Celebrate the Holidays in Santa Cruz County
Fall and winter are great times to enjoy festivities and holidays in Santa Cruz. The weather is still mostly clear and daytime temperatures still make it tshirt weather. Join us for the holidays to enjoy your choice of events, including delicious Thanksgiving feasts at local restaurants, the Chanukah Train, Surfing Santa, the Nutcracker Ballet, downtown carriage rides, Santa Cruz Warriors basketball, and more. And you can still enjoy all of the other great attractions, beaches, food and drinks, and annual events Santa Cruz County offers. We wish you happy holidays in Santa Cruz!
Boulder Creek Tree Lighting
Visit Boulder Creek for a tree lighting and a visit from Santa Claus, live music, caroling, face painting, carriage rides, and old-fashioned holiday cheer. Shop local on Black Friday and come to Boulder Creek for our annual tree lighting event! Have your photo taken with Santa and ride a horse-drawn carriage through our historic downtown.
Holiday Tree Walk
Get in the holiday spirit by bringing family and friends to ride Roaring Camp’s daytime steam train to Bear Mountain. At the summit, guests may sip hot cider and delight in viewing a tree-lined walk of beautifully decorated holiday trees. Trees are provided by Patchen California Christmas Tree Farm, Los Gatos. To add to the festive spirit and bring hope to families in need, visitors may bring a new and unwrapped toy to Roaring Camp’s depot to benefit Santa Cruz County’s Toys for Tots campaign.
Santa Cruz Holiday Lights Train
Choo, Choo, Santa Claus is coming to town, not by sleigh, not by snow but by Train! Vintage excursion cars, adorned with thousands of colorful lights, roll through the streets of Santa Cruz as passengers lend their voices to holiday carols, sip hot spiced cider and listen to musical entertainment while Santa visits the little ones, or the young at heart! Continue the merriment with your choice of arcade games, mini-golf or laser tag at Santa's Kingdom at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. Bring the whole family for some festive fun.
Surfin' Santa at Capitola Beach
Ho…Ho…Ho…Santa Claus is coming to town. Surfin’ Santa that is! By outrigger canoe, Santa & his reindeer will arrive on the shores of Capitola Main Beach. Be sure to bring your camera to capture Santa’s wave-riding arrival…and don’t forget your wish list! Once Santa has toweled off, he’ll settle in his beach chair to hear holiday wishes and have a nice long visit with all the children.
Share the Light of Chanukah aboard Roaring Camp Railroad’s New Chanukah Train! Gather at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk on the 5th night of Chanukah for the lighting of the menorah and then set off on an incredible train ride in Roaring Camp’s comfortable excursion cars adorned with thousands of shining lights and Chanukah decorations. We’ll share in Chanukah traditions and ride the train through the streets of Santa Cruz listening to Chanukah stories, playing dreidel and enjoying kosher refreshments provided by Chabad by the Sea. Evening also includes your choice of mini golf, laser tag or arcade games. Create a new holiday tradition with family and friends as we experience the lights, stories and traditions of Chanukah in a whole new way!
Capitola Tree Lighting
Join family, friends & neighbors for the annual Capitola Village Tree Lighting Ceremony at the arbor in front of Quality Market, intersection of Capitola & Stockton Avenues. Enjoy holiday music from the New Brighton Middle School Band and refreshments from Calypso’s Cove. Following the tree lighting ceremony, be sure to stop by Calypso’s Cove for their Holiday Open House. Located at 311 Capitola Ave, enjoy drink specials, complimentary pastries, house coffee and hot chocolate.
Heritage Holiday Craft and Gift Fair
The Heritage Foundation is proud to continue this 33 year old Craft Fair. It’s fun not only for exhibitors and crafters but also for those attending. It has been called “The Traditional Start of the Holiday Season in the Pajaro Valley,” and we continue to grow the event adding new exhibitors and crafters and special events each year. This festive event full of holiday cheer includes crafts, folk art, antiques, collectibles, gift foods, delicious refreshments at the food courts, and free parking. The 25 foot Christmas tree will light up your child’s eyes! The Agricultural History Project will host a County Christmas. You can also tour the HISTORIC RODGERS HOUSE where Santa will make a special appearance. General admission is $3.00, children under 5 are free.
Downtown Santa Cruz Holiday Parade
Don't miss our Downtown Holiday Parade. Participants from schools, businesses, and community organizations stroll down Pacific Avenue with banners, decorated float/vehicles, family and friends on this fun morning!
Scotts Valley Tree Lighting
Each year our community comes together for the Annual Christmas Tree Lighting Festival. We sing, we laugh, we drink cocoa and munch on cookies and cheer as we light up our Community Christmas Trees: our little one at the Scotts Valley Community Center and our huge one on Mt. Hermon Road in front of Kings Village Shopping Center. We gather at our Scotts Valley Community Center to welcome Santa’s arrival and light up our Christmas Trees.
Lighted Boat Parade
Celebrating over 50 years of the Santa Cruz Harbor as well as the over 100 years since the establishment of the Santa Cruz Wharf, the Santa Cruz Harbor and the surrounding businesses, homes and boats will be lit up for a spectacular display of lights. Join in the spirit of the event! The Lighted Boat Parade is one of the most anticipated events in Santa Cruz County.
Watsonville Factory Sale
Each year Watsonville’s business community holds a factory sale in December. There are great deals on the many products grown right here in Watsonville! This year we are partnering with local restaurants for a special menu designed to “fuel” shoppers. This annual event features local businesses offering great Christmas gifts at deep discounts. Finish your holiday shopping early, save money and support local businesses.
Jingle Bell Rock 5K Race
Come and join our annual year end holiday event! Its all about the toys and the fun. Put a smile on a child's face for a REALLY great cause. Bring a toy for Toys for Tots, go for a walk or run along the San Lorenzo River Levee. You can get some exercise before you go holiday shopping! This event makes a difference in our community as all the collected toys stay in our community. Please come out and give all the support you can.
Holidays on the Ranch
Wilder Ranch State Park creates the perfect atmosphere for friends, family and visitors to come together to celebrate the warmth of the holiday season with crafts, games, music and merriment from the early 20th century. We’ll busy your hands with holiday wreath-making, invite you to join in an old-fashioned sing-along around the piano player, and provide you with materials to make Victorian and Mexican holiday crafts. Come play games like dreidel, take a draft-horse carriage ride, decorate the tree or create ornaments to bring home to your own tree while spending the day on the grounds of the cultural preserve at beautiful, historic, Wilder Ranch State Park.
Santa Cruz Ballet Theatre presents The Original Santa Cruz Nutcracker, a favorite holiday tradition! Featuring Maestra Pamela Martin conducting the Ballet Orchestra, and guest artists Melody Mennite and Joseph Walsh, both principal dancers with Houston Ballet. Sweet Treats: Join us as Nutcracker magic comes alive prior to curtain! Nutcracker characters will be on hand to greet you for photos, so bring your camera! You will also receive a cookie, compliments of Pacific Cookie Company, and an ornament to commemorate this holiday tradition.
Santa Cruz Warriors Basketball
The Santa Cruz Warriors are the NBA Development League affiliate of the Golden State Warriors. Santa Cruz is one of 14 NBA D-League teams that has a one-to-one relationship with its NBA parent club. The team plays its home games at the Kaiser Permanente Arena, which is conveniently located at 140 Front Street in Downtown Santa Cruz. In their first season, the Warriors had three GATORADE Call-Ups to the NBA and reached the NBA D-League Finals.