Holiday Themed Movies Filmed on the Central Coast

Scene from the film "A Very Charming Christmas Town" for Lifetime that filmed in Solvang (courtesy)

While we’re moving into the New Year and technically the “holidays” are almost over, but there is still time to relax and catch up on holiday themed movies.

I thought it would be fun to put together a list of movies filmed along the Central Coast that are perfect for this time of year. I’m sure I’m missing some so feel free to add your favorites in the comment section.

Holiday-Themed Movies Filmed Along California’s Central Coast

A Very Charming Christmas Town

Film poster for “A Very Charming Christmas Town” for Lifetime that filmed in Solvang (courtesy)

This Lifetime movie from 2020 sticks to its claim to fame offering a predictable yet easy to watch holiday love story set in a charming small town. This movie with a direct title, “A Very Charming Christmas Town,” chooses our own mini-Christmas haven, Solvang.

Here’s the description of the film: “Travel and lifestyle blogger Aubrey Lang leaves the big city behind and visits the small town of Solvang for a Christmas vlog piece, after it’s voted ‘Most Christmassy Town’ in the USA.”

Read a fantastic review with personal anecdotes from the Central Coast Film Society here and watch the film’s movie trailer below. The movie can be viewed on-demand through the Lifetime Network.

It’s Complicated

Film poster for “It’s Complicated” (courtesy)

This 2009 film directed by Nancy Meyers is a romantic comedy starring Meryl Streep, Alec Baldwin, and Steve Martin. Set against the backdrop of Santa Barbara, the film highlights the area’s stunning architecture and captivating ocean views. While it technically isn’t considered a holiday film, there are some holiday scenes that were shot during the filmmaking, even creating the De La Guerra Plaza into an entire Christmas tree lot in the middle of Spring.

Scenes were shot in the Sunken Gardens, the Cabrillo Blvd bike path, and State Street Farmer’s Market. Streep’s character is a pastry chef who owns a bakery in Santa Barbara that from the outside resembled the former Pierre Lafond bistro on State Street, now home to Institution Ale. Alas, this was building and scenes were shot in New York.

Her stunning home that was decked out in typical Nancy Meyers style with lots of plush white furniture, beige colors, and minimally colored accents is said to be actually be an equestrian farm in Thousand Oaks. However, the home showed were exterior shots only with the entire interior scenes, including the bakery, shot on soundstages in Brooklyn.

YuleTide the Knot

Film poster of “Yuletide the Knot” (courtesy)

This 2023 holiday rom-com shot most of its scenes in Moorpark and Steamboat Springs, Colorado.

It follows small town wedding planner Rachel who is planning her biggest Christmas wedding for an influencer couple. She is thrown a surprise when the bride’s manager turns out to be Logan, her first love and high school sweetheart – the one that got away.


Film poster for “Fitzwilly” (courtesy)

The irreverent 1967 comedy stars Dick Van Dyke as a tireless and loyal butler who hides from his eccentric spinster boss, played by Edith Evans, that she has been bankrupt since her father died. Through wily schemes he creates one racket, swindle or con after another to maintain the household and fund his employer’s frivolous philanthropy. When new secretary Juliet (Barbara Feldon) is hired on, Fitzwilly’s life gets even more complicated.

Moorpark was transformed into New York City during Christmas for this film with ground-level exterior scenes showing Moorpark’s High Street. Although most of the interior scenes were filmed on Hollywood lots.

Notable Alternatives

If you’re the type to take down Christmas decorations on December 26th, here are some notable films that were shot locally but exclude the holiday elements.

“Sideways” (2004):
This critically acclaimed film, directed by Alexander Payne, showcases our enchanting wine country. Following the adventures of two friends on a wine-tasting road trip, “Sideways” takes viewers on a scenic tour of the county’s vineyards, showcasing the beauty of the Santa Ynez Valley and real-life local businesses.

“The Graduate” (1967):
A classic coming-of-age film directed by Mike Nichols, “The Graduate” features several iconic scenes filmed in Santa Barbara County. Notably, the stunning campus of the UC Santa Barbara serves as a backdrop, adding a touch of academia to the narrative.

“A Wrinkle in Time” (2018):
Based on Madeleine L’Engle’s beloved novel, this fantasy adventure film directed by Ava DuVernay showcases various stunning locations in Santa Barbara County. From the stunning coastal vistas of Montecito to the charming downtown area, audiences are transported to a magical world amidst familiar backdrops.

“Seabiscuit” (2003):
This inspiring movie, directed by Gary Ross, tells the story of the legendary racehorse Seabiscuit. Santa Barbara County’s lush landscapes provided the perfect setting for capturing the thrilling and uplifting journey of this iconic horse, showcasing the region’s equestrian heritage.

“Little Giants” (1994)
Join Rick Moranis and Ed O’Neill in this heartwarming family sports comedy that was filmed in Arroyo Grande. Despite being set in Urbania, Ohio, the movie beautifully captures the essence of a local small town.

“Spartacus” (1960)
Starring Kirk Douglas and directed by Stanley Kubrick, this historical drama transports you to ancient Rome, with Hearst Castle in San Simeon as the backdrop.

“The Spirit of St. Louis” (1957)
Experience the thrilling story of Charles Lindbergh’s historic flight from New York to Paris in this Billy Wilder production. Filmed extensively in Santa Maria, the movie takes you back to the golden age of aviation, with Allan Hancock Air Field (now Allan Hancock College) featuring prominently.

“Pete’s Dragon” (1977)
Rediscover the magic of this classic Disney film, set in Passamaquoddy, Maine but filmed along the Central Coast. The lighthouse seen in the movie was built near Montana De Oro State Park, on Point Buchon, adding a touch of enchantment to the region.

“Of Mice and Men” (1992)
Gary Sinise directs and stars in this dramatic adaptation of John Steinbeck’s classic novel. Filmed extensively in the picturesque Santa Ynez Valley, the movie beautifully captures the essence of the story, adding a touch of Santa Barbara County’s charm.

“Outbreak” (1995)
A suspenseful thriller that explores the outbreak of a deadly virus. Keep an eye out for scenes shot over the stunning Santa Ynez Mountain Range, as Dustin Hoffman and Cuba Gooding Jr. attempt to save the day.

“The Rocketeer” (1991)
Delve into the world of comic book superheroes with this charming Disney film. Shot primarily at the Santa Maria Airport and its surroundings, “The Rocketeer” takes you on a thrilling adventure with an iconic Central Coast backdrop.

“Batman: The Movie” (1966)
Witness the caped crusader in action as Batman makes his debut on the big screen. Filmed in Santa Barbara’s iconic Stern’s Wharf, this campy and fun film laid the foundation for the countless adaptations of Gotham City that would follow.

“Scarface” (1983)
Al Pacino’s iconic portrayal of Tony Montana is a story that resonates with audiences to this day. Keep an eye out for scenes set in Tony’s Miami mansion, which, in reality, were filmed against the Santa Barbara backdrop.

“The Ten Commandments” (1956)
Cecil B. DeMille’s iconic film, starring Charlton Heston, is a biblical epic takes us on a remarkable journey through ancient Egypt. The majority of the movie was shot in the stunning landscapes of the Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes near Pismo Beach. The towering sand dunes served as the perfect backdrop for the vast desert scenes, providing a sense of desolation and awe.


Written by JaneTV

Jane is a longtime Santa Barbara resident who enjoys watching a variety of movies and television

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