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

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.

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.

Mountain Community Theater Presents: “The Ultimate Christmas Show (abridged)”

When: 11/24 – 12/17 Fridays/Saturdays at 8:00 pm, Sundays at 2:00 pm
Where: Park Hall 
Cost: $17 – $20 plus service fee

It’s a dark and stormy night in the San Lorenzo Valley, and all the roads into the Valley have been closed (sound familiar?). This is the set up for The Ultimate Christmas Show (abridged), a hilarious show that will boost your holiday spirit while possibly poking fun at it. There will be singing, a live band, holiday desserts, and you can even bring a wrapped holiday gift to participate in an audience gift exchange.

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.

Felton’s Evening with Santa

Come out for some Santa Cruz Mountain holiday festivities at the Felton Tree Lighting ceremony. Enjoy caroling, hot chocolate, holiday cookies, the lighting of the 100′ Heritage Tree, and get your photo taken with Santa Claus.

When: November 25 at 5:00 pm
Where: Felton Deck and Felton Firehouse

Get more info here.

Felton Toy Train Days!

Model train displays are a holiday staple and treat for the whole family. Make tracks for Felton during the weekends through December and take in a toy train masterpiece in a festive wintery setting.  Enjoy refreshments, a photo booth, holiday music, train tables, and more!

When: Weekends November 25 – December 31, 2017: 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

Get more info here.

A Christmas Carol

See Description Under Nov. 17 -19

December 1 – 3

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.

Frosty Fun Fest

When: December 1 from 5:00 pm to 7:00 pm
Where: Louden Nelson Community Center
Cost: Free Admission

Get festive, get creative, and maybe even get your team together for the Graham Cracker House Contest. Enjoy family-friendly fun including a Snowflake Creation Station, Winter Wonderland community mural, and hot cocoa. Holiday fashion encouraged!

Get more info here.

Senderos December in Mexico

Take in dinner and a show at Harbor High. Senderos presents its winter dance performance, México Lindo y Querido (Mexico Beautiful and Beloved), featuring Centeotl Danza y Baile dance troupe and Ensamble Musical youth band. Arrive early to enjoy delicious Mexican food. This fundraiser helps support Senderos, an all-volunteer nonprofit that provides free after school dance and music classes, tutoring, and scholarships for Latino youth.

When: December 1 – 2 at 7:00 pm
Where: Harbor High Theater
Cost: $10 General; $5 Students/Seniors

Get more info here.

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!

When: December 1 & 2 at 8:00 pm; December 3 at 4:00 pm
Where: Holy Cross Church

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

Get more info here.

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. The parade takes place rain or shine.

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.

Las Posadas

This is a really lovely, welcoming event! The whole family is invited to participate in this Latin American tradition that will also honor different faiths from around the world. The procession begins at Live Oak Community resources and ends at the Live Oak Grange with a celebration featuring dinner, live music, dance performances, and a piñata. Be sure to dress warmly for the procession.

When: December 2 from 4:00 pm to 7:00 pm
Where: Starts at Live Oak Community Resources

Get more info here.

Scotts Valley Tree Lighting Festival

Gather at the Scotts Valley Community Center for the annual Light Up the Night Tree Lighting Celebration. Lots of entertainment is in store including live performances by Next stage, the SVHS Choir, Wings School of Dance, and Agape Dance. There will be refreshments, crafts, a bounce house, and of course, the main event: Santa’s arrival via fire truck to light the tree. Everyone is encouraged to bring canned goods and/or unwrapped toys in support of Valley Churches united to help local families in need.

When: December 2 from 5:30 pm to 7:30 pm
Where: Scotts Valley Community Center

Get more info here.

Visit with Santa at Marini’s Candies

Marini’s is magical year-round, but during the holidays they kick it up a notch with Santa visits (bring your camera), gingerbread house workshops, and of course, a wide selection of ornaments to peruse while picking out treats.

When: December 2-3, 9-10, 16-17, 20-23 from 1:00 pm to 5:00 pm
Where: Marini’s Candies in Downtown Santa Cruz

SACO Christmas Dinner

Reserve your Christmas Dinner by November 27th and plan for a festive evening. Enjoy Christmas carols sung by the Soquel High Choir, dinner and dessert, a raffle, and the opportunity to support the Slavic American Cultural Organization. You may also pick up your dinner to go and enjoy at home.

When: December 2 from 4:00 to 8:00 pm
Where: Watsonville Woman’s Club
Cost: $25 Adult; $10 Children under 12

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.

Movie at Evergreen Cemetery: The Nightmare Before Christmas

Dress warm and enjoy free popcorn, hot chocolate, and a family-friendly film…in a cemetery!

When: December 3 at 5:00 pm
Where: Evergreen Cemetery
Cost: Free

Get more info here.

Ongoing Events – Scroll above for descriptions

  • Mountain Community Theater Presents: “The Ultimate Christmas Show (abridged)”
  • Holiday Tree Walk @ Roaring Camp
  • Santa Cruz Holiday Lights Train @ Boardwalk
  • Felton Toy Train Days @ Felton Presbyterian Church
  • Boardwalk Holiday Ice

December 8 – 10

Community Christmas Concerts

You had us at James Durbin. Enjoy a free concert event for the whole family featuring James Durbin, Monte Vista Christian School Choir, Agape Dance Studio, and more. Recommended arrival is 60 minutes prior to concert and childcare is available for Infants–Kindergarten.

When: December 8 – 10
Where: Twin Lakes Church
Cost: Free

Get more info here.

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.

