Get Festive! Your Guide to the Best 2013 Santa Cruz Holiday Events

Santa Cruz Holiday Events

Looking for an updated list of 2015 holiday events?  You’ll find one here.

The holiday season is here, and that means there are a bunch of great local holiday events coming up.

Santa Cruz is home to some great annual holiday events, such as the Holiday Lights Train, the Lighted Boat Parade, the Downtown Holiday Parade, and Santa Cruz Snow Night.

There are also tree lighting festivals around the county, great live performances, and even a Surfin’ Santa.

Here is a day-by-day list of all the holiday events coming your way:

It’s a Wonderful Life – A Live Radio Play

Shakespeare Santa Cruz Holiday ShowShakespeare Santa Cruz’s holiday show runs from Nov. 15 – Dec. 8 on the UCSC mainstage.  Sadly, this will be the final Shakespeare Santa Cruz production as it lacks funding to continue beyond 2013.

Come enjoy this holiday classic.  You’ll be celebrating the holiday season as well as a Santa Cruz institution in Shakespeare Santa Cruz.

For more information, and for tickets, visit the official Shakespeare Santa Cruz website.

When: November 15 – December 8
Where: UCSC Theater Arts Mainstage

It’s a Wonderful Life

This production of the Frank Capra holiday classic is brought to you by the Mountain Community Theater in Ben Lomond.  The Mountain Community Theater is the longest running community theater in Santa Cruz County.  Performances are on Friday and Saturday nights at 8:00 pm, and on Sundays at 2:00 pm.

When: November 22 – December 15
Where: Park Hall, 9400 Mill St., Ben Lomond

Holiday Event in Downtown Boulder Creek

boulder creek holiday eventBoulder Creek is the first of the local communities to kick off the season with a big holiday event.

Head over to Downtown Boulder Creek on Friday, Nov. 29 for a full blown holiday bash.

In addition to the tree lighting and the arrival of Santa Claus, visitors will also be treated to live music, caroling, face painting, and plenty of good old-fashioned holiday cheer.

When: November 29, from 5:00 pm – 8:00 pm
Where: Downtown Boulder Creek

Holiday Sidewalk Sales

Businesses throughout Downtown Santa Cruz will be running sidewalk sales all weekend long.  Let the shopping begin!

When: November 29 – December 1
Where: Downtown Santa Cruz

Holiday Tree Walk

Start your adventure at Roaring Camp, where you’ll board the daytime steam train to Bear Mountain.  Once you make it to the summit you’ll be treated to hot cider as you walk through the beautifully decorated trees.

Guests are encouraged to bring new toys to benefit Santa Cruz County’s Toys for Tots program.  For each toy donated, guests will receive $2.00 off the price of their train ticket.

Click here for more information.

When: November 29 – 30, December 1, 7 – 8, 14 – 15
Where: Roaring Camp Railroads, 5401 Graham Hill Road, Felton

Santa Cruz Holiday Lights Train

Santa Cruz Holiday Light Train

The Santa Cruz Holiday Lights Train is your chance to enjoy some old fashioned holiday cheer aboard vintage train cars.

The train is fully decked out in holiday lights, and guests are oozing with holiday cheer.  Sip hot spiced cider as you listen to holiday music, partake in carols, and visit with Santa Claus.

Once aboard, your experience will go a little something like this:

Click here for more information.

When: November 29 – 30 December 7, – 8, 14 – 15, 20 – 23
Where: Train Departs from the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk

Holiday Lights Train Photo Credit: Native Santa Cruz

Santa’s Scavenger Hunt

Play along in this holiday scavenger hunt to help Santa find his reindeer.  Scavenger Hunt maps are available at the Downtown Information Kiosk.

Find Santa’s reindeer and you’ll be entered into a drawing for some great prizes.

When: November 29 – December 22
Where: Downtown Santa Cruz

Felton Holiday Tree Lighting with Santa Claus

Come out for some Santa Cruz mountain holiday festivities at the Felton Tree Lighting ceremony. Located in the middle of Felton, the Heritage Tree will be the gathering spot for this event. Enjoy caroling, hot chocolate, holiday cookies, and get your photo taken with Santa Claus.

