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The Santa Barbara
Holiday Light Tour

The free Santa Barbara Holiday Light Tour was originally published on Sunday December 6, 2009. Since then, I have updated it every year at the beginning of December.

•  Updated for 2021 on Monday, December 6  •

Every year in December, there are marvelous displays of holiday lights in Santa Barbara, California. If you live there or if you happen to be visiting, you and your family can have a wonderful time driving around looking at the festive decorations — if you know where to look.

When you have some time on a December evening, the directions below will take you on an amazing tour of the Santa Barbara holiday lights. If you drive at a reasonably slow pace, the entire route will take you about an hour.

If you are short of time: If you only have time to visit one place, visit the area near Las Positas Road and Veronica Springs Road, where you will see two spectacular displays: on Veronica Place, and in front of Hillside House (display a map).

If you want to take your children to visit Santa: During the month of December, you can visit Santa Claus in person every Saturday and Sunday evening — before Christmas Eve — from 5:00 pm to 7:00 pm. Santa will be in front of an elaborate display in the Hitchcock area at 3729 Monterey Pines, Santa Barbara 93105 (display a map).

Note: These two areas are part of the tour, so if you follow the directions below you will see both of them (and a lot more).

Before you start, print a copy of this page
to take with you in the car.

For your holiday pleasure, here are some extra special holiday Web pages you may enjoy:

Holidays and Celebrations (by Harley Hahn)

For information about Santa Barbara: places to stay, restaurants, activities, attractions, and so on... (by John Dickson)

Directions for the
Santa Barbara Holiday Light Tour

The full Holiday Light Tour takes about 1 hour if you drive slow. I recommend starting your tour between 6:30 pm and 7:30 pm.

There are five parts to this tour:

• Part 1 runs through downtown Santa Barbara.
• Part 2 visits the West Side.
• Part 3 takes you over the Portesuello hills.
• Part 4 is to the west of Las Positas.
• Part 5 finishes by taking you to the Hitchcock area.

Hint: If you don't know your way around Santa Barbara, drive slowly so you can see the street signs. Alternatively, it is a good idea to take a map or a real estate agent with you, in case you accidentally stray from the route.

An addition to these five areas, there is a small street in Goleta that has an usually delightful display of lights and decorations. It is a bit far away to be part of the Santa Barbara tour, so I have included it as a bonus, in case you have some extra time.

• Part 6 (bonus) takes you to Puente Plaza in Goleta (display a map).

The beginning of the Holiday Light Tour: State and Carrillo.

The tour starts heading east (towards the mountains) on CARRILLO STREET at STATE STREET, so we can begin with the wonderful lights in downtown Santa Barbara.

If you are not sure how to get to State and Carrillo, here are the directions:

• Take Highway 101 to the CARRILLO STREET exit and turn east (away from towards the ocean). From 101 South, take Exit 98 and turn left; from 101 North take Exit 98A and turn right.

• Drive five blocks east (towards downtown) to the stoplight at CHAPALA STREET.

You are now ready to start the tour.

