Christmas is arriving early throughout the Santa Ynez Valley. From Thursday to Sunday, this weekend is jam-packed with parades, trees being lit, visits with Santa and Mrs. Claus, and cookies and cocoa. Here are some of the highlights:
Dubbed one of the most "Christmassy Towns in America," Solvang goes all out this time of year. The annual Solvang Julefest runs the entire month of December through Jan. 6. The community tree lighting ceremony is Friday from 5 to 7 p.m. in Solvang Park with area bands, caroling and dancers. The multigeneration Nielsen family are being honored as the 2016 Julefest grand marshals and will flip the switch on the tree.
More than 300 participants including riders on horseback, vintage vehicles and musical groups are expected for the Julefest Parade, starting at 11 a.m. Saturday at Solvang Veterans' Memorial Hall, and ending near the post office on Alisal Road. A free performance of "The True Meaning of Christmas -- Through the Eyes of a Donkey and Mouse" will take place immediately after the parade in the Solvang Park gazebo.
Discover dozens of merchant-driven events and special offers through the Shop, Mingle & Jungle promotions Friday through Sunday. A Piece of the Past, The Home Connection, The Good Life and the Wildling Museum are all offering guests free refreshments. Get free gift wrapping with purchase at The Book Loft. You can sip while you shop during extended evening hours at Wandering Dog Wine Bar, Sort This Out Cellars and The Landsby's lobby lounge.