Christmas in Sacramento: 11 BEST Things To Do [2024 Guide]

Reviewed by Elina Ansary
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TL;DR: For Christmas in Sacramento, we highly recommend the enchanting Theatre of Lights at Old Sacramento Waterfront. It’s an immersive, free festival featuring historic plays that transport you to Sacramento’s pioneer era, a 60-foot Christmas tree lighting, traditional treats, and holiday shopping.

If you’re in Sacramento for the Christmas season, you may wonder what holiday events will happen in the area. 

And if you’re a holiday enthusiast, you’re in the right place. 

Sacramento offers lots of holiday fun for all ages throughout the entire season, which begins with Thanksgiving and usually ends around New Year’s Day. 

From late November through the beginning of January, there will be no shortage of festivities to check out. 

A combination of free events, events for everyone in the family, outdoor events, live performances, holiday markets, and much more make Christmas in Sacramento a very special time of year. 

Lots of these events run right up to Christmas Eve, so be sure to give this list a peak and then head out to join in on the holiday cheer.

People line up around a Christmas display, complete with a large Christmas tree, inside of a shopping mall.

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Theatre Of Lights at Old Sacramento Waterfront

When: Thursday-Sunday, Thanksgiving Eve through Christmas Eve
Where: Old Sacramento Waterfront, Sacramento, CA
Cost: Free 

The Theatre of Lights is an annual free festival of lights held at the Old Sacramento Waterfront. 

Christmas in Old Sacramento is a very unique experience.

The festival features nightly performances Thursday through Sunday of classic Christmas plays and productions, featuring Jack Frost by the Downtown Sacramento Partnership. 

You’ll feel like you’re right back in the 1800s as the festival immerses guests in the pioneer lifestyle of Sacramento’s origins. 

The Theatre Of Lights is designed to offer a glimpse into Old Sacramento and its rugged past. 

And definitely don’t miss the nightly lighting of the 60-foot Christmas tree by St. Nicolas himself. The tree lighting in Sacramento is very much part of the Old Sacramento holiday tradition. 

There will also be lots of food and drink options, treats, holiday shopping, and more, set up at the waterfront for the Theatre Of Lights festival.

Downtown Sacramento Ice Rink

When: Daily, November through January (including Christmas Eve and Christmas Day)
Where: Ali Youssefi Square, 7th St & K Street, Sacramento, CA
Cost: $8 for kids 6 and under, $15 for regular admission [based on last year]

The Downtown Sacramento Ice Rink is a holiday tradition that is beloved by Sacramento locals and visitors of all ages alike every winter. 

If you’re looking for activities worthy of a Santa sighting in Midtown, Youssefi Square is transformed into a winter wonderland to host the ice rink through the holiday season. 

Guests can expect to hear lots of Christmas music, sip hot chocolate, be surrounded by beautiful Christmas lights, and, most importantly, friendly faces. 

You can also show your ice skating wristband to receive discounts and deals at several of the local restaurants and local businesses in Downtown Sacramento!

The Polar Express & Christmas Shows at The California State Railroad Museum

When: November 24 – December 20, 2023, Wednesday – Sunday 3:30pm, 5:00pm, 6:30pm & 8:00pm
Where: The California State Railroad Museum, 125 I St, Sacramento, CA
Cost: $80-$400

There is always a lot going on at The California State Railroad Museum during the holidays.

This Christmas train in Sacramento is guaranteed to offer a wonderful time for the whole family. 

You will board The Polar Express in the passenger station and ride the train to the North Pole, sipping hot cocoa and munching on special holiday treats along the way. 

Once you arrive at the North Pole, passengers will meet Santa to receive their holiday gift. 

If you’ve always dreamed of celebrating the holidays aboard a vintage locomotive, you’ll definitely want to check this one out. 

The Railroad Museum also hosts special Candlelight Concerts throughout the season on select dates in December. 

These concerts consist of classical holiday music played by a live orchestra in a romantic candlelit atmosphere.  

Sacramento Lighted Boat Parade

When: 2023 date TBD
Where: The parade begins at Miller Park/Sacramento Marina and passes Old Sacramento, Riverbank Marina, Virgin Sturgeon, and Riverview Marina
Cost: Free to watch

A list of Sacramento Christmas events is not complete without mention of the Sacramento Lighted Boat Parade, which has been returning annually to the Sacramento River for nearly 30 years. 

The parade is hosted by The Sacramento Capital City Yacht Club

Bring the whole family down to Miller Park to witness the fully decorated boats take off on their journey down the Sacramento River or find another location along the Old Sacramento Waterfront. 

Some of the best places to watch the parade are Tower Bridge, Old Sacramento Public Docks, Joe’s Crab Shack, Chevy’s on the River, Crawdads on the River, and The Virgin Sturgeon. 

No matter where you stand, the Old Sacramento Waterfront is magical around the holidays.

Old Town Elk Grove: Dickens Street Faire

When: 2023 date TBD
Where: Old Town Plaza, Elk Grove, CA
Cost: Free admission

If you’re seeking free activities in the Sacramento region over the holidays, you won’t want to miss the annual Dickens Street Faire in Old Town Elk Grove. 

The entire family is sure to enjoy this full day of activities. 

In honor of the classic Christmas tale by Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol, this fair is sure to bring you right back into the time of Ebenezer Scrooge. 

Starting at breakfast with Santa Claus, guests are immersed in live music by Victorian carolers.

There are plenty of photo opportunities, twinkling lights, and local artists selling unique gifts. 

