What’s December like in Santa Barbara? Imagine palm trees and twinkle lights with a sophisticated twist. This season, we invite you to celebrate in a special place, one that’s covered in sunshine with much to see and do. From makers markets and seasonal performances to signature holiday events, Santa Barbara is your winter playground. Don’t miss our annual Holiday Event Guide, which provides a continually updated list of exciting activities and offerings that you and your loved ones can enjoy, keeping spirits bright all month long.

Book Your Stay

Seasonal tip? Explore the Santa Barbara South Coast at your leisure and choose from 15+ local accommodations offering a 3rd night free when you book a two-night stay. With so many shows to attend and shops to enjoy, do yourself a favor and add on an extra night.


Get ready for one of Santa Barbara’s iconic holiday events, the 35th Annual Parade of Lights! On December 12, dress in your favorite holiday attire and head down to Stearns Wharf to watch brilliantly decorated boats parade through the harbor. Before the boat parade begins at 5:30 p.m., make sure to stop by the Winter Wonderland at the Santa Barbara Harbor, where you and your little ones can play in 10 tons of snow. The parade will end with a bang, literally, as magnificent fireworks fill the sky and get everyone excited for the holidays.

fireworks along the Santa Barbara waterfront
Each year, the Parade of Lights ends with a firework show that’s not to be missed.


It’s that time of year, where folks trade gifts with loved ones and share in the season of giving. Make your purchases extra special and unique by visiting the numerous artisan markets and holiday boutiques that Santa Barbara has to offer. Stop by the 36th Annual Folk & Tribal Arts Marketplace (December 3-5), held every year at Santa Barbara Natural History Museum, to peruse handmade and exotic treasures. With 20 vendors representing dozens of countries, the event features an amazing selection of baskets, décor, ethnographic art, furniture, jewelry, pottery, rugs, sculpture, and more.

Marketplace on State Street in Santa Barbara
State Street lights up each Thursday night with artisan vendors and local goods for purchase. Photo Credit: Blake Bronstad

This holiday shopping season, say “yes” at The Yes Store and experience Santa Barbara’s original artists’ pop-up gift gallery. Offering one-stop shopping for arts, crafts, custom fine jewelry, blown glass, photography, ceramics, woodworking, clothing and leather, you’re sure to find the perfect gift for the art lover in your life. If you feel like exploring down State Street more, stroll in the sunshine through State Street Promenade Market, where each Thursday from 3 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. local transform the 1000 block of State Street between Carrillo Street and Figueroa into a local marketplace. 

Every Tuesday, Saturday and Sunday, The Maker’s Market, hosted by Blissful Boutiques, sets up at Paseo Nuevo between State and De La Guerra Streets. You’re bound to find handmade artisanal gifts for everyone in your life, including jewelry, handbags, glassware and clothing. Browse through tiny trinkets and local goods to remember your Santa Barbara escape fondly, and support small local businesses this holiday season.

Find everything you need to complete your holiday shopping experience with the Santa Barbara Holiday Gift Guide, featuring iconic storefronts and classic shops selling gifts ideal for loved ones (or yourself!). You can also shop eco-friendly this year with the help of our Sustainable Shopping Guide, highlighting local brands that walk the talk and allowing you to feel good about not only your purchase but also supporting green companies.


Santa Barbara’s arts & culture scene shines extra bright throughout December, and this year’s theatre shows are guaranteed to entertain. Catch Hairspray (December 1) at Granada Theatre and She & Him (December 2) at The Arlington Theatre. The Wickhams: Christmas at Pemberley, by Ensemble Theatre Company at The New Vic, will show December 2-19. Lobero Theatre will host Gustafson Dance Presents: Rudolph (December 4), as well as The Christmas Revels (December 18 & 19). A true holiday classic, State Street Ballet will present The Nutcracker (December 18) at The Granada Theatre. And finally, don’t miss New Year’s Eve with the Symphony (December 31) as the final performance of 2021. 


Pop the champagne because 2022 is almost here! New Year’s Eve in Santa Barbara is continually filled with glitz, glamor and memorable activities to welcome 2022 with excitement. From delicious NYE menus and show-stopping performances to outdoor wellness activities, we invite you to toast to the year ahead, Santa Barbara style. Check back here for your complete guide to New Year’s Eve events in Santa Barbara.

table setting at The Dining Room at Belmond El Encanto

Featured December Events

Daniel Howell


AEG presents Daniel Howell: We’re All Doomed! on Monday, December 5, 2022 at 7:30 PM. He's stressed, depressingly dressed, and on a quest to live his best life before the inevitable apocalypse arrives. Whether it's the climate disaster, the…


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