Who needs the North Pole when you’ve got Half Moon Bay? The coast oozes with unique local experiences that are in perfect keeping with the “small is beautiful” holiday theme this year.

1. Celebrate

Get in the holiday mood by taking the whole family to a festive event this season. Weekends really come alive with entertainment and shopping opportunities.

The 22nd annual Nights of Lights, featuring beautiful holiday lights, artisan shopping, and weekly festivities on Friday nights along Main Street in downtown Half Moon Bay, kicks off the Friday after Thanksgiving (11/26) with the annual Christmas tree lighting at Mac Dutra Park. On December 3rd enjoy a lighted parade down Main Street followed by a visit from Santa himself! On Friday, December 10th find the perfect gift at a local holiday market along Main Street. And on Friday, December 17th get into the spirit with holiday caroling and live music. 

The Coastside Holiday Festival taking place on December 3 from 3-9 pm offers treasures from 30 local vendors along with face painting and other kid’s activities, holiday libations, food trucks and more at the IDES Hall on Main Street.

Lighted Parade
The Lighted Parade is a beloved holiday tradition in Half Moon Bay.

2. Shop

Half Moon Bay is the perfect place to find something special for the holidays, because while there are plenty of local artisans and unique boutiques, there aren’t boring shopping malls or endless chain stores selling the same old things.

Saturday, Nov 27 is Small Business Saturday and Main Street will offer a wonderful opportunity to find rare gifts while supporting locally owned boutiques and shops. Many shops will be open to 8pm on Friday nights during Nights of Lights. Free parking.

You can shop the work of local artisans and craftspeople at a special Holiday Boutique at La Piazza (604 Main St) taking place December 18th and 19th from 10am to 5pm.

Sweet 55 ,the local award-winning chocolate shop, gets into the spirit of the season with lots of holiday confections. The piece de resistance may be the handcrafted holiday chocolate house, their take on a gingerbread house. Look closely to find a witch, a bird, a little forest of trees and a hidden surprise.

Head to Fog Town Toys for a wide range of kid friendly toy and games and balloons. And during the holidays you can send Santa a letter and receive a response, just drop your letter in the special red mailbox and include your name and address, before December 12th.


3. Dine

It’s Italia, a local favorite spot, will offer a Christmas Eve dinner on December 24th. There will be a variety of additional Christmas Eve inspired dishes, all featuring the rich winter local bounty and live music. Sit under their traditional upside-down Christmas Trees, and enjoy the sparkle of the evening! Call for reservations, (650) 726-4444.

At Moonside Bakery and Café you’ll find seasonal treats like Stollen (German-style bread made with rum soaked raisins and currants, hazelnuts and orange and lemon peel, buttered and rolled in vanilla sugar and powder sugar), panettone, gingerbread houses and gingerbread house kits and Buche de Noel.

4. Stay

Whether you are planning a getaway or just picking up a gift certificate for a future stay, Half Moon Bay offers plenty of options for a memorable stay.

The Beach House, Half Moon Bay offers luxury suites with views of the ocean and the mountains, and lots of packages to suit any style of escape, from romantic to spa indulgence. Check out their Winter promotions for some special deals including 15% off 3 night stays. You can also purchase a gift certificate online.

At the Ritz-Carlton Half Moon Bay the “Holiday Suite on the Coast” package includes a beautifully decorated suite with cozy holiday décor, gourmet holiday chocolates and a cookie decorating kit, and a limited-edition Hotel Lobby Holiday Candle as a coveted keepsake. Available during December, starting at $3,200 per night. For a low key splurge, add on their Experience S’more package with a s'mores kit and $150 Food & Beverage credit per night.

5. Indulge

They say experiences make the best gifts, and whether you’re treating yourself or a friend or family member, there’s something that fits every taste.

At Half Moon Bay Art Glass, now located at La Nebbia Winery, you can make a keepsake glass ornament. Check their schedule for public hot glass classes or just find a treasure in the shop.

Coastal Repertory Theatre presents The Santaland Diaries by David Sedaris, adapted by Joe Mantello. In this bittersweet one-man show, a struggling actor strapped for cash takes a job as an Elf at Macy’s Santaland, and his hilarious observations are more naughty than nice! The show is recommended for those sixteen and older. Weekends Dec. 3-19.

Amy Sherman is a local food and travel writer. She’s the author of Williams Sonoma New Flavors for Appetizers and Wine Passport Portugal and has written for food, travel and lifestyle publications including Afar, Food Network, Marin magazine, Fodor's and 7x7. After years of driving past Half Moon Bay on her way to and from UC Santa Cruz, she’s now happy to stop and fully enjoy its charms.