Imagine sledding under palm trees. Or shopping while white flakes waft down and festive music plays. How about dancing reindeer? Pink Martinis? That’s all happening in Santa Barbara this weekend, as the holiday season gets fully underway.

Spots and snow

A rare blizzard hits the Santa Barbara Zoo on Sunday with more than 70 tons of snow for the annual Snow Leopard Festival, with frosty fun from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Kids aged 4 to 12 sled on the hilltop overlooking East Beach and palm trees, and the little tykes can frolic in a snowy play area.

Few creatures are more beautiful or elusive than snow leopards. Everett and Zoe, the zoo’s two spotted big cats, will enjoy icy treats and you’ll hear about the challenges the species face in their native range, including as 19,600 feet up in the Himalayas. Snow is provided to other animals, including two newly arrived reindeer, Lightning and Holiday, who are here through Jan. 1. Sledding is $3 (sleds provided), but regular zoo admission is still required. Rumor has it a certain jolly man in a red suit will be on hand for photos and holiday gift requests. (962-5339,

Want more snow? Free nightly shows at Paseo Nuevo feature “snow” storms and holiday music held in the central courtyard at 6 and 7 p.m. through Dec. 30, except Dec. 25. (

Dancin’ reindeer

Here’s a new take on that red-nosed reindeer -- “Rudolph” is now a ballet. Gustafson Dance, featuring State Street Ballet Young Dancers present this heartwarming story that also features an elf, an “abominable snow monster” and other misfit toys. The young dancers are simply adorable, and it’s a welcome change from ubiquitous “Nutcrackers.” Enjoy performances at 2 and 6 p.m. Saturday at the Lobero Theatre. Tickets are $25 for adults, $14 for students and children. (

Holiday at 'Pemberley'

Jane Austen fans will delight in “Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley,” a play based on the beloved characters from “Pride and Prejudice,” presented by Ensemble Theatre Company at the New Vic Theatre through Dec.17. Bookish sister Mary takes center stage as the Bennets gather at Pemberley, the stately home of Mr. and Mrs. Darcy (aka Fitzwilliam and Elizabeth) for the holidays. Could it be that she has a chance at a romance of her own? It’s a droll comedy of manners, and as delicious as a Christmas pudding. Ticket prices range from $20 to $50. (965-5400,

Hot Pink

Pink Martini imbues the season with their trademark sophistication and eclecticism in “A Holiday Spectacular” at the Arlington Theatre at 8 p.m. Saturday. Crossing genres and crisscrossing the globe, the “little orchestra” is sure to present a cool concert, especially with powerhouse singer China Forbes on vocals. Classic and little-known holiday gems are on the program, along with some of their iconic songs. Tickets to this show, presented by UCSB Arts & Lectures, start at $43. (893-3535,

Julia McHugh can be reached at