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California Holiday Getaways

From the sunny coast to the snowy High Sierra, California delivers plenty of holiday charm. Here’s a list of must-see events, experiences and hotels the whole family can enjoy.


Holiday Wonderland at Alisal Ranch 
Alisal Ranch provides authentic Western hospitality and luxury ranch living, with activities ranging from horseback riding and golf to hiking and mountain biking. Each year, Alisal partners with The Solvang Bakery to create replicas of its barn, front office, library, cottages and livestock to display. Guests staying between Dec. 23-25 receive a personalized gingerbread house decorating kit with their family name. The property also transforms into a winter wonderland featuring views of snow blankets covering the Figueroa Mountains and a hearty ranch-style dinner with hot cocoa or wine to enjoy after a long day.

Renaissance Esmeralda Resort & Spa Participates in Winterfest
Renaissance Esmeralda Resort & Spa will participate in the Indian Wells Winterfest, Dec. 1 – Jan. 1, 2024, a spectacular Southern California holiday celebration. Resort offerings include cookie decorating, kids’ holiday crafts, hot chocolate and s’mores by the fire, Desert Glow Happy Hour, breakfast with Santa, and more. This year’s Indian Wells Winterfest experiences include a roller disco rink, live music performances, a special popup inflatable light-up igloo bar, outdoor snow globes and firepits, a holiday cookie and candy truck and Shots in the Night at the Indian Wells Golf Course.

Seaside Greetings at The Portofino Hotel & Marina
Embracing its timeline charm, from Dec. 1-30, The Portofino Hotel & Marina will introduce a special “Seaside Greetings” package that includes an oceanside guestroom, festive gift basket upon arrival, and a $50 food and beverage credit. The hotel is also a great place to watch the annual King Harbor Holiday Boat Parade on Dec. 9, with exceptional views of the illuminated boats passing by. 

Festive Soirees at Balboa Bay Resort
Balboa Bay Resort is in full swing this holiday season; kicking off with Thanksgiving, the resort will host a Thanksgiving Day buffet and wine tasting table. On Christmas Eve, a luxe buffet complete with unlimited wine and mimosas will be available alongside a stunning harborside view. Cap off 2023 with New Year’s Eve dinner followed by the "Diamonds and Pearls" party, with live music and champagne in the Grand Ballroom.

Holidays at Granlibakken Tahoe Resort
Granlibakken Tahoe Resort's popular winter and holiday season is filled with delicious meals and fun events. With accommodations that range from cozy single rooms to spacious townhomes, it's an ideal location to celebrate the season and enjoy all that Lake Tahoe has to offer. Plus, lodging guests receive discounts on holiday meals, sledding, and lift tickets. A daily full breakfast buffet is included with direct bookings.

1920s Holiday Affair at the Hotel del Coronado 
Hotel del Coronado is notorious for welcoming the holidays with epic fanfare. Celebrate the holidays in style 100 years back in time to the glittering art-deco extravagance of the 1920s. The Del will razzle-dazzle with lights and festive décor in emerald green, shimmering silver and gold, delicate pearls, and velvet. Returning holiday favorites include Skating by the Sea® (Nov. 17 – Jan. 7, 2024, benefiting Make-A-Wish® San Diego) and Frostbite Lounge, special holiday dining, redesigned "All That Jazz" Dynamic Light Show, Beachside Igloos, and more.

Lakehouse Resort: Holiday Escape on the Lake
Along the 80-acre Lake San Marcos, Lakehouse Resort offers a unique and charming winter experience every weekend in December. Debuting Dec. 1 is a 140-foot holiday light tunnel with a mesmerizing display of holiday lights, exclusive igloo dining complete with twinkle lights, tapas and wine near the lake, nostalgic Polar Express-inspired hayrides, a European-style Holiday Market to find the perfect gift for your loved ones, holiday-themed Pontoon and Duffy boat cruises on the lake, and much more through Dec. 24.

Gingerbread Houses at Tenaya at Yosemite
In December, make time for Tenaya at Yosemite's gingerbread house workshops with festive décor and a range of activities like twirling around an outdoor ice rink next to a crackling fire, ensuring that every visit is truly wrapped up with a bow. 

Vespera Resort in Pismo Beach
“Holiday Harmony” awaits at Vespera Resort in December with a DJ spinning Christmas tunes daily from 5-8 p.m., complemented by a hot cocoa and dessert bar. Don’t miss “Brunch with Santa” on Dec. 16, including special room packages and delectable Christmas Eve and Christmas Day menus for unforgettable celebrations.