When: November 30, from 5:00 pm – 7:00 pm
Where: Felton

Surfin’ Santa

Surfin Santa Capitola

Surfin’ Santa and his reindeer will arrive via outrigger canoe on Saturday, November 30 at 12:00 pm.

Surfin SantaCome join the crowds of cheering kids and families on the Capitola Beach to greet Santa.  Whole Foods will be providing hot chocolate and cookies and Santa will have candy canes for the kids.  Once on the beach Santa will visit with all the kids, so be sure to bring your Christmas list!

Surfin’ Santa is hosted by Capitola Village Merchants and the Capitola-Soquel Chamber of Commerce.

When: November 30
Where: Capitola Beach

Surfin’ Santa Photo Credit: Capitola-Soquel Chamber of Commerce

Small Business Saturday

We all know about Black Friday and Cyber Monday, but don’t forget about the relative newcomer to the after-Thanksgiving shopping holiday lineup: Small Business Saturday.

This shopping holiday was created in 2010 by American Express as a way to promote local small businesses.  Lets all do our part to support our local businesses this year for Santa Cruz Small Business Saturday.

When: November 30
Where: Your Favorite Locally Owned Businesses


Start the season off by enjoying a live performance of this classic holiday ballet.

The International Academy of Dance presents this full-length version of the Nutcracker.  The ballet features Alison Roper, who was listed in Dance Magazine as one of “25 to watch.”

Click here for more information

When: November 30 & December 1
Where: Cabrillo’s Crocker Theatre, 6500 Soquel Dr., Aptos, CA

Chanukah Train

Chanukah Train

Experience Chanukah in a brand new way aboard Roaring Camp Railroad’s new Chanukah Train.

The festivities will begin, on the 5th night of Chanukah, with the lighting of the menorah before boarding the train adorned with lights and Chanukah decorations.

Once aboard the train you will enjoy Chanukah traditions while riding through the streets of Santa Cruz.

Click here for more information.

When: December 1 @ 5:00 pm
Where: Train Departs from the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk

Think Local First’s 7th Annual Eggnog Social

Think Local First Santa CruzThink Local First is hosting their 7th annual Eggnog Social on December 5, from 5:30 – 7:30 pm.  The event is an opportunity to get to know local business owners while enjoying free food and drink in a fun holiday themed atmosphere.

The event is free and open to the community.

When: December 5, from 5:30 pm – 7:30 pm
Where: KSCO Radio, 2300 Portola Drive, Santa Cruz

Aptos Chamber of Commerce Holiday Mixer

The Aptos Chamber of Commerce will be hosting a holiday mixer at Seascape Beach Resort.  The mixer will have food and drink, a raffle, and plenty of networking opportunities.

Guests are encouraged to bring unwrapped presents for Toys for Tots and canned food for Second Harvest Food Bank.

Get more information here.

When: December 5, from 5:00 pm – 7:00 pm
Where: Seascape Beach Resort, Aptos
Cost: $5 members, $10 non-members

Holiday Ladies Night Out at Mountain Feed & Farm Supply

Ladies Night at Mountain Feed and Farm SupplyMountain Feed and Farm Supply will be hosting a holiday themed Ladies Night on Dec. 5.

Enjoy complimentary wine from Odonata Winery and appetizers from El Salchichero while listening to live music from Sherry Austin with Henhouse.

Get more info here.

When: December 5
Where: Mountain Feed and Farm Supply, 9550 Highway 9, Ben Lomond

Snowflake Create

Want to help create a festive display of the Santa Cruz community through snowflakes?  Of course you do!  This First Friday event lets you join in to create a unique snowflake which will be added to the gallery wall at the Louden Nelson Community Center.

Mission Hill and Branciforte Middle School choirs will be on hand to fill your ears with festive holiday tunes.

When: December 6, from 5:00 pm – 8:00 pm
Where: Louden Nelson Community Center

Capitola Village Holiday Tree Lighting

Ring in the holiday season in the Capitola Village with this Holiday Tree Lighting event.  Many of the merchants in the village will have extended hours after the tree lighting so you can get a start on your holiday shopping.

The tree lighting ceremony takes place in front of Quality Market, at the intersection of Capitola and Stockton Avenues.