Part 1 of the Holiday Light Tour: Downtown Santa Barbara.
On Carrillo heading towards downtown...
As you approach the stoplight at Carrillo and Chapala, slow down and take a moment to look to your left. In front of the Ralph's parking lot, you will see the largest holiday tree in Santa Barbara.
Once you have seen the big tree, turn left onto CHAPALA STREET.
Left Chapala
Drive two blocks, then turn right onto W ANAPAMU STREET.
Right Anapamu
When you get to the flashing red stoplight you are at State Street, the main street of downtown Santa Barbara.
You are now in the middle of the Santa Barbara Promenade, a pedestrian mall in the heart of downtown Santa Barbara. Because this part of State Street is closed to traffic, you can slow down or (if there are no cars behind you) even stop in the intersection. Take some time to look to both the left and right, and you will see magnificent lights and decorations.
Continue through the intersection and drive two blocks to SANTA BARBARA STREET where you will turn left.
Continue Anapamu
Left Santa Barbara
Drive one block and turn left onto E VICTORIA STREET.
Left Victoria
Drive two blocks until you reach STATE STREET. You are now at the top (north end) of the Santa Barbara Promenade. This time, you are facing the opposite direction so the lights on the promenade will look different.
Turn right on STATE STREET.
Right State
To your left, just before the Arlington Theatre, you will see a huge holiday tree.
Continue four more blocks and turn left on W VALERIO STREET.
Left Valerio
Then drive two blocks and turn left on DE LA VINA STREET.
Left De La Vina
The first street you will come to is W ARRELLAGA STREET. As you pass through the intersection, pull over to the right and park your car for moment on DE LA VINA. Notice the elaborate displays on both sides of the street. In particular, take a look at the reindeer in front of the corner house on your left.
When you are ready to move on, continue one block down DE LA VINA and turn right onto W MICHELTORENA STREET.
Continue De La Vina
Right Micheltorena
Continue straight on MICHELTORENA until you get to the bridge. Cross the bridge.
Continue Micheltorena Bridge
Part 2 of the Holiday Light Tour: Santa Barbara West Side.
After you cross the Micheltorena bridge, you will come to a stoplight at SAN ANDRES STREET. You are now on the West Side. Drive straight on MICHELTORENA through the stoplight.
Continue Micheltorena
Drive slowly for five blocks, looking at the lights, until you get to MOUNTAIN AVENUE.
Right Mountain Avenue
When you reach a stop sign, turn left.
Left Valerio Street
Right Clearview Road
At the stop sign, turn right on MANITOU ROAD.
Right Manitou
In a few seconds, as you go down the hill, MANITOU ROAD will turn into PEDREGOSA STREET. Bear right as the street curves gently. You will then turn left on MOUNTAIN AVENUE. (Go slow. MOUNTAIN comes up quickly.)
Continue Pedregosa Street
Left Mountain Avenue
Part 3 of the Holiday Light Tour: The Portesuello Hills.
Continue to the end of MOUNTAIN AVENUE, driving uphill through several slow curves, until you see a stop sign at a T-intersection.
Left Portesuello
Drive up the steep curving hill and continue on PORTESUELLO AVENUE for a few minutes. Look for CRESTLINE DRIVE on your left. It comes one block after BEL AIR DRIVE.
Left Crestline
On the corners, you will see two especially attractive holiday light displays. However, don't stop just yet. We will be back at this intersection in a few minutes — coming from a better direction — at which time you can stop.
Right Rialto
Go down the hill and, as you approach the bottom, look up above the bottom house. In the distance, there is a high ridge. At the top, you will see a beautiful line of brightly lit palm trees. You will see these palm trees from several other places on the tour.
At the end of the street, make a U-Turn.
U-Turn Riato
Left Crestline
As you get to PORTESUELLO, slow down to look at two wonderful displays: one on your left as you approach Portesuello, the other on the right, across the street. This is one of the highlights of the whole tour, so you may want to park your car near the intersection and look at these two displays up close.
To continue, drive straight on CRESTLINE through PORTESUELLO.
Crestline will now curve to the right.
Right Sonora
Right Portesuello
Continue until you get to the top of a hill. Go down the hill to the stoplight at LAS POSITAS Road. Go straight through the stoplight and cross LAS POSITAS. Continue until you see VERONICA SPRINGS, which will be the first street on your right. (It comes up quickly.)
Part 4 of the Holiday Light Tour: West of Las Positas.
As you cross Las Positas and continue onto VERONICA SPRINGS, drive slowly as the road curves to the right.
On your left you will see a large property with a lot of lights and attractive displays. Leave it for now. I promise you, in a few minutes, we will come back and explore it in detail. But first, we need to turn right and take a look at a short but remarkable street: VERONICA PLACE.
Right Veronica Place
Veronica Place is a very short street that ends in a cul-de-sac. Although Veronica Place has only 15 houses, almost all of them have large, attractive displays, making this the most delightful holiday street in all of Santa Barbara.
You are now visiting one of the highlights of the tour, so take your time. Drive slowly, and when you reach the end of the street, make a U-turn.
As you make the U-turn, stop for a moment and look up the hill a bit to your right at the large light show.
U-Turn Veronica Place
When you reach the exit of Veronica Place, stop and look straight ahead. Across the street, you will see the Hillside House, a residential facility for people with developmental disabilities. As you can see, they have a large, very beautiful display on their grounds.
