‘Tis the season for holiday fun! California’s capital city has established itself as a wonderful place to shop, dine, and explore year-round, but the city is known to be exceptionally charming throughout the holiday season. From festive décor that lines the streets of downtown and beyond, to special events geared toward families and attendees of all ages, there’s plenty to see and do in Sacramento during the winter months.
Perhaps you’re looking for a holiday activity suitable for an office team building outing, or maybe you’ve found that you’ll be making your way to Sacramento (or McClellan Park!) this winter. Perhaps you live in the Sacramento region and are looking to find some unique options for the whole family to enjoy this holiday season. Whatever the case may be, we’ve rounded up five options that are sure to delight as December holidays draw near.
Visit the Outdoor Ice Rink in Downtown Sacramento
What’s a holiday season without the opportunity to partake in some ice skating? Lucky for both Sacramento locals and out-of-town visitors, the city is transformed into a complete winter wonderland each and every year, thanks to its popular outdoor ice-skating rink. Conveniently located in Ali Youssefi Square at 7th and K Streets, this seasonal attraction has grown to become a holiday favorite for guests of all ages. Whether you’re new to skating or would consider yourself a seasoned professional, the rink is worth a visit - particularly for its magical holiday feel.
The ice rink runs from November through mid-January and operates six days per week (Tuesday through Sunday). With ticket prices of $6 for kids 6 and under and $13-$15 for regular skaters (may vary during holiday or regular hours), this Downtown Sacramento attraction makes for a wonderful option for those in search of an affordable activity to soak up the holiday spirit. Its close proximity to all things downtown Sacramento means that guests can easily plan out an entire day of adventure and fun. From DOCO’s bars and restaurants, to retail shopping and more, there’s plenty to enjoy just steps away from the ice.
As an added bonus, the rink hosts a unique variety of special events throughout the season, too. During the 2021 season, guests can look forward to themed skating days or the recurring Crafting with Kindness events, which take place every second Sunday through January. Plus, the attraction remains open on all major holidays, including Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas, New Year’s Eve, and New Year’s Day.
Interested in planning a holiday gathering at the Downtown Sacramento Ice Rink? They offer group reservations, too! From teambuilding to birthday celebrations and more, reserving the entire rink is a unique option for skating fans and their groups.
Learn more about reserving the rink or begin planning your holiday skating outing here.
Enjoy the Theatre of Lights in Old Sacramento
Looking for the ultimate Christmas-centric activity this holiday season? The Theatre of Lights – located at the Old Sacramento Waterfront – is a must-see for guests from both near and far. Produced by the Downtown Sacramento Partnership, the “holiday lighting extravaganza” is completely free to attend and offers memories that are sure to last through the season and beyond. In fact, for many locals, it’s become an annual tradition for kicking off the start of the holiday season.
The Old Sacramento attraction holds nightly performances that take place Thursday through Sunday and runs from Thanksgiving Eve to Christmas Eve, with the exception of a Thanksgiving Day show. Guests can expect to enjoy a live-action retelling of the 1823 poem titled A Visit from St. Nicholas, which has become more popularly known as ’Twas the Night Before Christmas.
There’s plenty of entertainment packed into the event’s 20-minute production, including a live dramatization on the balconies right above K Street. If you’re attending, you can expect to enjoy a special appearance by both Jack Frost and St. Nick himself (a fun surprise for the youngest attendees!), and witness the lighting of the famous 60-foot Christmas tree. History-lovers will enjoy part of the storyline centered on the city’s early pioneers, all while taking in the stunning view of the 150-year-old building facades as they light up in color.
This popular Old Sacramento event was first created by Troy Carlson of Stage Nine Exhibits. With contributions from many of California’s most highly-recognized light and sound talents (including Emmy-nominated voice actor Bill Farmer, known as Disney’s Goofy!), it’s no surprise that the attraction has grown into a holiday must-see in Sacramento.
Much like Downtown Sacramento’s ice rink, the Theatre of Lights is conveniently located near a unique array of shopping, dining, and nightlife options. Registered as a national historic landmark, the Old Sacramento Waterfront offers plenty for visitors to see, do, and explore. It’s a charming destination year-round, but visitors are known to especially love the holiday touches that can be found throughout. Not to mention, with the Theatre of Lights packing plenty of entertainment into just a 20-minute production, there’s plenty of time left to head out and explore for the evening.
To learn more about the Theatre of Lights, visit visit the website..
Holiday Shopping at Arden Fair, Galleria at Roseville, or Midtown Sacramento
Is shopping for gifts on your to-do list? There’s still time, and there is certainly no shortage of shopping in Sacramento. No matter where in the Sacramento region you may be, or whose wish list you’ll be taking care of, you’re sure to find exactly what you need.