When: December 6 @ 5:30 pm
Where: Capitola Village

Music for the Feast of Christmas

Join the Cabrillo Symphonic Chorus, as they bring you Music for the Feast of Christmas.  This year’s event will feature Johann Sebastian Bach’s Magnificat, as well as carol sing-along’s and seasonal selections.

Click here for more information.

When: December 6 – 8
Where: Holy Cross Church, 126 High St., Santa Cruz
Cost: $23 general, $21 seniors/students, $19 Cabrillo SAC card holders

Downtown Santa Cruz Holiday Parade

Santa Cruz Christmas Parade

Head to Downtown Santa Cruz on Saturday, December 7 for the annual holiday parade.

The downtown holiday parade has everything you would hope for.  There will be floats, marching bands, classic cars, horses, and naturally, Santa Claus.

For more information, visit the official downtown Santa Cruz website.

When: December 7, from 10:00 am – 12:00 pm
Where: Downtown Santa Cruz

Downtown Santa Cruz Holiday Parade Photo Credit: Native Santa Cruz

Lighted Boat Parade

The harbor is one of the most picturesque locations in Santa Cruz on a regular day.  But this isn’t just a regular day.  The Lighted Boat Parade is your chance to see 50 boats decked out in holiday lights as they parade through the yacht harbor.

The Lighted Boat Parade is a Santa Cruz tradition and is always one of the most anticipated events of the season.

The event is sponsored by the Santa Cruz Yacht Club and includes a food drive to benefit Second Harvest Food Bank.

Click here for more information about the Lighted Boat Parade.

When: December 7, from 5:30 pm – 7:30 pm
Where: Santa Cruz Yacht Harbor

Scotts Valley Christmas Tree Lighting Festival

Gather at the Scotts Valley Community Center on December 7 for the Scotts Valley Christmas Tree Lighting Festival.  In addition to the tree lighting there will be refreshments, live music, an ornament making station, and the arrival of Santa Claus.  Kids will have an opportunity to have their photo taken with Santa after he arrives by fire truck.

Click here for more information.

When: December 7, from 5:00 pm – 7:00 pm
Where: Scotts Valley Community Center, 360 Kings Village Road, Scotts Valley

Aptos Village Holiday Craft Fair & Tree Lighting

Enjoy some holiday cheer in Aptos with the Holiday Craft Fair and Tree Lighting.  Local vendors will be selling their goods while you listen to holiday music, sip hot chocolate, and visit with Santa Claus.

Click here for more information.

When: December 7, from 2:00 pm – 5:00 pm
Where: Aptos Village Tree (corner of Soquel Drive and Aptos Creek Road)

Holiday in the Plaza

Downtown Watsonville will transform into a winter wonderland on December 8 for the annual Holiday in the Plaza event.  Kids can play in the snow in the afternoon, followed by the tree lighting ceremony in the early evening.

There will be plenty of other activities, including a petting zoo, photo booth, and face painting.  Santa Claus is also scheduled to make a special appearance.

Click her for more information.

When: December 8
Where: Downtown Watsonville

Jingle Bell Rock 5K

This is your chance to work off some of those holiday pounds while supporting a great cause.  The Jingle Bell Rock 5K run benefits Toys for Tots.

There will be prizes awarded for best dressed runner (holiday themed), best dressed team, best dressed canine, and best decorated stroller.  Get more info here.

When: December 8, start time: 9:00 am
Where: San Lorenzo Park

Slow Food Santa Cruz Holiday Party at Vinocruz

Enjoy wine from Vinocruz at Slow Food Santa Cruz’s annual holiday party on Wednesday, December 11. Bring your favorite holiday cookies for the holiday cookie exchange, and enjoy a special talk about Santa Cruz wines by Steve of Vinocruz.

The party is open to Slow Food members, their guests, and the general public. RSVP here.

When: December 11, from 6:00 pm to 9:00 pm
Where: Vinocruz, 725 Front St #101 in Santa Cruz

Snow Night

Santa Cruz Snow Night

When it comes to natural beauty, Santa Cruz has everything.  Well, almost everything.  The one thing we lack is snow, but luckily that changes for one day in December when Downtown Santa Cruz becomes a snow zone.

