10 Family Friendly Things to do in Santa Cruz During Christmas Weekend

monarchs at Natural Bridges

Happy Holidays!

Our roundup of events is lighter than usual this weekend, as the big event will be time with family.

If you’re entertaining out of town guests, see our top 10 picks for things to do this weekend, plus a day-by-day guide of music, nature walks, and more:

10 Things To Do With Family This Weekend

Toy Trains at the MAH

santa cruz mah toy trains
When: 12/15 – 12/31 (closed Christmas Day and closes early at 3pm on Christmas Eve and New Years Eve.)
Where: Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History
Cost: Free

Calling all model train lovers, young and young at heart: Bring the whole crew down to marvel at these mighty mini machines, speak with experts, master the controls, and even bring your own toy train to put on the track!

Get more info here.

Felton Toy Train Days

When: Weekends through 12/31: Saturdays from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm and Sundays from 12:00 pm to 5:00 pm
Where: Felton Presbyterian Church
Cost: Free

If you’re heading into the Santa Cruz Mountains, make tracks for Felton Presbyterian Church and take in a toy train masterpiece in a festive wintery setting.  Enjoy refreshments, a photo booth, holiday music, train tables, and more!

Get more info here.

Santa Cruz Holiday Lights Train

Santa Cruz Holiday Light Train

When: 12/16 – 12/23 and 12/26 – 12/31
Where: Train Departs from the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk

Cost: Adult $33, Child $27

All aboard! The Santa Cruz Holiday Lights Train is your chance to enjoy some old fashioned holiday cheer aboard vintage train cars. Sip hot spiced cider as you listen to holiday music, partake in carols, and visit with Santa Claus. UPDATE: Due to popular demand, the Holiday Lights Train is extending its dates with special New Year’s celebration rides that will have you singing and dancing into the new year!

Get more info here.

Holiday Lights Train Photo Credit: Native Santa Cruz

Annieglass Studio Pour and Tour

When: Thursday-Sundays at 1:30 pm, or by appointment (Closed Christmas & Dec. 31 – Jan. 2)
Where: Annieglass Watsonville
Cost: Studio tours are Free; Wine tasting fee waived with bottle purchase.

Fun Fact: Annieglass is on permanent display at the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, D.C. Take a tour of the production studio and see how Annieglass is handcrafted. Enjoy wine tasting, and shop some great deals at the store on both first quality and discounted second pieces.

Get more info here.

Bowl for Free at the Boardwalk Bowl


When: Sunday through Friday and Saturday before 8:00 pm
Where: Boardwalk Bowl
Cost: Free with donation (shoe rental not included)

Bowl for free and for a good cause when you bring canned food donations to help “Strike Out Hunger” at the Boardwalk Bowl. Donations go to Second Harvest Food Bank of Santa Cruz County to help feed local families.

Get more info here.

Tour the Monarch Grove at Natural Bridges

When: Dec 23 & 24, at 11:00 am and 2:00 pm
Where: Natural Bridges State Beach
Cost: Day use parking $10

There’s still time to visit the monarchs at the their winter home, the eucalyptus grove at Natural Bridges State Beach. No reservation is necessary for groups fewer than 10.

Get more info here.

Visit the UCSC Arboretum

ucsc arboretum hummingbird

When: Open daily from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm (Closed 12/25-1/4)
Where: UC Santa Cruz Aboretum
Cost: $5 for Adults and $2 for Children (6 to 17 years old), and free under 6.

The arboretum is a wonderful place to visit and take in a diverse collection of plants as well as native plants from Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and California.

Get more info here.

Boardwalk Holiday Ice

When: Open now through January 7, 2018
Where: Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk
Cost: $12 per 1-hour session, skate rental included

Save yourself a trip over the hill and get your holiday ice skating on in Santa Cruz! In addition to an ice rink, the Boardwalk’s winter festivities include a craft cottage, classic holiday movies, and magical snowfall at the top of each hour. Select rides and games will also be in operation.

Get more info here.

Farley’s Christmas Wonderland


When: Through New Year’s Eve. See website for hours
Where: 108 Seaview Ave.
Cost: Donations accepted

Tucked away in Seabright is a one-of-a-kind local neighborhood attraction: Farley’s Christmas Wonderland. Pat Farley, a local Seabright resident, creates an elaborate Christmas-themed oasis each year in his front yard and opens it up for the public to walk through and view. If you’re looking for a uniquely local Christmas experience to share with family then consider stopping by Farley’s Christmas Wonderland.

Visit the Farley’s Christmas Wonderland website or Facebook page for more information.

Go on a Bucket List Hike

If you want to share some of the best of what Santa Cruz County has to offer with your out-of-town guests, then a hike just might be the answer. Here are two of our favorite ‘bucket list’ hikes. One features sandhills up in the redwoods while the other includes breathtaking waterfalls.

Berry Creek FallsBerry Creek Falls: Big Basin’s Bucket List Hike

Three waterfalls within a mile of each other…that’s what we call a Santa Cruz Life experience. This is a true bucket list item and we want to help you cross it off your list.

Read more.

Santa Cruz Sandhills: Henry Cowell HikeSanta Cruz Sandhills: The Henry Cowell Trail Less Traveled

For a truly “only in Santa Cruz” experience, you can’t beat a visit to the Santa Cruz Sandhills. That’s because this naturally-rare ecosystem can only be found right here in our county.

Read more.


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santa cruz instagramKeep up with us all weekend long, and see which events we’re attending, by following Santa Cruz Life on Instagram.


Featured Upcoming Event

New Year's Eve Santa Cruz 2016

Ready or not, here comes 2018!

Check out all the New Year’s Eve Events (and don’t miss out on First Day Hikes on New Year’s Day).

See all the events here.

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About Christine Candelaria

Christine Candelaria is a local mom of four who enjoys sharing her Santa Cruz adventures. You can follow her #santacruzlife on Instagram at @theaumsmama.