Top Places to Go for Christmas in California: Celebrations from Beaches to Snowy Peaks

Top Places to Go for Christmas in California: Celebrations from Beaches to Snowy Peaks

Dreaming of a Christmas getaway in sunny California? You’re in for a treat. From festive coastal towns to snow-capped mountain retreats, California offers an array of magical destinations that cater to every holiday whim.

Whether you’re looking to bask in holiday lights along the coast or hit the slopes in a winter wonderland, there’s a perfect spot waiting for you. Ready to discover where to go for Christmas in California? Let’s dive into some of the state’s most enchanting holiday locales.

Key Takeaways

  • Diverse Holiday Destinations: California offers a variety of locations for Christmas, from festive coastal towns to snowy mountain retreats, catering to a wide range of holiday interests.
  • Southern California Highlights: Iconic events like the Hollywood Christmas Parade in Los Angeles, Disneyland’s Christmas transformation, and San Diego’s December Nights provide vibrant holiday experiences in Southern California.
  • Northern California Delights: Northern California boasts winter wonders such as Lake Tahoe’s snowy activities, San Francisco’s Union Square festivities, and Napa Valley’s holiday wine tours.
  • Unique Theme Park Events: Theme parks like Disneyland, Universal Studios Hollywood, Knott’s Berry Farm, and Legoland California feature unique Christmas events, showcasing festive parades, themed decorations, and holiday shows.
  • Local Festivals and Markets: Local festivities, such as the Great Dickens Christmas Fair in San Francisco, the Downtown Sacramento Ice Rink, and Christmas Tree Lane in Fresno, offer a range of traditional and unique holiday celebrations.
  • Outdoor Winter Activities: From skiing and snowboarding in the Sierra Nevadas to coastal Christmas events in places like Santa Monica and Newport Beach, California provides numerous outdoor winter activities for holiday fun.

Exploring Christmas Destinations in California

Southern California Celebrations

Southern California offers vibrant and diverse holiday festivities. Los Angeles hosts several iconic events, including the Hollywood Christmas Parade and LA Zoo Lights. Disney enthusiasts can enjoy Disneyland’s spectacular Christmas transformation, featuring themed parades and decorations. San Diego’s December Nights in Balboa Park showcases dazzling lights, live music, and holiday markets.

Northern California Winter Wonders

Northern California offers picturesque winter experiences. Lake Tahoe transforms into a snowy wonderland, perfect for skiing, snowboarding, and festive events like SnowGlobe Music Festival. San Francisco’s Union Square becomes a holiday hotspot, with ice skating rinks and the annual lighting of the Great Tree at Macy’s. Napa Valley offers festive wine tastings and holiday tours through decorated wineries.

Top Cities to Visit During Christmas

Top Cities to Visit During Christmas

Los Angeles Festivities

Los Angeles offers a vibrant array of holiday festivities. The Hollywood Christmas Parade showcases impressive floats, equestrians, and celebrity appearances. Visit the LA Zoo Lights to see twinkling displays, illuminated animal-themed decor, and festive music. Disneyland’s Christmas events include themed parades, fireworks shows, and holiday-themed rides. For a unique experience, explore the annual Christmas market on historic Olvera Street, where you can find local crafts and festive food.

San Francisco Holiday Charm

San Francisco transforms into a holiday wonderland during Christmas. Union Square becomes a central hub with an iconic ice skating rink, festive tree lighting ceremonies, and decorative displays. Don’t miss the Fairmont Hotel’s Gingerbread House, a life-sized structure attracting numerous visitors each year. Explore Pier 39’s holiday celebrations, featuring a stunning Christmas tree and nightly light performances. Ride the decorated cable cars for a festive tour of the city’s famous landmarks.

Unique Christmas Events in California

Unique Christmas Events in California

Theme Parks and Holiday Magic

Visit theme parks for extraordinary Christmas events in California. Disneyland Resort in Anaheim mesmerizes with its “Disneyland Christmas Fantasy Parade” and “It’s a Small World” holiday transformation. Universal Studios Hollywood showcases “Grinchmas,” where holiday joy meets movie magic. Knott’s Berry Farm in Buena Park celebrates with “Knott’s Merry Farm,” featuring winter wonderlands and festive shows. Enjoy Lego-themed holiday experiences at Legoland California in Carlsbad, offering holiday shows and a giant Lego Christmas tree.

