Since 1985. The illumination of the Downtown Norfolk skyline kicks off the festivities as Downtown Norfolk and Olde Towne Portsmouth celebrate the holidays as a community. Downtown Norfolk is enlivened by the thousands of people who fill the streets of Downtown Norfolk on parade night to experience the festive beginning of the holiday season, dazzled by spectacular floats, energetic marching bands, giant balloons, lively dancers and even Santa himself. Downtown Norfolk provides the perfect places to shop, dine, and appreciate all the community has to offer on parade night and beyond. The theme of the parade this year is "From Sea to Shining Sea," acknowledging it as an official Norfolk Naval Station Centennial Event. The parade is the kick-off event of Holidays in the City, a seasonal experience featuring a robust calendar of holiday events, activities, and programs to get you and your family in the holiday spirit: MacArthur Center's thrilling Winter Carnival and Ice Rink, visits with Santa Claus, traditional family favorites from the region’s finest arts organizations, such as Virginia Stage Company’s A Christmas Carol, brilliant light shows, magical holiday installations such as Portsmouth's Winter Wonderland and Dickens’ Christmas Towne at Nauticus, outstanding shopping, and so much more. The Grand Illumination is more than just a parade: it is a cherished community event, creating fond memories of holiday cheer for those throughout Downtown Norfolk, Olde Towne Portsmouth, and all of Hampton Roads.