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The Santa Barbara
Holiday Light Tour

Updated for 2023 on Sunday December 3.

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.

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.

This year's tour is dedicated to the memory of longtime
Santa Barbara (Mesa) resident Maria Tanner.

Remembering Maria Tanner

For your holiday pleasure, here are some other special features you might also enjoy...

Holidays and Celebrations (by Harley Hahn)

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

Preparing for the Tour

When you have some time on a December evening, the directions below will take you on an amazing free tour of the Santa Barbara holiday lights.

How long is the tour? What is the best time to go on the tour?

If you slow down to look at all the lights, the full Holiday Light Tour will take about an hour and a half.

For that reason, I recommend that you start early, sometime between 5:30 pm and 6:30 pm.

What if I don't have that much time?

If you only have time to visit one place, visit the area near Las Positas Road and Veronica Springs Road (display a map). Here you will see two spectacular displays:

Veronica Place • Hillside House

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 (including the Musical House).

What is the Musical House?

You'll find out... (in Part 3 of the tour)

Will I see Santa Claus?

It's possible.

On certain days in December, Santa will be waiting for you outside the house where he stays when he visits Santa Barbara. The address is 3729 Monterey Pines, Santa Barbara CA, 93105 (display a map).

In 2023. You can visit Santa Claus in person from 5:00 pm to 7:00 pm on the following evenings:

Saturday December 2
Sunday December 3

Saturday December 9
Sunday December 10

Saturday December 16
Sunday December 17

Saturday December 23
Sunday December 24

Hint from Harley

To make it easy to read the driving directions in your car, print a copy of this Web page to take with you (along with a light).

This is a lot easier than trying to read the directions on your phone or tablet.

Directions for the
Santa Barbara Holiday Light Tour

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.

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

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

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

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


• Drive four 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 next 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 (if there are no cars behind you). 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.
At the flashing red stoplight, stop and then 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.
Continue State
Left Valerio
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 either the right or the left (it's a one-way street), and park your car for moment on DE LA VINA. Notice the elaborate displays. In particular, take a look at the reindeer in front of the corner house on your left. Just to the right of the reindeer you will see a large skeleton wearing a Santa hat.
When you are ready to move on, continue one block down DE LA VINA and turn right onto W MICHELTORENA STREET. As you approach the end of the block, slow down and notice the elaborate display on your right.
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. Go one more block and turn right on CHINO STREET.
Continue Micheltorena
Right Chino
Drive slowly for six blocks, looking at the lights, until you get to the stop sign at W MISSION STREET.
Cross MISSION and continue on CHINO as it curves to the left and then straightens out.
Continue CHINO
Turn left on EUCALYPTUS AVENUE and follow the curves until you get to GILLESPIE STREET.
Left Eucalyptus
Left Gillespie
When you get to the stop sign, cross back over MISSION.
Continue Gillespie
Left Pedregosa
Right Chino
Drive five blocks on CHINO to MICHELTORENA.
Right Micheltorena
Left Kowalski
Halfway down the block, stop and look on your right at the Santa Claus, the Snow Man, and other large decorations.
Continue Kowalski
Right Sola
At the T-intersection turn right on MOUNTAIN AVE. Continue until you get to a stop sign at W VALERIO STREET.
Right Mountain
Left Valerio Street
Turn right at the first street, CLEARVIEW ROAD.
Right Clearview
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 three 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. Then go back down CRESTLINE.
U-Turn Riato
Left Crestline
As you approach the bottom of the hill, slow down and stop when you get to PORTESUELLO. Look to your left and you will see the Musical House, a most wonderful place to visit.
Not to worry, we'll return to the Musical House in a few minutes. For now, take a few moments to look at the houses on your right. Then drive through PORTESUELLO and continue on CRESTLINE as it curves to the right.
Continue Crestline
At the very end of the street, make a U-Turn.
U-Turn Crestline
On your way back up the hill, drive slowly and look for SONORA. Then turn left to return to PORTESUELLO, where you will turn right.
Left Sonora
Right Portesuello
Continue on PORTESUELLO until, once again, you see CRESTLINE. Slowly continue straight through the intersection and immediately pull over to the right and park.
You are now across the street from the Musical House, which is on the southwest corner of Portesuello and Crestline to your left.

