‘Tis the season to be jolly, and in SLO CAL (San Luis Obispo County), we take that advice very seriously. Looking for ways to get in the spirit? The following list of holiday happenings focuses on the unique offerings SLO CAL has to offer throughout the season and throughout the area, from elegant Christmas tree lighting events and craft markets to decorated castles, zoo animals and vaudeville revues. Peruse our guide and plan accordingly: now ready, set, celebrate!

Community Events

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2021 Downtown SLO Holiday ParadePhoto courtesy: Heraldo Creative Studio


Community Events

Community Holiday Parades

When you’re in the mood to jingle all the way, nothing hits the spot quite like a holiday parade. Nearly every community in SLO CAL has one, from the multi-block festivities in San Luis Obispo to smaller processions in Nipomo, Arroyo Grande, Atascadero and Cayucos.

Four-legged option: Let your pups join in on the holiday fun with Santa's Doggie Parade at Avila Beach.


Winter Wonderland in Atascadero

December 8, 5 PM- 9 PM

Cost: Free

Join us for one of the Central Coast’s largest holiday events! Atascadero’s Sunken Gardens and the entire downtown will be transformed into a magical snowy paradise, the Atascadero Winter Wonderland. There will be a massive snow slide made up of 50 tons of snow! There will be shopping and entertainment and even an appearance from Santa and Mrs. Claus. Invite your friends for some holiday fun! 

Christmas in Cayucos Open House

December 9, 5-8 PM

Cost: Free

Enjoy an evening of merriment with Santa and Mrs. Claus in their home, plus extended shopping hours at Cayucos businesses along Ocean Avenue. Kids can check in with Santa and make crafts to take home. Nibble cookies, sip hot chocolate, and even clip-clop down Ocean Avenue in a horse-drawn carriage — rides are complimentary for anyone on Santa’s “nice” list.


Morro Bay Lighted Boat Parade

December 2, 6:30-8 PM

Cost: Free

For many years, Morro Bay has hosted this unique and beloved parade that features boats of all shapes and sizes, decorated from stern to bow with twinkly holiday lights. They’re twice as bright when they reflect off the waters of the Morro Bay Harbor! Fishing boats, yachts, powerboats, sailboats and more vie for the top prize in this one-of-a-kind holiday event. Also in Morro Bay, find the Holiday Tree Lighting held on Dec. 1, and  Santa's House where you can get your photo taken with Santa on select dates in December. 


Vine Street Victorian Christmas Showcase

December 9, 6-9 PM

Cost: Free

Roll along the charming thoroughfare of Vine Street in Paso Robles, where stately Victorian homes get all dolled up for the holidays. This event spans Vine Street from 8th to 21st Streets. Enjoy carolers, refreshments, and appearances by Santa and Mrs. Claus, Ebenezer Scrooge, and more.


Charles Paddock Zoo Holiday Magic

December 16, 10 AM - 1 PM

Cost: $5-13 per ticket

Take a walk on the wild side this holiday season with the animals at SLO CAL’s only zoo. For this fun annual event, Santa shows up to deliver gifts to the 300 residents of the Charles Paddock Zoo, from monkeys and meerkats to the Malayan tiger. Watch them tear into their presents and enjoy family activities and holiday decorations.


First Night of Hanukkah Downtown

December 7 - 14, 5-6 PM

Cost: Free

Every year, the local Jewish community lights the public menorah in Mission Plaza in Downtown San Luis Obispo. Enjoy learning, participating in songs and connecting with people of all backgrounds for this special community event.


Paso Robles New Year's Eve Concert & Bonfire

December 31, 7-11 PM

Cost: Free

Celebrate New Year's Eve by dancing to live music and enjoying food and refreshments with the whole family. The event welcomes the 8-piece Lucky Devils Band. Food trucks will be onsite with food available for purchase. Ball drop is scheduled for 9 pm. 


Avila Beach Polar Bear Dip

January 1, 12 PM

Cost: Free

Ready to start fresh? This festival of all things frosty began over 10 years ago and continues to delight (and freeze) participants on the first day of the year. Band together at noon on New Year’s Day in Avila Beach with thousands of fellow dippers to start the year off with a bang, no wetsuits allowed.


Olde Towne Nipomo Family Christmas

December 3, 2-8 PM

Cost: Free

The Nipomo event draws thousands of visitors for a parade, live music, tree lighting ceremony and a sing-a-long. In Candyland Village families can visit with Santa and Mrs. Claus, do arts and crafts at Santa's Workshop, play in the winter wonderland filled with Christmas-themed bounce houses and much more family-friendly fun. Contact the Nipomo Olde Towne Association for more information.

Holiday Markets & More

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vendor and shopper conversation at pop-up marketplace
Photo courtesy: HM Imagery


Holiday Markets & More

Vespera Resort x SLO CAL Crafted Holiday Market

December 16, 11:00 am - 3:00 pm

Cost: Free

Stop by the SLO CAL Crafted Holiday Market on Vespera Resort's oceanfront Starlight Lawn to purchase locally made gifts for the holiday season. Shop SLO CAL Crafted local vendors while enjoying food and drinks for purchase from Vespera's Pequin Coastal Cocina


Handcrafted for the Holidays Exhibition

November 2 - December 30

Cost: Free

This is a timely showcase of fine craftspeople and their work at Studios on the Park. Find unique, handmade gifts for every taste and price point. Your purchase supports local arts and small businesses, and a portion of proceeds go towards bringing art to the community! 


