It’s starting to feel a lot like Christmas in the Bay Area as tree lighting ceremonies commence, holiday shopping begins, and of course Santa Clause makes his debut from town to town. And Benicia is the picture perfect spot to gather with friends and family for a little Yuletide cheer.

Nestled along the Carquinez Strait, Benicia’s downtown area is bustling with boutique shops, cozy restaurants, festive taverns, and art galleries galore. Known for it’s eclectic art community and historical heritage, even the ghosts of Christmas past are rumored to stick around this charming little village. Conveniently close to both Napa and San Francisco, Benicia is easily accessible for a holiday day trip or night on the town.

Nothing says Christmas like costumed carolers, late night shopping, and a giant Christmas tree lighting party. On Friday, December 7 from 6-9 p.m., Benicia’s Annual Holiday Open House kicks off the season with live entertainment from Kris Kringle & The Mistletones, delicious food and beverages, and the annual tree lighting ceremony on First Street downtown. The street will be closed to traffic allowing thousands to stroll, visiting merchants and businesses who open their doors and serve refreshments. The event is open to the public and free to attend. The tree lighting commences at approximately 6:30 p.m. at the foot of First Street. Benicia Main Street will host a beer and wine station nearby.

The entire town joins the fun by hosting live music and special holiday happenings during the open house. Stop by the shops in The Tannery and enjoy live entertainment, a warm beverage and unique shopping. Further up the street at First and G Streets, Benicia Capitol State Historic Park invites you to stop in and see the beautifully decorated historic buildings including the Fischer-Hanlon House where you can enjoy cider & cookies served by docents in 1850’s period clothing, plus music on the vintage Steinway piano and bagpipe music, too. Admission is free for this event. Santa will make additional appearances on December 8th and 15th.

For those looking for something special to see this holiday season, the Benicia Marina is hosting their Annual Lighted Boat Parade on Saturday, December 8. It’s a glowing procession of holiday pride as each vessel, decked out in holiday cheer, embarks for a little hometown fun. The parade begins at 6 p.m. and can be seen along the waterfront from the Benicia Marina to the First Street Pier and back.

Also on Saturday evening, a concert by Legends of the Celtic Harp, presenting A Winter Gift at Benicia Historical Museum at the Camel Barns. Three of the premier Celtic harpers in the world take you on a dramatic musical journey deep into the myths, magic and fabled history of this most captivating instrument. The concert begins at 8 p.m. Tickets are available at the museum and online.

While there are plenty of opportunities to take the kids to see Santa throughout the Bay Area, only Benicia pairs Santa’s visit with a Christmas Parade & Holiday Market. On Saturday, December 15 from 10 a.m. – 3 p.m. Benicia’s downtown will be taken over by festive dancers, local marching bands, and more than 65 holiday vendors stocked with handcrafted arts & crafts, gourmet items and delicious foods. For a complete list of artisan vendors visit beniciamainstreet.org/holiday-market-vendors-2018.

This year’s parade starts at 10 a.m. and will commence at First and D streets and will end at H Street. The Holiday Market is on First between B and D streets. Benicia’s Fire Department will also be hosting visits and photos with Santa between 4-7 p.m. Private sessions for children with special needs will be available from 2-3 p.m. Visits with Santa are free and will be held at Station 11 located at 150 Military West. Local firefighters are asking community members to help them ensure that all kids have a merry Christmas this holiday by donating a new unwrapped toy for their Toys for Tots toy drive.

If you are in need of a little boost in your holiday spirit, consider dressing the part for the SantaCon Bar Crawl held later Saturday night following the parade and market. Join fellow elves, reindeer, snowmen and santas for some delicious adult beverages and merriment. Must be 21 years to participate. For more information call The Chill at 707-746-5530.

Check out the incredible line-up of live music, festive gatherings, and great finds in Benicia all month long. Visitbenicia.org for all of the details or follow us on Facebook and Instagram for the latest news.