Guide to holiday events in Santa Barbara 2019
‘Tis the season for savory wine pairings, bustling holiday markets, festive light tours and parades filled with glee! As winter days turn brisk and stars gleam through the night sky, explore all Santa Barbara has to offer, from family-friendly and snow-centric fun to romantic candlelit dinners for two. Get ready to make lasting memories in Santa Barbara with friends and loved ones this holiday season!
Be sure to check back as more events will be added as details become available.
Festivals & Parades
Let it Snow at Paseo Nuevo, November 29 to December 31, 2019
Santa Barbara’s night sky fills with “snow” bringing the magic of winter to shoppers and families at Paseo Nuevo. Meander to Center Court where twice each evening (6 and 7 p.m.) “snow” falls and families can greet Santa at his workshop. Please note: No shows on Christmas Day, December 25.
Cost: Admission is free.
Solvang Julefest, November 30, 2019 to January 3, 2020
Head to the Danish village of Solvang, one of the top 10 most “Christmassy” towns in America for Julefest (Yule-Fest), an annual month-long Christmas season celebration that includes a tree-lighting ceremony (December 6), parade (December 7), free guided candlelight city tours, a wine and beer walk (December 14 and 15), Christmas Market Light shows, and Santa’s Village. New this year is a Saint Lucia Day celebration (December 13) and a Christmas Drone Show (December 21) where hundreds of autonomous drones move through the night sky in a choreographed show. Be sure to visit “Santa’s Lade” (Santa’s Barn) at Solvang Park, a children’s winter wonderland featuring snow and live animals.
Cost: Varies by event.
Book Your Stay
Rockstar Trolley of Lights Tour, December 7 to 30, 2019
This family-friendly, 90-minute tour takes riders all around Santa Barbara highlighting stunning holiday displays and beautifully lit neighborhoods. Be sure to wear warm clothing, as the trolley tends to get chilly after the sun sets. The pick-up location is at the Santa Barbara Zoo and check-in begins an hour prior to your scheduled ride. Enjoy complimentary hot chocolate and candy canes.
Costs: $28/adult, $18/children (ages 2 to 12); Free admission for children age 2 and under.
Una Noche de Las Posadas, December 13, 2019
Una Noche de Las Posadas is a special reenactment of Joseph and Mary’s search for shelter in Bethlehem as it was once celebrated in early California and still observed throughout Latin America.The historical procession starts at the El Presidio de Santa Bárbara chapel and continues through De La Guerra Plaza with the singing of holiday songs in Spanish. The parade concludes at Casa de la Guerra where tamales, traditional desserts and hot chocolate are served. Bring the whole family to this time-honored event.
Cost: Admission is free.
Photos with Santa, November 23 to December 24
He’s making a list and checking it twice! What better way to make sure your on Santa’s “nice” list, than a visit to old Jolly Saint Nick himself? There’s plenty of opportunities to snap a pic and hear a few “ho, ho, ho’s” around town this holiday season. Avoid long lines by getting a Fast Pass to see Santa at La Cumbre Plaza (November 23 to December 24), the exclusive Santa Barbara home to such popular retailers as Macy’s and Tiffany & Co. And starting Thanksgiving weekend, snap a photo with Santa Claus at his home at Paseo Nuevo (November 29 to December 24). Move over reindeer, Santa has room on his sled Tuesday evenings for photos with your beloved pets. The Christmas bonus: every child that attends receives a free gift from Santa.
Cost: Admission is free.
Snow Leopard Festival & Sledding at Santa Barbara Zoo, January 26, 2020
Get wild at the Santa Barbara Zoo’s Snow Leopard Festival, which includes family-fun activities like sledding down the Zoo’s “mini-Himalayan” mountains. Meet Kisa (which means “kitty” in Russian), an 11-year-old female snow leopard who arrived in November. Celebrate the beautiful and endangered snow leopard by learning about conservation efforts and romp in the snow.
