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Monterey Events in December: Calendar of the Best Things to Do in 2021

Jill on a windy day at the Golden Gate Bridge

by Jill Loeffler  •

Updated: November 5, 2021

Discover the best Monterey events in December for 2021. Top picks include holiday festivals, where to find Santa, and annual tree lighting ceremonies.

My calendar includes the best things to do in Monterey, Carmel-by-the-Sea, Santa Cruz, Salinas and other towns around the bay.

Disclaimer: I receive a small commission from some of the links on this page.

Monterey Events in December

Christmas on the Wharf

Dates: Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays from 12/3 - 12/19

Head down to Fisherman's Wharf in Monterey for their Christmas on the Wharf celebration. Enjoy holiday entertainment, lights, and a 23-foot Christmas tree.

You can even stop by to say hi to Santa! 

It runs on Fridays from 4 pm to 9 pm, Saturdays from 9 am to 9 pm and Sundays from 1 pm to 6 pm.

Make sure to stop by local merchants to pick up some holiday gifts for yourself or those on your list! 

Annual Tree Lighting & Carmel Plaza Party

  • Date: Friday, 12/3
  • Time: 3 pm to 7 pm
  • Location: Devendorf Park on Ocean Avenue and Mission Street
  • Cost: Free for all to attend

Carmel-by-the-Sea invites the public to their annual holiday tree lighting ceremony and celebration.

The event starts at the Sunset Center at 3 pm with entertainment and pictures by the tree through 5 pm. Santa will also arrive at Devendorf Park at 3 pm to greet everyone. The menorah is lit at 4 pm.

Santa and the Mayor will light the tree at 5:45 pm.

After the tree lighting ceremony, there will be a open house at Carmel Plaza with refreshments and entertainment until 7 pm.

Stillwell's Fun in the Park

  • Date: 12/4
  • Time: 10 am to 4 pm
  • Location: Jewell Park in Pacific Grove
  • Cost: Free for all to attend

Stop by downtown Pacific Grove for the Annual Stillwell's Fun in the Park event. It's a holiday party with refreshments, holiday music, and a full day of other fun family-friendly activities.

The event features Santa arriving in a shiny red fire truck. There will also be a petting zoo, games, and other entertainment for the kids. Stop by Jewell Park for a full day of fun!

Streets of Bethlehem

  • Dates: 12/2 - 12/5
  • Times: 6 pm to 8 pm
  • Location: First Baptist Church at 1130 San Vincente Avenue, outdoors
  • Cost: Free for all to attend

First started in 1992, this event began with the idea to share the meaning of Christmas to the whole community and to visitors alike. This live re-creation of the day Jesus was born has grown and evolved throughout the years.

This event includes hundreds of locals who wear costumes and will entertain you at this amazing living replica village of Bethlehem. During this 4-day event, you will enjoy musicians, animals, and much more.

It is one of the most interactive of the Monterey events in December.

Salinas Holiday Parade of Lights

  • Date: TBD
  • Location: Downtown Salinas
  • Time: 6 pm to 9 pm
  • Cost: The Parade is free for all to enjoy

Stop by downtown Salinas for their Annual Holiday Parade of Lights event. This fun, local parade offers dozens of floats, kids, and many other participants. The parade starts at 6 pm but families arrive hours before to set up blankets, chairs, and enjoy the festivities before it begins.

You and your whole family will love this Christmas parade as you will see over 70 lighted entries moving down the street in the dark. There are also bands, huge floats, lots of special guests, and many other fun events going on during the parade.

If you are bringing children, you can be sure they will have a great time since there are activities specifically 12 and younger in the Kid's Zone, which opens at 4 pm.

Inns of Distinction Tour

  • Date: TBD
  • Time: 2 pm to 5 pm
  • Location: Downtown Carmel

This annual event takes you through seven unique, historic inns in downtown Carmel. Each one opens a few rooms to the public for you to see.

Past tours have included samples from some of the top local wineries, hot drinks, and food from area restaurants. Inns have included the Hofsas House, Tally Ho, Candlelight Inn and others.

More Fun Things to Do in Monterey in December

The Dali Expo: Spend some time at The Dali Expo. This space is dedicated to the artist Salvador Dali and offers you a chance to learn more about how he influenced the local artist community here. The museum is open most days in December. 

Monterey Bay Aquarium: Step inside one of the best aquariums in the world. This Monterey Bay Aquarium offers you a look inside the world of the plants and animals that call the Monterey Bay home. Their unique Open Seas aquarium will blow you away. My other favorites are the Kelp Forest and the interactive exhibits. 

Monterey Food Tour: Check out the thriving food and wine scene in Monterey on this three-hour food walking tour. This tour starts at 11am and runs on Thursday - Sunday each week. Come hungry as you will be sampling a variety of dishes and cuisines during your stroll. 

