‘Tis the season for all things merry and bright on the Santa Barbara South Coast. Swap snow for soft, coastal sand this winter and savor all of the festive things The American Riviera® has to offer. December boasts a variety of holiday events, live performances, rejuvenating celebrations and more. Think: Parade of Lights, a Christmas-themed bar and live holiday performances.
Seasonal tip? Explore the Santa Barbara South Coast at your leisure and choose from more than 15 local accommodations offering a third 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.
events & activities
Cheer and spirited festivities deck the streets (and waters) of Santa Barbara all December long, starting with the annual Christmas Patch at Lane Farms (Nov. 25-Dec. 20), where patrons can shop for the perfect Noble or Douglas Fir to display in their homes during the holiday season. On Dec. 2, join Old Mission Santa Barbara in ringing in the yuletide cheer at the Holiday Sip ‘N’ Stroll, where guests can sip local wine and beer, stroll through the museum, chat with the Franciscan Friars and bask in the beauty of the Mission set aglow by candlelight and Christmas décor. Venture out to Goleta, where you’ll get the small-town (but just as festive!) holiday treatment at the Goleta Holiday Parade (Dec. 10), complete with decked-out floats, dance groups and live bands making their way down Hollister Avenue.
We’re predicting Pearl Social to be the town socialite this December: With events like Open Mic Comedy Night (Dec. 6 and 20) and the elaborate Christmas-themed bar, Miracle (in operation between Nov. 11-Dec. 30), there’s plenty of fun and intricately crafted cocktails to be had in this corner of The Funk Zone all month long.
This time of year, when the nights are chilly in many parts of the country, encouraging many to retreat inside for warmth, Santa Barbara doesn’t stay landlocked—we get into the holiday spirit at sea, too. Join the Santa Barbara Waterfront in celebrating the 36th Annual Parade of Lights in the Santa Barbara Harbor on Dec. 11, where attendees can kick off the season with a visit to Winter Wonderland at Stearns Wharf, followed by a parade of costumed kayakers and stand-up paddleboarders, a tree lighting ceremony and the grand finale: the boat parade, where over 30 vessels will circumnavigate the wharf, adorned with holiday lights and oftentimes, festive music. Want an on-the-water view of the parade? Set sail aboard the Double Dolphin with the Santa Barbara Sailing Center or Azure Seas with Celebration Cruises for front-row seating for one of Santa Barbara’s most coveted annual holiday events.
The lineup at Lobero Theatre is bustling with live shows, of the holiday variety and not, in December with performances like Holiday ‘In’ (Dec. 2), Rudolph (Dec. 3), Daniel Howell (Dec. 5) and Helene Grimaud (Dec. 7). Experience a multicultural Christmas celebration with Mariachi Sol de México at Arlington Theatre (Dec. 7), led by Mexico’s José Hernández. The 2nd Annual Hometown Holiday Hoedown featuring Chris Shiflett Band (Dec. 15) returns to SOhO Restaurant and Music Club for a night of holiday music and dancing in one of the liveliest music venues in town. And finally, leave it to the State Street Ballet to get Santa Barbara into the holiday spirit with the Christmas classic, The Nutcracker, for three show-stopping performances (Dec. 17 and 18) at Granada Theatre.
It’s that time of year when folks trade gifts with loved ones and share during 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. 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 goods, you’re sure to find the perfect gift for the art-lover in your life. Venture further down State Street and stroll in the sunshine through State Street Promenade Market, where each Thursday it transforms the 1000 block of State Street into a local marketplace.
Every Wednesday through Sunday starting Nov. 2, Blissful Boutiques’ Holiday Store sets up at Paseo Nuevo Shopping Center. You’re bound to find handmade artisanal gifts for everyone in your life, including jewelry, handbags, glassware and clothing. For more tips on selecting the perfect gift from The American Riviera®, look no further than this Santa Barbara gift guide.
Further, prioritize supporting local, POC- and minority-owned businesses when checking off your shopping list. Pick up a jar of cactus flower exfoliant scrub from Pura Luna Women’s Apothecary, a gift card to Summerland Salon and Spa, a box of Cristy’s Cookies or a unique gift from one of these Black-owned businesses to give to your loved ones while directly championing some of the businesses that make Santa Barbara the special destination that it is.
The fun doesn’t stop here: Take a look at these holiday and New Year’s Eve events and happenings throughout the Santa Barbara South Coast.