Arden Fair Mall
Located just a few miles from McClellan Park (7.5, to be exact!) Arden Fair Mall has grown to become one of the most well-known shopping malls in the Greater Sacramento region. Guests can pick from more than 165 retail and dining options, and the convenient indoor setup means you won’t have to think twice about enduring those chilly winter temperatures. (Though Sacramento may not get snow, it can certainly get quite cold and wet!)
If you’re shopping for children’s gifts in Sacramento this holiday season, Children’s Place, Abercrombie Kids, and World of Toys are just a few of many options to explore at Arden Fair Mall. And of course, popular retailers including Macys, Apple, Sephora, and Hickory Farms are among the many other retail stores available to help get those gifts taken care of.
Planning to bring the kids on your shopping trip? Arden Fair Mall will be offering photos with Santa this season. Learn more and book a recommended reservation at here..
Westfield Galleria at Roseville
If you find yourself outside of Sacramento, Westfield Galleria at Roseville is an equally popular shopping destination that’s sure to have everything on your list. Just 14 miles from McClellan Park, the shopping mall boasts a unique combination of popular department stores and smaller retail options, plus a wide assortment of luxury retailers - including Louis Vuitton, Tory Burch, Restoration Hardware, and more.
The Westfield Galleria at Roseville has also come to be known for its list of dining options. For a casual stop, try out the popular Shake Shack or Buckhorn Grill. If you’d prefer to pause a long day of shopping to enjoy a more elevated dining experience, Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse and Il Fornaio are among the mall’s most popular choices. The Galleria continues to add a variety of both indoor and outdoor dining options, all of which can be found online.
From November 12 - December 24, 2021, visitors can reserve their spot for photos with Santa. To stay up-to-date as the center adds other holiday-centric events, visit their events page..
Shop Small in Midtown Sacramento
While Sacramento’s local shopping malls surely have plenty to offer, there’s also no better opportunity than the holiday season to give back by shopping small. Located about 10 miles from McClellan Park, Midtown Sacramento is bustling with an array of unique small businesses. With nearly 900 to choose from, there’s truly something to be found for everyone on your list.
You may consider a gift card to a few favorite local eateries, such as Temple Coffee, LowBrau Sacramento, Ink Eats & Drinks, or Midtown Spirits.
Gifting someone who deserves a little R&R? A gift card to Asha Urban Baths or Arden Hills Wellness Resort may be the perfect choice, while Fleet Feet or a class pass to TEAMRide Sacramento make for a fantastic choice for the fitness enthusiasts on your list.
If you’re looking for locally-made goods or one-off finds, Krazy Mary’s Sugar Shack, Strapping Store, and Identity Boutique are among many of Midtown Sacramento’s noteworthy small shops. No matter where you may be headed, there’s so much to love about a holiday stroll through the beautiful Midtown streets.
Interested in discovering how you may be able to shop small in Midtown this season? Explore more of what the district has to offer at exploremidtown.org.
Attend the Aerospace Museum of California’s Santa at the Air Park Event
If a trip to McClellan Park is what brings you to the Sacramento area this season, there’s no need to go far to enjoy some holiday fun. In fact, the Aerospace Museum of California – located right here on McClellan Park grounds – will host Santa at the Air Park 2021 on Friday, November 26, 2021 from 10 AM to 2 PM.
It’s the official kickoff of the holiday season for the museum, and the perfect way to say hello to Santa – minus the shopping mall crowds! Attendees can look forward to a photo and meet-and-greet with Santa Claus, a chance to explore the museum’s unique variety of hands-on exhibits, and the opportunity to enjoy holiday crafts and activities suited for the whole family. Not to mention, the museum’s Old Crow Café will keep the holiday spirit going with treats and hot cocoa for all.
Tickets are just $15 for general admission guests, and free for children 3 and under. Learn more about Santa at the Air Park and explore the museum’s additional upcoming events here.
Watch Sacramento’s Tree Lighting Ceremony
Nothing says holiday fun quite like a Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony – especially in none other than California’s capital city! Old Sacramento’s Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony has become a favorite tradition amongst locals and out-of-towners, with many traveling from the city’s surrounding areas for the event.
Sacramento’s official Christmas tree can be found on K Street (between Front Street and Second Street). The tapered white fir tree stands tall at 60 feet, and with 24,000 lights, 550 icicles, and 400 strobes, it’s no wonder that it has become a staple of Sacramento’s holiday season. The lighting ceremony traditionally takes place around Thanksgiving Day, at about 6 PM; this year, it will be held just before, on November 24th.
Will Thanksgiving travels have you away from the capital city during the lighting ceremony? Not to worry, the Christmas tree and festive decor across the district will remain up for all to enjoy until New Year's Day.
With so much to choose from, the 2021 holiday season in Sacramento is sure to be filled with great fun and special memories. If you’ll be visiting from out of town, we encourage you to learn more about what you can explore right here at McClellan Business Park, by visiting www.mcclellanpark.com.
Wishing you and yours a happy and healthy holiday season!