2019 Santa Barbara Parade of Lights
Santa Barbara’s Parade of Lights is returning to the waterfront Dec. 12, with dozens of clever and brightly lit boats and other watercraft sailing past spectators, in between a Christmas tree lighting ceremony on Stearns Wharf and a post-parade fireworks show. (Ronald Williams file photo)

With Thanksgiving behind us and the winter holidays fast approaching, numerous Christmas parades and other holiday celebrations are planned throughout Santa Barbara County.

Many events that were canceled in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic are returning this year, while others that were planned to take place this year have since been canceled.

The following is information on holiday parades and events taking place throughout the county, as well as information on which parades have been canceled or changed.

Santa Barbara

On Sunday, Dec. 12, Santa Barbara’s Parade of Lights will be returning with the 35th Annual Parade of Lights at the Santa Barbara Harbor.

This year’s parade theme is “Magic Under the Moonlight,” and the floating parade with approximately 30 illuminated boats and other watercraft will begin at 5:30 p.m., following a holiday tree lighting ceremony at 5 p.m. on Stearns Wharf next to the Sea Center.

The parade will travel from Leadbetter Beach east along the coast to the Cabrillo Pavilion, at 1118 E. Cabrillo Blvd., then back to Stearns Wharf. A brief fireworks show will follow the parade.

According to the Santa Barbara Waterfront Department, the best viewing locations for the parade and fireworks are the wharf, the breakwater, West Beach and East Beach.

Other events and activities will also take place throughout the day at the harbor and Stearns Wharf, including a “Winter Wonderland” with 10 tons of snow, holiday elves and holiday music, beginning at noon.

The Human-Powered Category competition will take place at Stearns Wharf during daylight hours, at 4 p.m., with dozens of kayakers and standup paddlers in festive attire.

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The Annual Downtown Santa Barbara Holiday Parade, which normally takes place on the first Friday of December, has been canceled for 2021.

Downtown Santa Barbara staff will, however, host several smaller events throughout December.

“After much thought and consideration, Downtown Santa Barbara staff and nonprofit board of directors have decided not to host the Holiday Parade in 2021,” the downtown promotional organization said on its website.

“In lieu of a single event this year, and with community health and safety in mind, staff has planned a plethora of smaller holiday offerings!”

Some of these smaller holiday events include the Christmas Tree Lighting and Holiday Block Party from 6 to 9 p.m. Friday, Dec. 3, in front of the Arlington Theatre, 1317 State St.; several holiday concerts and community performances at Storke Placita, in the 700 block of State Street; and other location on State Street throughout the month of December.

December’s 1st Thursday ArtWalk, taking place downtown from 5 to 8 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 2, will feature special holiday performances from the Santa Barbara Revels and the Santa Barbara Trombone Society, as well as a Hannukah menorah lighting ceremony hosted by the Jewish Federation of Greater Santa Barbara.

The full schedule of Downtown Santa Barbara’s “Magical Holiday Happenings” can be found on the Downtown Santa Barbara website.

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The Santa Barbara Eastside Society announced the Milpas Holiday Parade is returning this year. The parade is planned for 5:30 p.m. Dec. 11 and will include bands, floats, dancers and dignitaries, according to organizers.

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Rockstar Trolley will be offering light tours around Santa Barbara for Santa Barbara’s 10th Annual Trolley of Lights Tour.

Tours will occur daily from Dec. 3 through Dec. 24, but are only available through private charter tours. Tours for up to 20 passengers cost $650, for up to 26 passengers, the price goes up to $700, and the cost for up to 32 passengers is $750.

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Other events throughout Santa Barbara, including holiday performances and food and wine events can be found on the Visit Santa Barbara website.


Goleta’s Holiday Parade, presented by the Goleta Lions Club, will start at 6 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 11, returning after being canceled in 2020 due to COVID-19.

The parade route will travel east on Hollister Avenue from Orange Avenue to Kinman Avenue.

The deadline for parade entries is 5 p.m. Dec. 3 and those interested in volunteering can visit the parade’s website for more information.


The Holiday Magic Night Car Parade in Montecito will start at Manning Park, 449 San Ysidro Road, and drive down San Ysidro Road, then go west along North Jameson Lane and Coast Village Road to Hot Springs Road, up to East Valley Road, and end at Upper Village.

The festivities will begin at 5 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 4, with the decorating of Hathaway Tree in Upper Manning Park, and the parade will begin at 5:30 p.m.


The Carpinteria Holiday Spirit Parade and Rods & Roses Car Show are returning to Linden Avenue on Saturday, Dec. 4, with the car show taking place from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and the parade beginning at 4 p.m.

