By Carrie Abel

Pacific Avenue is lined with trees, their trunks aglow with twinkling lights. The holiday festivities began last Saturday with the Santa Cruz Holiday Parade, but that was just the beginning. As November rolls into December it means more than finals; it is the holiday season in Santa Cruz, and there are tons of events awaiting families, friends, and couples alike.

*Roaring Camp Railroad*: Roaring Camp Railroads’ Holiday Lights Train started running in late November, and will continue to run on Dec. 7, 8, 9, 14, 15, 16, 21, and 22. Generally three trains run per night, depending on the number of attendees. Tickets are $20 and with that people get a “choice of holiday mini golf, arcade games, or laser tag,” said Joanne Hirasaki, the director of sales and marketing at Roaring Camp Railroads. The train runs on the Santa Cruz tracks, starting and ending at the Boardwalk, going through historic downtown all the way to the forest, then back for a one-hour ride.

Each train is decorated differently with over 1,000 lights. Hot cider is served, and there are carolers on the train. Hirasaki said “[We] give songbooks to sing along with.”

Along the way the train picks up two special passengers: Santa and Mrs. Claus. “Santa spends a lot of time with the children,” Hirasaki said.

*Santa Cruz Ballet*: Another Christmas-themed event is the Santa Cruz Ballet Theater production of “The Nutcracker.” The show runs from Dec. 14 through 16 at the Civic Auditorium. Tickets can be purchased by phone through the Civic or online at the Santa Cruz Ballet Theater website.

*Art Shows*: This December, the Santa Cruz Art League is presenting the Surf City Art Show.

“It is open to anybody in the county,” said Doreen Davis, the league’s assistant administrative director. Anyone can show their work as long as they download an entry form from www.scal.org and pay a fee per entry.

People get to show “one to two pieces that interpret what Surf City means to them,” Davis said.

All artwork must be dropped-off on Dec. 9 from 12-4 p.m. or on Dec. 10 from 2-4 p.m. The reception is on Dec. 15 from 3-5 p.m., and the show will run until Jan. 6.

Davis mentioned that there is a great gift shop at the Art League for anyone looking for Christmas gifts.

*Craft Fair and Carols*: Unique nature gifts will be available at Henry Cowell State Park’s Holiday Gift Faire on Dec. 8-9 from 10 a.m. through 5 p.m. There will be crafts activities for children in a beautiful nature setting.

Like to sing? Come to Caroling Under the Stars at the Wharf on Dec. 11 from 6-8 p.m. The event is free and song booklets are provided.

*Looking to 2008*: Once the Christmas festivities have died down it will be time for New Year’s. The Coconut Grove is hosting a “New Year’s Eve Eve” party as well as a regular New Year’s Eve party, both of which will be nights of live music and dancing for people age 21 and up.

The first will take place on Dec. 30, and doors will open at 8 p.m. Joe Sharino will be performing from 9 p.m. to 12:30 a.m., according to Christina Esqueda, the Coconut Grove office clerk. “It will be an open bar with snacks, like popcorn,” Esqueda said.

The cost is $40 in advance, or $45 at the door. “It has sold-out in the past,” Esqueda said, so it is good to get tickets early.

The event is “not formal, not casual, but dressy,” Esqueda added.

The New Year’s Eve party will take place on Dec. 31. A “dinner and dance” ticket costs $94 in advance, and “dance and dessert” tickets cost $54 in advance, or $64 at the door.

The band Live Action Heroes will play in the ballroom from 9 p.m. to 12:30 a.m., but there will also be a DJ in the sunroom from 8:30 p.m. to midnight.

Downtown on New Year’s Eve there will be a do-it-yourself parade, which anyone can join.

“Last year there were over a thousand people and we expect more this year,” Whitney Wilde, a promoter of the event, wrote in an e-mail to City on a Hill Press. “There will be fire dancers, pyrotechnics, stilt walkers, giant puppets, freak bikes … you name it.”

Participants are meeting in the Saturn Cafe parking lot at 5:30 p.m., but people can join the Pacific Avenue event at any point throughout the night.

_More holiday events can be found at www.santacruzca.org/things/evtsearch.cfm._