San Jose Christmas in the Park
The Heart of the Holidays Shines Bright in Downtown San Jose San Jose's Christmas in the Park has been spreading holiday cheer in downtown's Plaza de César Chávez Park for over 40 years. This beloved community tradition transforms the park into a glittering winter wonderland with over 60 musical and animated exhibits, glittering displays, and the 60-foot Community Giving Tree. As one of the largest holiday festivals in California, Christmas in the Park offers free family-friendly entertainment and activities throughout the season. Read on to discover the history, exhibits, events, and frequently asked questions about San Jose Christmas in the Park.
History of Christmas in the Park
The tradition began in 1950 when the San Jose Chamber of Commerce decorated a single tree in Plaza Park. In the decades since, Christmas in the Park has blossomed into a six-week celebration featuring: Origins and Early Years
- Started in 1950 with a single tree
- Grew each year with more trees and lights
- Moved to larger Plaza de César Chávez Park in 1993
- 1987: Carol of Lights display added
- 1999: Community Giving Tree installed
- 2009: Ice Rink introduced
By the Numbers
- Over 60 musical and animated exhibits
- Over 500 Christmas trees and holiday displays
- Over 60,000 twinkling lights throughout the park
Founder Ralph Ochoa’s vision was to bring the community together and spread joy during the holidays. His spirit continues to shine today through new exhibits, entertainment, and activities that delight over 500,000 annual visitors.
Christmas in the Park Exhibits
In addition to the lush rows of glittering trees and holiday displays, Christmas in the Park features over 60 colorful exhibits with music and animation. Here are some can't miss exhibits and photo ops:
Santa’s Castle No visit is complete without stopping by the regal castle to meet Santa Claus and capture the perfect photo! Santa poses for pictures nightly to hear wish lists and spread Christmas magic.
Community Giving Tree The signature 60-foot tall tree is the centerpiece of the park covered in over 7,000 colorful lights. Visitors can make donations supporting kids in need.
Teddy Bears’ Picnic This adorable scene has a 25-foot rainbow tunnel leading to a grassy picnic area filled with stuffed teddy bears enjoying treats by a pond.
Elves Factory Peer through the window to glimpse Santa’s hardworking elves busy making toys with hammering sounds and conveyor belts in motion.
Whoville Step into the fantastical town from How the Grinch Stole Christmas!Complete with swirling sculptures, topiaries, and scenes of the mischievous Grinch.
Splash Dance Fountains These tall fountains dance to Christmas music with jets of water synchronized to colorful lights.
Farolitos Over 2,000 brown bags illuminated from within line the park’s pathways in this traditional Mexican luminary display. In addition, you’ll find nutcracker statues, an old time carousel, model train sets, snow play zones, and more! The magical exhibits transport visitors into the nostalgic joy and wonder of Christmas.
Signature Events and Activities
Throughout the six weeks, Christmas in the Park hosts fun, family-friendly events and entertainment to spread cheer. Mark your calendar for these highlight events:
Tree Lighting Ceremony This lively celebration on November 25 kicks off the holiday season with live music, dancing, food, and more culminating in the ceremonial lighting of the towering Community Giving Tree.
Photos with Santa Santa poses for pictures inside his stately castle from November 25 to December 24. Capture the perfect family photo and create lasting holiday memories!
Gingerbread House Competition Admire the creative confectionary creations by professional bakeries, restaurants, and amateur bakers in this tasty competition.
Holiday Music Performances Talented choirs, bands, dance troupes, orchestras and musicians give free nightly performances at the Community Stage.
Milk and Cookies with Mrs. Claus The whole family can join Mrs. Claus for story time, singalongs, and milk and cookies inside Santa’s Castle on select nights.
Doggie Day On December 11, furry friends are invited to Doggy Day for pet pictures with Santa after park hours. Owners are encouraged to bring dog toys and treats to donate.
Around Downtown Ice Rink Glide across the real ice on the NHL-sized rink under sparkling trees and lights for a magical skating experience. With so much happening each evening, visitors make new memories and traditions at these spirited community events.
Tips for Visiting
As one of the biggest holiday events in Northern California, Christmas in the Park attracts big crowds. Beat the lines with these pro tips:
- Avoid Peak Nights: Opening weekend and weekends before Christmas draw peak attendance
- Prioritize Weeknights: Fewer visitors come Mon-Thurs so ideal for photos with Santa and ice skating
- Park Further Away: More parking beyond the adjacent lots to avoid traffic leaving
- Take Public Transit: Walk or ride VTA for least hassle
- Pack Warm Layers: With ice rink and nighttime hours, dress warmly!
- Bring Cash: On-site food vendors, rides, and souvenirs are cash only With smart planning, you can make the most of your time at this incredible community tradition.
Frequently Asked Questions
Planning your visit to Christmas in the Park? Check out answers to the top 10 most frequently asked questions:
**When is Christmas in the Park open? ** It’s open daily November 25 to January 1 (except December 25) from 9am-midnight with extended hours until 1am on Fridays and Saturdays.
Where is Christmas in the Park located? In downtown San Jose at Plaza de César Chávez Park (Market and San Carlos Streets).
**Is there an admission fee? ** No! Entry is free, making it accessible for all to enjoy.
What COVID precautions are in place? Masks are encouraged indoors and in crowded areas. More sanitation stations are available throughout the park.
Can I take food in? Yes, feel free to pack snacks and meals to picnic under the sparkling lights! Alcohol is prohibited.
**Is there parking on site? ** Yes, two lots offer 1,500 parking spaces combined. Rates from $5-$20 depending on demand. More affordable parking lots within a few blocks.
**Do exhibits cost extra? ** All the musical exhibits, Santa visits, and live entertainment are included free with park admission. Fees only for food, rides, ice skating and souvenirs.
What’s the best night to see everything? Any weekday is less crowded, especially Monday to Wednesday. But weekends offer more entertainment options on the main stage.
**Is Christmas in the Park toddler friendly? ** Absolutely! It’s very kid-oriented with mini train rides, snow play zones, Santa visits and exhibits at their height.
**Are wheelchairs and strollers allowed? ** Yes! Paved pathways allow wheelchairs throughout exhibits. Stroller parking offered for rides. With over six decades of history and holiday magic, Christmas in the Park promises memorable merriment for visitors of all ages. Bundle up to embrace the season and experience the wonder!
People also ask:
What time does Christmas in the Park open and close? Christmas in the Park is open daily from November 25 to January 1 (except December 25) from 9am to midnight, with extended hours until 1am on Fridays and Saturdays.
Is there ice skating at Christmas in the Park? Yes, there is an outdoor NHL regulation-sized ice rink inside Christmas in the Park open to skaters of all levels. Admission fees apply for skate rentals and access to the rink.
Does it cost money to see Santa at Christmas in the Park? No, visits with Santa inside his castle are completely free once you are inside Christmas in the Park! You can take your own photos or pay for professional photo packages.
What rides are at Christmas in the Park? Kids can enjoy amusement park rides like a double-decker carousel, Ferris wheel and holiday train ride for a small fee in addition to all the free exhibits.
Is Christmas in the Park crowded? As one of the biggest holiday festivals in Northern California, crowds over 500,000 visit annually. Weeknights are less busy than weekends. Arrive early and use public transit to avoid traffic. I hope this comprehensive guide helps capture the holiday magic that makes Christmas in the Park such a beloved community tradition! Let me know if you need any clarification or have additional questions.