Fun Holiday Events on the Central Coast

Ready for a festive Highway 1 road trip? This winter, the Central Coast is aglow with fun holiday events. Enjoy tree lightings, holiday parades, Christmas markets and community parades all wrapped up with a bow. Ever take a cold ocean plunge on New Year’s Day or wander through thousands of twinkling lights? Now’s your chance to shake up the season! Take it from those in the know: Highway 1 is an enchanted winter wonderland like no other. Who needs snow when you can have sea, sun and festive family fun?

Cambria Christmas Market November 24 - December 23

Head to our magic market! The Cambria Christmas Market offers up a joyous, twinkling dreamscape to captivate the entire family. One of the most impressive holiday spectacles hosted along Highway 1, this annual event brings together unique vendors and entertainment illuminated by thousands of holiday lights. This isn’t your average holiday farmer’s market, no: You’ll witness nearly 2 million bulbs, representing thousands of hours of behind-the-scenes preparation! 

Looking for memory-making moments? The iconic Cambria Market Light Tunnel provides a show-stopping backdrop for epic selfies. Enjoy a steaming cup of hot cider, fresh gingerbread or meaty morsels while soaking up live tunes. You’ll want to cross everyone off your gift-giving list, too. Shop locally-made pies, works of art, leather goods, home decor, soaps, teas, candles and so much more. Little ones can spend one-on-one time with Santa while grown-ups sip mulled wine and seasonal brews at the onsite biergarten. What can we say? When you visit the Cambria Christmas Market, everyone’s holiday wish seems to come true.

Hearst Castle Holiday Events | November 15 - December 30

You’re invited to the castle: Hearst Castle is truly enchanting any time of year—but during the holidays? Let me tell you that this world famous landmark pulls out all the stops! Step back in time and take in magnificent architecture wrapped in dazzling holiday charm. Late great publishing mogul William Randolph Hearst loved to deck out his lavish palace with over-the-top decorations during his heyday of the 1920s and 30s. Today, the castle reflects that classic festive spirit, and then some: nearly every bit of Hearst Castle’s 68,500 square feet gets a dose of holiday sparkle.

Want to experience this marvel for yourself? Book a tour today. From the end of November through the end of December, embark on a magical, accessible 75-minute tour that includes the grand rooms of the Casa Grande, the gardens, kitchen, theater and the Neptune and Roman swimming pools (transportation to and from the Visitor Center is included; reservations are strongly recommended). From Hearst’s massive holiday wreaths that greet guests at the door to his flock of impressive tinsel-trimmed trees throughout, this coastal wonder suggests that—at least when it comes to holiday spirit—we could all stand to go a little bigger.

Hearst-Castle- Xmas

Christmas in Cayucos

Cayucos Christmas tree lighting

Join in the tradition: Christmas in Cayucos combines jolly small town charm with a laid back coastal feel. From strolling Cayucos’ historic pier to taking in community-treasured events, you’ll experience a warm and welcoming vibe (not to mention delicious treats from Brown Butter Cookie Co.). There’s no better way to slip into that cozy holiday spirit!

Cayucos Christmas Tree Lighting | Sunday, December 3 | 5-7 p.m.

Where: Corner of Ocean Avenue & D Street (downtown Cayucos)

This time-honored event begins with the arrival of Santa and Mrs. Claus accompanied by fire engines chugging down the main drag downtown. Kiddos will be glad to know that Santa’s house is open for visiting until 7 p.m. In addition to the community tree lighting, the Cayucos Pier sparks to life with a festive glow. Safe to say, you’ll savor the coastal sunset in a whole new way.

Cayucos Holiday Open House | Saturday, December 9 | 5-8 p.m.

Where: Ocean Avenue businesses

Gift locally! Ring in the holidays during this special night of shopping in lovely Cayucos. Stroll the downtown shops while admiring shimmering lights and cheerful decorations. The evening is your oyster: Visit Santa and Mrs. Claus, enjoy a free carriage and wagon ride, partake in a kid’s craft workshop and be sure to stop by the refreshment booth for goodies courtesy of the local Lioness Club. Yes, it’s all about family fun done the down-home Cayucos way. Charming, indeed!

Christmas Parades & Tree Lightings

Here comes the fun! With handmade floats, enticing food vendors and lots of good cheer to go around, there’s nothing like holiday parades and tree lightings on Highway 1. From twinkling boats along the water in Morro Bay harbor to furry friends decked out in their winter finery in Avila Beach, these time-honored events put a whole new spin on “local color.” Whether you’re a first-time visitor or a longtime local, you’ll feel like part of one big coastal family. Don’t miss a moment of the action!

The Great American Melodrama Holiday Extravaganza | November 17 - December 31

Belly laughs guaranteed: The Great American Melodrama invites all ages to experience the magic of live theater this holiday season. You’ll chuckle, gasp and perhaps even partake in the onstage action! New to this Highway 1 hidden gem? You’re in for a treat. The Oceano-based playhouse produces family-friendly musicals, comedies, and classic melodramas in a lively cabaret setting—and the holidays are a special time, for sure. Grab tickets for the theater’s current Holiday Extravaganza, starring everyone’s favorite curmudgeon, Ebenezer Scrooge. Visited by the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future, will our angry antihero find it in his heart to change for the better this year? This heartwarming story of redemption is followed by a Christmas Carol and festive holiday vaudeville review sure to get you kicking up your heels (and singing) all the way home.

Shop Local to Support Artisans

Stock up on even more great gifts: Get that warm and fuzzy feeling when you shop local to support a range of talented Central Coast artisans. Receive major help with your shopping list and wow your friends and family at the same time with a diverse array of goods sold along Highway 1. A bountiful wine region, the Central Coast is also home to avocado and lavender farms, creameries, craft breweries and distilleries. Honey, lavender goods, artwork, fine soaps, jewelry, candles, framed artwork and more await this holiday season! So, what are you waiting for? 

Unique Light Exhibits

Light up the night: What makes the holidays extra magical? Ask young and old and they’ll tell you, it’s all about unique light exhibits that make you say “wow.” All along Highway 1, you’ll find myriad ways to marvel at our multi-colored splendor. From glowing hillsides illuminated by iridescent magic to fauna and flora done up with a touch of ethereal sparkle, you’ll catch an eyeful of the season’s brightest unexpected landscapes.

New Year’s Day Polar Bear Dips

New Year’s Day plans? Try an energizing polar bear dip along Highway 1! Free and open to the public, these beloved community splash-ins allow us to wash away the previous year and make way for the new one ahead. Join in as hundreds of locals and visitors take a cold morning plunge they’ll never forget! Could there be a more invigorating way to ring in 2024? We think not.

Hooray—you’ve experienced why Highway 1 is such a magical place during the holidays! This is your call to shake the snow globe and enjoy our diverse winter festivities perfect for all ages. While these colorful events are a precious gift we’re proud to offer year after year, Highway 1 is full of unexpected surprises, too! Check out our Winter Wildlife and Season of Coastal Discovery itineraries, rife with incredible opportunities to view native wildlife and outdoor attractions along the coast. View playful sea otters in Morro Bay, peer into otherworldly tide pools in Los Osos or watch for whales and seabirds along the shore in San Simeon. Wherever you roam along Highway 1 this winter, you’ll be sure to meet a few new creatures. Happy adventuring.