Photo Credit: Paseo Nuevo Shops & Restaurants

What’s December like in Santa Barbara? Think fewer layers and more beach days, with a relaxed pace that keeps spirits bright. Imagine palm trees and Santa with a sophisticated twist. We invite you to celebrate the season in a special place, one that’s covered in sunshine with much to see and do. From holiday shopping and seasonal performances to signature parades and leisurely beach days, Santa Barbara is your winter playground. 

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For the best in holiday cheer, head to the beautiful courtyards of Paseo Nuevo, one of Santa Barbara’s outdoor shopping destinations in the heart of downtown. Cross everyone off your gift list thanks to Paseo Nuevo’s 50+ national retailers and specialty shops. Wander the weekly Makers Market located in De la Guerra Plaza 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.

Let it snow! Twice each evening, from November 29 to December 31 (except Christmas Day), the night sky fills with “snow” bringing the magic of winter to shoppers and families. And that’s just the beginning, there’s no shortage of holiday happenings at Paseo Nuevo. Over 30 live entertainment ensembles are set to perform throughout the season. Costumed carolers, holiday horns, colossal choirs and the occasional squeezebox roaming throughout the center fill its paseos. Santa will also make an appearance from November 29 to December 24, offering free gifts to all children to visit. 

Last but not least, make merry and dine at one of Paseo Nuevo’s restaurants, then be prepared to dance and sing-along to your favorite holiday tunes through silencing headphones at Silent Night Silent Disco (December 5). It’s a free dance party for the entire family where ugly Christmas sweaters are encouraged. Learn More  

Santa Barbara shines brighter than ever at the Downtown Santa Barbara Holiday Parade.


No need to sacrifice your dream of a winter wonderland for a beach vacation. Santa Barbara offers the best of both worlds in December. Held along State Street, Santa Barbara’s main thoroughfare, join us for the 67th Annual Downtown Santa Barbara Holiday Parade (December 6). The festive event, fittingly themed, “A Tropical Holiday”, is free to attend and a traditional not-to-be-missed holiday extravaganza with giant balloons, magnificent marching bands, spectacular performances and more. Whether you grab a window seat at a downtown Santa Barbara restaurant or post up along State Street itself, you’re guaranteed to leave feeling the excitement of the season. Learn More

As a quintessential coastal town, Santa Barbara can’t let the holiday season pass without cheer, merriment and the Parade of Lights (December 8) along the waterfront. This annual event is by far one of the season’s stand-outs, drawing hundreds of families to watch over 20 brightly decorated boats parade around the Santa Barbara Harbor to the theme of “Deep Space Holidays.” During the festivities, make a visit to Santa’s Village, where kids can play in 10 tons of snow and take photos with Santa. Learn More

The Santa Barbara Zoo invites you and the kiddos to its Snow Leopard Festival (December 8) which includes sledding down the Zoo’s “mini-Himalayan” mountains and a visit from Santa. Celebrate the beautiful and endangered snow leopard by learning about conservation efforts and romp in the snow. Learn More 


As night falls on Santa Barbara, theatre lights shine bright. During December, theatres in town offer can’t-miss world-class performances. A few upcoming events exclusively in December include: Rudolph (December 7), An Irish Christmas (December 8), Santa Barbara Festival Ballet’s The Nutcracker (December 14-15), Hallelujah Project 7 (December 14-15), State Street Ballet’s The Nutcracker (December 21-22), The Christmas Revels: A Venetian Celebration of the Winter Solstice (December 21), and New Year’s Eve Pops (December 31).


The entire month of December is a shopaholic’s paradise. For three full days (December 6-8) the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History will transform into a diverse marketplace, representing goods from over 50 countries with the Folk & Tribal Arts Marketplace. Admission and parking is free, but bring your wallet to purchase one-of-a-kind items including beautiful jewelry, colorful textiles, intricate baskets, unique pottery, art, worldly decor and more. Whether you’re shopping for a gift or “just because,” you’ll find whimsical, practical and exotic treasures from around the globe. Learn More

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. Learn More

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