Get Festive! Your Guide to the Best 2017 Santa Cruz Holiday Events

santa cruz holiday events 2017
The holidays are full of cheer in Santa Cruz with unique celebrations, beloved traditions, and brand new festive fun…ice skating, anyone?

Things to do in Santa Cruz during the 2017 Holiday Season include tree lightings, train rides, parades by land and sea, and opportunities to see Santa.

Here’s a roundup of some of the best opportunities to celebrate the holidays in Santa Cruz!

November 17 – 19

Boardwalk Holiday Ice

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.

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

Get more info here.

A Christmas Carol

Christmas Carol

Christian Youth Theater presents this Broadway adaptation of the favorite Dickens classic. This performance puts a new spin on the tale of Ebenezer Scrooge and the lesson he learns about what is truly important in life.

When: November 17 – 19 & November 25 – 26. Check website for show times.
Where: Louden Nelson Community Center
Cost: $15 – $20

Get more info here.

Holiday Craft Fairs & Shopping Events

2017 santa cruz craft fairs

There are so many craft fairs and shopping events coming up that we had to create a separate post to list all of them.

Click here to read the post.

November 24 – 26

JOY! A Holiday Show

Wondering what to do with your Thanksgiving weekend guests? How about wowing them with a holiday circus! Tandy Beal & Company presents a brand new holiday spectacular complete with acrobats, dancers, and live music performers.

When: November 24 – 26
Where: Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium
Cost: $12.25 – $55.50; Groups 10+ Discount

Get more info here. 

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. 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:

When: November 24 – 25, December 2 – 3, 9 – 10, 16 – 23
Where: Train Departs from the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk

Cost: Adult $33, Child $27

Get more info here.

Holiday Lights Train Photo Credit: Native 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.

When: November 24 – 26, December 2 – 3, 9 – 10
Where: Roaring Camp Railroads, Felton

Cost: Adult $29, Child $22

Get more info here.

Santa Comes to Town – Boulder Creek Tree Lighting

You’ll find plenty of good old-fashioned holiday cheer at Boulder Creek’s Annual Tree Lighting Ceremony, along with live music, photos with Santa, and horse-drawn carriage rides. The fun continues on Saturday with the Boulder Bucks shopping challenge and another opportunity to visit with Santa.

When: November 24 from 6:00 pm to 9:00 pm
Where: Boulder Creek Hardware

Get more info here.

Surfin’ Santa

Surfin Santa Capitola

Surfin’ Santa and his reindeer will arrive at Capitola Beach via outrigger canoe and surfboard. Once on the beach Santa will visit with all the kids, so be sure to bring your wish list and a camera. Don’t miss the annual Palm Tree Lighting at 5pm.

When: November 25, from 12:00 pm to 3:00 pm
Where: Capitola Beach

Get more info here.

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

Tree Lighting Party at Beach Market

Extra Large provides the tunes, Santa and Mrs. Claus the photo opps, and Crow’s Nest Beach Market the festive tree lighting. The store will be open for food, bevs, and holiday shopping.

When: November 25 at 6:30 pm
Where: Crow’s Nest Beach Market

Get more info here.

A Christmas Carol

See Description Under Nov. 17 -19

December 1 – 3

35th Annual Music for the Feast of Christmas

Join the Cabrillo Symphonic Chorus, as they bring you music of the season and traditional sing-along Christmas carols. This is a wonderful way to kick off the holidays!

Get more info here.

When: December 1 – 3
Where: Holy Cross Church

$25 general admission, $21 senior, $20 students

Breakfast with Santa

‘Tis the season for time-honored traditions! Enjoy a holiday breakfast buffet at the Chaminade, and top it off with a visit with Santa Claus.

When: December 2, from 9:00 am – 11:00 am
Where: Chaminade Resort & Spa

Cost: $36.95 Adults, $17.95 Children 6-12, $11.95 Children Under 6 Years Old

Get more info here.

Downtown Santa Cruz Holiday Parade


The Annual Downtown Holiday Parade has everything you would hope for. There will be floats, marching bands, classic cars, horses, crowd favorites like the Santa Cruz Public Library Precision Book Truck Drill Team, and naturally, Santa Claus.

When: December 2, from 10:00 am – 12:00 pm
Where: Downtown Santa Cruz

Get more info here.

32nd Annual Lighted Boat Parade

The Lighted Boat Parade is a Santa Cruz tradition and is always one of the most anticipated events of the season. Dress warm, grab some hot chocolate, and find a spot to take in 50 boats decked out in holiday lights as they parade through the yacht harbor.

When: December 2, at 5:30 pm
Where: Santa Cruz Yacht Harbor

Get more info here.

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.

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

Get more info here.

Multicultural Celebration & Holiday Tree Lighting Ceremony

Head to Downtown Watsonville for a multicultural celebration throughout the afternoon, a Holiday Tree Lighting Ceremony in the evening, and a visit from Santa Claus. This year’s celebration will also have a Children’s Holiday Train!

When: December 3, from 2:00 pm – 7:00 pm
Where: City Plaza Park

Get more info here.