Local Festivals and Markets

Discover local festivals and markets for unique holiday celebrations. The Great Dickens Christmas Fair in San Francisco transports you to Victorian-era London with costumed performers, holiday shops, and festive food. Visit the Downtown Sacramento Ice Rink for a skating session before heading to the Old Sacramento Waterfront’s Theatre of Lights show. Explore festive goods at the Beverly Hills Holiday Bazaar, offering artisan gifts, seasonal treats, and live entertainment. Attend the Christmas Tree Lane in Fresno for a mile-long stretch of beautifully decorated homes and holiday lights.

Outdoor Winter Activities in California

Snow Adventures in the Sierra Nevadas

Explore an array of snow adventures in the Sierra Nevadas, including skiing, snowboarding, and snowshoeing. Resorts like Squaw Valley and Heavenly Mountain Resort provide top-notch facilities and stunning views. If you prefer cross-country skiing, places like Tahoe Donner offer groomed trails suitable for all skill levels. Families can enjoy tubing at Northstar California Resort, with dedicated lanes and equipment rental services. Nearby, the Ice Rink at Squaw Valley offers a delightful skating experience with mountain vistas. Snowmobiling tours in the Lake Tahoe area add an extra thrill for adventure enthusiasts. Ensure you check weather conditions and resort availability before planning your trip.

Coastal Christmas Events

Experience warm holiday cheer with coastal Christmas events in California. In Santa Monica, the Santa Monica Pier transforms with holiday-themed lights and festivities. Hop aboard the Holiday Trolley in Newport Beach for a scenic tour of the Christmas Boat Parade, featuring illuminated boats and yachts. Huntington Beach hosts the annual Surf City Winter Wonderland, with an outdoor ice rink and holiday markets near the ocean. Visit San Diego’s Seaport Village, where you can enjoy festive entertainment and unique holiday shopping along the waterfront. Don’t miss Mendocino’s Festival of Lights at the Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens, showcasing dazzling light displays set against coastal scenery. Plan ahead to catch the best events and make the most of the coastal holiday ambiance.


California’s diverse holiday offerings make it an ideal destination for your Christmas getaway. Whether you’re drawn to the snowy landscapes of Lake Tahoe or the festive coastal charm of Santa Monica and Newport Beach, there’s something for everyone. From iconic theme parks to local markets and outdoor winter activities, you’re sure to find the perfect blend of traditional and unique holiday experiences. Embrace the magic of the season and create unforgettable memories in the Golden State.

California offers a wide range of Christmas destinations, from festive beach towns like Santa Monica to snowy retreats in Lake Tahoe. These locations feature holiday events, decorations, and activities that cater to all preferences, as detailed by Travel + Leisure. Spending Christmas in California provides unique opportunities to enjoy diverse celebrations and scenic beauty, according to Visit California.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are some popular Christmas events in Southern California?

Southern California offers a variety of Christmas events including the Hollywood Christmas Parade, LA Zoo Lights, and themed events at Disneyland.

What holiday activities can I enjoy in Northern California?

Northern California offers snowy activities in Lake Tahoe such as skiing and the SnowGlobe Music Festival, along with Union Square’s ice skating and tree lighting in San Francisco.

Are there any special Christmas attractions in San Francisco?

Yes, San Francisco has several special Christmas attractions including the holiday transformation of Union Square, the Fairmont Hotel’s Gingerbread House, and Pier 39’s holiday celebrations.

Which theme parks in California have Christmas events?

California theme parks with Christmas events include Disneyland Resort, Universal Studios Hollywood, Knott’s Berry Farm, and Legoland California.

What are some notable holiday festivals and markets in California?

Notable festivals and markets include the Great Dickens Christmas Fair in San Francisco, the Downtown Sacramento Ice Rink, the Beverly Hills Holiday Bazaar, and the Christmas Tree Lane in Fresno.

Can I enjoy winter sports in California during Christmas?

Yes, the Sierra Nevadas offer winter sports such as skiing, snowboarding, and snowshoeing.

Are there coastal Christmas events in California?

Yes, coastal cities like Santa Monica, Newport Beach, Huntington Beach, San Diego, and Mendocino host festive Christmas events by the ocean.