Downtown San Luis Obispo has been the region’s destination for making holiday memories for more than 40 years. This year, treasured family traditions return, including Santa’s House, the annual Holiday Parade, a dazzling Holiday Plaza full of lights, and more!
Stores and businesses in San Luis Obispo invite you to spend and support locally this holiday season as shopping small can create a big difference. For every dollar spent at a small business in the U.S., approximately 67 cents stay in the local community.
Be sure to check out our holiday happenings guide below to explore the numerous ways you can #SupportSLO and enjoy the holiday season!
San Luis Obispo is ready to light it up once again for the 2021 holiday season! From the Holiday Plaza and Santa’s House to musical performances, a Menorah lighting and so much more, we’re ready to bring the fun back for this holiday season. The magic will come to life in the downtown area of San Luis Obispo on Friday, November 26 and will run through the end of the holiday season.
Explore all the happenings in SLO below and be sure to share the holiday excitement by using #ShareSLO in your photos and tag @ShareSLO on social media. You’ll spread joy and your photo could potentially be featured!
November 26, 2021 – January 2, 2022
Visit the Holiday Plaza at Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa to see Santa’s House, ride the Classic Carousel, and explore interactive light exhibits that dazzle during the day and glow at night. These charming decorations, along with the 20-foot lighted Holiday Tree, will offer festive backdrops for family photos and a place to create cherished holiday memories!
45th Annual Holiday Parade
Friday, December 3, 2021, 7:00 PM
This year, the annual Holiday Parade theme is California Dreamin’ and the parade will be led by a group of First Responders. The event is one of the largest parades on the Central Coast, attracting thousands of spectators. The Parade will feature over 80 decorative floats, vehicles, marching bands, dancers, announcer stations and more!
November 26, 2021 – January 2, 2022
Santa’s House will fly in from the North Pole to its usual spot in Mission Plaza for photo opportunities with Santa. This holiday favorite is a little, red cottage where the big guy himself resides and will be making personal appearances outside on his festive front lawn this season. Weather permitting, Santa’s House is open Thurs-Sun 12-7pm, bring the young folks (or just the young at heart), snap some pics at Santa’s House day or night, and drop off your wish-list!
November 28, 2021 – December 6, 2021
The SLO Jewish community and JCC-Federation are honored to continue its annual tradition of lighting the public menorah outside Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa each night of Hanukkah at 5:00 PM. First night of Hanukkah festivities at the Holiday Plaza will include making candy menorahs, Hanukkah sweets and treats, dreidel spinning contests, prayers, songs, and fun.
Decorated Window Showcase
The businesses of downtown will celebrate the holidays with inspired window displays and lighted windows. Scan the QR code on your favorite shop window and vote for your favorite in the People’s Choice!
Santa Mouse Scavenger Hunt
Grab an activity book at Santa’s House in the Holiday Plaza and follow clues around Downtown in search of prizes! This scavenger hunt features a charming story with eight clues for kids and families to find together. The Search for Santa Mouse Scavenger Hunt is brought to you in partnership with the San Luis Obispo Children’s Museum.
Learn About Multicultural Holidays
While downtown, be sure to look up and learn about holidays on the colorful banners hung on the street lights. Brought to you by the City of San Luis Obispo Promotional Coordinating Committee.
Shop Small All Season
Saturday, November 27, 2021
If 2020 was the holiday season where tradition took a break, 2021 is shaping up to be one where we break our dependence on outsourced goods and turn our attention to local products. Luckily, SLO is right place to do just that! Visit your favorite small business on Shop Small Saturday and find unique shopping opportunities in Downtown SLO.
Holiday Kaleidoscope Concert
A Central Coast tradition, the fifth annual Holiday Kaleidoscope concert is set for Saturday, Dec. 4, 7:30 p.m. at the Performing Arts Center. Featuring four Cal Poly choral ensembles and special guests from the community, the concert will showcase traditional holiday favorites, new works, sing-alongs and a full holiday orchestra.
Annual Reindeer Run
Let’s face it. Many holiday events are all about kicking back with some good food, local wine and festive entertainment. The Reindeer Run, on the other hand, is all about getting outside and moving your body on a brisk Central Coast morning in December. The 5K fun run begins at 9 a.m. on Dec. 11 at Mitchell Park. It snakes along the Railroad Trail, returning to its starting point via Broad St and Santa Barbara St. Registration costs $25 per runner ($30 at the door), and you can sign up to run right here.
Sip & Graze Events
The Apple Farm Inn will host not one, but two, amazing Sip & Graze events this year to celebrate the opening of its new Marketplace & Cellar. The first event is set for Friday, Dec. 3 at 5:30 p.m., with another following on Friday, Dec. 17. Whichever event you pick, you’ll enjoy local spirits paired with locally grown bites across six different holiday vignettes. Tickets cost $80 per person ($100 at the door) and are on sale now on the Apple Farm website.
Madonna Inn Holiday Decorations
Holiday decorations at the Madonna Inn possess a life of their own. Each holiday, the Madonna Inn places a lit Christmas tree at the top of Cerro San Luis “Madonna” Mountain and transforms their facilities into a whimsical expression of the season. Although each year’s decor is unique, this level of dedication to decoration is nothing new.
If you are interested in volunteering this holiday season, visit DowntownSLO.com/Volunteer.
For holiday updates and more information visit SLOHolidays.com.
For just a moment, forget about the supply chain issues impacting the world. The fact is, it has always been important to select local goods. Why? Because the bulk of every dollar spent on locally-produced items stays right here in the community, helping support local artisans, businesses, restaurateurs and craftspeople. With that in mind, here’s a look at some ways to support local this holiday season in SLO.
Buy Local Bonus is Back!
Back by popular demand, shoppers who spend $100 or more at small, local businesses (dated on or after Nov. 15), are eligible to receive a $25 gift card to another local business! This partnership between the City of SLO and SLO Chamber rewards shopping local, while also putting money directly into the hands of our local business owners. Learn more about shopping local and how to participate by visiting our Buy Local Bonus page.
As a reminder, certain mandates remain in place throughout San Luis Obispo County for the time being. Masks are required for all indoor venues. Keep up to date on local regulations by visiting our Covid-19 travel information.
The City of San Luis Obispo is offering the gift of FREE parking in all downtown SLO parking garages on Sundays and holidays from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day. Parking garages located in the downtown area are easily accessible and perfect for holiday shopping and strolling!
In addition to Sundays, free parking will be offered on the following days this holiday season:
Thanksgiving Day (Nov. 25)
Black Friday (Nov. 26)
Small Business Saturday (Nov. 27)
Christmas Eve Day (Dec. 24)
Christmas Day (Dec. 25)
New Year’s Eve Day (Dec. 31)
New Year’s Day (Jan. 1)
Overnight parking rates in the structures will still apply on free-parking days. The resolution adopted by Council also authorized the City Manager or designee to suspend collection of off-street parking fees for up to two weeks at a time during times of emergency.
Downtown SLO parking structures are located at:
- 871 Marsh St.
- 842 Palm St.
- 919 Palm St.
Here’s a few other helpful parking reminders:
- Payment and time limits are enforced at all parking meters
- Loading and unloading in the bike lane on Higuera is prohibited
- Parking services is expanding yellow loading zones on Higuera and Chorro Streets to accommodate deliveries for businesses
- For additional parking information and rates, visit slocity.org or call 805-781-7230.