Surfing Santas at The Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel
The Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel’s annual Surfing Santa and Stand-Up Paddle Board Contest takes place Nov. 18, where contestants dress like Santa, elves, and other holiday-inspired characters to benefit Surfers Healing, a surf camp for children with autism. With holiday light displays consisting of over 700,000 LED lights, including the popular “Merry Kiss Me” arch and a giant whale sculpture, the Dana Point Harbor also hosts its 48th Annual Boat Parade of Lights from Dec. 8 to 10 at 6:30 p.m., where visitors can hop aboard decorated boats with local outfitters to join local boaters in a Candyland-themed parade at sea.

Celebrate the Magic of Holidays at Tahoe Resorts
Join Northstar California Resort for one of the most beloved Tahoe traditions, Winter Wonders, formerly known as Noel Nights, a week-long event in December filled with festive fun like live music, ice skating, s’mores, and hot cocoa by fire pits. Head down to South Tahoe’s Heavenly Ski Resort, which partners with Heavenly Village, to create activities the whole family will love, including skiing with Santa, an ice sculpting contest, tree lighting, and live music. Round out the holiday season at Kirkwood Mountain Resort, and ring in the New Year with a torchlight run from the top of Chair 5 followed by a bonfire in the village and fireworks.

Holiday by the Bay at Hilton Bayfront
Located along the Embarcadero, Hilton San Diego Bayfront is a gateway to all that downtown and southern San Diego County has to offer. This holiday season, enjoy the festive atmosphere and decorations throughout the property and seasonal holiday cocktails at the waterfront kitchen, Hudson & Nash. Families can enjoy free screenings of holiday films, pictures with Santa, and story time with Mrs. Claus. On Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, Hudson & Nash will serve a special three-course pre-fixe holiday meal. 

Holidays at Jamaica Bay Inn
Leave the cooking to the pros at Beachside Restaurant & Bar at Jamaica Bay Inn this Thanksgiving. The waterfront hotel will offer a traditional three-course Thanksgiving meal for $65 per person. Secure a group or events room by Nov. 30 and enjoy 15% off room rental and a free appetizer or champagne toast. The hotel has various offerings for events including a holiday buffet with salads, entrees, sides and desserts.


Spreading MoCheer in Modesto
Modesto is filled with MoCheer and transforms into a winter destination with snow, ice skating, parades, and an ugly sweater crawl. The Prospect Theater Project presents holiday Radio Cavalcades with live performances of classic radio programming from the 30s, 40s and 50s. Families can attend festive performances of the Nutcracker by Central West Ballet, The Nightmare Before Christmas by the Modesto Symphony and It’s a Wonderful Life by the Modesto Performing Arts at the Gallo Center of the Arts. 

Night of Lights Returns to Canyon Lodge
On Dec. 16, Night of Lights returns to Canyon Lodge in Mammoth for a free fireworks spectacular that lights up the Sierra Sky. Enjoy outdoor family activities including fire pits, live music, snowmobile rides and more. 

Holiday Lights Parade in Downtown Morgan Hill
Morgan Hill’s Holiday Lights Parade & Tree Lighting returns on Dec. 2 and is made possible by the Morgan Hill Kiwanis organization and the City of Morgan Hill. Immerse in all things holiday cheer at this hometown celebration complete with a merry parade featuring floats, cars, local clubs, youth sports teams and a special appearance from Santa Claus. It’s free to attend and park in the Morgan Hill Train Station lot. Enjoy a cup of cappuccino, a hearty meal, or a festive hot toddy in one of the many locally-owned shops, eateries and bars in Downtown Morgan Hill after the celebration.

Ukiah's Hometown Holidays
Discover a month full of holiday activities in Ukiah this December. Ukiah’s celebrations begin with the annual Parade of Lights on Dec. 2 followed by the city’s tree-lighting ceremony. The beginning of December also brings the opening of the downtown ice rink through mid-January 2024. In mid-December, look for WinterFest in downtown Ukiah, with specialty retailers and fine restaurant specials, arts & crafts vendors, and many more holiday activities. Ukiah’s Holiday Trolley offers rides for easy access to all the action. Stretch your holiday season into January to enjoy Ukiah’s first annual Hot Cocoa Festival for National Hot Chocolate Day on Jan. 31, 2024.

