Benicia is well known for its incredible art community, waterfront downtown and friendly atmosphere, and during December the holiday cheer is off the charts. With unique boutique shopping, hands-on gift ideas, and incredible bars and restaurants, this town brightens up the Bay Area with a full month of festivities. Here’s the inside scoop on what’s coming up.

Open House & Tree Lighting (December 1)

Lights, laughter, live music, and hot chocolate are just what you need to get into the spirit after a long weekend of turkey and stuffing. Mark your calendars for Benicia’s Holiday Open House and Tree Lighting held this Friday, December 1, beginning at 6 p.m. Rock out to your holiday favorites with Kris Kringle & The Mistletones, as they hit the outdoor stage at the foot of First Street in anticipation of the tree lighting at 6:30 p.m. Enjoy holiday carolers in period costume, horse-drawn carriage rides, live music on the street, a wine and beer station, and late-night shopping until 9 p.m.

Christmas Parade, Holiday Market & Lighted Boat Parade (December 9)

Saturday, December 9, grab your family and friends for a day like no other as locals and visitors alike gather on First Street for the 23rd Annual Christmas Parade. Watch for the Grinch, elves, and Santa himself as the parade begins at 10 a.m. on the corner of First and D streets. The parade ends at H Street. Following the parade make your way to the Holiday Market located on First Street between B and D streets. Peruse nearly 50 artisan vendors and the incredible variety of holiday goods and unique wares. Enjoy delicious food, holiday beverages and live music.

That same day, those looking for hands-on fun can learn how to make Victorian ornaments for a small fee at the Benicia State Capitol. At the Fischer-Hanlon House next door, meet St. Nicholas and enjoy cookies and warm cider from the wood-burning stove. These events take place from 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Benicia Capitol State Historic Park located at First and West G streets.

For another Santa sighting that afternoon, take the kids to get their photo taken with old Saint Nick at Fire Station 11 at 150 Military West from 4-7 p.m. There will be a private session for children with special needs from 2-3 p.m. Kids can enjoy the magic of Gerald Joseph while they wait their turn to meet with Santa. There’s no need to RSVP. This event is sponsored by Benicia Parks & Community Services and Benicia Fire Department. Photos with Santa are free, however, an unwrapped toy for Toys-for-Tots would be greatly appreciated.

After the sun sets, take a stroll down to the waterfront for the Benicia Marina’s Lighted Boat Parade, which starts at 6 p.m. Boats travel from the marina westward and back showing off their sparkling lights in an effort to win Best Lighted and Best Overall Decorations. If viewing by car, honk to the boats. They usually honk back!

More Holiday Fun

If you haven’t ventured out for your holiday tree, the Benicia Historical Museum at the Camel Barns, in partnership with the Genesis House, will be selling sustainably farmed Christmas trees to raise money for their organizations. Visitors get a peek at the themed tree decorated in dozens of camel ornaments. Make sure the kiddos bring their letters to Santa so the museum’s carousel camel can add it to the nightly delivery of special correspondence to the North Pole. Patrons will receive free candy canes, coloring pages, and a free museum pass. The tree lot is located at 2060 Camel Road in Benicia, and is open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. while supplies last. For more information, call the museum at 707-745-5435.

New to Benicia

While visiting be sure to pop into Benicia’s Heritage Pantry and Spice. In addition to their wide variety of artisan crafted gourmet pantry goods, they’ve added a “little deli” with sliced meats, cheeses, spices and tasty bites to take on the go or give as gifts. Focusing on smaller California producers, foodies will find the finest ingredients for the recipes that connect families. Heritage Pantry and Spice is located at 364 First Street. For more information, visit the online store at

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