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Festivities & Top Things to Do in Christmas in Santa Cruz

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Living in Santa Cruz and having two children is the best way to enjoy Christmas here. We have so much fun each year at the holidays in this town.

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Top things to do during Christmas in Santa Cruz – Felton, Scott Valley, and Boulder Creek areas

Roaring Camp Holiday Tree Walk 

November 24-26, December 2-3, 9-10, 16-17

Where: Roaring Camp Railroads, 5401 Graham Hill Road, Felton, CA 95018

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 cider while greeting Santa Claus. In town, enjoy winter themed activities.

Boulder Creek Tree Lighting and Santa Comes to town 

December 2 @ 2:00 pm – 6:00 pm 

Where: Forest Street, Downtown Bolder creek

Christmas Things to do in Santa Cruz Area : Davenport

Wilder Ranch Victorian Holiday Experience 

December 9 from 11 am to 3 pm

Celebrate the winter holidays with a trip back in time! At Wilder Ranch State Park enjoy festive music from the Lyric Victorian Carolers, taste treats from Victorian-era recipes, watch skilled artisans in the blacksmith and machine shop, explore historic homes, and make wreaths, candles and bake goodies in the wood oven. Best of all, it’s free!

Vehicle day-use fee is $10.

Christmas Things to do in Santa Cruz area – Santa Cruz Area

Candlelight Concerts in the Cocoanut Grove 

November 17 -January 12

Enjoy a special concert by the Listeso String Quartet! There will be 2 concerts at 6:30 and 9pm. You can enjoy music by Taylor Swift, Hans Zimmer, Vivaldi and The Nutcracker. Each concert costs $33.

Holiday Light train Santa Cruz

November 24-25, December 2-3, 9-10, 16-23

Where: The Holiday Lights Train leaves from the @beachboardwalk which is at 400 Beach Street in Santa Cruz

Every year in Santa Cruz, a special train is decorated with thousands of bright, twinkling lights! The train chugs through the streets, passing by the homes of Santa Cruz. You can buy either a Standard ticket (which has a covered canopy) or a First Class ticket (which has comfy, enclosed plush seats). Adult Standard tickets cost $44.95 and child tickets cost $32.95.

Check-in at least 30 minutes prior to your boarding to get your tickets and your MyBoardwalk Card (good for games and rides). Use the restroom and then queue up for boarding. The train operates rain or shine so be prepared for chilly, coastal evenings (high winds may cancel). Guests are served hot apple cider, enjoy caroling and a visit from Santa.

Make sure to wear layer specially if you are in the standard cars. Pack warm hats, gloves and even a blanket for your family to use. The trip takes approximately a one-hour  (out and back)

Winter Wonderland at the Boardwalk 

November 23-December 31 

Get into the holiday spirit by celebrating at the beach! Have fun with rides, games, arcades, decorations, photos with Santa, treats, fire pits, shopping, and more! This year Santa is also hosting a movie and a brunch. On Dec. 2-3, catch a special Mini Nutcracker show at the Colonnade Stage at 2pm. On Dec. 3, there’s a Movie with Santa. And on Dec. 10, join Santa for Brunch. Plus, roving carolers will be singing on Dec. 9-10.

Downtown Santa Cruz: Holiday Parade 

December 2, 10 AM – 12 PM

The traditional holiday parade is the official kickoff for the winter holidays celebration. One never knows exactly what to expect at the Parade, but you can be sure you will have a great Christmas show.

Santa Cruz Civic Center: The Nutcracker with a Live Orchestra 

December 9 – 10 2023 at 1:00pm and 4:30pm

Santa Cruz Ballet Theatre presents its 21st annual production of “The Nutcracker” at the Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium with 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, principal dancer with Houston Ballet, and Lucien Postlewaite, principal dancer with Pacific Northwest Ballet. The production is a treat which will delight young and old alike.

Recommended for ages 3 and up, as the performance is 2 hours long with one intermission. Babies under 1 year of age do not need a ticket if held on lap. Strollers are not allowed into the auditorium. Cameras & recorders are not allowed. 

