Things to do in San Luis Obispo during the Holiday Season 2022

November 2, 2022

Spend the most wonderful time of the year in the happiest place in America — San Luis Obispo! There are plenty of things to do in SLO during the holiday season, so whether you’re looking for some family fun or just want to soak up some of that Christmas magic, there’s something for everyone!


Here are our top picks for the best Christmas events in San Luis Obispo this season:

46th Annual Holiday Parade


How to get here – 5 minutes away from Sands Inn Suites

Kickstart the holidays on December 2, and join downtown SLO’s 46th annual holiday parade. Themed Rock n’ Retro, get ready and settled by 7pm to watch this two-hour event featuring beautiful floats, marching bands, dancers, and more. With 88 float entries in the 2022 parade, it will be the most exciting yet! 

The San Luis Obispo Christmas event attracts thousands of spectators each year, so carpooling, walking, and biking to the event is highly encouraged. There is a free bike parking valet at Mission Park. All three car parks will be open to the public. There will be porta-potties available along with local businesses that have restrooms available for the public. Help out SLO’s local economy and buy from restaurants and cafes in the neighborhood. For more information about parade street closures, click here.

Holiday Plaza Opening and Lighting Ceremony


How to get there – 5 minutes away from Sands Inn Suites

Celebrate Christmas in SLO and head downtown to Mission Plaza for one of the best displays of Christmas lights in San Luis Obispo at the Holiday Plaza. The Holiday Plaza will officially open on Friday, November 25 at 11:45am, and the 20-foot Christmas tree lighting ceremony will start at 4:45pm. There will also be live performances from the SLO County Band and the SLO Youth Symphony, a carousel, photo ops, light tunnels, musical light shows, and a plethora of warm, seasonal beverages and food! 

Santa's House at the Holiday Plaza

How to get there – 5 minutes away from Sands Inn Suites


Santa comes to town from November 25 until December 24. Bring your kids, godchildren, or grandchildren for a meet and greet with Santa at the Holiday Plaza. Or come alone and enjoy the holiday spirit filling the cool winter air. Take delightful photos on his front lawn, get fun holiday photo packages, and get free gift bags. Children can even send Santa letters by dropping them off in his mailbox on his front lawn. They can expect a handwritten response from Santa too!

Partnered with San Luis Obispo Children’s Museum, you and your family can participate in the Search for Santa’s Mouse. This scavenger hunt includes a booklet leading children to different clues throughout the downtown area. After completing the scavenger hunt, the families can then enter to win a membership to the Children’s Museum. Of the many wonderful Christmas events in San Luis Obispo, visiting Santa Claus is the most wondrous of all.

Decorated Window Showcase

How to get there – 4 minutes from Sands Inns & Suites


Starting December 28, you can walk through the downtown area and watch the amazing Christmas lights displays SLO shops put on every year. There will be an online map listing the participating businesses. You can even take part in the People’s Choice vote for the best display! Keep updated by following or liking Downtown SLO’s FB and Instagram pages. 


Morro Bay Lighted Boat Parade

How to get there – 19 minutes from Sands Inns & Suites


Get ready to be amazed by Morro Bay’s fishing and yachting community as they parade down the waterways along the Embarcadero in their beautifully lit boats during the city’s annual Lighted Boat Parade. Morro Bay goes all out for the holidays, honoring both the season and the city’s thriving maritime heritage with dazzling lights and holiday cheers.

Visit Santa and Mrs. Claus at their home on December 3 at 4:30pm at the Giant Chess Board at the Embarcadero and get a cup of hot chocolate or coffee along with some cookies. Santa and Mrs. Claus will be there to greet visitors. Then, at 5:30pm, make your way to the South T-Pier to enjoy a jam session with Morro Bay’s very own White Caps Band as they play your favorite holiday songs. The Morro Bay boat parade is scheduled to begin after the show at 6:30pm. 

Christmas Story by the San Luis Obispo Repertory Theater

How to get there – 4 minutes from Sands Inns & Suites


Join SLOcals in this beloved holiday tradition and catch San Luis Obispo Repertory Theater’s A Christmas Story from December 3rd through December 18th, 2022, at 7pm on Wednesday to Saturday and at 2pm on Saturday and Sunday. Written by Philip Grecian, the show is an adaptation of the motion picture and the book “In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash” by Jean Shepherd. It’s a story about 9-year-old Ralphie Parker’s quest to get a genuine Red Ryder BB gun.

Christmas Dinner at Madonna Inn

How to get there – 4 minutes from Sands Inns & Suites


A lovely Christmas Eve dinner at home with the family is nice, but do it differently this year and book a delightful feast at Madonna Inn instead. All your favorite holiday dishes without having to lift a finger at a beautifully decorated restaurant. Christmas Eve dinner will be on December 24th from 3pm to 10pm, and the Christmas Day feast is on December 25th from 12pm to 10pm. For reservations, give them a call at (805) 784-2469. You may also check Madona Inn’s full Christmas Eve and Christmas Day menus on their website. 

Holiday Magic At The Charles Paddock Zoo

How to get here – 18 minutes from Sands Inn and Suites


The animals at Charles Paddock Zoo are getting Christmas presents and you can help deliver them to the animals on December 17 starting 10am to 1pm. All decked out for the holidays. the zoo will also be holding special activities for the whole family, including a strolling magician with sleight-of-hand tricks. The zoo is home to over 200 animals, come watch them tear into their gifts and enjoy their special holiday presents. 

Cambria Christmas Market

How to get here – 37 minutes from Sands Inn and Suites


Christmas in SLO won’t be complete without dropping by the annual Cambria Christmas Market. Although it’s a bit of a drive from downtown, you just can’t miss it!  Enjoy the sights and sounds of the holiday season with over 2 million lights, an artisan vendors market, train rides, live music, food and drink, fire pits, and more at the Cambria Christmas Market.




After a beautiful day of enjoying the refreshing winter weather and participating in the many San Luis Obispo Christmas events and activities, come home to a warm, comfortable bed at the end of the day at Sands Inn and Suites. Only a 5-minute walk away from downtown, you can go to and fro the many holiday events and the long list of things to do in SLO with ease. You can be in the middle of the lively holiday parade and find yourself under your sheets in 5 minutes!

Sands Inn & Suites offers a complimentary fitness center, parking, and WiFi. The hotel is pet-friendly and ADA-inclusive, with accommodations in their ADA Two Queen Room. It also has a heated outdoor pool and a flexible meeting place. Make a reservation by calling (800) 441-4657 or book directly online.

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