Best Things to Do in the South Bay This December

With the holiday season in full swing, December is full of exciting and festive events — from Christmas in the Park and a Santa-bedecked fun run to a fantastical light exhibit and holiday sing-along concert. 

Featured Photo: Courtesy of Christmas in the Park
christmas in the park sign
Photo: Courtesy of Christmas in the Park

Christmas in the Park

Now through January 1

Each year the Plaza de Cesar Chavez in downtown San Jose is transformed into a holiday fantasyland with over 40 musical and animated exhibits, glittering lights and a 50-foot Community Giving Tree. Guests can enjoy a winter wonderland of lights, songs and local entertainment while strolling through an enchanted forest of trees decorated by San José schools, community groups and businesses.

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Young girl at window (in partial silhouette) hands pressed against window, pensive or wanting out?
Photo: Courtesy of CuriOdyssey


Now through January 28

Inspired by the science of light, this annual exhibit at CuriOdyssey in San Mateo is a glowing forest of science — a maze of luminous botanical geometry, rainbow refractions and swirling projections. Explore the physical properties of light, such as photoluminescence, color, additive light mixing, waves, fluorescence, fluid dynamics, subtractive color mixing, and refraction.

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Christmas Tree Lighting Sunnyvale California
Photo: Courtesy of Mercury News

24th Annual Sunnyvale Tree Lighting

December 2

Stop by Downtown Sunnyvale to hear Christmas carols and see ornaments twinkling at its yearly tree lighting! This event wraps up a day of activities, like breakfast with Santa, a holiday artisan market and a winter wonderland complete with face painting, story telling and crafts of all sorts. 

south bay_dec23_christmas at the california
Photo: Courtesy of Symphony San Jose

Christmas at the California

December 9–10

Symphony San Jose is teaming up with the Symphony San Jose Chorale, the Cantabile Youth Singers, New Ballet and others to journey through a selection of favorite carols and holiday music. The concert will include Sleigh Ride, selections from The Nutcracker, John Williams’ Home Alone Suite, The Twelve Days of Silicon Valley, and the always-popular audience sing-a-long. Those with young ones can arrive early for the chance to meet Santa Claus and decorate their own gingerbread cookie. 

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San Jose Christmas Ballet Nutcracker

The San Jose Nutcracker

December 16–23

In its 58th year of performance, The Nutcracker at California Theater is a holiday tradition for the South Bay. But this isn’t your average Nutcracker. Set in San Jose in 1905, The San Jose Nutcracker incorporates local history and landmarks to put a unique spin on a familiar story. Parents with toddlers and young children can also enjoy, as the New Ballet Company includes a special, shortened version of the show called “My Very First Nutcracker” on December 17. 

More info:

santa run
Photo: Courtesy of Santa Run Silicon Valley

2023 Santa Run Silicon Valley

December 17

Get your run on at the 2023 Silicon Valley Santa Run in downtown San Jose. Not only are runners encouraged to dress in their favorite holiday character or tradition such as Santa, Mrs. Claus, the Grinch, reindeer, elves, dreidels, menorahs, ornaments or more, there’s post-race milk and cookies at Christmas in the Park and a short fun run just for the kids. All event proceeds go to local charities supporting a safe, clean, and vibrant San Jose.

More info:

Looking for more things to do in the area?

Visit our What to Do in Northern California page!

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