The car show will be held before the parade, after being postponed from July due to COVID-19 precautions.

Autumn Brands, a Santa Barbara County cannabis cultivator, will be the Carpinteria Holiday Spirit Parade Grand Marshals for 2021.

Santa Ynez Valley

A Tree Lighting Ceremony will kick off the holiday season from 5 to 6:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 3 at Solvang Park, on the corner of Mission Drive and First Street.

Live entertainment, caroling and the arrival of Santa will also be part of the tree lighting ceremony.

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Solvang’s Julefest Parade, part of the community’s month-long Danish-style Julefest celebration, will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 4.

More than 400 participants and more than 50 contingents will parade down Mission Drive, Copenhagen Drive and adjacent streets.

The Julefest parade is free to watch or participate in and parade registration information can be found on Solvang Julefest’s website.

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Other Julefest events will take place through Jan. 1, including Santa’s Village at Solvang Park every Saturday leading up to Christmas; Nisse Adventure, a citywide hunt for the Solvang Nisse using nisseadventure.com; and the Solvang Nativity Pageant on Dec. 11. More events can be found at solvangjulefest.org.

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On Sunday, Dec. 5, Buellton’s annual Winter Fest will take place with a neighborhood parade starting at Jonata Middle School, 301 Second St., and going up Second Street, around Oak Valley Elementary School, 595 Second St., and then back to the middle school.

The Winter Fest will begin with a Breakfast with Santa at the Buellton Recreation Center, 301 Second St., from 9 to 11 a.m. and the parade will begin at around noon.

From 4 to 7 p.m., a Holiday Village will take over Village Park with 20 tons of snow, live music, a Christmas tree lighting and more.


Lompoc Parks & Recreation, the Lompoc Valley Chamber of Commerce, the Lompoc Valley Festival Association and Lompoc Foursquare Church are presenting the Lompoc Valley Children’s Christmas Parade at 6 p.m. Friday, Dec. 3.

The “Home for the Holidays”-themed parade will travel south on H Street from Pine Avenue, west on Ocean Avenue, then south to I Street.

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The following morning, from 8:30 a.m. to noon Saturday, Dec. 4, Breakfast with Santa will be offered at the Dick DeWees Community & Senior Center, 1120 W. Ocean Ave.

Admission for children ages 3 through 12 is $7 and admission for those ages 13 and older is $12. Space is limited so pre-registration is required.

Santa Maria & Orcutt

The Santa Maria Parade of Lights has been canceled for 2021 due to California’s COVID-19 guidelines that recommend operators of large public events, including parades, to check all participants and spectators for proof of COVID-19 vaccination or proof of a negative COVID-19 test.

“As this is a logistical impossibility, we regret that the 2021 Parade of Lights has officially been canceled,” organizers said in a statement. “We look forward to resuming the event next year on Dec. 3, 2022. Wishing you all a very merry holiday season!”

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The Annual Old Town Orcutt Christmas Parade, presented by the Orcutt Lions Club, has also been canceled for 2021.

On Monday, Nov. 12, the Orcutt Lions Club announced the decision on its Facebook page.

“Due to uncontrollable circumstances, the parade as it has been is canceled,” the post read. “However, there are plans to have a different kind of parade this year, to be announced.”

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On Friday, Dec. 3, families can attend the Old Town Orcutt Christmas Tree Lighting and Stroll starting at 7 p.m. in front of the Orcutt Lions Den, 126 S. Broadway St.

Community members are invited to attend the Orcutt Lions Holiday Bazaar inside the Orcutt Lions Den, and complimentary hot chocolate and cookies will be provided on the back patio of the Orcutt Lions Den following the tree lighting.

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Also taking place on Friday, Dec. 3, the City of Santa Maria Recreation and Parks Department and People for Leisure and Youth (PLAY Inc.) are holding a Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony at the City Hall Courtyard, 110 E. Cook St.

The event will begin at 5 p.m. with refreshments, crafts, and caroling by the Coastal Voices Choir, as well as photos with Santa. The lighting of the 24-foot Christmas tree will take place at 5:30 p.m.

Community members are also invited to bring canned food items for the Salvation Army. Those who donate will be entered into a raffle to win a Christmas tree.

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The “Christmas in the Country” drive-through event hosted by the Santa Maria Elks is returning this year on select dates through Dec. 26 at the Santa Maria Elks Unocal Event Center, 4040 S. Highway 101.

Regular tickets are $55 per vehicle and VIP Christmas Experience tickets are $70 per person, and can be purchased online on the Santa Maria Elks Recreation website.

Noozhawk staff writer Serena Guentz can be reached at sguentz@noozhawk.com. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.