The Parade of Lights, arrival of Santa and Mrs. Claus, and the lighting of the giant holiday tree at the XXXXs downtown have become beloved Missoula traditions. As with everything, these traditions will look different during the pandemic holiday season. I'm just delighted that it's not completely canceled!

Rather than holding a massive gathering after the Parade of Lights to do the countdown to the lighting of the tree, the Lighting of the Tree will take place at 6 p.m. on 10 consecutive nights, spreading out the opportunities for Missoula-area families to see the Tree Lighting in small groups from November 27th to December 6th. The lighting is held in conjunction with the Festival of Trees, so you know it's going to be good. This year’s tree will feature 6,000 brand-new LED lights, thanks to the Missoula Downtown Foundation. The new lights replace the 2,000 incandescent lights that have decorated the tree for the last 40 years.

You can learn more about the Festival of Trees and annual Teddy Bear Tea Party here, and this year's Parade of Lights is a reverse parade. Meaning, the floats will be parked at the U of M and families will drive through to experience the fun, rather than gathering outside, downtown. Parade of Lights info is here.

All who visit Downtown for daily tree lighting are encouraged to follow appropriate COVID protocols, as outlined by state and county restrictions, and to enjoy dining and shopping in Downtown Missoula this holiday season. Downtown businesses will be open in the evenings, and parking is free after 5 p.m. In addition to the nightly tree lighting, you can participate in the Downtown Window Decorating Contest by voting for your favorite Downtown windows, in a competition for one of six awards distributed annually by the Downtown Missoula Partnership.

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