Cost: Regular zoo admission; Unlimited sledding and bounce house $5/child.
Wine & Food Events
Snow Globe Bar, A Spirited Pop-Up Bar at Finch & Fork, December 5 to 28, 2019
It’s beginning to look a lot like a winter wonderland at Finch & Fork, with a pop-up bar called “Snow Globe” to make spirits bright! Tucked inside the Kimpton Canary Hotel, Snow Globe Bar features sips, treats and delights from lead bartender George Piperis. Open 6 to 10 p.m. every Wednesday to Saturday until December 28, guests can order from a menu of holiday themed cocktails including sippers like “Reindeer Games,” a flight of holiday clad Glennfidich Scotch or “Snow Globe,” a play on a gin and tonic served in a snow globe with edible glitter, and more.
Cost: Admission is free.
Muni Mega Mall, December 12 and December 19, 2019
Come to the Municipal Winemakers tasting room in Santa Barbara’s Funk Zone to drink wine and experience the Muni Mega Mall. Shop at its curated pop-up shop with local artisans selling jewelry, ceramics, clothing, artwork and more! Get some grub by Coterie Club (December 12) or Rascal’s Vegan Food (December 19) and listen to live music from Val Mar Records (December 5 and December 19) and Last Resort Forever (December 12). The party is from 4 to 7 p.m. each evening.
Cost: Admission is free.
Holiday Tea at Bella Vista, December 6 to 21, 2019
Partake in holiday traditions at Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore Santa Barbara’s renowned afternoon tea. Relax in the cozy fireside ambiance of Bella Vista and excite your tastes buds with an extended selection of fine teas along with finger sandwiches, freshly baked scones, pastries, tea cakes and homemade accoutrements. Heighten your festive experience with a glass of bubbly or Champagne.
Cost: $58 to $305/person. Please note 24-hour advance reservations are required.
C’est Cheese Holiday Caviar and Champagne Tasting, December 11, 2019
A rich and delicious hors d’oeuvre, caviar is a showstopper in itself and every holiday season, C’est Cheese brings in a selection of extraordinary caviar from master producer Tsar Nicoulai. In this class, taste through delicious caviars and learn to pair them with Champagne. Ticket price includes two glasses of Champagne, six caviar tastes, plus accoutrements such as freshly made blinis, hard-boiled eggs, chopped chives and crème fraîche.
Special Bonus: Don’t forget to stop by the C’est Cheese La Maison Rouge, a specialty housewares boutique, for great gifts and to ensure your home is fully stocked for the holidays!
El Galeon Speakeasy at Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore Santa Barbara, December 13, 2019
Experience the 1920s like never before in El Galeon, a nautical-themed room originally used during Prohibition as a drinking and poker lounge at Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore Santa Barbara. For one night only, El Galeon will be outfitted for the evening with white glove service, Champagne, poker, and Prohibition-era cocktails that pair perfectly with Chef Michael Patria’s modern twist on 1920s hors d’oeuvres. Guests are encouraged to follow the 1920s dress code. Tickets for the event are limited.
Red and White Christmas Bash at Carr Winery, December 14, 2019
Get festive at the Carr Winery Red & White Christmas Bash! The tree will be trimmed, wine will be flowing and holiday cheer will be plentiful. Don your favorite red and white attire — a cocktail dress, Santa costume, ugly Christmas sweater or something that puts you in the holiday spirit! Please bring a toy donation or make a $25 donation towards Toys for Tots.
Cost: Free admission, ($25 donation recommended). Must be over the age of 21 to attend.
Holidays on Haley, December 14, 2019
Celebrate the holidays with a stroll down Haley Corridor, one of Santa Barbara’s most exciting emerging pocket neighborhoods, for an evening of food, wine, beer and more. Check-in at Carr Winery or Potek Winery to receive a “Holidays on Haley” map that will guide you through the evening to participating neighborhood venues, each with a different offering, be it a lite bite or something to whet your whistle.