Cross the street and enter the complex with a short left followed by a quick right. Important: be sure that you TURN RIGHT to follow a one-way counter-clockwise loop around the entire display area.
Right Hillside House loop
As you go around the loop, please drive slowly and carefully. If you want, once you are at the far end of the loop you can park your car and walk around the displays.
At the end of the Hillside House loop, as you exit the property, turn right on VERONICA SPRINGS.
Right Veronica Springs
In a few seconds, you will be back at the stoplight at LOS POSITAS, where you will turn left.
Left Las Positas
At this point, you must pay attention and drive carefully. When you get to a gentle curve, SLOW DOWN. Turn at the first left onto LAS POSITAS PLACE.
Important: Be especially careful making the left turn onto Los Positas Place. If there are a lot of cars, you will need to be patient.
Left Las Positas Place
As you make the turn, look up in the distance and you will, once again, see the long line of brightly lit palm trees on top of the distant hill.
At the end of the street, make a U-Turn.
U-Turn Las Positas Place
Again, be especially careful. As you make the left turn back onto Los Positas, if there are a lot of cars, be patient.
Left Las Positas
Part 5 of the Holiday Light Tour: The Hitchcock Area.
To get to Part 5 of the Holiday Light Tour, you will take a short drive down Calle Real to the Hitchcock Area (display a map).
Continue Las Positas
Continue north on LAS POSITAS, through the stoplight at MODOC ROAD. As you drive over the freeway, get into the left lane as you will soon turn left. At the next stoplight, CALLE REAL, look to your left and you will see the fairgrounds and the entrance to Highway 101 North. This is where you turn.
Left Calle Real
As you make the turn, get in the right lane and drive through the first stoplight. Continue (west) on CALLE REAL for a minute or so, until you come to a second stoplight at HITCHCOCK WAY.
Right Hitchcock
Continue past the car dealerships, the movie theatre, and the Natural Cafe restaurant (which is expensive and puts too much salt in their soup). In 5 seconds, slow down and look on your right for MONTEREY PINE STREET.
Right Monterey Pine
Drive a short distance until the street begins to curve to the left. At this point, park your car and look straight ahead. You will see a row of five cottages glowing in a dazzling display of lights. Take a moment to get out of the car and walk closer to appreciate the complexity and the beauty of the display. This display is a collaborative effort led by Michael Williams. (Mike's cottage alone has more than 5,000 lights.)
If it happens to be a Saturday and Sunday evening in December, before Christmas Eve, from 5:00 pm to 7:00 pm, you are in luck. You and your kids will see Santa Claus sitting in a tent to the right.
As a special treat, Santa will have some custom-made coins to hand out to children. They are plastic, so it's easy to sanitize them. (The coins, not the children.)
When you are ready to move on, do NOT make a U-turn and go back the way you came. Instead, you will make a loop to get back to HITCHCOCK WAY. It's a bit tricky, but it will only take a minute.
To start the loop, turn left. (You are still on MONTEREY PINE STREET.)
left Monterey Pine
Drive over two speed bumps and turn left at the row of carports.
Left at the carports
After you go over two more speed bumps, bear right. Then drive over one more speed bump and drive to the stop sign.
At the stop sign, turn left. Then turn left again on HITCHCOCK WAY.
Left at the stop sign
Left Hitchcock
At the end of HITCHCOCK WAY, turn left at the stoplight onto CALLE REAL.
Left Calle Real
Continue until you get to the stoplight at Las Positas. At this point, the fairgrounds will be on your left and you are near the entrances to Highway 101 North and South.
You are now at the end of the Santa Barbara Holiday Light Tour.
Part 6 of the Holiday Light Tour (bonus): Puente Plaza in Goleta.
You have now completed the entire Santa Barbara Holiday Lights Tour. However, there is a display in Goleta that is worth seeing if you are heading back towards Goleta, or if you have some extra time and you want to see an outstanding holiday light display that is especially good for kids.
To visit this display we will take 101 North to Goleta and drive to a tiny U-shaped street named Puente Plaza. (Note: That is just the name of the street; it's not a real plaza.)
Here are the driving directions (display a map). Start by entering HIGHWAY 101 NORTH. You will then drive 4 miles to the TURNPIKE EXIT (#103).
Enter Highway 101 North
Continue Highway 101
Right Exit 103, Turnpike Road
As you slow down on the exit road, move into the left lane. You will be making a left turn onto S. TURNPIKE RD at the stoplight.
Left Turnpike
Turn left on HOLLISTER AVENUE. Continue to the stoplight at PUENTE DRIVE and turn right.
Left Hollister
Right Puente
Drive one long block on PUENTE DRIVE and turn right on a small U-shaped street named PUENTE PLAZA.
Right Puente Plaza
Drive to the end of the street where it curves to the left (it won't take long) and park your car. Take as long as you want to admire all the decorations and lights.
PUENTE PLAZA is in the shape of a U, so when you are ready to leave simply keep driving in the same direction. The street will curve to the left and take you back to PUENTE DRIVE.
Continue Puente Plaza
Left Puente
To return to the freeway:
Left Hollister
Right Turnpike
Continue to Highway 101.

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