From tours inside gingerbread houses taller than your average giraffe to elegant performances at the ballet, California is packed with festive experiences that will even have your local Grinch in the holiday spirit.
The Nutcracker: Select days from Dec. 12 through Dec. 30
A staple holiday tradition, The Nutcracker has made its annual return for December and has brought all of the sugar plum fairies and acrobatic ballet numbers with it. Performed at the San Francisco Ballet, the show will only be available in December, with a spectacular grand finale performance on Christmas Eve.
To learn more about the Nutcracker, visit sftourismtips.com.
Holiday Market at the Inn: Dec. 15
Located in the heart of historic Downtown San Juan Capistrano, the Inn at The Mission San Juan Capistrano hosts a festive Holiday Market at the Inn on Dec. 15 from 4 to 6 p.m. Meander the Spanish-style outdoor market and browse tables from local vendors boasting unique offerings and seasonal goodies. Visitors can also enjoy booths from The Mission San Juan Capistrano, Mission Fine Art Gallery, The Spa at the Mission, La Colombe Coffee and more. Nibble on happy hour tapas and sips from Ysidora over live music, and little ones can even enjoy a visit from Santa Claus.
To learn more about the Holiday Market at the Inn, visit www.innatthemissionsjc.com.
2021 Christmas Boat Parade: Dec. 15 through Dec. 19
Back for its 113th year, the Christmas Boat Parade will be lighting up Newport Beach’s waters with festive decor, familiar character favorites and live music. In addition to a multitude of magical displays, the parade will also feature a large firework show and small bites and libations from local purveyors.
To learn more about the 2021 Christmas Boat Parade, visit christmasboatparade.com.
MacArthur Place Hotel & Spa’s 12 Nights of Marvel: Through Dec. 19
Celebrate the advent of the holidays with a 12-night series of marvel and wonderment-filled moments at Sonoma’s MacArthur Place. During 12 Nights of Marvel, activations will take place every Friday through Sunday and will include a meet-and-greet with Santa, candle-lit sculpture tour with AERENA Galleries, wreath-making class with Marion Moss Floral and an ornament workshop with Sonoma’s own Alex Cole focusing on “the art of the homemade gift.”
To learn more about 12 Nights of Marvel, visit www.macarthurplace.com.
Holiday Road: Select dates until Dec. 31.
King Gillette Ranch in Los Angeles has been taken over by Santa’s elves and transformed into an immersive winter wonderland with thousands of lights, life-size displays, gingerbread houses and candy cane lanes. The holiday walk is at your own pace, with Instagrammable stops, hot cocoa stations and an adult cocktail bar along its path. Toward the end of the walk, you will find Mr. and Mrs. Claus waiting to meet your little ones and take photo-ops.
To learn more about Holiday Road, visit holidayroadusa.com.
Holiday Spa Treatments at The Ritz-Carlton Spa, Los Angeles Spa: Through December
Just in time for the holidays, The Ritz-Carlton Spa, Los Angeles has introduced a festive collection of spa treatments. The Bourbon Bubbler Pedicure (with scents of vanilla, brown sugar, bourbon and cinnamon) is 50 minutes for $100; the Vanilla Bourbon Facial will leave you with a holiday-ready dewy complexion and is 50 minutes for $200; and the Hot Chocolate Body Wrap combines two of the season’s most delightful scents (chocolate and peppermint) and is 80 minutes for $300.
To learn more about, visit The Ritz-Carlton Spa, Los Angeles, visit www.ritzcarlton.com.
Visit Fairmont San Francisco’s Giant Gingerbread House: Daily until Jan. 2
The Fairmont San Francisco’s claim-to-fame gingerbread house is officially complete and is standing 22-ft. high and 23-ft. wide (taller than your average giraffe). The massive house is made entirely of gingerbread bricks and royal icing and is 100 percent edible. With two stories to explore, the sweet home is housed in the hotel’s lobby and is available for tours and sips of hot cocoa inside.
To learn more about Fairmont San Francisco’s Giant Gingerbread House, visit fairmont-san-francisco.com.
Snowland at Great Wolf Lodge: Daily until Jan. 5
Take a break from the stress of the holidays and relax at Snowland at Great Wolf Lodge, the ultimate winter getaway for both you and your family. Enjoy Snowland yoga, magical snow falling around you outside, arts and crafts, snowflake storytimes, dance parties and even a visit with Ol’ St. Nick himself. Great Wolf Lodge has locations in San Francisco and Anaheim.
To learn more about Snowland at Great Wolf Lodge, visit greatwolf.com.
Union Square Ice Rink: Daily until Jan. 17
It’s finally time to bundle up, grab your favorite skates from the back of your coat closet and head out onto the ice rink at Union Square. The local rink in San Francisco is a hot spot during the holiday season and has come back to life this winter with oversized Christmas trees, colorful lights and music to help you skate with the Christmas spirit.
To learn more about, visit unionsquareicerink.com.
Glowfari: Select days until Jan. 30
With fun for guests of all ages, Glowfari, presented by the Oakland Zoo, is larger-than-life lantern festival with hundreds of displays. The newly remodeled zoo features all-new lanterns this year, with exciting train rides through enclosure wonderlands, visits with your favorite animals and a light extravaganza unlike any the zoo has ever had before. Santa will be ready to hear your little one’s Christmas wishes, and all proceeds will help support taking care of the animals at the zoo.
To learn more about Glowfari, visit oaklandzoo.org.