Travel Blog

CELEBRATE THE HOLIDAY SEASON IN SANTA CRUZ COUNTY!

Photo courtesy of @beachhouserental

The holiday spirit has hit Santa Cruz County and we’ve got a sleigh full of family fun to celebrate the season! The Holiday Lights Train, the Winter Wonderland at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, loads of outdoor Holiday Markets, Drive-In Holiday Movies, and more, we’ve got all the festive holiday events you won’t want to miss!

SANTA CRUZ COUNTY FAIRGROUNDS: HOLIDAY LIGHTS
November 19 – December 26
The Santa Cruz County Fairgrounds Foundation and the Agricultural History Project will again present HOLIDAY LIGHTS 2021 at the Santa Cruz County Fairgrounds. Starting November 19, 2021 – Holiday Lights will be open Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays in November and Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays in December.
HOLIDAY LIGHTS is over a 1/2 mile drive-through experience at the Fairgrounds of spectacular lighted Holiday displays all around you. Giant Christmas trees twinkling with lights – Santa – reindeer – snowmen – lighted tunnels and many more magical moments. Stay in your warm car and drive through this Holiday Experience.
The event is open on  Hours from 5:30pm to 9:00pm. We will be open on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day Evening to add to your Holiday Festivities. Purchase tickets here.

SANTA CRUZ HOLIDAY LIGHTS TRAIN
November 26 – 27, December 4 – 5, December 11 – 12, December 17 – 23
The seasonal tradition returns to Santa Cruz with the Santa Cruz Holiday Lights Train. Vintage excursion cars, adorned with thousands of colorful lights, roll through city streets past homes of Santa Cruz. Holiday Lights Train runs on November 26-27, December 4-5, December 11-12, December 17-23.

SANTA CRUZ BEACH BOARDWALK: WINTER WONDERLAND
November 26 – January 2
Get in the holiday spirit – celebrate the season at the beach!
Activities Include: Selection of Boardwalk Rides, Games, and Arcades, Festive Holiday Decorations and Lights (Including a 3-story tall Christmas tree!), Photos with Santa, Delicious Boardwalk Treats, Boardwalk Racers: Pedal Karts in the Main Plaza, Fire Pit Rentals & Holiday S’Mores, Holiday Fun Package (includes MyBoardwalk Card and a photo with Santa), Holiday Shopping, Classic Holiday Movies (Rotated at Neptune’s Stage 5–7pm), and don’t forget the breathtaking beach view!
Hours and Dates: 12pm – 5pm: November 26 – 28 (Friday – Sunday); December 4 – 19 (Saturday & Sunday); December 20 – 24 (Monday – Thursday); December 26 – January 2 (Sunday – Sunday)

ROARING CAMP RAILROADS: HOLIDAY TREE WALK
November 27 – 28; December 4 – 5; December 11 – 12; December 18 – 19
Get in the holiday spirit by bringing the family to ride the Redwood Forest Steam Train through the wintry redwoods to Bear Mountain. Sip hot cocoa while greeting Santa Claus. In town, enjoy winter-themed activities.

WEST CLIFF HOLIDAY OUTDOOR MARKET 2021
December 11 @ 10am – 4pm
The holidays are upon us and what better to celebrate! Come enjoy West Cliff Holiday Outdoor Market which will feature unique artisans and local food trucks. This one-of-a-kind market will be held in two parking lots along West Cliff Drive in Santa Cruz. This is always a popular spot for locals and tourists, as it overlooks the famous Steamers Lane surf spot. Enjoy the fresh air as you stroll among many artisan booths and specialty food while taking in the view. Come enjoy the LIVE MUSIC and admission is FREE!

WILDER RANCH: HOLIDAY LIVING HISTORY EVENT
December 11 @ 11am – 3pm
Join us for a family-friendly event with holiday-themed old-fashioned activities, crafts, and living history demonstrations. Step back in time with costumed docents as we turn back the clock to over 100 years ago. Watch machine shop and blacksmith demonstrations or take a tour of the 1859 Gothic Revival farmhouse and 1897 Victorian home and 1960’s cow barn. Rain cancels. Food will not be available. Free event. Vehicle day-use fee is $10. For more information, call (831) 426-0505.

ROARING CAMP RAILROADS: DRIVE IN MOVIES “A CHRISTMAS STORY”
December 11 @ 6:30pm – 8:30pm
Roaring Camp Railroads is proud to present Drive-In Movie Nights in the Redwoods. We will be showing your favorite family-friendly movies, surrounded by the beautiful redwood forest, in the heart of Roaring Camp. Be sure to dress warmly. Movie dates will be weather-dependent. Must tune into a radio station to listen. Movie refreshments will be available for purchase.