Snow Night takes place on December 12.  The fun starts at 4:00, but you can get your tickets starting at 3:00, so come early.

Guests are encouraged to bring a donation for Second Harvest Food Bank.  Get more information here.

When: December 12, from 4:00 pm – 7:30 pm
Where: Downtown Santa Cruz

Snow Night photo credit:

Cantiamo! Concert for a Winter’s Eve

This is the annual holiday show from Cantiamo!, one of the top choral groups in Central California.  Performances will include a cappella and accompanied works from the past six centuries.

For more information click here.

When: December 13 – 14
Where: Holy Cross Church, 126 High St., Santa Cruz

Cost: $23 General, $21 Students/Seniors, $19 Cabrillo SAC Holders

Community Caroling

Bundle up for an evening of community caroling in Capitola.  The Soquel High Jazz Singers and Cabrillo College Choir will Perform, and accompany you as you carol your way through the Capitola Village.  Song books will be provided, as will hot chocolate and refreshments from Shadowbrook.

When: December 13 at 6:00 pm
Where: Bandstand Stage at Esplanade Park in Capitola Village 

Victorian Carriage Rides

Santa Cruz Victorian carriage ridesHop aboard a Victorian horse-drawn carriage for a ride through Downtown Santa Cruz.  It’s the perfect way to round out date-night, or a family visit to downtown.

You can grab tickets online or at the Downtown information kiosk.  For more info, click here.

When: December 14 – 15 & 21 – 22
Where: Downtown Santa Cruz

Carriage Rides photo credit:

Holidays on the Ranch!

Enjoy old fashioned holiday traditions at Wilder Ranch.  The Holidays on the Ranch! Festival takes you back to a simpler time with activities such as wreath and candle making, cookie decorating and old fashioned sing along around a player piano.

There will also be hot drinks and baked goods for sale.

Get more information here.

When: December 14, from 11:00 am – 3:00 pm
Where: Wilder Ranch State Park

Holiday Dudes Night Out at Mountain Feed & Farm Supply

Holiday Dudes night out at Mountain Feed & Farm SupplyNo list of holiday events would be complete without a Holiday Dudes Night Out.  Luckily Mountain Feed and Farm Supply will be hosting such an event on December 19.

Enjoy beer and food from Santa Cruz Mountain Brewing and El Salchichero while listening to live music from Glad to be Here.

Get more info here.

When: December 19
Where: Mountain Feed and Farm Supply, 9550 Highway 9, Ben Lomond

The Nutcracker

The Santa Cruz Ballet Theatre presents the Nutcracker at the Civic Auditorium.  This classic holiday show features a live orchestra.

Sweet Treat tickets are available for the Saturday and Sunday shows.  These special tickets include photo opportunities with the nutcracker characters, and free cookies from Pacific Cookie Company prior to the performance.

Click here for tickets.

When: December 20 – 22
Where: Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium, 307 Church St., Santa Cruz

Holiday Shopping Fairs

There are so many great holiday shopping fairs this year that we decided o create a separate post for them: Santa Cruz Holiday Shopping Fairs.

About Ethan Oates

Ethan Oates fell in love with Santa Cruz while visiting as a child. He has lived in Santa Cruz since the mid '90's, and is happiest when spending time with his family.

  • What? No Snow Night? I need to look into this. The Downtown Holiday Parade is our family’s favorite and snow night comes in close second, followed immediately with a carriage ride that same night. Love this time of year!

    • Ethan Oates says:

      Hey Christine,

      Not to worry…Snow Night is coming back to downtown. It’s on the list here.

      Sounds like you and your family have your Santa Cruz holiday traditions dialed in. Hope you have a great holiday season!

  • Great list, The Holiday Light Train is an especially festive attraction but you missed the great local production of “It’s Wonderful Life ” currently playing at Park Hall by the Mountain Community Theatre; the Boulder Creek Annual Tree Lighting on Friday, the Felton Tree Lighting on Saturday night. Not to mention the special holiday Ladies Night (12/5) and Dudes Night (12/19) at Mountain Feed in Ben Lomond

    • Ethan Oates says:

      Those are great additions. Thank you for sharing them. I added 3 of the 4 to the post, and will add the Felton Tree Lighting as soon as I can confirm some information about the event. Thanks!

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