Santa Cruise

This evening involves team work, a text based scavenger hunt, drink specials and prizes. Custom “Suessean” Santa hats included! 21+

When: December 9 from 6:00 pm to 9:00 pm
Where: Throughout Downtown Santa Cruz
Cost: $20 in advance / $25 day of the event

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.

Aptos Winter Wonderland

Forget walking in a winter wonderland…try glice skating! This fun-filled community celebration features photos with Santa, face painting, a bake sale, Christmas Tree giveaway, ornament making, food trucks, a DJ, and school-sponsored booths, plus a glice skating rink! Come on out and show your support for two wonderful organizations: Toys for Tots and the Live Like Coco Foundation.

When: December 10 from 1:00 pm to 6:00 pm
Where: Aptos Polo Grounds
Cost: Toy or Book Drive donation per person

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.

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.

Ongoing Events – Scroll above for descriptions

  • Mountain Community Theater Presents: “The Ultimate Christmas Show (abridged)”
  • Holiday Tree Walk @ Roaring Camp
  • Santa Cruz Holiday Lights Train @ Boardwalk
  • Felton Toy Train Days @ Felton Presbyterian Church
  • Boardwalk Holiday Ice

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.

Holiday Cookie Decorating Party

When: 12/15 from 10:00 am to 2:00 pm & 12/22 from 4:00 pm to 7:00 pm
Where: Buttercup Cakes
Cost: $10

Spend a little time relaxing after a busy week and decorate some delicious holiday treats. Six cookies are provided for each guest. Frosting and sprinkles are priced per ounce.

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.

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. Check out the new pop-up, synthetic ice rink in the Village and enjoy free parking while you’re at it!

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.

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.

Nutcracker: Experience the Magic

When: 12/16 – 12/17 at 1:00 pm & 4:30 pm
Where: Cabrillo Crocker Theater
Cost: $30/$35/$40

Santa Cruz City Ballet presents their premier holiday performance with two shows each day. Experience the magic of this favorite holiday classic with your family, friends, or out of town guests.

Get more info here.

Breakfast With Santa

Santa is in town for breakfast! Enjoy a buffet breakfast, cookie decorating and a visit with Santa. Author Lois Ackerman Lawson will host a story time for kids.

When: 12/16 from 9:00 am to 11:00 am
Where: Aquarius at Dream Inn
Cost: $9 for kids 12 and under, $19 for adults

Get more info here.

Free Family Movie – Home Alone

Support Second Harvest Food Bank and catch a holiday classic on the big screen.

When: December 16 at 10:00 am
Where: Del Mar Theatre
Cost: Free

Pictures with Santa @ Pacific Coffee Roasting Co.

Here’s a cheerful and easy opportunity to take pictures with Santa and, bonus…Mrs. Claus will be available too! Bring your own camera or phone and enjoy treats, fun, and lots of Christmas cheer!

When: 12/16 from 11:00 am to 2:00 pm
Where: Pacific Coffee Roasting Co. in Aptos
Cost: Free

Get more info here.

Holiday Show & Dinner Fundraiser

When: December 16 from 5:30 pm to 9:00 pm
Where: 13333 Middleton Ave., Boulder Creek
Cost: Event is Free to the community

Get more info here.

Gabriella’s Snow Day

The 5th annual Gabriella’s Snow Day charity event benefits Team G Childhood Cancer Foundation’s mission of supporting newly diagnosed families of childhood cancer. Enjoy a fun day in the snow with your family while raising funds for research and awareness for pediatric cancer. Snow play, games, crafts, bounce houses, live music, and a visit with Santa are all included with your ticket. Event will be held rain or shine.

When: December 17 from 12:00 pm to 4:00 pm
Where: Skypark Scotts Valley
Cost: $10

Get more info here.

Eat For a Cause – Adopt A Family Project

When: December 17 from 6:00 pm to 10:00 pm
Where: Santa Cruz Mountain Brewing
Cost: Donations are welcome and 100% of the proceeds will go to the Adopt-A-Family Project

Get more info here.

December 20+

Victorian Horse Drawn Carriage Rides

Reserve a traditional horse-drawn carriage ride in advance for your family, a group of friends, or romantic date.

When: December 22 – 23
Where: Downtown Santa Cruz
Cost: $60 15-20 minutes

Get more info here.

Holiday Cookie Decorating Party

When: 12/22 from 4:00 pm to 7:00 pm
Where: Buttercup Cakes
Cost: $10

Spend a little time relaxing after a busy week and decorate some delicious holiday treats. Six cookies are provided for each guest. Frosting and sprinkles are priced per ounce.

Get more info here.

A Magical Holiday Celebration

Local favorite Doug the Surfing Magician will host a magical variety show for all ages! Expect lots of laughs to Doug’s signature comedy magic, and enjoy musical performances, world class juggling acts, and audience participation.

When: December 23 at 2:00 pm (Doors open 1:30 pm)
Where: Corralitos Cultural Center
Cost: $16

Get more info here.

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.


    I know I mentioned this b4, but am saying it again….THANK YOU FOR THIS SITE….the information is all @ this ONE site – I don’t need to seek any other one when trying to determine upcoming happenings in my County (Santa Cruz).

  • Laura Reeser says:

    This was amazing last year. Are you doing it again? Our sip and shop is Dec. 16th this year in La Selva Beach. I would love to send you the details if you are putting this awesome guide together again!

    • Christine Candelaria says:

      Hi Laura, yes, we have put together another shopping event guide. I’d love to include your event. Since it’s so near the date, can you please email the details to Thank you.

  • >