Where to Spend Christmas in California: Top Destinations and Festive Celebrations

Where to Spend Christmas in California: Top Destinations and Festive Celebrations

Dreaming of a sunny Christmas with a dash of holiday magic? California offers a unique blend of festive cheer and warm weather, making it a perfect destination for your holiday getaway. Whether you’re looking to explore charming coastal towns, vibrant cities, or picturesque mountain retreats, the Golden State has something for everyone.

Key Takeaways

  • Diverse Holiday Destinations: California offers a variety of Christmas experiences, from coastal towns and vibrant cities to mountain retreats.
  • Southern California Highlights: Enjoy enchanting holiday light displays at the Mission Inn Festival of Lights, Disneyland Resort, and San Diego Zoo’s Jungle Bells.
  • Northern California Winter Wonders: Experience snowy landscapes and winter activities at Yosemite National Park, Lake Tahoe, and San Francisco’s Union Square.
  • Festive Cities: Los Angeles and San Francisco offer unique Christmas charm with parades, light shows, ice skating, and seasonal events.
  • Unique Celebrations: Solvang’s Danish Christmas Festival and the Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade provide distinct and memorable holiday traditions.
  • Travel Tips: Plan your visit between early and late December, book accommodations early, and consider centrally-located stays for easy access to festive activities.

Exploring Christmas Destinations in California

Magical Christmas Lights in Southern California

You can experience enchanting Christmas lights in Southern California. The Mission Inn Festival of Lights in Riverside boasts over 5 million lights, an outdoor ice skating rink, and horse-drawn carriage rides. Disneyland Resort in Anaheim transforms into a holiday wonderland with themed parades, dazzling displays, and festive shows. Head to the San Diego Zoo for Jungle Bells, featuring light displays, holiday music, and seasonal treats. Visiting each location allows you to immerse yourself in unique, magical light displays ideal for festive celebrations.

Northern California’s Winter Wonderland

In Northern California, winter wonderland experiences await you. Yosemite National Park offers breathtaking snowy landscapes, mesmerizing ice skating under Half Dome, and cozy lodges. Lake Tahoe provides ski slopes, snowboarding, and sleigh rides, with a backdrop of scenic alpine views. San Francisco’s Union Square features a giant Christmas tree, outdoor ice rink, and holiday-themed events. Exploring these destinations ensures a memorable holiday experience filled with winter activities and stunning scenery.

Top Cities for Christmas Celebrations

Top Cities for Christmas Celebrations

Los Angeles: Events and Activities

Los Angeles offers diverse Christmas events and activities. The Hollywood Christmas Parade features festive floats, marching bands, and celebrity appearances. You can visit Descanso Gardens’ Enchanted Forest of Light, showcasing interactive light displays. The Queen Mary’s Christmas event includes an ice-skating rink, holiday-themed entertainment, and carnival rides. Travelers often explore the LA Zoo Lights, which transform the zoo into a winter wonderland with 3D projections and interactive light shows. You can also enjoy outdoor ice skating at Pershing Square’s ice rink.

San Francisco: Traditional Christmas Charm

San Francisco embodies traditional Christmas charm. Union Square’s towering Christmas tree becomes a central attraction, complemented by festive ice skating at the outdoor rink. The city’s cable cars, adorned with holiday decorations, transport you through scenic routes. Ghirardelli Square hosts a tree-lighting ceremony, featuring live music and entertainment. Pier 39’s holiday festivities include performances by local artists. The Great Dickens Christmas Fair offers a Victorian-themed holiday event with period costumes, entertainment, and unique shopping. You can visit Lombard Street to see intricate holiday light displays on the famous winding road.

Unique Christmas Celebrations

Unique Christmas Celebrations

Solvang’s Danish Christmas Festival

Solvang’s Danish Christmas Festival, also known as Julefest, transforms this charming Danish village into a festive wonderland. You’ll experience Danish traditions with beautifully decorated streets, a Christmas Market, and the Nisse Adventure filled with hidden elves. The parade features vintage vehicles, equestrians, and live music, creating a unique holiday atmosphere. Don’t miss the annual tree lighting ceremony and candlelight tours that enhance the village’s festive appeal.

Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade

The Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade showcases an impressive display of decorated yachts, boats, kayaks, and canoes. This 112-year-old tradition spans five nights, attracting thousands of visitors. You’ll see vessels adorned with elaborate light displays, holiday music, and animated Christmas scenes as they cruise along the harbor. Judging categories include Best Animation, Best Lights, and Best Music, ensuring a diverse spectacle. The Ring of Lights competition among bayfront estates adds another layer of holiday cheer with stunning home decorations.

Tips for Enjoying Christmas in California

Best Time to Visit

Plan your trip between early December and late December to make the most of California’s Christmas events. Southern California enjoys mild temperatures, around 60°F, making it perfect for outdoor activities such as the Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade. Northern California can be cooler, with temperatures around 50°F, offering a cozy setting for holiday lights and festivities in San Francisco and Yosemite.

Travel and Accommodation Tips

Book flights and accommodations early, ideally by September, to secure the best options and rates. Consider staying in centrally-located neighborhoods like Downtown LA or Union Square in San Francisco to be close to major attractions. For a unique experience, try boutique hotels in Solvang or vacation rentals near bayfront estates in Newport Beach. Reliable transport options include renting a car or using ride-sharing services for convenience and flexibility.


California offers an array of enchanting Christmas experiences whether you’re drawn to the festive lights of Southern California or the cozy charm of the north. From the unique traditions of Solvang’s Danish Christmas Festival to the spectacular Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade, there’s something magical for everyone. Plan your trip early to secure the best accommodations and make the most of your holiday season. Embrace the mild temperatures, explore diverse celebrations, and create unforgettable memories in the Golden State this Christmas.

California offers a myriad of enchanting locations to celebrate Christmas, each with its unique charm and festive spirit. In the heart of the San Bernardino Mountains, Big Bear Lake presents a picturesque winter wonderland, ideal for those looking to enjoy snowy landscapes and cozy moments by the fire Travel Realizations. Additionally, the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway offers an unforgettable journey up the San Jacinto Mountains, providing stunning views of the snow-covered trees and the desert valley below during the festive season Chef Travel Guide.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the top Christmas attractions in California?

California offers numerous Christmas attractions such as the Mission Inn Festival of Lights in Southern California and Yosemite National Park in Northern California.

Which cities in California have notable Christmas celebrations?

Los Angeles and San Francisco are famous for their grand Christmas celebrations, showcasing festive lights, markets, and street performances.

What is unique about Solvang’s Danish Christmas Festival?

Solvang’s Danish Christmas Festival is known for its charming Danish traditions, festive parade, and unique cultural festivities.

What is the Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade?

The Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade is a traditional event featuring elaborately decorated boats and a Ring of Lights competition among bayfront estates.

When is the best time to visit California for Christmas?

The best time to visit California for Christmas is between early December and late December.

What are the typical temperatures in California during Christmas?

Southern California usually experiences mild temperatures around 60°F, while Northern California offers a cozy setting with temperatures around 50°F.

What are some tips for traveling and finding accommodation in California during Christmas?

Book early, stay in centrally-located neighborhoods, consider boutique hotels in Solvang or vacation rentals in Newport Beach, and use reliable transport options like renting a car or ride-sharing services.