By Lizbeth Scordo
With plenty of palm trees, miles of coastline, and near-perfect weather all year long, Santa Monica’s snowflake-free location may not exactly be synonymous with a winter wonderland. But make no mistake: that doesn’t stop the beachside community from celebrating the season in style.
From tree lightings to ice-skating pop-ups, there’s an endless array of fun, festive events to enjoy during a winter getaway to the Fairmont Miramar. And the best part? Unlike much of the country this time of year, none of them require a parka.
Holiday Cheer at the Pier
Wednesday, November 27th – Monday, January 6th
While the historic Santa Monica Pier is worth a visit any time of year, the 100-year-old landmark comes alive with even more cheer than usual in December. For more than a month, the pier’s famous merry-go-round windows become home to a wild and wow-worthy installation by renowned Australian artists Pip & Pop. The duo uses handcrafted sugary, sparkly objects to create a Candyland-inspired world of far-out fantasy. And there are lots of other pier-hosted activities to keep revelers busy until the new year, including a Snow Day featuring 4,000 square feet of real snow ready for snowball fights and snowmen building (November 30th), photos with Surfer Santa (December 8th), and an artisan gift market (December 14th and 15th). You can mix and match your must-dos by checking the schedule here.
Official City of Santa Monica Tree Lighting Ceremony
Thursday, December 5th, 6pm – 9pm
The annual holiday tree lighting on the bustling Third Street Promenade promises live music, crafts for kids, and maybe even some snow headed this way. Santa Claus will also be on hand for photos — or simply to confirm whether he’s received the letter you mailed to the North Pole yet.
Miracle on Main Street
Saturday, December 7th, 4pm – 9pm
Taking place along the neighborhood-y Main Street, which is lined with independent restaurants and retailers, this city spectacle is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year. The action kicks off with photos with Santa and a performance by the Santa Monica High School choir at the California Heritage Museum, in addition to a countdown before the lighting of the holiday tree on the museum’s lawn. Then, it’s time for a candlelit walk to mixed-use complex Edgemar for more live entertainment and activities, including the unveiling of the one-of-a-kind, 40-foot-tall Shopping Cart Tree, made of 84 carts, 1,500 lights, and 4,000 tons of zip ties.
Montana Avenue Holiday Walk
Saturday, December 7th, 4pm – 8pm
If you’re up for a second soiree on the 7th, head for a stroll down swanky shopping street Montana Avenue for gift shopping, live music, giveaways, food and drinks, and, of course, Mr. Claus himself. In years past, surprises have included magic acts, Disney princess appearances (including Elsa of Frozen fame), and even a green Grinch sighting. You never know who’ll show up this year, so keep your eyes peeled and your hot-cider cup filled.
Meet Me Under the Fig Tree
Sunday, December 8th, 2pm – 5pm
One of Santa Monica’s most beloved holiday happenings takes place at the Fairmont Miramar as the community gathers under the grand and gorgeous Moreton Bay fig tree out front. Guests and locals merrily mingle over food, drinks, and live entertainment, along with activities including cookie decorating, a bouncy house, and a gingerbread house display. While the event is free, guests are encouraged to bring non-perishable food to contribute to the Westside Food Bank’s food drive or gently worn business clothing to benefit Chrysalis, a non-profit that helps homeless and low-income individuals find and retain employment.
Ice at Santa Monica
Now through January 20th
Glide right into the holidays on the annual 8,000-square-foot outdoor ice-skating rink, which returns this year at the corner of Arizona Avenue and Fifth Street in Downtown Santa Monica. The venue offers skate and locker rentals, lessons with the Randy Gardner School of Skating, and even party cabanas for camping out with your axel-aspiring crew. The Plaza at Santa Monica has also added entertainment this year with Ice Breakers, a family-friendly live music series featuring different bands and musical acts every Sunday afternoon. And if you need to refuel after a few laps, Promenade food hall The Gallery is running a pop-up concession stand at the rink with retro snack-bar offerings and that quintessential post-skating staple: hot chocolate.
Downtown Santa Monica Menorah Lightings
December 22nd – 29th
Area synagogues, community groups, schools, and organizations mark the Festival of Lights during the Hanukkah season with daily lightings of this large and lovely menorah. The event occurs each night at sundown on the Third Street Promenade, between Santa Monica Boulevard and Arizona Avenue.