Christmas things to do in Midtown /Live Oak/Soquel

Farley’s Christmas

Day after Thanksgiving: Friday 24, 2023 until New Year’s Eve. 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

Where: 108 Seaview Ave, Santa Cruz

Farley’s Christmas Wonderland A must see with the family for a Christmas picture before it aired on ABC (according to their website). I had a great time and feel the Christmas spirit every time we visit. I highly recommend it.

Details: Traditional Christmas exhibits include numerous Christmas trees, garlands, sleighs, an elf village, miniature villages, and a log cabin that Santa uses for rest stops. On certain nights, a fairy grotto with two waterfalls and fairies can be visited. It also snows on those special nights!

This is a walk-through exhibit where visitors will spend time sitting on the bench in the Fairy Garden looking at and listening to the waterfall or rocking in the log cabin rocking chairs in front of the fireplace. 🎄Tickets: Is free but donations are more than welcome because it can be expensive to keep displays like this!

Soquel Village First Annual Christmas Tree lighting

Friday, December 1ST. 6:30 PM-8:00 PM

The Vintage Pick & Art Studio

4900 Soquel Dr. at Main,, Soquel Village

Come have some holiday fun at the first ever Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony! There are exciting holiday activities, from singing carols together to early evening shopping and tasty treats. Santa could show up!

Santa Cruz Lighted Boat Parade

Saturday, December 2, 2023

Is an annual event at the Santa Cruz Harbor where decorated boats circle the harbor shortly after sunset (5:30pm). It is Sponsored by the Santa Cruz Yacht Club and including a canned food drive benefiting Second Harvest Food Bank, the Lighted Boat Parade features 50 beautifully decorated power and sailboats parading through the Santa Cruz Harbor.

This year’s theme is Holiday Harbor Fantasyland 🎊.  Charter boats available. This is a family event with hot drinks and snacks available at various locations through the south harbor. Plan ahead and leave yourself extra time to find parking and good viewing location.  

The parade takes place in the South Harbor between Murray Street bridge and the gas dock. Boats do not exit the harbor and generally do not travel as far as the light house. While offering spectacular nighttime views of the Monterey Bay and the Santa Cruz shoreline, the lighthouse is not suitable for watching the parade.  Limited viewing is available from the Murray Street bridge, from the East Harbor launch ramp,  and from a variety of harbor paths. 

Winter Wine Stroll

December 9

1266 Soquel Ave Santa Cruz, CA 95062 Saturday

Staff of Life Natural Foods

Winter Wine Stroll – Join the Holiday Wine, Cheese and Sweets Tasting

Christmas Things to do in Capitola Area

Surfing Santa in Capitola

November 25 , 12:00 pm – 3:00 pm

Surfing Santa is coming back to town! sometimes in a kayak and sometimes surfing. Surfing Santa comes every year right after thanksgiving. So glad I was able to stop by and see this sweet tradition happening again. It is nicely put together at @capitolavillage. So glad this fun tradition keeps going. It is super exciting for the kids and everyone!

Capitola Holiday Sip, Shop & Santa Letters

November 26, 2022 at 10:00 am – 3:00 pm FREE

Join Katalina’s by the Sea, Cork & Fork, Mijo’s Taqueria, and Castagnola Deli & Cafe to celebrate Small Business Saturday!

Come get your holiday shopping at Katalina’s by the Sea while you enjoy live music next door at Cork & Fork. Mijo’s Taqueria is passing out churros and Castagnola Deli & Cafe is passing out hot chocolate. Katalina’s by the sea will also have a kid’s craft station to write letters to Santa. Come early, churros, hot chocolate, and crafts are limited!

Capitola Village Holiday Cookie Walk 2023

December 2-December 3, , 11:00 am – 4:00 pm

Take a stroll around the Capitola Village on December 2nd or 3rd from 11am to 4pm and fill up your box with yummy holiday cookies from local shops! The Capitola Village Cookie Walk is a great way to have fun with your family. When you get to the Capitola Candy Cafe, pick up your box and start exploring the village. Don’t miss this fun event!

