California is doubly blessed during the holiday season: You can still comfortably walk on the beach, ski in in the mountains, and soak up as much holiday magic and you can handle. Here are five unique ways to celebrate around the Golden State:
Browse Fresno’s Christmas Tree Lane
This Central Valley city was a true pioneer in the realm of awesome neighborhoods for holiday lights. Its Christmas Tree Lane dates back to 1920 and has become a literal beacon of holiday cheer, with two miles of decorated homes and trees.
Nevada City’s Victorian Christmas
Nevada City, a historic Gold Country town known for its 19th-century architecture and small-town charm, turns back the clock for its annual Victorian Christmas celebration. The transportive aroma of roasting chestnuts and the sights of street performers, gas lamps, and revelers dressed in Victorian attire make a stroll through town feel like a Dickensian holiday. Browse booths selling crafts, jewelry, and food. For those looking to ring in the holidays like a local, the town even has tips on how to dress the part.
Bask at the Theme Parks
December (and even November) are when you see the theme parks at their most fabulous: This year, Universal Studios Hollywood is wrapping Hogsmeade and the rest of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in holiday cheer, while the San Diego Zoo lights up at night with Jungle Bells, and Disneyland Resort goes all out, with a decorated Sleeping Beauty’s Castle, themed rides (from It’s a Small World to the Haunted Mansion), and treats (hello, candy canes). See our list of best bedecked theme parks.
Go to a Boat Parade
The Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade is the granddaddy of this California take on holiday lights—with double the effect as the twinklies reflect in the ocean waters.
Ride a Wine Train, See Santa Wearing Shorts
Really, why shouldn’t the old guy grab a little downtime this time of year? In San Diego, Santa arrives at Seaport Village wearing board shorts and flip flops, in wine country he rides the Napa Valley Wine Train, and on Dec. 17 in Mountain High, he skis free (and you can too) if he suits up in his best red costume. Read on for more cool places to see Santa in California.