Best Things To Do on the Monterey Peninsula this December

Best Things To Do on the Monterey Peninsula this December

Sometimes an event is actually dozens — even scores — of events in one. 

So it goes with one of the most popular family-focused “events” of the year around Monterey Bay, First Night Monterey. 

First Night welcomes in the New Year with hours and hours of parade action, live music across numerous venues, interactive art and plenty more, across a number of weather-protected spots throughout downtown Monterey.

It also works as a fitting analogy for December in the area: There’s a surprising amount packed into a short window that’s typically thought of the start of off-season for visitors.

Pacifc Grove Parade of Lights-Do-MP-December-credit @PGChamber-800x450
Photo courtesy of @PGChamber

Holiday Parade of Lights

Date TBD

America’s Last Hometown hosts a procession worthy of its brand down Lighthouse Avenue. Working with the theme “A Magical Holiday,” the parade includes holiday floats, dance teams, equestrian groups, and ol’ Santa Claus himself.

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Santa Cruz Holiday Lights-Do-MP-December-credit @sccfairgroundsfoundation-800x450
Photo courtesy of @sccfairgroundsfoundation

Holiday Lights 2022

Dec 1–25 (Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays)

The Santa Cruz County Fairgrounds Foundation and the Agricultural History Project make sure it’s a lit scene all month. The walk-through light show and holiday market illuminate towering Christmas trees, Santas, reindeer, snowmen and a lighted tunnel, all along stroller-, ADA- and puppy-friendly pathways.

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Carmel Holiday Tree Lighting-Do-MP-December-credit @visitcarmel-800x450
Photo courtesy of @visitcarmel

Carmel Holiday Tree Lighting

Date TBD

The giant menorah glows. The tall tree at the city’s central crossroads of Junipero Street and Ocean Avenue lights up. Student choirs sing with assists from special guests. Local dignitaries mingle. And, after a countdown, as the mayor flips the switch to brighten it all up, Devendorf Park, the heart of Carmel-by-the-Sea, takes on maximum festive feeling. Carmel Plaza’s Holiday Open House, flush with refreshments and entertainment, follows.

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Christmas on the Wharf-Do-MP-December-800x450
Photo courtesy of Roaring Camp.

Christmas on the Wharf

Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays through mid-Dec

The iconic wharf has a holiday vibe on any given evening, but it gains a little something come the holidays with extensive decorations, live entertainment — including holiday musical performances such as choirs, youth dancers, a variety of singers — and Santa visits (at his Santa House on the Wharf). Plus there’s the dramatic 23-foot Christmas tree circled by illuminated sea creatures for Caroling on the Wharf on Sunday, Dec. 4. The Dance Center’s Musical Performance Troupe, Carmel Presbyterian Church Choir, Watsonville Community Band Ensemble, Peninsula Harmony Company, Monterey Peninsula Gospel Community Choir and more all participate at varying moments.

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Pacific Grove Snow in the Park-Do-MP-December-Credit Showkat Chowdhury-800x450
Photo courtesy of Showkat Chowdhury.

Stillwell Fun in the Park

Date TBD

Hello Santa, Frosty the Snowman and Snow Queen. They roll in on a Pacific Grove fire truck and soon enough kids and parents are basking in the glow of carnival rides, bounce houses, petting zoo and live entertainment.

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Jingle Bell Fun Run-Do-MP-December-CREDIT Miguel Amutio-800x450
Photo courtesy of Miguel Amutio.

Jingle Bell Rock Fun Run and 5K

Date TBD

Organizers invite runners to “get some exercise before you go holiday shopping!” but there’s a lot more going on than that, including calorie burning pre-holiday ham. The intrigue includes a scenic route along West Cliff Drive, concluding at the Surfer Museum Park Area at Lighthouse Point, and award categories for the best dressed runner, best dressed team, best holiday ugly sweater, best decorated stroller, and the best dressed canine running companion.

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holiday train
Photo courtesy of @smuinballet

Santa Cruz Holiday Lights Train

Select weekends in December

As a favorite seasonal tradition, the Santa Cruz Holiday Lights Train consists of vintage cars adorned with thousands of colorful lights. The train makes its hour-long excursion through the city streets and past homes in Santa Cruz, beginning and ending at Neptune’s Kingdom on the beach boardwalk. There’s also refreshments and a visit from Santa. 

More info:

Smuin Christmas Ballet-Do-MP-December-credit @smuinballet-800x450
Photo courtesy of @smuinballet

The Christmas Ballet at Sunset Center

Dates TBD

Sunset Center calls Smuin Ballet’s world-class Christmas performance “fiercely festive.” Viewers can anticipate classical ballet set to carols and contemporary movements danced to pop music favorites. Choreography comes courtesy of Michael Smuin and up-and-coming dance architects.

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Christmas in the Adobes-Do-MP-December-800x450
Photo courtesy of Mag One Media.

Christmas in the Adobes

Dates TBD

Monterey State Historic Park Association conjures candle-lit luminarias, dramatic storytelling, spirited music and a variety of entertainment acts. The soul of the endeavor is historic Monterey and the foundational buildings — made, yes, of adobe bricks — that help define it, more than a dozen all told, accessed as part of the DIY walking tour that includes scores of docents in period costume dropping fun nuggets of local lore.

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Tree of Life-Do-MP-December-CREDIT Rithika Gopalakrishnan-800x450
Photo courtesy of Rithika Gopalakrishnan.

Tree of Life Gathering

Date TBD

Hospice Giving Foundation’s Tree of Life assembles its 38th addition with a combination of performers to honor and remember a loved one. The headliners taking to the mic at the iconic (and recently made-over) Monterey Conference Center include Carmel High School Choir and Andrea’s Fault Quintet.

More at:

First Night Monterey-Do-MP-December-credit @FirstNightMonterey-800x450
Photo courtesy of @FirstNightMonterey

First Night Monterey

Date TBD

The 30th installment of FNM aims to be its best yet, per organizers, and it’s certainly among the most ambitious. The qualities not mentioned in the intro above: it’s affordable, it’s alcohol-free (with bars and restaurants ready if the adults seek a pit stop), it benefits local arts programs, and it proves almost overwhelming in its scope of stimuli, running 3pm until the ball drops, heralding 2023.

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Event Venues

Looking to see what’s happening right now on the Monterey Peninsula? Our comprehensive list of venues across the city below will help you find what you need to know what’s going on.

Looking for more things to do in the area?

Visit our What to Do in Northern California page!

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