The Cambrian

Downtown Cambria shops are looking to lure Christmas Market visitors. Here’s how

It should be easier this year for people to spend some time shopping, dining and relaxing in downtown Cambria before attending the expansive Christmas Market.

As residents in the small coastal town brace themselves for the rush of evening visitors to the eighth annual Cambria Christmas Market, a group of downtown shopkeepers and the Cambria Chamber of Commerce are busily gearing up to compete for equal time.

The Christmas Market is held on most nights from Nov. 29 through Dec. 23, at the Cambria Pines Lodge, 2905 Burton Drive, and Cambria Nursery & Florist, across Burton Drive at 2801 Eton Road.

Both locations are at the top of the hill about three-quarters of a steep mile from Cambria’s East Village and nearly two miles from West Village, the town’s primary shopping districts. The Moonstone Beach Drive motel, dining and shopping area is even further away and across busy Highway 1.

Downtown business owners say they want to encourage Christmas Market attendees to make a day out of their Cambria outing —perhaps arriving in time for a leisurely meal or snack and some shopping before visiting the display.

Some shopkeepers say their December customer counts and bottom lines have been diminishing since the first Cambria Christmas Market in 2012. Now they’re trying to combat that by providing activities, sales, transportation and more to attract shoppers back to the downtown areas.

To make those areas even more festive, a series of a dozen outsized cutouts will be scattered throughout town, providing opportunities for quick “Cambria CA” souvenir selfies. Volunteers recently repainted and repaired the cutouts, which, while appropriate for the holiday season, can be displayed year round.

Christmas Market lights, shopping and Santa

This year’s Christmas Market happens from 5 to 9 p.m. Nov. 29 through Dec. 23. (It’s closed on two Mondays, Dec. 2 and 9. Because Thanksgiving falls so late in November, the 2019 market’s 23-night run is a bit shorter than usual.

In addition to about 2 million lights in dioramas and displays, the market boasts 30 artisan vendors, plus photos with Santa, Christmas dinners, fire pits and live music nightly. The fun replicates many experiences from similar events in Germany.

Event admission prices vary per night, ranging from $10 to $25 per person. Children 10 years and younger are admitted into the market for free, as long as they’re accompanied by a supervising adult with a ticket.

Tickets are sold online in advance.

With an attendance maximum each evening, some nights will sell out. On those evenings, at-the-door tickets, which cost an additional $10, will not be available.

Details and tickets are available at CambriaChristmasMarket.com.

Parking and shuttles

At night during the Cambria Christmas Market, people are not allowed to walk or park on the upper stretches of Burton Drive, and they may not park on streets in adjacent neighborhoods. Onsite parking at the Lodge is reserved for hotel guests and some handicapped visitors.

Sanctioned areas for market parking are at Coast Union High School, 2950 Santa Rosa Creek Road, and in public parking lots in the town’s East and West Village areas.

A fleet of rented buses shuttles market attendees to and from those parking lots. Buses on a separate route provide free transportation for guests who are staying at Moonstone Beach Drive motels.

But the shuttle lots don’t open officially for market business until 4:15 p.m. and the first pickups aren’t until 4:45 p.m., according to CambriaChristmasMarket.com. So, what if someone arrives in downtown earlier in the day, eats and shops and then wants to go directly to the market?

To fill that gap on market days, the Cambria Chamber of Commerce got a $52,000 grant from the Cambria Tourism Board for additional shuttle service from 4 to 5 p.m., taking people from Moonstone Beach and both village areas to and from the market and downtown.

Formal shuttle stops are in East Village at Burton Drive and Center Street, and in West Village at Main and Arlington streets. On Moonstone Beach, the shuttles stop at Fireside Inn, Blue Dolphin Inn and Cambria Shores.

According to Mary Ann Carson, the chamber’s executive director, the grant-funded service was designed to alleviate two problems: A lack of customers in West Village during the market, and the impact of having so many marketgoers parking on East Village streets and lots, but not shopping or dining there.

Carson said chamber members told her that, during the market season, regular customers of those shops and restaurants had a tough time finding available parking space and getting to their dining reservations on time or at all.

West Village music and magic

Some entrepreneurs in West Village shops are taking the “spend the day in Cambria” concept even further, banding together to provide additional incentives such as live music, decorations and sales.

Attractions include two special performances by the Village Wizard, aka Rick Bruce, at 5 and 6 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 7, in front of the Cambria Beads, Lucia Apothecary and Envoy Mortgage complex at 746 Main St.

There also are plans to expand the West Village offerings, including more entertainment, including adding carolers and having Boni’s Taco Truck there to sell tacos and quesadillas. Some shops could also stay open later on Saturday nights.

But those plans hadn’t been finalized as of Monday.

More details should be available soon at www.shopcambria.net.

Hospitality Night event

Hospitality Night, a festive, free downtown open house, will be held on Thursday, Dec. 5.

That’s when many shops in both villages and beyond stay open late. Stores provide refreshments, sales and other incentives so Cambria residents can join their neighbors and enjoy their hometown in a festive holiday atmosphere.

The event includes tree-lighting ceremonies, carolers, decorations, refreshments, games, Santa Claus and more. For details, call the chamber at 805-927-3624.

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Kathe Tanner has been writing about the people and places of SLO County’s North Coast since 1981, first as a columnist and then also as a reporter. Her career has included stints as a bakery owner, public relations director, radio host, trail guide and jewelry designer. She has been a resident of Cambria for more than four decades, and if it’s happening in town, Kathe knows about it.
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