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Breakfast with Santa at the Hilton Santa Barbara Beachfront Resort, December 14, December 21 and December 22, 2019
The Roundhouse is a comfortable and casual restaurant in the main lobby of the Hilton Santa Barbara Beachfront Resort, offering a delicious holiday breakfast buffet, pictures with Santa and so much more. Interesting fact to share over breakfast with Santa? The restaurant is named after the historic site of a locomotive roundhouse that served Southern Pacific steam trains in Santa Barbara.
6th Annual Champagne Tasting at Wine + Beer, December 14, 2019
Pop, fizz, clink…cheers! Join Wine + Beer inside the Santa Barbara Public Market for its “6th Annual Champagne Tasting” event. Taste your way through a curated selection of nine delicious Champagnes, from elegant French favorites to the hard-to-find growers. Tastings are accompanied by thoughtfully paired cuisine from the vendors of the Santa Barbara Public Market.
Bibi Ji’s Holiday Vin Din, December 15, 2019
Bibi Ji owners Alejandro Medina and multi James Beard award-winning sommelier Rajat Parr will open their doors (and cellar) for the inaugural Holiday Vin Din. Satellite’s Drew Cuddy will be guest sommelier and the evening will include an Indian family-style feast alongside five fan-fave local winemakers. The wines and winemakers include Mike Roth of Lo-Fi Wines, Jeff Fischer of Habit Wine, Ernst Storm of Storm Wines, Dave Potter of Potek Winery and Drake Whitcraft of Whitcraft Winery. The all you can eat nosh and all you can drink wine will truly make it a night to remember!
Cost: $50 to $100/person
Santa’s Holiday Brunch at Rosewood Miramar Beach, December 15 to 22, 2019
Join Rosewood Miramar Beach for a grand feast in the Chandelier Ballroom. The resort’s scrumptious Sunday brunch will feature a buffet of seasonally inspired dishes, strolling holiday entertainment and festive crafts. While enjoying a meal with family and friends, Santa’s whimsical elves will pop by to amuse your little ones. In the spirit of giving, a portion of the proceeds will be donated to Santa Barbara’s Storyteller Learning Center, a non-profit preschool for at-risk children.
Cost: $125/adult; $65/child (ages 4 to 12 years old)
Bettina Vodka Latke Night for Hanukkah, December 22 and December 23, 2019
In addition to Bettina’s farmers’ market-driven lunch/brunch and dinner menus of Italian favorites, Vodka Latke Night includes a Trio of Latkes with toppings of Persimmon and Apple Compote; Crème Fraiche and Caviar; and Prosciutto with Salsa di Dragoncello (Tarragon Pesto), served with a Koskenkorva Vodka Martini. For the entire eight days of Hanukkah, Bettina will be lighting their menorah and featuring traditional Sufganiyot (jelly doughnuts) for dessert.
Christmas Eve Dinner Buffet at Bella Vista, December 24, 2019
Spend the night before Christmas with loved ones in the casual elegance of Bella Vista Restaurant at Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore Santa Barbara. The Resort’s annual Christmas Eve buffet feast features a menu of traditional holiday favorites and signature dishes, along with fresh seafood, salads and decadent desserts.
Cost: $65 per child (ages 5 to 12 years old), $125 per adult
Christmas Day Brunch at Malibu Farm, December 25, 2019
Share an unforgettable holiday repast drawn from the bounty of Southern California at Rosewood Miramar Beach. In keeping with Helene Henderson’s beloved farm-to-table concept, Malibu Farm’s brunch buffet will pair regionally influenced Christmas classics with a cut-your-own-salad garden and an extraordinary assortment of seasonal dishes. There will be fresh-baked artisanal breads, charcuterie and cheese, a Morro & Humboldt Bay oyster bar, sushi, live carving stations, chef’s table entrées and accompaniments, and divine desserts.