In the evening, be sure to catch the annual lighting of the Christmas Tree at the corner of Elk Grove Blvd and Walnut Ave.

The Nutcracker

When: Friday-Sunday, December 9th-23rd
Where: Safe Credit Union Performing Arts Center, 1301 L Street, Sacramento, CA
Cost: $49-$99 

The Nutcracker is one of those holiday events that just doesn’t get old, and the classic holiday production put on by the Sacramento Ballet is definitely not one to disappoint. 

Choreographed and produced by Sacramento locals, this rendition of The Nutcracker features the entirety of Tchaikovsky’s original score, with gorgeous costuming and professional dancers. 

They showcase the Christmas spirit that Clara’s magical toys bring every year. 

You’ll be humming the Nutcracker tune until January 1st.

Rancho Cordova Community Christmas Tree Lighting

When: Sunday, November 26th, 4pm-7:30pm
Where: Village Green Park, 3141 Bridgeway Drive, Rancho Cordova, CA
Cost: Free admission

This free holiday lighting extravaganza held in Village Green Park is sure to kick start the holiday season with lots of holiday spirit for guests of all ages. 

The Cordova Community Christmas Tree Lighting has been a Cordova tradition for over 25 years. 

Along with the tree lighting, this one-night event features hay rides, live nativity, food trucks, train rides, and real snow. 

Check the schedule, and don’t miss the special appearance from Santa Claus himself. 

Then, make sure to stick around for the fireworks at night – what better way to bring Christmas cheer?

Sacramento Theatre Company’s Annual Holiday Show

When: 2023 dates TBD
Where: Sacramento Theatre Company, 1419 H St, Sacramento, CA
Cost: $48 [based on last year]

Each year, the Sacramento Theatre Company offers special holiday shows throughout the season that are sure to bring lots of nostalgia, holiday music, and Christmas cheer for all ages. 

This is where you’ll want to look for Christmas plays in Sacramento.

Their live dramatization of classic holiday stories runs annually throughout December, bringing holiday cheer. 

Stories such as A Christmas Carol are so popular that they’re repeated annually year after year. 

Holiday shows are excellent opportunities to introduce kids to the theater atmosphere. Maybe they’ll even fall in love with the stage lights and want to sign up for one of STC’s youth classes.

Get into the holiday spirit the theatrical way this season, and celebrate with the Sacramento Theatre Company.

Christmas at Fairytale Town

When: 2023 dates TBD
Where: Fairytale Town, 3901 Land Park Drive, Sacramento, CA
Cost: $10 

Winter Wonderland at Fairytale Town is a favorite for the kids during the holidays.

Some of the best Christmas lights in Sacramento are on display here, along with lots more festive decor for to have holiday fun with their friends. 

Fairytale Town is an amusement park with 26 playgrounds that bring nursery rhyme characters and stories to life. 

The holiday festivities take place on Saturday and Sunday for two weekends in December. 

There is food and drinks, visits from Santa, real snow, arts and crafts, and Christmas carols. 

If your family wants more lights after visiting Fairytale Town and Enchant, keep an eye out in case Imaginarium returns to the Cal Expo. 

Imaginarium 360 travels all over, but hopefully, we’ll see it again at the Cal Expo.

Enchant Christmas at Sutter Health Park

When: November 25th – January 1st
Where: Sutter Health Park, West Sacramento, CA
Cost: Starting at $20

This annual holiday celebration runs throughout December, bringing holiday spirit to Sutter Health Park all throughout the season. 

Enchant Christmas is the world’s largest holiday light maze and village, presented by Hallmark. 

If you are a lover of holiday lights, meeting Santa, ice skating, and exploring local shops, then this one is for you. Soak up the magic of a December night under colorful lights with friends. 

They are closed on Saturday and Sunday through the season, but the magic continues the rest of the week, and Santa will be there daily.

92nd Annual Capitol Tree Lighting Ceremony

A view of the Capitol Building in the early evening during Christmas in Sacramento, with an illuminated Christmas tree in the foreground.

When: 2023 Dates TBD
Where: 1315 10th St, Sacramento, CA 95814
Cost: Free

This annual tree illumination began as a small Governor’s party for friends and colleagues. 

As the years went by, it became a highlight of the holidays and grew. 

In 2022, the California Department of Developmental Services began a tradition of asking a child from their programs to illuminate the tree.

The tree is decorated with unique ornaments handcrafted by people with developmental disabilities. 

This event is more than just an illumination of 14,000 holiday lights on a giant tree. It’s a chance to celebrate the thousands of Californians living with developmental disabilities.

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Taylor Neal

Taylor is a multi-disciplinary artist, writer, yoga instructor and frontline worker who spends most of her time in her van (Vannigan) winding through the coastal and mountain roads of California where she feels most at home. From navigating the realities of van-life to the fluctuations in diverse climates and landscapes, Taylor is excited to bring everything she’s learned about California to fellow wanderers seeking beauty and adventure.

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A view of the Capitol Building in the early evening during Christmas in Sacramento, with an illuminated Christmas tree in the foreground, with the text overlay, "Christmas in Sacramento."

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Hi, I'm Mimi! I'm an outdoorsy Californian who has spent over 28 years immersed in the incredible natural beauty that California has to offer. My goal is to inspire others to get out and find their next adventure in California. Whether it’s escaping to an alpine lake in the Sierras, finding peace among the giant redwoods, or road tripping down the PCH, there’s always more to explore in this beautiful state.


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