10 Best Things To Do At Christmas In California, USA - Updated 2024

Tina S.
Tina S. 
Contributing Writer
Updated
| 5 min read

California, the third-largest and most-populated American state, has a culture and terrain that is diverse as its weather. You can experience sun and snow depending on where you are, thus making Christmas in California a unique event for travelers. Visit Lake Tahoe, Yosemite National Park, and Mammoth Mountain up north if you want a white Christmas. Go to southern California if you want Christmas by the beach surrounded by palm trees. During Christmas, you’ll find the brightest lights and fanciest décor everywhere in California. You’ll also find a variety of quirky festivals, holiday markets, and age-old traditions such as the Lighted Boat Parade in San Francisco. Confused about what to do first and where to go? Scroll down for the best things to do at Christmas in California, USA, and use it as a guide.

1. Hire a private guide for your tour of the Christmas lights in Beverly Hills (from USD 155.0)

Hire a guide for an exclusive tour of Los Angeles. The tour will take two hours and begins when you meet up with your guide at a French pastry shop. Start the tour with some coffee and macarons before heading off to Beverly Hills.

Explore Beverly Hills, Beverly Canon Gardens, Wilshire Boulevard, Beverly Gardens Park, and Rodeo Drive on your tour. See them dressed in their lighted splendor with Christmas decor while hearing a short narrative of their history from your guide.

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Christmas Lights in Beverly Hills - Private Guide and Free Coffee with Dessert

Duration: 2 hours

2. Enjoy an exclusive magical Christmas tour in San Francisco (from USD 382.0)

Book an exclusive seasonal Christmas tour of San Francisco. With an experienced guide, you will see San Francisco from a unique perspective during the holiday season. You will meet your guide for a two-hour walking tour at the Hearts in San Francisco on the Barbary Trail and end in the historic center of San Francisco.

You’ll be visiting Union Square where you’ll find the biggest collection of boutiques, gift shops, beauty salons, and art galleries. The next stop is 1111 Gough Street which is divided into several areas filled with traders’ foods, gifts, textile products, drinks, and clothes. The last stop would be 950 Mason Street, particularly the Hotel Fairmont San Francisco, where you’ll see the famous Victorian gingerbread house with a short background on how it was made and its significance.

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Magical Christmas Wonders: A San Francisco Stroll

Duration: 2 hours

1 review

3. Embark on a private tour of the Christmas markets in Los Angeles (from USD 155.0)

Visit the most decorated places in the historic neighborhoods of Old Pasadena and Glendale’s The Americana At Brand. This private two-hour tour will take you around the famous Christmas markets so take lots of festive photos along the way.

Do take a break and have some snacks at Pasadena’s Tea Rose Garden or at Glendale Galleria’s Laduree, which are stopovers on the otur. Enjoy the coffee that comes with the delicious pastries.

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Christmas Market in Americana or Charming Old Pasadena - Private Photo Tour

Duration: 2 hours

4. Enjoy an excellent tour of the Christmas lights in Los Angeles (from USD 270.0)

Hire a private guide and take a tour of the Christmas lights of Los Angeles during the holidays. Bring your family along with your guide who will also be your photographer. He will take you to all the prettiest places with Christmas decorations such as Pershing Square, Bunker Hill Steps, Angels Flight Railway, Los Angeles City Hall, and flamboyant Olvera Street.

Though it is a walking tour, it is not wheelchair accessible, but kid strollers are allowed.

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Los Angeles Christmas Lights Tour with Photographer

Duration: 2 hours

California Tour Guide

Stephanie Eley

Stephanie Eley

I'm a graduate of ITMI, International Tour Management Institute and 17 years as a licensed Tour Director and Program Director. My expertise began in NYC and Washington, DC where I'm a licensed guide and has expanded to Europe, South America, Cuba and the Western / Southwestern National Parks of the US. I'd love to introduce you for a day or a week to Denver, Colorado and the 4 corners region of... Read more

Tours by Stephanie

5. Walk into the wonderful Winter Fest Orange County

Editor's Note: Photo taken from the establishment's official social account

Posted by Winter Fest on Thursday, December 26, 2019

Enjoy a wonderful winter wonderland experience at the Winter Fest Orange County in Costa Mesa. This exciting event is happening at the OC Fair & Event Center. This massive 150-acre (60.7-hectare) event center is the home of the Pacific Amphitheater, Centennial Farm, Orange County Fair, and Costa Mesa Speedway.

Carnival rides, amusement park games, a giant Ferris wheel, and booths selling specialty food and drinks are what you’ll find as you explore the property. Nightly there are live musical performances and meet and greets with holiday characters. There is the North Pole Journey where the walk-through area is decorated with thousands of shimmering lights, interactive activities, music, and opportunities for selfies. Another area is designated for ice-skating, ice-tubing, and riding ice-bumper cars.