Winterfest in Sausalito
The City of Sausalito is always full of holiday spirit with a number of events occurring throughout the month of December. Tour the creative gingerbread houses outside of Sausalito businesses. On Dec. 9, the Lighted Boat Parade and Fireworks showcases brightly decorated boats and fireworks over the Bay. And don’t miss the Jingle Bell 5K and Brunch on Dec. 10 where sprinters run around town, followed by brunch at The Spinnaker.

Sustainable Fun in Downtown Santa Rosa
The Winter Lights Rink on Old Courthouse Square is Sonoma County’s eco-friendly destination for outdoor holiday family fun. Synthetic ice is used as a substitute for real ice which allows users to enjoy skating without the excessive energy costs of operating a conventional ice-skating rink. The Winter Lights Rink utilizes sustainable technology that requires no energy or water and does not produce carbon emissions. Engineered plastic sheets are smooth and 100% seamless which creates excellent glide ability for skaters and holiday revelers.

Holly, Jolly Getaway to Petaluma
Get into the holiday spirit at Brewsters Beer Garden’s annual Miracle Christmas featuring seasonal cocktails, kitschy décor and a plethora of cheerful garb. This seasonal extravaganza in Petaluma transports visitors into a holiday wonderland filled with photo ops and features a menu full of cocktails mixed with festive flavors. Cozy up under massive heat lamps while enjoying cocktails in over-the-top holiday-themed glassware and mugs all served by staff wearing all sorts of jolly holiday costumes. 

Redding Garden of Lights
Redding sparkles with holiday charm, creating an ideal destination for holiday getaways. Don't miss the Redding Garden of Lights at Turtle Bay, where over one million colorful bulbs transform the McConnell Botanical Gardens into a dazzling winter wonderland from Nov. 17 through Jan. 7, 2024. Grab a hot cocoa and stroll with loved ones along winding paths lined with glittering displays choreographed to holiday music. Pause to admire the model train exhibit or swing on glowing LED swings. After roasting s'mores around a crackling fire pit under the stars, take a walk across the iconic Sundial Bridge aglow in red and green lights. Then head downtown to finish holiday shopping and find unique gifts at local markets brimming with handmade creations.

The Napa Valley Wine Train Celebrates 30 Years
The holidays are around the corner and one of the best places to celebrate them is on the Napa Valley Wine Train. In honor of its 30th anniversary, it’s offering all-new holiday journeys through Napa Valley that include multi-course meals, drinks and plenty of holiday cookies. The new Santa Train Jolly Journeys allows riders to choose from four distinct railway experiences, including Santa’s Cookie Car, Gourmet Holiday Express, Jingle on the Rails and the Very Merry Vista Dome. Santa Train Jolly Journeys runs from Nov. 30 to Dec. 23. 

Christmas Town Sonora and Historic Holidays at Columbia State Historic Park
Get into the holiday spirit by experiencing Christmas Town Sonora in November and December. There’s the Lighting Ceremony, the Downtown Christmas Parade, visits with Santa and Mrs. Claus at Santa’s House, the Best Tree and Best Window Contests, the Red Church Christmas Bazaar and Hometown Crafters Holiday Craft Fair, Christmas Tree Lane and Winter Wonderland, the Holly Jolly Wagon and more. Columbia State Historic Park will celebrate Historic Holidays with Columbia City Hotel Restaurant's Victorian Christmas Feast, the All Equestrian Parade, Las Posadas Nativity Procession, Miners Christmas, and Candy Cane Making. 


Holiday Events at Atascadero
Spend the holiday season in Atascadero with a series of exciting events that promise to bring out everyone’s festive spirit. Shop at the Pavilion on the Lake at the Holiday Boutique event, where over 50 talented artisans showcase their handmade creations, perfect for unique gifts or personal indulgence. The 3rd Annual Atascadero Fall Festival at Sunken Gardens offers three days of free admission, complete with a full-scale carnival, rides, games, vendors, breweries, and music from Nov. 17 through 19. Don't miss the Dec. 1 Light up the Downtown event, featuring Santa, Model-A-Firetruck & Hay Rides, hot chocolate, and late-night shopping with wine and beer tastings. On Dec. 2, take a memorable walk around Atascadero Lake, adorned with carolers, community singing and holiday decorations. For the ultimate winter experience, head to a snowy Sunken Gardens, featuring snow slides, bungee jumps, shopping, and festive entertainment on Dec. 8. 

