Winter Wonderland Transforms City Hall Plaza

By Beth Treffeisen

As the temperatures start to drop and the festive season comes to light, a new kind of experience will be brightening up the otherwise dim City Hall Plaza in the heart of downtown Boston.

New England’s first, custom-designed outdoor skating path and European inspired outdoor holiday shopping market, called Boston Winter, has taken over the plaza, providing fun activities for people of all of ages.

“Whether it’s family time, date night or millennials going out for drinks after work – there’s going to be a little something for everyone,” said Jen Compton the spokesperson for Boston Garden Development Corporation.

The event was delayed this Friday due to the warm weather. The new holiday themed outdoor space opened this past Saturday but the skating path and “The Chocolate Story,” an educational tour about the history of chocolate won’t open until this Wednesday, December 7.

Skaters will be able to try out a new twist on a traditional ice rink, a nearly 11,000 gross square foot outdoor ice path that will run from after Thanksgiving through February 2017.  Resident and youth skating programs will be announced at a later date.

The free outdoor holiday shopping market, will allow visitors to experience seasonal delicacies and interactive attractions, including visiting Santa Claus, in a celebratory winter atmosphere.

The market will run through New Year’s Day 2017.  There will be 40 individual chalets serving up food and beverages with about 60 percent of the vendors will be made up of local businesses.

“We wanted something that would be new to New England,” said Compton. “We wanted to build an experience.”

Inspiration for the re-imagined winter on City Hall Plaza stemmed from looking at other major city festivals from Canada said Compton. As well, being in an easily accessible location Compton said, “We really wanted to highlight its high visibility.”

Compton said when they began planning; they observed that from November to the end of February there where never any events scheduled for City Hall Plaza.

“We noticed that for a quarter of the year it was totally not used,” said Compton. “We wanted to bring something with a bit more residence where people can come, it’s there, and they can swing by and do not have to plan for it.”

This past spring, the City of Boston selected Boston Garden Development Corporation to improve City Hall Plaza. The three-year contract began September 1, 2016.

As part of the license agreement, the City of Boston will get a percentage of the overall annual profitability of all programming, including an escalating sponsorship model.

Boston Garden Development will be working through the City’s Operations Cabinet to develop robust programming for the spring and summer months that works in conjunction with existing municipal commitments and local neighborhood events held on the Plaza.

“I am pleased about this important next step in our efforts to activate City Hall Plaza, and I thank the Boston Garden Development Corporation for their partnership and creativity in this effort,” said Mayor Walsh in a statement. “This endeavor is the beginning of a joint venture that will help transform the plaza into a year-round destination, inviting the people of Boston to see the plaza come to life in new and exciting ways.”

Mayor Walsh announced recently that Berkshire Bank has singed on to be a major partner. Throughout the three-year contract the event will be branded as “Boston Seasons presented by Berkshire Bank.”

As of right now, Compton said, “It’s been a wild ride over here and we’re just counting down the days until it opens.”

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