Mark your calendars, get ready to be filled with the holiday spirit, and witness the Christmas magic that surrounds Santa Barbara and Solvang during the holiday season!
Some of these events or places to visit can be tackled in a day trip while others are just begging for a weekend stay along the Central Coast. We’ve laid these events out by date with some bonus or DIY ideas so you can choose your own adventure this winter!
Nov 29 – Santa Barbara Night Market, Snowfall on Paseo Nuevo, & Julefest Kick-Off
Kick off your holiday excursions with a visit to our Paseo Nuevo outdoor mall, located on State Street, for a chance to frolick in the snow as soon as the day after Thanksgiving. (Because we true Christmas nuts don’t wait for December to start celebrating, amIright?) Every night from Nov 29-Dec 31 people of all ages will enjoy their annual snowfall and photos with Santa in the center courtyard. Snowfall happens every night at 6pm and 7pm.
Julefest in Solvang is a collection of events happening Nov 29-Jan 5 and one of our favorite month long events is the Nisse Adventure. Grab a map from the Solvang Visitor’s Center conveniently located in the center of town on Copenhagen Drive, then head out on foot to find the hidden elves throughout town. Snap a picture of each one to prove your discovery before returning to the Visitor’s Center to collect your prize! To see a full list of events happening in the Most Christmassy Town, visit the Solvang USA website.
Dec 6 – Santa Barbara Christmas Parade
Save the airfare and celebrate a tropical Christmas at the annual Santa Barbara Christmas Parade with this year’s theme of Tropical Holiday. We don’t like to brag, but we can put on quite the show drawing as many as 650,000 visitors for this parade in years past!
Dec 7 – Los Olivos Olde Fashioned Christmas
A short drive to the Santa Ynez Valley will take you to our quaint towns full of wine tasting and gourmet bites. A trip to Los Olivos to celebrate the Los Olivos Olde Fashioned Christmas is a can’t miss event! Artisan boutiques, train rides for the kids, open houses, and holiday treats are just some of the reasons to make the trek. The full day event finishes with a tree lighting in the center of own with live music.
Bonus idea: Make a quick pit stop in Solvang to do some shopping at Jule Hus, the year round Christmas store chock full of goodies for stocking stuffers and devoted holiday lovers.
Dec 8 – Parade of Lights & Trolley of Lights Tours
Why see one holiday parade when you can see two? The annual Parade of Lights boat parade is a local favorite event showcasing decked out boats cruising or paddling through the harbor and around Stearns Wharf competing for prizes. The best seats are at any of the eateries on Stearns Wharf and go quickly! Our tip: make reservations or show up early for prime viewing at this free event.
Bonus idea: Kick off the afternoon at Santa’s Village with the kiddos on the City Pier in the Harbor, starting around 3pm.
This particular Sunday also marks the kick off the Santa Barbara Trolley of Lights tours. Hop aboard for a 90-minute, open-air trolley ride through the neighborhoods of Santa Barbara to view all the best holiday light decoration, sip cider, sing carols and waive to the locals standing on porches. Insiders tip: These highly coveted tickets go on sale October 1 and sell out fast.
DIY idea: If tickets for the Trolley of Lights tour sell out and you missed your window, be sure to cruise over to the lower eastside to view The Miracle on East Quinientos Street. Local resident Peter Estrada decks his halls that can draw quite a crowd and is worthy of more than a quick drive by viewing.
Dec 13 – Una Noche de Las Posadas
Witness one of Santa Barbara’s oldest traditions, a live reenactment of Joseph and Mary’s search for lodging with the crew from the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation aka the group that makes our oldest neighborhood in the city so worth visiting. Una Noche de Las Posadas starts at 7pm and will walk folks through the Presidio and downtown areas for carol singing in Spanish. This free event is capped off with tamales, traditional desserts and hot chocolate.
Dec 14 – Santa Claus Run
Run off those Christmas cookies and other holiday treats at the annual Santa Claus Run! Join this wacky group of jolly runners, fully decked in Santa gear, starting at La Cumbre Plaza for a 5K or 1-mile fun run. For full details and to register, visit sbactionpro.com.
Dec 21-22 – Nutcracker at The Granada
You can get tickets for the Nutcracker at just about any venue this time of year, but watching the State Street Ballet perform at The Granada Theatre is next level. This Italian opera house-inspired theatre is absolutely breathtaking no matter what performance you’re seeing, but the lavishly staged Nutcracker performance is a must. Tickets are on sale now at santabarbaratheater.com
Jan 3 – Solvang’s Christmas Tree Burn
Cap your holiday festivities with the ultimate bonfire at Solvang’s Annual Christmas Tree Burn. This annual wrap up to Julefest is the perfect way to start the New Year with a bang, snap and crackle. Watch as dozens of dried up Christmas trees get put to good use keeping onlookers warm while live music is played and refreshments are served.