Experience the Magic of Morro Bay's Festive Holiday Season
Celebrate the holiday season in Morro Bay with free events that promise joy and festive spirit. Don't miss out on Santa’s House at the Embarcadero where he welcomes families for photos on Fridays and Saturdays from 4-8 p.m., and Sundays from noon to 4 p.m. during the first three weekends of December. The Holiday Tree Lighting Celebration will take place Dec. 1 at City Park from 3:30 p.m., with the tree lighting at 5 p.m. Experience the magic of the Lighted Boat Parade on Dec. 2, 6:30-8 p.m., as Morro Bay's Rotary Club community showcases decorated boats alight with holiday spirit along Embarcadero. Witness boats compete for prizes, adding to the festive atmosphere.

Holiday Enchantment Takes Center Stage in Carmel-by-the-Sea
The captivating coastal town of Carmel-by-the-Sea is a place where holiday enchantment takes center stage. Enjoy Santa's grand arrival and performances by local choirs followed by the Holiday Tree & Menorah and Lighting Ceremony on Dec. 1. Celebrations continue at the Carmel Heritage Society’s Annual Inns of Distinction Tour on Dec. 3 with festively decorated inns, local bites and wine tastings. The Carmel Art Association presents "The Art of Gifting" exhibition, showcasing giftable artworks. The exhibit runs from Dec. 6 to 31, supporting Monterey Peninsula's local artists.

Cambria Christmas Market
The Cambria Christmas Market is a traditional European-style outdoor holiday market full of booths selling delicious food, homemade goods and gifts. The highlight of the event is the 2 million lights that are beautifully displayed to celebrate the season. Try the traditional German hot spiced wine while browsing the market and admire the glittering lights. Purchase tickets in advance – this is a popular event.

Holiday Delights in Monterey County
Monterey County's charm is on full display with various events around the county, ensuring an abundance of holiday cheer. Witness the magic as Monterey's iconic Cannery Row lights up during its holiday tree lighting on Nov. 24. For the quintessential coastal experience, visit Old Fisherman's Wharf in Monterey for the Brighten the Harbor Lighted Boat Parade on Dec. 3. Stroll through beautifully decorated Victorian inns and savor warm cocoa at Holiday at the Inns in Pacific Grove on Dec. 5. For an exceptional holiday experience, make a reservation at Stokes Adobe and indulge in a memorable holiday meal before exploring Monterey's historic Adobes at Christmas at the Adobes on Dec. 8 and 9 to be transported back in time.

Celebrate the Holidays in Downtown San Luis Obispo
The 47th Annual Downtown SLO Holiday Parade takes place Dec. 1 at 7 p.m., where over 80 decorated floats featuring marching bands, vehicles, dancers and more make their way through downtown. The 2023 parade theme will be "Out of this World!" and participants are encouraged to incorporate elements of space exploration and intergalactic adventure into their entries. Along with the parade, Downtown SLO will Light Up the Plaza! with Santa meet-and-greets, a carousel, a dazzling tree, larger-than-life decorations, a musical light show and brand-new photo opportunities. All of the fun in the Plaza will begin on Friday, Nov.24, and continue through the holiday season. At Christmas at the Carrisa, guests will step into immersive experiences and nostalgic holiday decorations. The venue will feature six distinct sections – the Cozy Sweater Nook, Holly Jolly Hall, Rod & Hammer Ski Chalet, Oh-What-Fun Game Room, Dasher’s Disco, and Making Spirits Bright Lounge.

Honoring America’s Armed Forces in Visalia
The annual Trek to the Nation’s Christmas Tree in Kings Canyon National Park is a holiday season tradition that takes place on Dec. 10. The General Grant Tree, the second largest tree in the world, is a living shrine to the men and women of the armed services. To honor their service, the National Park Service lays a ceremonial wreath at the base of the majestic sequoia tree. 


VEA Newport Beach
The all-new luxury VEA Newport Beach is kicking off the holiday season with a festive Holiday Tree Lighting ceremony on Nov. 30 with refreshments, live entertainment, and a visit from Santa. Throughout December, the hotel will be home to the "Holiday Hideout" bar, featuring festive cocktails, seasonal small plates, and photo opportunities in the transformed winter wonderland lounge. Guests staying through the holidays can dine at VIEW Restaurant & Lounge on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day to enjoy a special three-course, prix dinner menu offered per person. 