Winter Fest Orange County

Address: OC Fair & Event Center, 88 Fair Drive, Costa Mesa, CA 92926

Website: Winter Fest Orange County

Opening hours: Nov 25 - 27: Fri - Sun: 12pm - 10pm; Dec 1 - 18: Thu-Fri: 4pm -10pm, Sat - Sun: 12pm - 10pm (closed Mon - Wed); Dec 22 - Jan 1: 12pm - 10pm (exceptions: Dec 24: 12pm - 8pm, Dec 31: 12pm - 12:30am)

Price: starts at 19.95 USD plus fees 3.99 USD

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6. Ride the Skunk Train in Mendocino County (from USD 49.95)

ride the skunk train in mendocino county

Hop on board the Skunk Train that departs from Willits Depot. It will take you on a scenic round-trip tour of the gorgeous Pudding Creek Estuary. You’ll see the habitat of various birds such as egrets, ospreys, blue herons, and others.

During Christmas, The tour ends at Mr. Skunk’s Giant Christmas Tree where you can meet and greet Santa Mr. Skunk at his workshop and take a lot of pictures.

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Mendocino County: Skunk Train Pudding Creek Train Ride

Duration: 75.0 minute

65 reviews

7. Visit polar bears and reindeer at San Diego Zoo (from USD 72.0)

Visit the famous San Diego Zoo and see exotic animals such as polar bears and reindeer as a special Christmas treat. This family-friendly zoo contains over 4,000 animals and 800 species. You can take a guided bus tour where the daily keeper gives a talk about the animals as you pass them by.

You can buy mobile tickets and scan them using your phone to enter the zoo. The tickets must be bought at least the day before you visit the zoo. The zoo is so huge and filled with endangered species that it’s best to take a free guided bus tour. The one-day pass ticket includes unlimited use of the Skyfari Aerial Tram, Kangaroo Bus, and Guided Bus tour.

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San Diego Zoo 1-Day Pass: Any Day Ticket

Duration: 1 to 4 hours

2188 reviews

8. Partake in the Disney Festival of Holidays at the Disneyland Resort, Anaheim

Disney Festival of Fantasy Parade
Source: Photo by Flickr user Haydn Blackey used under CC BY-SA 2.0

Disneyland Resort, better known just as Disneyland, is a happy place for everybody. This massive theme park offers a variety of outdoor rides and activities throughout the season. The resort will host its popular Disney Festival of Holidays starting November 11, 2022, up to January 8, 2023.

It celebrates the diversity of different holidays celebrated in December all over the world through food, music, and fun activities. Navidad, Christmas, Diwali, Hanukkah, Three King’s Day, and Kwanzaa will be celebrated with parades and lots of merrymaking. There will be a special appearance of Santa, Mickey Mouse, and other famous Disney characters such as Mirabel of Encanto.

Disney Festival of Holidays at the Disneyland Resort

Address: Disneyland Drive, Anaheim, CA 92802

Website: Disney Festival of Holidays

Opening hours: 7:30am - 12am

Price: starting from 104 USD (single-day pass)

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9. Celebrate the season with a Christmas-Day Dining Cruise in San Diego

Cabrillo Flagship Cruises & Events
Source: Photo by Flickr user Tomás Del Coro used under CC BY-SA 2.0

Celebrate Christmas day with a whole cruise of San Diego Bay together with a sumptuous dinner. You will be riding one of the enormous yachts of Flagship Cruises and Events that will take you to the bay’s North and South areas.

Enjoy the breathtaking scenery as you sip champagne at the helm or while indulging yourself in the savory buffet dinner spread before you. The cruise will take around two and a half hours.

Christmas-Day Dining Cruise in San Diego

Website: Dining Cruise in San Diego

Opening hours: 1pm - 3pm

Price: starts at 94.50 USD

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10. Explore the Cambria Christmas Market

Editor's Note: Photo taken from the establishment's official social account

Posted by Cambria Christmas Market on Wednesday, October 5, 2022

Level up your Christmas shopping experience by attending the Cambria Christmas Market. The seasonal event happens yearly from November 25 and ends on December 23.

See millions of twinkling lights as you explore this well-decorated market. Take selfies with Santa and shop from hundreds of artisan vendors gathered here. Join the revelry as the crowd dance and drink to live music. There’s also a train ride to enjoy and cozy fire pits where the guests can gather and mingle.

Cambria Christmas Market

Address: 2905 Burton Drive, Cambria, CA 93428

Website: Cambria Christmas Market

Opening hours: 5pm - 9pm (closed on Mon - Tue from Nov 28 - Dec 18)

Price: starting from 15 USD

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Christmas in California is one of a kind

With so many things to do and see in California, Christmas here will go beyond your expectations! Use our list of the best things to do in California on Christmas as your guide and experience all these exciting activities during the holiday season.

Any must-sees we missed? Tell us about them in the comments section or write a post here to help out fellow travelers!
Disclosure: Trip101 selects the listings in our articles independently. Some of the listings in this article contain affiliate links.

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Tina is a free-spirited writer and traveler. She likes to experience unfamiliar places, cuisines, and scenery. She prefers beaches to mountains though as she is afraid of heights. Visiting museums,...Read more

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