Midstate Fair Winter Market

December 8-10

Cost: Free

Get your holiday shopping done at the Midstate Fair Winter Market. Local crafters and artisans from throughout SLO CAL will be selling handmade and unique items from jewelry, apparel, home decor, health and beauty products and so much more. 


Makers at the Market - Holiday Emporium

December 2 & 3, 11:00 AM- 4:00 PM

Cost: Free

SLO Public Market is hosting the first Holiday Emporium in their makers market at the market series! This two-day market includes workshops, a gift wrapping station, live music, food & drink and more. 


Sip & Shop Holiday Markets

Sip & Shops are popular throughout SLO CAL giving visitors the opportunity to try new wines or craft beverages while also taking care of their holiday shopping. Sip & Shops are happening at CASS Winery on December 2nd and at FABLE RUNE on December 15th.


Holiday Light Displays

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Cambria Christmas MarketPhoto courtesy: Cambria Christmas Market


Holiday Light Displays & Tours

Nature Nights at the SLO Botanical Garden

November 17- December 30 (Fridays & Saturdays)

5:00 PM- 8:00 PM

Cost: $17 - $27

This holiday season take the entire family to see the Holiday Nature Nights at the SLO Botanical Gardens! Find light projections, artistic garden areas and immersive holiday light exhibits throughout eight acres of the 150-acre garden. This event will feature live music nightly and artwork in glass. Culinary delights and wine and beer will be available for purchase.


Cambria Christmas Market

November 24- December 23

Cost: $15-$35

Back for the 2023 Holiday season, the Cambria Christmas Market is always magical! Find 2+ million twinkling lights made into impressive light displays and exhibits. Walk among the artisan vendors, visit Santa, ride the train, hang out among cozy fire pits, listen to live music and enjoy festive food and drinks. 


Uncorked Wine Tour

December 1- 24

Cost: See website for quote

Get into the spirit of the season with a Holiday Lights Tour! Uncorked Wine Tours will be welcoming groups of up to 14 guests per vehicle on a tour to view the Christmas lights around the area. Grab a hot toddy or hot chocolate and all your family & friends - this tour is kid-friendly! Uncorked Tours will take care of the route & driving so that you get to enjoy the holidays carefree! Tours can be scheduled online at uncorkedwinetours.net.


Atascadero Trail of Lights 

December 4-25

5:00 PM- 8:00 PM

Cost: Free

See the festive holiday lights of Atascadero's local homes and businesses. View the Trail of Lights tour map for the various buildings competing in the Trail of Lights contest. The 2023 Trail of Lights Contest winners will be announced at the Winter Wonderland event on December 8th. 

Festive Outings

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Christmas tree at Hearst Castle Holiday Twilight Tour

Festive Holiday Outings

The Great American Melodrama Holiday Extravaganza

November 17- December 31

Cost: $34-$40 per person

Eat, drink, and be very, very merry at the Great American Melodrama, where vaudeville and old-fashioned, family-friendly fun rule. The Holiday Extravaganza is an annual tradition featuring a rendition of Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol, a Fractured Fairytale Opera and the Holiday Vaudeville Revue.


Hearst Castle Holiday Tours

November 24- December 30

Cost: $15-$30

Holidays are in full swing at Hearst Castle with festive decor being installed just in time for the Holiday Tours. See Hearst Castle in the evening at the Holiday Twilight Tour and experience how William Randolph Hearst and his guests enjoyed holidays at the castle. Daytime tours are also available to see the Christmas decorations throughout the estate in the Grand Rooms Tour. Advance tour reservations are strongly recommended during the busy holiday season. 


Holiday at the Farmsteads

December 2nd

Cost: Free

Join ONX Wines & Vineyards for their inaugural Holiday at the Farmsteads event from 3 - 6 pm! There will be a holiday caroling group, mulled wine & hot cocoa, cookie decorating, feeding the farmstead animals, holiday photos and amazing food pairings. The event is free, but each guest is asked to bring a toy to donate and to RSVP in advance. 


Christmas at The Carrisa

November 10 - December 30

Looking for a holiday nightcap, tasty seasonal bite or immersive experience in downtown SLO? Look no further than Christmas at the Carrisa, a specially-curated holiday experience - where the holidays glow and the whiskey flows. Find craft holiday cocktails, yummy bites and four curated pop-up experiences to kick back and spend time with friends for the holidays. There is no admission fee, however, guests are asked to purchase food and beverages while enjoying the experience. 


Christmas at the Ranch

Selective Dates November 24 - December 17

Cost: $15-$35 

Join in the newest SLO CAL Holiday tradition with Christmas at the Ranch! Head to Santa Margarita Ranch for fun for the whole family. Book a historic train ride on the Jingle Bell Express, through a Christmas showcase, to Santa's Barn. Dazzling light displays, captivating performances, immersive holiday-themed activities and seasonal treats. The Ranch is the prefect spot to create holiday memories and experience the magic of the season. 


Santa at Sensorio

December 21 - 23

Feel the magic Thursday Dec. 21 to Saturday Dec. 23 with a visit from Santa at Sensorio! Sip on tasty hot cocoa, stroll through the captivating lights and take photos with Saint Nick himself. 


Header image courtesy of @cultura_photography