Make San Luis Obispo your winter wonderland this holiday season and enjoy Central Coast classics in addition to SLO's holiday charm! With endless things to do in San Luis Obispo, your friends and family will make lifelong memories whether creating sand angels at Avila Beach or watching the Nutcracker together. Plan your winter getaway in time to catch the Christmas parades, decorated Victorian houses, unique holiday gift shopping events, Santa visits in Mission Plaza and more! Visit our accommodations pages to book your stay today.
Things to Do in San Luis Obispo This Holiday Season
- Avila Valley Barn: Indulge in hot apple cider, caramel apples and holiday gift shopping at Avila Valley Barn. Continue your adventure out to Avila Beach to make Central Coast style "snow” angels and men in the sand.
- San Luis Obispo Downtown Trolley: Ready for a blast from the past? Catch a ride on the Old San Luis Obispo Downtown Trolley, which travels between Downtown and surrounding hotel areas. Costing a mere 50 cents, this classic cable-car-style trolley is a fun way to travel with your family whether heading to Santa's House or for a delicious dinner at a local restaurant. Visit our trolley page for schedules and routes.
- Shopping: Shop at boutiques and art galleries throughout Downtown San Luis Obispo to scout out the perfect gifts for your family and friends. Explore our San Luis Obispo Holiday gift list, featuring one-of-a-kind presents unique to SLO, featured on the #ShareSLO blog.
- One-of-a-Kind Movie Night: Cozy up for a unique movie night at the historic, Art Deco Fremont Theatre or roll into the Sunset Drive-In for an outdoor movie experience. Catch a glimpse of San Luis Obispo’s unique movie experiences, featured on the #ShareSLO blog.
- Monarchs Galore: Visit November through February to witness the mesmerizing scene of 25,000 butterflies—one of the largest Monarch colonies in the nation— among the Eucalyptus groves of Pismo Beach.
- Farmers’ Market: Stock up on locally-grown, seasonal produce while enjoying delicious eats from local vendors, free live music and unique handcrafted goods. No matter what day you are visiting, choose from multiple farmers’ markets happening every day around San Luis Obispo.
- Art Bar: Take a class from experienced artist and craft a handmade gift at Art Bar in Downtown San Luis Obispo. By the end of the night, you’ll have tapped into your creative side, enjoyed craft cocktails and even better company. Hear about Katie’s Art Bar experience, recently featured on the #ShareSLO blog.
- Horseback Riding: Grab your sweater and riding boots! Book your horseback riding adventure with Madonna Inn Trail Rides, welcome to all riders over the age of 7. You’ll get the added treat of experiencing San Luis Obispo’s panoramic views from horseback, too.
- San Luis Obispo Restaurants: What better way to celebrate this holiday season than with food? San Luis Obispo offers the best seasonal cuisine for family night to date night, and everything in between. Check out our top 10 “must-have” eats in San Luis Obispo and begin planning your foodie adventure through SLO.
- Roast S’mores: Take advantage of the Central Coast’s off-highway vehicle recreation area and set up a campfire right on the beach in Oceano Dunes! Bundle up and enjoy a mouthwatering s’mores as you watch a dramatic, winter sunset over the Pacific Ocean.
San Luis Obispo Holiday Events
- Santa's House: Kick off the Christmas season at Santa's House Opening Day, taking place in San Luis Obispo's Mission Plaza on Friday, November 25th from 10:00 a.m. - 7:00 p.m. Plan a day full of family fun with a visit to Santa Claus – make sure to snap a photo together to capture the memory! Santa's House will remain open for the entire holiday season from November 25th to December 24th. Each child that visits Santa Claus will receive a free take away including a candy cane, toy and coloring book. Additionally, Santa's House visitors can take a photo with their own device for $5, receive a souvenir framed photo for $7.50, or get both for $11.
- Classic Carousel: Enjoy a spin on San Luis Obispo's Classic Carousel, located right next to Santa's House in Mission Plaza. The carousel will be open from November 29th to December 27th, however hours of operation vary by day. A single ride cost $3 or indulge in 5 whirls for just $10.
- Holiday Parade: Mark your calendars for December 2nd! San Luis Obispo Downtown Association’s 41st Annual Holiday Parade will be on full display in Downtown from 7:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. Bundle up with some hot cocoa and watch as floats, marching bands, vehicles and dancers fill the streets with cheer.
- Lighted Boat Parade: Head north on Highway 1 to Morro Bay for the Annual Lighted Boat Parade, lighting up the harbor on December 10th for a whimsical holiday experience. Enjoy food and live music along the pier as boats of all sizes parade through the bay, showing off their extravagant holiday décor. Come at 4:30 p.m. for pre-parade events and 6:30 p.m. to catch the start of the parade.
- The Nutcracker: The Civic Ballet of San Luis Obispo will be performing the Nutcracker at Christopher Cohan Center, December 9th through December 11th. Snag your tickets quickly to experience this classic, holiday production with your family.
- Supper with Santa: Enjoy a holiday meal full of seasonal favorites and a visit from Santa himself at Apple Farm Restaurant on December 3rd. Following the dinner buffet served at 5:00 p.m., families can create holiday crafts, decorate cupcakes and take photos with Santa. Call today to make your reservation for a fun night with the family.
- Railroad Museum: You won’t want to miss seeing Mr. and Mrs. Claus ride up to the San Luis Obispo Railroad Museum on the Amtrak Surfliner on December 3rd. The museum will be fully decorated for the holidays and the Clauses will arrive at 1:00 p.m. to visit with all of the children.
- Pismo Pier Holiday Harmony and Tree Lighting: Join in the holiday cheer on the Pismo Beach Pier, happening December 2nd from 5:30 p.m. – 8:00 p.m. Be in awe as the Christmas tree lights up over the Pacific Ocean. This free, family-fun event features fresh snow, music, crafts and cookie decorating.
- Cambria’s Christmas Market: Head north 30 miles and get a taste of Germany at the 5th Annual Cambria Christmas Market, serving visitors traditional German foods from brats to fresh-baked treats. Warm up with traditional, German hot spiced wine as you wander through streets filled with light displays, live music and good company. The market will be open from November 25th – December 23rd (excluding November 28-29 and December 5-6) from 5:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.
- Winter Wonderland: Atascadero turns the Central Coast into a Winter Wonderland on December 9th from 5:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. with massive snow hills, perfect for sledding and snowman crafting. Come join in the fan-favorite holiday event complete with a visit from Mr. and Mrs. Claus, family-fun activities and over 50 food and drink vendors.
- Holiday Magic at the Zoo: Be a part of the holiday magic this season as zookeepers at the Charles Paddock Zoo turn into Santa’s helpers on December 17th from 11:00 am – 2:00 p.m., delivering holiday gifts to all the animals.