Home for the Holidays in Buena Park
Buena Park comes alive with a plethora of holiday events, each offering its unique charm. Taking place Nov. 17 through Jan. 7, 2024, Knott's Merry Farm transforms the iconic amusement park into a festive wonderland, complete with live entertainment, tree lighting and a chance to meet Santa Claus. Meanwhile, the Buena Park Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony on Dec. 1 at City Hall is a heartwarming tradition, featuring local school performances, food trucks, and a special visit from Santa. The 52nd Annual Candy Caneland & Craft Fair promises an array of local artisans, interactive games, raffles and a snow slide for a festive experience.

Christmas Tree Lane in Oxnard
Oxnard’s famed Christmas Tree Lane continues its decades-long tradition with festively lit and decorated houses in the National Historic District. Visitors can walk or drive down the street to see the twinkling lights and decorations or hop aboard the double-decker Oxnard Holly Trolley to tour this and Oxnard’s other holiday attractions, along with complimentary hot cocoa and cookies.

Island-Inspired Celebrations in Catalina
Catalina comes alive during the holidays with a unique blend of traditional and island-inspired celebrations. Experience the warmth of the island's festive spirit during the Shop Catalina Holiday Kick Off & Tree Lighting on Dec. 2, including ornament decorating, a gingerbread house decorating contest, pet (and people) portraits with Santa and traditional holiday carolers.

SeaWorld Christmas Celebration
At SeaWorld Christmas Celebration, guests can make holiday traditions while enjoying stunning live shows, photos with Santa and friends, delicious food, delightful holiday shopping and festive décor. The event runs from Nov. 17 through Jan. 7, 2024.

Celebrate Winter Holidays on the Water in Long Beach
Long Beach's 9th Annual Christmas Tree Lighting kicks off the winter holiday season on Nov. 28, and features a 67-foot tall Christmas tree – the tallest artificial tree in LA – and more than 500,000 lights illuminating the Terrace Plaza. Attendees can take photos with Santa and Mrs. Claus, take a train ride, and enjoy local food trucks, live performances, fireworks, and snow. Other fun ways to see holiday lights include the Naples Island Christmas Boat Parade on Dec. 16, where the boats on the water and the homes lining the Naples Island canals are decked out with holiday cheer. Every year after Thanksgiving, Long Beach also lights up its floating “Christmas trees” in local waterways, a tradition since 1949. 

Celebrate the Holidays in Oceanside
Kicking off the holiday season in Oceanside is the popular Thanksgiving Day O’side Turkey Trot, which takes participants along a scenic course through downtown and along the coastline. Festivities continue into December with the official tree lighting in the Pacific Plaza on Dec. 7 which includes visits with Santa, arts, crafts, and a gift mart plus weekly holiday-themed Sunset Markets each Thursday. Oceanside Harbor's Parade of Lights is an annual event where fishing boats, sailboats, yachts, kayaks, and dinghies dress up in holiday swag and circle the Oceanside Harbor to enchant onlookers. For any-time fun, Oceanside’s Top Tier Escape Rooms, voted the best in San Diego, is debuting a special Christmas-themed challenge that will delight holiday revelers of all ages.

Winter Wine Walk in Ventura
Who says a Southern California beach town can’t do winter? Ventura’s downtown Main Street will close to traffic while bands play, elves dance, and vendors sell their wares. There are over 80 tasting sites that pour wine, sparkling wine and craft beer during the Winter Wine Walk and Holiday Street Fair on Dec. 2. 

Christmas Cocktail Pop-Up at Belmont Park
Miracle at Draft, a Christmas-themed pop-up cocktail experience, will debut at Draft restaurant and bar in Belmont Park featuring festive original cocktails, over-the-top decorations and exciting new mug designs on Nov. 17 through Dec. 31.

LEGOLAND® California Resort Brings LEGO® Cheer to Southern California
‘Brick’ the Halls! LEGOLAND® California Resort’s holiday event is turning Carlsbad into a winter wonderland this season. Kicking off Nov. 18 and running on select days in November, December, and January, the event is complete with elaborate décor, twinkling lights, garland, presents, Christmas trees and even falling snow – all included with general park admission and select annual passes. To ring in the New Year, the park is hosting an exclusive Kids’ New Year’s Eve Party. Countdown to LEGOLAND California’s version of midnight (which is a kid-friendly 7 p.m.), view fireworks from several areas in the Park with special 3D glasses that turn the bursts into LEGO bricks or embark on a scavenger hunt through Miniland to help the Minilanders find their New Year’s Eve party hats.