Festive activities offer residents opportunities to celebrate while supporting local businesses and organizations struggling because of the coronavirus
Editor’s note: Some events may be affected by the stay-at-home order that started on Monday.
The holiday season, normally filled with festive parades, family gatherings and celebrations of cheer, will no doubt be disrupted this year by the coronavirus pandemic.
However, businesses and organizations across Santa Barbara County have stepped up to create events and activities that follow COVID-19 guidelines and offer holiday cheer.
“More than ever, it’s critical that locals show support for our friends, loved ones, and neighbors who are employed by our area businesses and attractions,” said Kathy Janega-Dykes, president and CEO of Visit Santa Barbara. “Shopping local, dining out and partaking in social distant experiences with your households — masks, snugly on — all contribute to sustaining jobs, as well as sustaining our spirits as a community.”
Paseo Nuevo in Santa Barbara is continuing its annual “Let it Snow” snowfall through Dec. 31. The outdoor shopping center simulates snowfalls every half-hour daily, from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., and will offer Photos with Santa in front of Paseo Nuevo’s grand Christmas tree. Santa will be out to greet and take selfies with guests on Dec. 19 and Dec. 20 from noon to 6 p.m., with no appointments required, according to the shopping center.
Visitors can drop off a handwritten letter to Santa’s mailbox near center court through Dec. 24, and they might even get a response, event organizers said.
From home, families can livestream Storytime with Santa via Youtube, courtesy of Paseo Nuevo, at 11 a.m. every Thursday through Dec. 24.
This year, the ninth annual Trolley of Lights Tour and the Santa Barbara Trolley Co.’s Trolley of Lights are offering private charters in December to view holiday lights around town.
Santa Barbara’s Waterfront Department will hold a “Paradeless” Parade of Lights vessel holiday decorating contest this year. Members of the public will get to judge the entries and pick winners, according to the city. Waterfront staff members will take photos of all the boats that enter the contest and post them on social media, along with a judging poll, according to the city. Winners will be announced Dec. 21. Visit the city website here for more information.
Unity Shoppe’s 34th annual Holiday Telethon event was pre-taped and will air on KEYT NewsChannel 3 on Dec. 12 from 4:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. The telethon will also be broadcast on the organization’s website at unityshoppe.org.
The Jewish Federation of Greater Santa Barbara has a virtual Community Chanukah Celebration scheduled for 5 p.m. Dec. 17.
Pacific Conservatory Theater in Santa Maria will host a virtual production of “Home for the Holidays — A Virtual Cabaret” at 6 p.m. Dec. 12. The event will be free to attend via Zoom, but viewers must sign up in advance.
The Santa Maria Elks brought the festive Christmas in the Country drive-thru holiday lights experience to the rodeo grounds, which is open through Jan. 3.
The Santa Maria Fairpark Festival of Lights is open this weekend through Sunday.
Meanwhile, the City of Santa Maria has a decorating contest for homes with great lights and other holiday cheer. Nominations are being accepted through Tuesday, and winners will be judged Thursday and announced so community members can see the spectacularly-decorated homes themselves.
Local Shops and Markets
The holiday season is characterized by gift-giving and showing care to loved ones. Santa Barbara residents can help keep local businesses afloat despite the coronavirus-caused economic upheaval by shopping at one of many local shops and markets.
Paseo Nuevo’s Outdoor Christmas Market features a variety of local specialty booths for guests to shop for goods from Santa Barbara-based artisans and makers safely within the mall’s open spaces. The outdoor market occurs weekly on Tuesdays and Thursdays through Sundays until Dec. 24.
The first-ever State Street Promenade Market is open every Thursday through Dec. 17 from 3 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Each week, the 1000 block of State Street between Carrillo and Figueroa streets is transformed into a marketplace for shoppers to meet and shop downtown purveyors. Along with the holiday lights that line State Street annually, temporary art and light installations are set up, as well as sample eats and drinks.
“Our goal is to encourage people to shop local and small this holiday season, all while staying safe and socially distancing,” event organizers said.
The Yes Store, Santa Barbara’s original artists’ pop-up gift gallery, is being held virtually this year. The gallery that has become a Santa Barbara tradition since its opening in 1968 continues to highlight the area’s finest artisans, including woodworking, ceramics, fine jewelry, glasswork, fabric, leather and more. Residents can shop for one-of-a-kind gifts at The Yes Store’s online portal through Dec. 24.
The Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History, at 2559 Puesta del Sol, is hosting a series of pop-up shops in its courtyard featuring vendors selling goods from all over the world. Each week features a different vendor from the annual “Folk and Tribal Arts Marketplace” fundraiser, and 25% of sales benefit museum programs and exhibits, event organizers said. The pop-up shops are open from 10 a.m. through 5 p.m. Fridays through Sundays until Dec. 20.
The Santa Maria Valley Chamber has a Shop Local gift guide for the holiday season.
Santa Barbara Christmas tree lots opened Thanksgiving weekend.