Additional Monterey Tours

Christmas at the Inns

  • Dates: TBD
  • Location: 10 inns in Pacific Grove
  • Time: 6 pm to 9 pm
  • Cost: $20 per person

Enjoy another fun holiday tradition in Pacific Grove with Christmas at the Inns. For two days between 6pm and 9pm, stop by at least ten different local bed & breakfast inns for Victorian holiday decor, entertainment, and light refreshments at this one of the great Monterey events in November.

There are only a limited number of tickets sold, so it is best to plan ahead, and buy them in advance. The Chamber of Commerce office will stay open until 8 pm on Tuesday and 6:30 pm on Wednesday to accommodate visitors to this wonderful winter event.

>> Visit the Pacific Grove site for details

Holiday Parade of Lights

  • Date: 12/2
  • Location: Lighthouse Avenue, Pacific Grove
  • Time: 6 pm to 9 pm
  • Cost: Free for all to attend

At this annual downtown parade in Pacific Grove, you will see local marching bands, holiday floats, equestrian groups, dance teams, and Santa Claus! Stay after the parade to get some great holiday deals from local merchants as well as wagon rides and photos with Santa for the little ones.

This event will happen rain or shine and is always one of the top Monterey events in December.

Christmas in the Adobes

  • Dates: Friday, 12/10 & Saturday, 12/11
  • Time: 5 pm to 9 pm
  • Location: Historic Downtown Monterey

Visit Monterey's past at this annual event where you can see the adobes by candlelight while enjoying refreshments and live entertainment. There is plenty of history and other fun activities for the entire family.

Several sites around the downtown area of Monterey will be host to this classic 19th Century holiday event. As you visit the adobe buildings, you can hear stories, listen to music, and enjoy other entertainment.

This is a one of the best Monterey events in December!

Santa's Fly-In

  • Date: 12/11
  • Time: 11 am
  • Location: Carmel Valley Airfield & Community Park on Ford Road
  • Cost: Free for all to attend

Santa Claus makes his annual Carmel Valley Fly-in at the Carmel Valley Airfield. His helicopter will make an appearance in the sky starting around 11 am. After Mr. and Mrs. Claus arrive, they will hop in their sleigh and join other local community organizations in a parade.

After the parade, stay for the holiday picnic with food, drinks, holiday activities, bouncy houses, pony rides, a petting zoo, and more. Kids are welcome to hop on Santa's lap and take a photo as they enjoy the festivities.

Where to Stay Around the Bay

Monterey: You will find the largest selection of hotels in and around Monterey. Higher end picks include the Spindrift Inn and Portola Hotel and Spa. You will also find some more budget friendly options if you move a few additional blocks away from the waterfront. Find my top picks for all budgets here.

Carmel-By-The-Sea: This seaside town is a bit smaller, but still offers plenty of accommodations. You will find some great luxury hotels as well as several quaint bed and breakfasts. Here are my top picks for Carmel-By-The-Sea.

Pacific Grove: This small community sits just to the north west of Monterey. They offer several great places to stay including a couple of great bed and breakfast and some budget-friendly options. Find my top 5 picks here.

Are you ready to book? Make sure to check out the great deals below.

TripAdvisor: Compare prices, read recent guest reviews and find a wide selection of options.

First Night Monterey

  • Date: 12/31
  • Time: 3 pm to midnight
  • Location: Downtown Monterey
  • Cost: Prices depend on date of purchase and age of attendees

This New Year's Eve celebration in downtown Monterey is an alcohol-free event for the entire family. The festival includes art, live music, and other fun holiday activities.

It runs from 3 pm until just after ringing in the New Year at Midnight. 

Most venues will have live performances and many of them are indoors just in case it is a rainy New Year's Eve. This event will happen rain or shine, so plan ahead.

You will also be required to show either proof of vaccination or a negative antigen test within 72 hours to attend their indoor performances.

Ice Skating by the Bay

  • Dates: 11/19/2021 - 1/2/2022
  • Time: Monday - Saturday from 11 am - 10 pm; Sunday noon to 8 pm including Holidays
  • Location: The Custom House Plaza located behind the Portola Hotel & Spa
  • Cost: Adults $13, Children 12 and under $11, skate rentals are $3

One of the most inviting of the Monterey events in December allows you to skate as you view the Pacific Ocean at the same time. The rink is small enough so that even kids can feel safe since other skaters can't go too fast.

When you pay for your entrance, you will get a wristband that allows for all-day in and out privileges.

Brighten the Harbor Lighted Boat Parade

  • Date: TBD
  • Time: 5 pm
  • Location: Monterey Bay Coastline
  • Cost: Free for all to attend

This event presented by the Monterey Peninsula Yacht Club includes many boats that are lit up with Christmas lights as they sail around the bay. Many of the boats are not only lit up but have full scenes from the holiday season on them.

Shows at the Golden State Theater

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