Whereas California doesn't usually see snow at Christmas, it makes up for this absence with its festive displays. Stop in at the following places to see the state's best lights.
Disney characters illuminate Christmas Card Lane in Rancho Penasquitos with the glow of holiday cheer. Horse-drawn carriages are the most atmospheric way to see the lights, followed by some fireside s'mores. Tune your car's radio to 106.1 FM to listen to holiday music in sync with the twinkling displays on Belardo Drive. For more remarkable lights, head to the San Diego Botanic Garden, where 37 acres of all sorts of plants are strung with 125,000 glittering lights. Enjoy holiday carolers, jazz bands, festive food stalls, and nutcracker displays.
Candy cane ribbons of lights annually adorn the palm trees on Beverly Hills' Rodeo Drive, and that's just the start. Make your way to Upper Hastings Ranch for more traditional light displays. Every block has a different theme, and all are presided over by giant inflatable Santas. Just a few miles away from Hastings Ranch's Christmas Tree Lane, historic Balian House is adorned with lights and nativity displays.
More than 1 million onlookers come to Newport Beach for the Christmas Boat Parade. Boats adorned with lights glide by, and there are prizes for the best decorations. The seaside event, hosted by the Commodores Club, is a California Christmas classic.
You'll be greeted with a diverse itinerary when you travel to California for the holidays. Look forward to amusement parks, scavenger hunts, and visits with Santa.
A LEGO Christmas tree, serenades from Santa's elves, and real reindeer are among the attractions you'll find at Legoland. There's even a holiday dive demonstration at the amusement park's Sea Life aquarium.
Stop in at Carmel Ranch for Santa Scavenger Hunts and holiday cookie decorating sessions. Besides taking part in exciting activities such as archery and horseback riding, adults can also enjoy tastings at the local vineyard.
Teddy Bear Tea at the Langham Huntington is just one of the experiences your children might enjoy in this charming city just outside Los Angeles. Kids can cuddle up to the teddy of their choosing and kick back with tea on Wedgwood china. Expect storytelling, puppet shows, and a visit from Santa, too.
The Queen Mary ship hosts the Chill Festival, featuring the 135-foot Glacier Glide ride, an outdoor ice rink, and an annual themed light show.
During the holiday season, Disneyland is transformed into a winter wonderland. The 60-foot Christmas tree and dazzling castle are perfect for family photos, while kids yelp with excitement at the resort's holiday skating rink. Santa also visits regularly.
Head to California for the holidays and hit the slopes. Look forward to swishing down the slopes during the day and sipping warm drinks by the fire in the evening.
On Saturdays at Squaw Valley Resort, Santa stops by to hear children's Christmas wishes and take a selfie or two. You'll also spot Santa out on his skis. Your children can also enjoy Christmas stories with Mrs. Claus after a day on the slopes. During the holiday season, you and your family can explore a giant gingerbread village, and carolers regularly wander through town singing Christmas favorites. Additionally, don't miss out on skating, holiday craft events, snowman-making competitions, and magical ice-carving exhibitions.
Not far from Nevada City, a plethora of ski resorts beckon during more sports-oriented California Christmas vacations, including Sugar Bowl, Donner Ski Ranch, and the Royal Gorge Cross Country Resort. While downtown gleams with light displays, the Victorian Christmas-theme includes period actors, chestnut roasting, horse-drawn carriage rides, and a walking Christmas Tree.
One of America's most exquisite national parks is transformed into the ultimate winter wonderland during the holiday season. Yosemite's ski and snowboard area stretches for 90 miles. Traditional feasts feature free-range turkey and desserts that pay homage to the location, such as the Chocolate Dome, inspired by the parks' famous Half Dome. You can also expect live music and dancing at special holiday concerts and events.