Old-Fashioned Christmas Tea

Step back in time and enjoy an old-fashioned Christmas tea while taking in the history of the diverse cultures that shaped California. The house will be filled with decadent hors d’oeuvres, sweet treats, and festive holiday decorations.

When: December 3 from 1:00 pm to 4:00 pm
Where: Pajaro Valley Historical Association

Get more info here.

 44th Annual Grey Bears Holiday Dinner

A delicious home-cooked holiday dinner and an exciting lineup of local entertainment are in store for our local seniors.

When: December 3 from 11:30 am to 1:30 pm
Where: Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium

Get more info here.

Annual Gingerbread House Workshop

Join Seascape Beach Resort and Toys for Tots Santa Cruz County at this fun holiday tradition for a good cause. Build your dream gingerbread house, enjoy festive snacks and drinks, and visit with Santa!

When: December 3 from 2:00 pm to 4:00 pm
Where: Seascape Beach Resort
Cost: $59.95

Get more info here.

December 9 – 10

Festivos en el Rancho

Come for a tour of our new state historic park, stay for the hot, handmade tortillas and a celebration of Holidays on the Rancho.

When: December 9, froom 11:00 am to 3:00 pm
Where: Castro Adobe State Historic Park

Get more info here.

Holidays on the Ranch

Holidays on the Ranch at Wilder Ranch

Enjoy an old-fashioned holiday celebration at Wilder Ranch.  The Holidays on the Ranch Festival takes you back to a simpler time with crafts, games, and music from the early 20th century. Get in the spirit and dress in your best turn-of-the-century costume and hop on a draft-horse carriage ride!

When: December 9, from 11:00 am – 3:00 pm
Where: Wilder Ranch State Park

Get more info here.

Jingle Bell Rock 5K


This is your chance to burn off some of those holiday calories while supporting a great cause—Toys for Tots. The 9th Annual Jingle Bell Rock 5K, now has a new 10K course option, and as always, the Kids 1K Fun Run. There will be prizes awarded for best dressed runner, best dressed team, ugliest holiday sweater, and best decorated stroller. This year’s goal is 1,000 toy donations, and all collected toys stay in our community.

When: December 10 at 9:00 am
Where: Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk

Get more info here.

Jingle Shells Arts and Crafts Festival

You’ve heard of holiday tree lightings, but are you ready for a whale lighting? After an afternoon of shopping ocean and nature-inspired gifts, gather ’round Ms. Blue, the largest displayed whale skeleton in the world, for a group sing along of Jingle Shells.

When: December 10, from 12:00 pm to 5:30 pm, followed by whale lighting
Where: Seymour Marine Discovery Center

Get more info here.

December 14 – 18

Chanukah Train

Experience Chanukah in a brand new way aboard Roaring Camp Railroad’s Chanukah Train. The festivities will begin 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.

When: December 14 @ 6:15 pm
Where: Train Departs from the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk
Cost: $31 Adult, $25 Child

Get more info here.

Toy Trains at the MAH

Calling all model train lovers, young and young at heart: Toy Trains at the MAH opens today and runs through New Year’s Eve. 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!

When: December 15 – 31
Where: Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History

Get more info here.

The Nutcracker

Santa Cruz Ballet Theatre presents the Nutcracker at the Civic Auditorium. This classic holiday show features a full professional orchestra and over 70 local performers. Sweet Treat tickets are available for the Saturday and Sunday shows. These special tickets include a free cookie from Pacific Cookie Company, a commemorative ornament, and photo opportunities with the Nutcracker characters  prior to the performance.

When: December 15 – 17
Where: Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium
Cost: $18.50 – $78.50

Get more info here.

Nutcracker Ballet

Agape Dance Academy is back for another season of The Nutcracker Ballet, with four full length shows, and two ‘petite’ performances for dancers ages 3-7.

When: December 16 – 17
Where: Mello Center for Performing Arts
Cost: $16 – $25

Get more info here.

iSKATE Capitola

Right on the heels of Surfin’ Santa comes a new tradition to Capitola Village…ice skating by the sea, in fact, just steps from the sand and waves!

When: December 15 – January 7, 2018
Where: Capitola Village at the Esplanade Stage
Cost: $10 Admission, $5 Skate Rental or bring your own

Get more info here.

December 22+

Christmas Eve and Christmas Day Dinner

Sunday Brunch at the Chaminade is always a special occasion, so imagine a Christmas buffet complete with fresh salads, a seafood display, hot appetizers, soup, a carving station, entrees, a pasta display, traditional holiday accompaniments, a kids’ buffet, and a lavish dessert selection! Treat your family to a holiday meal they won’t soon forget.

When: December 24, 5:00 pm to 9:00 pm & December 25, 12:00 pm to 6:00 pm
Where: Chaminade Resort & Spa

Get more info here.

Additional Holiday Fun:

  • If you’re looking for a uniquely local Christmas tradition to share with family then consider stopping by Farley’s Christmas Wonderland, a walk-in Christmas display located in the Seabright neighborhood of Santa Cruz, open Thanksgiving through New Year’s Eve.
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.

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