Hint from Harley

Plan on spending 10 minutes right where you are, parked across the street from the Musical House.

What is The Musical House?

The first thing you will notice about the Musical House is that it features a stunning variety of large light displays: circles, squares, rectangles, cones, and so on.

Look closer and you will see that the shapes, sizes, and colors are continually changing and pulsating in an irregular, somewhat disconcerting pattern. The more you look at it, the more you will wonder: "What is the mysterious rhythm, and what does it mean?" Clearly, there is something happening here that you don't understand.

To be sure, the irregular rhythms and the unusual light patterns are interesting on their own, and worth at least a few minutes of your time. However, as the famous American singer Al Jolson (ask an old person) used to say: "You ain't seen nothing yet."

Turn on your car radio and tune to 92.5 FM. As you listen to the bouncy, catchy music, take another look again at the Musical House. What you see is nothing less than a light show that is beautifully choreographed to the rhythm and melody of the music.

The mysterious colored light patterns really do have meaning.

Now sit back, watch and listen patiently. See what happens after a few minutes.

How does it work?

A computerized system is using the musical sounds as a stimulus to modify the colors, shapes, rhythms, and pulsing of the displays, according to a sophisticated pre-programmed arrangement.

At the same time, a microbroadcasting (very low-power) system is emitting the sounds over a frequency of 92.5 MHz (megahertz), which can be picked up by any FM radio within a radius of a block or so. (When you drive away, you will notice how the music fades.)

As you watch and listen for a few minutes, the perfectly synchronized combination of music and integrated light patterns stimulates the visual and the auditory parts of your brain in a way that produces a very pleasant, relaxing, altered state of consciousness.

Once you are ready to leave the Musical House, continue on PORTESUELLO until you start going down a long hill. As you drive down the hill, look at the top of the distant ridge. Once again, you will see the beautiful row of illuminated palms trees.
Continue Portesuello
At the bottom of the hill, you will be at a stoplight on LAS POSITAS ROAD. Go straight through the stoplight and cross LAS POSITAS. You will end up on VERONICA SPRINGS ROAD.
Part 4 of the Holiday Light Tour: West of Las Positas.
As you cross Las Positas, you will enter VERONICA SPRINGS ROAD.
Continue Victoria Springs
Drive slowly as the road curves to the right. You are looking for the first street on your right, VERONICA PLACE. (It comes up quickly.)
Note: 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.
Right Veronica Place
Veronica Place is a very short street that ends in a cul-de-sac. Although Veronica Place has only 15 houses, most of them have large, attractive displays, making this a delightful holiday street.
Drive slowly, and when you reach the end of the street, make a U-turn.
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 by making a short left followed by a quick right.
Left Veronica Place
Right Hillside House entrance
Important: When you enter the property, 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. If you have children with you, this is a safe place to let them out of the car to walk around and look at the wonderful displays.
Continue Hillside House loop
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 the first 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, for the last time, 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
When you get back to LAS POSITAS, you must be especially careful because there may be 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.
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. You are now on CALLE REAL, the frontage road. You will see the Fairgrounds on your right and the freeway on your left.
Continue Calle Real
Once you pass the fairgrounds, slow down and look to your right. You are looking for a small street called APPLE GROVE LANE, four blocks past the end of the Fairgrounds.
Right Apple Grove
You are about to see some of the best displays on the whole tour, so drive slowly and enjoy all the decorations.
Continue two blocks to end of APPLE GROVE where it will curve to the left to meet PEACH GROVE LANE. You will then go left to return to CALLE REAL, where you will turn right.
Continue Apple Grove
Left Peach Grove
We are now on our way to the last stop on our tour: the house where Santa Claus stays when he visits Santa Barbara (display a map).
Right Calle Real
Continue (west) on CALLE REAL until you come to the 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 10 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 four 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 Santa Mike. (There are over 5,000 lights.)
If it happens to be a Saturday and Sunday evening in December (before Christmas Day) from 5:00 pm to 7:00 pm, you are in luck. You and your kids will see Santa Claus sitting in a sparkling tent.
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.

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