Annual event illuminates Cambria Pines Lodge and Nursery with over 2 million lights

By Blake Ashley Frino-Gerl

CAMBRIA — Another year for the Cambria Christmas Market at Cambria Pines Lodge and Cambria Nursery has come again. The classic seasonal event on the Central Coast, created by owner Dirk Winter in 2011, keeps its popularity for locals and travelers alike to see, learn, eat, drink and be merry from the end of November to mid-December. 

Based on those original open-air winter Christmas markets dating back to the 1300s, and held in the town square, known in Germany and Austria as “Weihnachtsmarkt” (in German Weinhnacht is “Christmas” and Markt is “market”). Vendors would sell festive food, drinks and goods, and the town celebrated with traditional song and dance. These types of markets are now held all over the world to celebrate the Christmas season.


With the business’ strong German ties and love for Christmas, they share that enthusiasm year after year. The market sets the scene for those ready to enjoy and be enamored by the holiday season. All event-goers who came to celebrate the fun, whether for the first time or as their annual kick-off to the holidays, were allowed to be enthralled by the fervor of over 2 million twinkling Christmas lights, with many new features such as lighted 2-dimensional Christmas trees near the rainbow-colored tunnel, as well as animated art of literary classic “A Christmas Carol,” and a section of the consistent Golden Gate Bridge adjusted to serve as decor rather than a walk-on bridge. 

Event Coordinator Mike Arnold said that their designer works hard each year to create new displays. 

“The Christmas Carol light boxes and the Snow Globe photo booth have been two of our most popular additions this year,” Arnold said. “We are always looking for ways to expand beyond lights and to bring dimension and movement into our displays.”

The Krampas folkloric figure has changed over the years, and many may have seen their favorite representation come and go, but always present at the Market is the mysterious story of him bringing naughty children coal, bringing imagery to the past traditions and fun in the wondrous holiday season.

The artisan vendors — many local — visits from Santa, fun train ride, cozy fire pits, photo-ops, live music, variety of foods and drinks and so much more is what makes this SLO County event special and true to the nature of many European Christmas markets.

German food and warm Gluhwein are staples, as well as shopping at the nursery’s ever-growing Christmas store. The authentic German booth continues to feature handmade imported German Christmas decor, including nutcrackers and smokers, glass-blown ornaments and more.

While strolling through the colorful lights, people can take a rest at the Biergarten or Amphitheater to listen to music performances. Loren Radis, a Central Coast native, along with several other musicians, were featured at the recent month-long event. 

Those behind the Cambria Christmas Market have made it a mission to support locally. According to their website, over the years they have made significant donations to local nonprofits, including the Homeless Animal Rescue Team and the local school district. In addition, they continue to work with the Cal Poly events and engineering departments to build new, interactive displays. They have also worked with Jack’s Helping Hand to offer a Special Needs night that allows families with disabilities to attend the light display without the crowds so they can enjoy a festive evening without over-stimulation.

The Cambria Christmas Market has evolved into a memorable holiday attraction for many, so much that this year the Yelp website has listed it in the top 5 holiday markets in America.

Feature Image: Visitors enjoy one of the colorful, elaborate Christmas light displays at the Cambria Christmas Market. Photos by Blake Ashley Frino-Gerl