By land or by sea, there are many ways for you to get into the holiday spirit this year. The Santa Barbara Downtown Holiday Parade is always a local favorite, but don’t forget to see the Milpas Holiday Parade and the always breathtaking Parade of Lights at the Santa Barbara Harbor. 

This year’s 26th annual Parade of Lights is on Sunday, Dec. 11, with a theme of “Candy Cane Holidays.”

The Parade of Lights is an annual tradition with boat owners decorating their vessels with Christmas lights and other themed decorations and then sailing around the harbor in front of thousands of people. Santa Barbara waterfront officials expect 35 to 50 vessels to be competing this year, so it is sure to be a wonderful show.

Festivities begin at 3 p.m. on the city pier in the Harbor Way marina, where Santa will entertain kids while they play in the snow and listen to Christmas carols. The parade begins at 5:30 p.m. Perhaps the best viewing spot is on Stearns Wharf, so make sure to get there early so you can see the boats up close.

After the boats have shown off their decorations, there will be a short fireworks display while the judges confer to choose the winners. Among this year’s judges are Noozhawk’s publisher, Bill Macfadyen, and Captain’s Log columnist, Capt. David Bacon.

Right after the fireworks will be an awards ceremony at the Santa Barbara Maritime Museum, 113 Harbor Way, where there will be a catered buffet and music. Click here for more information, or call 805.564.5530.

Another parade you won’t want to miss is the 59th Annual Santa Barbara Christmas Parade sponsored by the Santa Barbara Downtown Organization.

The Christmas Parade begins at 6:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 2. Different acts and floats will march down State Street from Sola to Cota streets, with an expected 50,000 people on hand to view the action. This year’s parade grand marshal is professional surfer Lakey Peterson, and you can meet her at The Granada, 1214 State St., from 3:30 to 5 p.m.

Don’t leave early, or else you’ll miss the grand finale. Santa Claus himself will be throwing good cheer along the parade route, plus you will get to witness the lighting of the 40-foot tall Douglas fir Christmas tree in the 1300 block of State Street that has been a Santa Barbara tradition since the early 1950s.

Prior to the parade, Santa will hold court at the Paseo Nuevo Center Court from 4 to 5:30 p.m.

Click here for more information, or call 805.962.2098.

Finally, make sure to see the Milpas Community Association’s Milpas Holiday Parade 2011 at 11 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 10. The theme this year is “Shining Youth Stars,” and that is exactly what you will be seeing when you attend this parade.

Any Santa Barbara organizations are welcome to join, but the deadline for entries is Dec. 2 so be sure to turn in your forms. The Milpas Holiday Parade is sure to be filled with Christmas cheer and spirit.

Make sure you don’t miss any of these great Santa Barbara traditions!

Noozhawk intern Mason Dochterman is a student at Santa Barbara Middle School and can be reached at Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk or @NoozhawkNews. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.