Tickets are $25 and will be available on Eventbrite or at Capitola Candy Cafe up to the day of the event. Proceeds benefit Angel Tree.

Capitola Holiday Tree Lighting

December 6, 2013 – 6:00pm

Corner of Stockton and Capitola Avenues.

SantaCon is happening in Capitola!

December 16 @ 7:00 pm – 11:00 pm

Come join in on the holiday fun in Capitola Village! Dress in your wildest outfit and meet us at 7 pm at 201 Esplanade. Don’t forget to bring your ID and some cash to tip the bartenders! We’ll start at the Capitola Bar & Grill at 7-8 pm. The Bay Bar and Grill will be open at 8-9 pm, then head to the Britannia Arms at 9-10pm. Then finish up at the Sand Bar from 10-11 pm. Don’t forget to stay safe and get a designated reindeer or taxi to get home if you plan on having a few too many drinks!

For ages 21+. This SantaCon event is completely FREE to attend – no tickets or registration

Christmas Things to do in Santa Cruz County-Watsonville Area

Holiday Lights at the Fairgrounds

November 24th – December 24th
Driving tours – Friday, Saturday and Sunday starting at 5:30pm

It’s time to enjoy the special sights and sounds of the holiday season – and the best place to do it is the Santa Cruz County Fairgrounds! We are so excited for our 4th annual Holiday Lights event, where you can see two million beautiful, dazzling lights. Just drive your car, turn on our Holiday Lights radio station, and follow along the 3/4 mile loop. You’ll be in awe as you pass through a magical, special world of light-up Santas, tractors, and even a snow globe inspired by a local 4th grader’s artwork. Don’t miss it!This special event is made possible by the Fair Foundation and Ag History Project.

Santa Tour

When: Dec. 13-15
Where: Various locations throughout Watsonville

For three days, December 13-15, Santa and his special guests will spread holiday cheer as they visit different parts of the city. Stay tuned for the daily maps.

Holiday Craft and Gift Fair:

December 1st and 2nd
Noon – 9pm
Walk-through of Holiday Lights starting at 5:30pm

On December 1st and 2nd only, the Fairgrounds Foundation will also host the Holiday Craft and Gift Fair, now in its 46th year. The Fair is the perfect place to “shop local.” 125 vendors will be selling unique and handmade gifts, everything from clothes to candles… plus food and candy. And, fair goers can keep up their shopping energy with a home cooked dinner and warm apple pie.

During the two days of the Holiday Fair, attendees can walk through Holiday Lights. It’s an extra special opportunity to see all the lights on foot and take lots of photos—aka, selfies. You might even encounter Santa himself!

For ticket prices and more… please visit:

YuleTide Holiday Events at KOA 

December 15 – 22

Bring your holiday cheer to our camp-wide decorating contest! Make something for you and your bestie in our Tie Dye session ($2/$20). Join us for a fun-filled weekend of activities like Friendship Bracelets, Scavenger Hunts, Palm Tree Climbing, Train Rides, S’mores and an Indoor Movie at the Sand Shack! Santa will be here Saturday morning for Breakfast ($). And be sure to join us Friday evening for Wine & Cheese (5-6pm). So pack up and come on over – fun awaits!

New Year events!


December 26-January 3

Bring in the new year aboard the New Year’s Holiday Lights Train. Ride vintage train cars beautifully decorated with holiday lights through the streets of Santa Cruz. Light-up hula hoppers and a live DJ will keep spirits bright and help bring in 2024 right.

I hope this is helpful and you enjoy the trip


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I am Rocio

Hello there! Thank you for stopping by. My name is Rocio, and I’m a Latina mother with a wanderlust. I believe that family trips are important in forming well-rounded kids. Even when you have kids, you can still travel, so I help busy parents figure out how. Through my blog, Real world Mami, I want to give you tips that will help you plan epic trips to both well-known and less-known places around the world. Happy Travels!

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