Cost: $150 per adult, $65 per child (ages 4 to 12 years old; Children under age four dine complimentary)
Christmas Day Brunch at Caruso’s, December 25, 2019
The holidays are synonymous with joyful moments and the flavors of the table. Savor a delectable meal, graciously served in a stunning oceanfront setting at Caruso’s at Rosewood Miramar Beach. Take in views of the Pacific Ocean as you toast the season and enjoy selections from a sumptuous five-course prix fixe menu crafted for the occasion by Chef Massimo Falsini.
Cost: $165 per adult, $65 per child (ages 4 to 12 years old; Children under 4 years old dine complimentary)
Christmas Day Brunch on the Bluff at Ritz-Carlton Bacara, Santa Barbara, December 25, 2019
Celebrate with family and friends on The Bluff at Ritz-Carlton Bacara, Santa Barbara. Executive Chef Umit Kaygusuz’s extensive brunch buffet will feature traditional offerings including slow-roasted ginger glazed ham, herb-crusted bone in prime rib, winter seasonal offerings inspired from local farms, tartare and a ceviche bar. Chef Yann will construct a decadent dessert hall, and guests can sip on bottomless bubbles and a special holiday beverage. Live holiday music and a visit from Santa makes this a uniquely memorable event.
Cost: $175 for adults, $80 for children (ages 2 to10 years old)
Christmas Dinner at Belmond El Encanto, December 24 and 25, 2019
Offering a timeless sense of tranquility from its vantage point high in the foothills, Belmond El Encanto is one of Southern California’s most iconic hotels. This Christmas, in The Dining Room & Terrace, Executive Chef Johan Denizot offers guests a fine festive dining experience, with a menu that includes offerings ranging from Wagyu beef tartar, butter-poached white seabass and prime rib to decadent holiday desserts such as chocolate yule log to eggnog crème brûlée.
Cost: $125 per person, $60 per child (age 12 years and younger)
“It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play”, December 11 to December 22, 2019
“It’s A Wonderful Life” by the Ensemble Theatre Company at the New Vic is an uplifting holiday story directed by Brian McDonald and adapted by Joe Landry from the screenplay by Frances Goodrich, Albert Hackett, Frank Capra and Jo Swerling. Jimmy Stewart meets “The 39 Steps” (a 1935 British thriller film directed by Alfred Hitchcock) in this zany and touching adaptation of the beloved classic American holiday story. Set in the fictional town of Bedford Falls in the 1940s and presented as a live radio play, “It’s a Wonderful Life” is perfect for the entire family.
Cost: $25 to $72/person
“Joys of the Season” Ice Skating show at Ice in Paradise, December 14
Bundle up for a spectacular performance on ice! The Ice in Paradise Figure Skating Club presents the “Joys of the Season” holiday show, where skaters of all ages and skill levels come together to perform routines to beloved holiday classics.
Cost: $23 to $33/person
“Hallelujah Project 7” at the Lobero Theatre, December 14 to December 15
Kick-off the season in magical, musical style with The Hallelujah Project’s trademark blend of holiday classics and seasonal favorites in the “7th Annual Hallelujah Project” performance at the Lobero Theatre. Conductor Jo Anne Wasserman leads the Santa Barbara Choral Society and Orchestra in this program of holiday merriment.
Cost: $10 to $50/person
A Celtic Christmas Featuring Eric Rigler and Dirk Freymuth at The Marjorie Luke Theatre, December 11, 2019
The “World’s Most Recorded Piper” Eric Rigler and guitarist Dirk Freymuth bring you a night of acoustic holiday cheer at The Marjorie Luke Theatre. Featuring a mixture of traditional Celtic music, themes from Eric’s film and television soundtracks, and songs of the Christmas tradition from the British Isles, Ireland and other Celtic nations, the evening will deliver a sublime musical experience. Joining them will be Stephanie Bennett on Celtic harp and special guest Nuala Kennedy from Dundalk, Ireland on vocals and flute.