SANTA CRUZ MAH: TOY TRAINS
December 16 – December 26
Get whisked away into the whimsical world of Toy Trains and enjoy the 16th year of this beloved annual pop-up exhibit at the MAH. Members of the Golden State Toy Train Operators will be on hand to once again share their amazing collection of toy trains at the MAH. First things first, we encourage you to be and stay safe. We are still living during a pandemic. *Masks are required when viewing the train display. 

SANTA CRUZ DANCE GUILD: NUTCRACKER PERFORMANCE
December 18 – 19
Join us for our annual Santa Cruz Nutcracker performance! Featuring dancers from all ages and backgrounds, we’ve come together to offer you this spectacular show. Many members of our beloved staff, including Studio Director Shannon Chipman and ballet teacher Vicki Bergland, performed in the original Santa Cruz Nutcracker Production. Even more, they continue to dance and teach to this day. Invite in the holiday spirit and come enjoy Tchaikovsky’s iconic score with our talented dancers, right in Cabrillo’s Crocker Theater.

SANTA CRUZ BALLET THEATRE: THE NUTCRACKER WITH LIVE ORCHESTRA!
December 18 – 19
Santa Cruz Ballet Theatre presents its 19th annual production of “The Nutcracker” at the Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium with a live orchestra! Music Director Pamela Martin conducts 52 professional musicians to bring the beloved Tchaikovsky score to life. A talented cast of local dancers, including SCBT’s pre-professional Company, is led by guest stars and SCBT alumni Melody Mennite and Lucien Postlewaite. The production is a treat that will delight young and old alike.

ROARING CAMP RAILROADS: DRIVE IN MOVIES “DR. SUESS’ THE GRINCH”
December 18 @ 6:30pm – 8:30pm
Roaring Camp Railroads is proud to present Drive-In Movie Nights in the Redwoods. We will be showing your favorite family-friendly movies, surrounded by the beautiful redwood forest, in the heart of Roaring Camp. Be sure to dress warm. Movie dates will be weather dependent. Must tune into a radio station to listen. Movie refreshments will be available for purchase.

CHAMINADE RESORT & SPA: CHRISTMAS EVE DINNER
December 24
Join us at The View, a Treeside Restaurant for a special Christmas meal overlooking Santa Cruz and Monterey Bay. We will have a pre-fix menu for $80 per person, as well as a family-style menu for $45 per person.

CHAMINADE RESORT & SPA: CHRISTMAS DAY
December 25
The View, a Treeside Restaurant for a special Christmas meal overlooking Santa Cruz and Monterey Bay. Enjoy a variety of Chef Stations including chilled seafood, organic farm to fork, traditional favorites including prime rib, holiday desserts, and more!

SANTA CRUZ MAH: HABARI GANI! HONORING KWANZAA
December 29 @ 6pm – 8pm
Curated by Santa Cruz Black Health Matters Initiative, this community gathering honors the annual celebration of Kwanzaa. Since 1966, Kwanzaa has been recognized amongst the winter holiday classics. However many lack understanding of its significance and practice. Habari Gani! welcomes the community to join us for: Kinara lighting ceremony, traditional dance, music, and a gift-giving ceremony. Featuring a pop-up by black-owned bookstore, BlknPrint, plus a Kwanzaa market. 10% of sales will be donated to the Santa Cruz Ofrenda.

CHAMINADE RESORT & SPA: NEW YEARS EVE
December 31
Join us at The View, a Treeside Restaurant for a special New Years Eve meal overlooking Santa Cruz and Monterey Bay. The View will offer three seating times at 5pm, 7:30pm, and 10pm for a prix-fixe 4 course menu with a champagne toast.

CHAMINADE RESORT & SPA: NEW YEARS EVE IN THE CITY
December 31
Ring in the new year at Chaminade Resort & Spa, while dancing the night away, a ballon drop and a champagne toast at midnight! Food Vendors (8PM-12PM): China Town Chinese To Go, Mission District Taco Truck, Fisherman’s Wharf Seafood and Pasta. $199 per person includes glass of champagne and drink ticket for cocktail of choice.

And be sure to enjoy the festive spirit, decorations, and shopping in the Capitola Village, Downtown Santa Cruz, the Santa Cruz Wharf, and other shopping areas throughout the county this season! Visit our website Events Page for even more holiday-inspired events!

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