The COVID-19 pandemic isn’t halting the tradition of decorating for the holiday season, and sparkling community displays are now viewable by driving around. 

Many holiday events, annual parades, lighting ceremonies and traditional group gatherings were canceled this year because of COVID-19 public health guidance outlined by the California Department of Public Health and the Santa Barbara County Public Health Department. 

But, there are a handful of festive head-turners to check out for free in Santa Barbara County.

Here are the spots:

Santa Barbara’s Milpas Street roundabout, near the northbound entrance ramp to Highway 101, is decorated with lights, reindeer, Christmas trees and more. Street lamps along a stretch of Milpas Street are wrapped in spiral lights topped with illuminated stars.

Santa Barbara resident Harley Hahn knows a thing or two about the best-dressed holiday light displays in the area.

Since 2009, Hahn has published a free, self-guided holiday light tour on his website. This year’s annual nighttime driving tour is updated because State Street in downtown Santa Barbara is closed between Haley to Sola streets to vehicular traffic.

A winning entry in Santa Maria’s Lights, Sights and Holiday Nights contest.Click to view larger

A winner in Santa Maria’s Lights, Sights and Holiday Nights contest. (City of Santa Maria photo)

The tour starts at State and Carrillo streets, passes Santa Barbara’s largest tree light display in front of Ralphs on West Carrillo Street, and then travels through downtown Santa Barbara, the Westside area and nearby neighborhoods. The end destination is the Hitchcock area on upper State Street in Santa Barbara. 

If you’re in a bit of a time crunch and can visit only one location, Hahn said, a spectacular light display is at 3729 Monterey Pines in Santa Barbara. It is estimated to take about an hour to complete the entire driving route, according to Hahn.

His website offers step-by-step driving directions on where to go when hitting the road. Click here for more information.

The Santa Barbara Trolley Co. guided holiday light experience in Santa Barbara has been canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the company.

In Santa Maria, nominations for the annual Lights, Sights and Holiday Nights decorating contest is over. However, all of the contest winners were expected to be announced on the city’s Recreation and Park Department’s social media accounts on Friday, and a map of the winners will be posted online for all to enjoy.

The 2020 Best Decorated Rookie Residence award for the best new entry went to Elizabeth Houser’s home at 622 E. Fesler St. The Country Christmas award winner for the top depiction of a western or ranch holiday is the Price family’s home at 526 Boscoe Court. The Home Spun Holiday award winner for the greatest depiction of traditional holidays at home is Alex and Gloria Nanalis’ home at 314 W. Harding Ave., and the California Dreamin’ award for a spectacular light display with motion, music and animatronic figures went to Christian Cortez’s home at 436 Roble Lane.

The Holiday Hall of Fame for past contestants who have won at least three times includes Michael Clayton’s home at 400 E. Orange St., the Melena family at 515 N. Lucas Drive, the Bernard family at 228 S. Linda Drive, the Hindle family at 1030 Cortez Drive, the Cardona family at 2040 Lassen Drive and the Dickerson family at 104 Palm Court Ave.

A 55-foot redwood tree is decorated with lights and the towering display is lit for the public on Sagunto Street in Santa Ynez, according to the Santa Ynez Chamber of Commerce. In addition, downtown storefronts are bringing some cheer with festive holiday decor and lights. 

Similarly, a 45-foot-tall Douglas fir tree is smack dab in the middle of the 1300 block of State Street, near The Arlington Theatre in Santa Barbara. Several downtown storefronts are decked out in lights and holiday regalia. 

The COVID-19 pandemic canceled this year’s annual light parade in the Santa Barbara harbor, but boat owners are still encouraged to participate in a holiday-themed decoration contest. That means people can witness dazzling vessels decorated with lights during a nighttime stroll along the harbor, located at 132 Harbor Way.

Santa Barbara’s waterfront department staff will visit all participating boats in their slips, photograph their entry starting next week, and post entrant photos along with a community judging poll on social media beginning Dec. 18. The public is invited to score the competitors, with winners announced Dec. 21.

The Ventura Harbor Village at 1583 Spinnaker Drive in Ventura.Click to view larger

The Ventura Harbor Village at 1583 Spinnaker Drive in Ventura. (Ventura Harbor Village photo)

The Ventura Harbor Village, at 1583 Spinnaker Drive in Ventura, is shining bright with its colorful ocean-inspired holiday display now through New Year’s Eve. Thousands of twinkling beach-hued lights of green, blue and aqua, plus lights hanging from trees, illuminated spiraling sea pearls, lush wreaths and other decor adorn the harbor. There also is a massive “Seasons Greetings” sign displayed. The Ventura harbor is about 20 miles from Santa Barbara.

Organizations and businesses in Santa Barbara County have stepped up to create holiday activities that follow COVID-19 protocals. Click here for more information.

Chabad of Santa Barbara is hosting a weeklong celebration with virtual events starting Sunday. Online activities include dreidel hot chocolate bombs, making latke and doughnuts, as well as a movie night, a game night and more. Click here for more information.

Noozhawk is asking readers for photographs of their decorated homes and businesses for publication on the website. To submit a photo, please email the image to [email protected] with the subject line “Holiday Cheer.” Make sure to include the address of the home or business (for publication on Noozhawk), along with your name and phone number (not for publication). Click here for more information.

— Noozhawk staff writer Brooke Holland can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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