Head to the American Riviera this winter for the perfect reprieve from the snow. Santa Barbara’s Christmas markets, rich holiday traditions, and unique programs make it the perfect holiday destination for all ages.
Holiday Parades: In its 37th year, the Holiday Parade of Lights returns to the ocean, complete with decorated boats and a spectacular fireworks show. Visitors can head down to the Waterfront and find the best viewing spots at Stearns Wharf, East Beach, and West Beach, the perfect sites to spot a kayaking Santa. The Santa Barbara Eastside Society is sponsoring the Tradiciones Navideñas (or “Christmas Traditions”) Milpas Street Holiday Parade on Dec. 9, which celebrates with festive floats and bands. Additionally, the sixth annual Old Town Goleta Holiday Parade showcases community spirit with colorful floats, musical ensembles, and dance groups to celebrate the holidays.
Sock Skating at the MOXI, The Wolf Museum of Exploration + Innovation: Visitors can unleash their inner child at this newly-opened seasonal exhibit at the MOXI, perfect for all ages. Opening November 18 and lasting through the holiday season, museum patrons can kick off the shoes and slide into the rooftop “ice” skating rink without the ice.
Miracle at Pearl Social: From November 10 through New Year’s Day, this holiday pop-up features over the top holiday decór, festive menus, and Christmas collectibles. The bar will be serving classics like hot-buttered rum and mulled wine, as well as quirky menu items like the “Secret Santa,” which is a surprise experience. The bar also hosts the family-friendly “Elfing Around” event, where guests can bake, decorate, and write letters to Santa in partnership with local Helena Avenue Bakery. A portion of proceeds from Miracle at Pearl Social goes to Seva, a nonprofit that works to develop self-sustaining programs that preserve and restore sight worldwide.
Sip ‘N’ Stroll at the Old Mission Santa Barbara: Celebrate Christmas with an eclectic mix of old-world charm and modern Santa Barbara-style on Dec. 1. The private holiday market and wine event supports local artisans and restaurants, complete with a marketplace of handcrafted goods, wine, beer, and food set among holiday decor and candlelight.
ZooLights: With over 50,000 LED lights, the Santa Barbara Zoo transforms itself into a nighttime attraction after hours, complete with illuminated lanterns showcasing wildlife and nature scenes from around the world. In its second year, the experience runs from Nov. 15 to Jan. 14, enough time for guests to immerse themselves among their favorite animals on the zoo’s beautiful grounds.
Holidays at Rancho La Patera & Stow House: The historic property is hosting the North Pole’s most famous resident on Dec. 9. The Goleta ranch will host food and live music, with appearances from Santa Claus and his “rein-goats!” Guests can experience a country-style Christmas with tractor rides and tours of the beautiful Victorian gardens, the Stow House, and ranch yard.
Hotel Holiday Offerings: Rosewood Miramar Beach is bringing holiday magic to Montecito, beginning with its tree lighting ceremony on Dec. 1. The festivities commence with a concert, exclusive holiday shopping, visits from Santa, and even snowfall. The resort is bringing snow, hot chocolate, roasted chestnuts, kids activities, and more every week in December. The property’s various dining outlets are also hosting festive brunches and dinners for Christmas dining. Guests can complete their holiday season with a countdown to 2024 at the second annual Le Bal Cristal New Year’s Eve celebration. At the El Encanto, a Belmond Hotel, guests can enjoy specially crafted dinners for Christmas and New Year’s, as well as a Teddy Bear Tea throughout December. This partnership with the Teddy Bear Cancer Foundation serves champagne on arrival for adults and gives a Teddy Bear to the kids, before enjoying a lovely tea service. The hotel will also be offering craft workshops, a hands-on challah braiding and mindfulness workshop on Dec. 13, and tree and Menorah lighting ceremonies on Dec. 5 and Dec. 8, respectively.
Photo by Whitewater Courtesy of Visit Santa Barbara