“The Nutcracker” at The Arlington Theatre, December 14 to December 15, 2019
Santa Barbara Festival Ballet is celebrating its 45th anniversary of “The Nutcracker” at The Arlington Theatre, with world-class guest artists Misa Kuranaga (Sugar Plum Fairy) and Angelo Greco (Cavalier), both principal dancers with San Francisco Ballet, among other talented artists. One of the longest running productions performed with a live orchestra on the West Coast, the performance takes you on the magical adventure of Clara and her Nutcracker prince as they journey through the stars to the Kingdom of Sweets. Adapted from the classic tale by E.T.A. Hoffman and set to Tchaikovsky’s iconic score performed by a live Symphony Orchestra, this timeless ballet brings to life Herr Drosselmeyer and his Clockwork Dolls, an explosive battle between the Rat King and the Nutcracker, and a whirlwind of dancing Snowflakes.
Cost: $37 to $57 per adult; $31 to $50 per child
State Street Ballet’s “The Nutcracker” at The Granada, December 21 to 22, 2019
Opera San Luis Obispo Grand Orchestra and Gustafson Dance’s talented students team up with State Street Ballet to bring Clara and her Nutcracker Prince to life in this highly anticipated show. Fantastic musical scores, pristine choreography and gorgeous costumes are just the beginning! There will only be three coveted performances available, so don’t miss out.
Cost: $26 to $106/person
“The Christmas Revels: A Venetian Celebration of Winter Solstice” at The Lobero, December 21 to 22, 2019
“The Christmas Revels: An Venetian Celebration of the Winter Solstice”, is a joyous theatrical celebration set in Renaissance Italy. Venice’s “Festival of Fishes” is fast approaching. Performing groups vie for selection to perform for the festivities. A traveling commedia dell’arte troupe is desperately eager to participate, but the Magistrato in charge of selection is determined that the lowest class of citizens – actors – be excluded from the lineup.
Cost: $12 to $75/person
The Yes Store, November 7 to December 24, 2019
Santa Barbara’s original artists’ pop-up gift gallery, The Yes Store returns to Santa Barbara (November 7- December 24). Now in its 52nd year, The Yes Store continues its tradition of highlighting the finest area artisans including woodworking, ceramics, fine jewelry, glasswork, fabric, leather and more.
Cost: Admission is free.
Miracle on State Street, November 29 to December 24, 2019
The inaugural Miracle on State Street indoor Christmas market presented by Blissful Boutiques opens on Black Friday in Downtown Santa Barbara, with a variety of local artisans and makers selling goods. Inside the State Street winter wonderland, children can pen letters to Kris Kringle and adults can browse for the perfect gifts. Miracle on State Street (located at 1021 State St.) is open select hours and days including Thursday to Sunday throughout December; Mon. Dec. 23 and Tues., Dec. 24.
Cost: Admission is free.
Twilight Holiday Market, December 6 to 23, 2019
Santa Barbara Trading Post presents the Twilight Holiday Market in Downtown Santa Barbara. De La Guerra Plaza transforms into a European-style night market featuring one-of-a-kind treasures from over 70 local artisans. The daily event also includes a wine garden and artisanal food court, live music and family-friendly activities. Visit with Santa and friends or play in the kids zone. There will be delectable treats for sale, plenty of holiday cheer and so much more!
Cost: Admission is free.
Makers Market at Paseo Nuevo, every Saturday and Sunday
Wander the Makers Market located in De la Guerra Plaza at Paseo Nuevo to shop for locally-made goods as Santa Barbara-based artisans and makers set up shop every Saturday and Sunday. With signature Santa Barbara products and wares, there’s something for everyone that you won’t find back home.
Cost: Admission is free.
New Year’s Eve Events
Pop, fizz, clink in Santa Barbara this New Year’s Eve. Ring in 2020 with memorable dining experiences, seasonal performances, festive events, and many more “only in Santa Barbara” moments! Click here to get the complete guide to New Year’s Eve Events in Santa Barbara.