We may do more sand than snow yet Santa Cruz has enough holly jolly to go around. Come December, colorful lighted boats illuminate the bay and cozy redwood forests become a backdrop for winter merrymaking. Here is a roundup of joyous celebrations, markets and activities to add a little seaside sparkle to your holidays.
Holiday Lights Train - Photo Credit: Paul Schraub
Santa Cruz Holiday Lights Train & Holiday Tree Walk
Vintage train cars adorned with twinkling lights roll through Victorian Santa Cruz as passengers delight in hot spiced cider, holiday carols and a visit from Santa. The merriment continues at the Santa Cruz Boardwalk which has been transformed into Santa's Kingdom. During the day, passengers can hop aboard a steam train to the summit of Bear Mountain and enjoy decorated trees along the Holiday Tree Walk at Roaring Camp. Ticket and calendar information available at roaringcamp.com.
Nutz Re-Mixed at UC Santa Cruz Mainstage Theater
Over thirty world-class dancers and circus artists dazzle audiences with visual feats performed to the music of Tchaikovsky in this family-friendly take on The Nutcracker. Performance dates and ticket info are available at arts.ucsc.edu.
Winter Art Market
The Tannery Arts Center hosts its annual Winter Art Market with handmade ceramics, jewelry, apparel and artwork from over 50 artists. Guests can also participate in art demos, children’s activities, and a chance to make handmade ornaments and holiday stockings. Friday, December 4, 6:00 - 9 pm Saturday, December 5, 12:00 -5:00 pm Sunday, December 6, 12:00 - 5:00 pm
Santa Cruz Museum of Natural History
Enjoy free admission as well as cookies, hot cider, and winter-themed, nature based crafts at this family friendly event. Pop in to the museum store which holds its annual Holiday Sale throughout the weekend. December 5, 11:00 am – 4:00 pm
Watsonville Factory Sale
Shop local at this popular annual event which brings together notable Watsonville stores and factories for one huge holiday sale. Shoppers choose from a variety of locally made or grown products including handcrafted jewelry, apothecary products, wines and home goods. December 5, 9:00 am – 4:00 pm
Light Up the Night!
Santa arrives via fire truck to light the Christmas tree at this merrymaking event in Scott’s Valley. The winter themed extravaganza includes carriage and hay rides, food trucks, two stages of music and dance performances, Mrs. Claus’ Workshop, and photos with the big guy himself. December 5, 4:00 - 8:00 pm
The Lighted Boat Parade - Photo Credit: Barbara Karleen
Lighted Boat Parade
The Santa Cruz Harbor makes things merry and bright with the 30th Annual Lighted Boat Parade, featuring fifty boats strung with lights parading through the waters. Revelers can enjoy hot drinks and nibbles at various locations along the south harbor. December 5. Parade begins at 5:30 pm
Wilder Ranch State Park - Photo Credit: Greg Pio
Holidays on the Ranch
Experience old-fashioned cheer at this at Wilder Ranch State Park event which celebrates the holidays as they were celebrated 100 years ago. Join costumed history docents for hands-on activities such as candle and wreath making, cookie decorating, blacksmith demonstrations, and tours of the ranch’s impressive Victorian home and farmhouse. Sip hot spiced cider and Mexican hot chocolate while carolers stroll the grounds. December 12, 11:00 am to 3:00 pm
Mountain Feed and Farm Supply - Photo Credit: Garrick Ramirez
Santa Visits Mountain Feed & Farm
Mountain Feed & Farm throws a swinging holiday bash with a live string band and a pet-friendly photos with Santa. Enjoy treats from Mission Hill Creamery, hot cider, kids activities, free gift-wrapping, a gorgeous lot of live and cut Christmas trees. December 12, 1:00 - 4:00 pm
"Ms. Blue" at the Seymour Marine Discovery Center, Dressed for the Holidays! - Photo Credit: Seymour Center
Jingle Shells Arts & Crafts Festival
Local artists and makers display ocean and nature-inspired gifts at this holiday celebration at the Seymour Marine Discovery Museum. Enjoy refreshments, musical performances and children’s crafts as you meander the exhibit hall brimming with marine exhibits. At dusk, the party moves outside to light up Ms. Blue, the world’s largest Blue Whale skeleton. $6 adults, $4 kids, Children 2 and under free. December 13, 12:00 pm - 5:30 pm
Makers Market - Photo Credit: Makers Market Santa Cruz
Makers Market Santa Cruz at New Bohemia Brewing Co.
Sip brews while you browse beautiful objects at this pop-up market that assembles some of the region’s best, contemporary artisans and craftspeople. December 19, 4:00 - 8:00pm