santa! After every show (with the exception of Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve) Santa and the cast come down to take photos with guests on a first come, first served basis. Photos will go for about twenty minutes, so get in line as soon as the show ends! Santa’s Helpers run a tight ship, so late comers will have to wait until next time.

Want the VIP experience? On slower nights (Thursdays and the occasional Sunday), the VIP Wagons, large vehicles that allow for sitting down during the show, tend to be empty. Santa’s Helpers will allow you to sit in a VIP wagon with your squad if it is not reserved! Visit on a slow night and keep an eye on those wagons!

For those of you who love the holiday season as much as we do, the magic gets even better. During the show, we have guest appearances from local celebs and TV personalities, like Slamson the Lion and the Produce Man – and every once in a while, a holiday character visits! We have Elsa, the Grinch, Jack Skellington, Darth Vader, and other stars you love! Follow Theatre of Lights on Facebook to see when these characters are scheduled to visit!

4. How do I experience the best of TOL?

Have you ever been so excited to go to an event, only to find that when you get there, it’s too crowded, or you can’t see anything? Well, there’s a way to get around that during Theatre of Lights.

We have learned over the years that the majority of visitors come and watch the show on Fridays and Saturdays, so you’ll have the place to yourself with few others if you visit on Thursdays and Sundays! Twirl under the falling snow and move around comfortably as the performance takes place during these days when crowds are more sparse.

You’ll also want to wait it out and watch the late show. Our records show that most people also enjoy the earlier show at 6pm, so fewer will be out during the 7:30pm performance.

Parking can be an annoying experience, so we recommend coming for dinner and taking advantage of valet parking. With prices that range between $5-10 an hour, this is a deal you can’t beat! Visit Ten22 and Rio City Café, leave your car, eat great food, and enjoy the show without the parking garage nightmare.

5. How do I stay in the know?

Never miss an update this holiday season. Follow Theatre of Lights on Facebook for photos, updates, weather cancellations and more. Old Sacramento will also keep you informed on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, and on the web on


Header photo credit: Elizabeth Delgado