By Michele E. Buttelman
One minute you’re soaking up the sun, having fun at pool parties, and gasping over the cost of your summer air-conditioning bill, the next, whoosh, you’re surrounded by decorated Christmas trees and Christmas ham at Costco.
How did that happen?
This year, enjoy the rush of holiday cheer and explore some of the California cities that spare no expense when it comes to holiday spirit.
Saturday, November 26, 2022 to Friday, January 6, 2023
Solvang is a two-hour drive up Highway 126 north to US 101.
Julefest is a month-long Christmas celebration in the town of Solvang. This festive celebration harkens back to a simpler time and festive memories of days gone by. Visiting the picturesque town of Solvang during Julefest is a walk through an old postcard and a Hallmark movie at the same time.
Old world cities like Solvang are often the best places to celebrate the holidays. Solvang offers authentic Danish-style buildings and beautiful windmills decorated for the holidays.
Thousands of lights illuminate the Dutch town and hundreds of small Christmas trees are decorated outside local businesses. Some of the best places to see the lights are Copenhagen Drive, Alisal Road, and Solvang Park.
Among the must-see events in Solvang during the Christmas season:
Daily light and music show
5 pm to 9 pm sharp, every hour for 10 minutes. Solvang Park, 1630 Mission Drive, Solvang, CA 93463.
Nisse Adventures Scavenger Hunt
The Nisse Adventure is a treasure hunt through the center of Solvang in search of a Danish gnome named Nisse. Organizers have hidden Nisse in city landmarks and storefronts all over Solvang.
Pick up your clues at the Solvang Visitor Center, 1637-1639 Copenhagen Drive, Solvang, CA 93463 for your Nisse adventure. Find all the dolls and return to the Visitor Center to receive a prize.
Take part in a candlelit evening walking tour led by a local guide dressed in traditional Danish clothing. Each participant will receive an LED candle to hold while strolling through the streets of downtown Solvang. Learn fun facts and experience the sights, sounds, and even a few flavors of Christmas in this quaint Danish town. All tours 5 pm to 6:30 pm
December 3, 4, 9, 16, 17, 23.
Tickets are $36 each. Contact the Solvang Visitor Center for information. (805) 688-6144.
Christmas tree lighting ceremony
Friday, December 2, 5 pm to 6:30 pm
Enjoy an evening at Solvang Park with live music and entertainment and of course light up the Solvang Christmas tree. Free to attend.
December 3, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
This year’s theme is “Hyggeling” A Cozy Christmas. Enjoy floats, local performers, marching bands, and even a possible sighting of Santa Claus.
Food, Santa Claus, More events
Be sure to attend the annual Christmas tree burning in January to wrap up the holiday season.
Don’t miss Solvang Bakery’s gingerbread houses and holiday baked goods offering.
During the season in Solvang, many other events and activities can be found, including photo sessions with Santa Claus. Visit the Visitor Center website for more details, www.solvangusa.com.
Sundays – December 4, 11 and 18 from 1:30 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.
Wednesday – December 7 and 14 from 5 pm to 9 pm
Nevada City is located 60 miles northeast of Sacramento. It’s 409 miles from Santa Clarita and a six-and-a-half hour drive on CA-99 N.
Nevada City is a magical setting of hilly streets lined with real gas lamps, traveling carolers dressed in Victorian garb, and visitors sharing Christmas cheer and good news.
The aroma of roasting chestnuts fills the air along with the cries of hawkers, it really is a Victorian Christmas.
If you’ve ever wanted to explore a city straight out of a Charles Dickens novel, welcome to Nevada City. The narrow streets are lit by glowing gas lamps with Christmas carolers and authentically dressed Christmas bagpipers.
Craft vendors and boutiques
Walk the Victorian streets as you browse the more than 100 craft vendors or pop into one of the many boutiques.
Free Hot Roasted Chestnuts
Step back in time and experience the sweet taste and aromas of chestnuts roasted over an open fire. Stop by the fire pit located in the Food Court to see the whole process and try a free chestnut.
big bear lake
November 29-Jan. 1
Less than three hours from Santa Clarita, follow I-210 E and CA-210 to CA-330 N/City Creek Road in San Bernardino. Take exit 81 from CA-210 and follow CA-330 N and CA-18 to Pine Knot Avenue in Big Bear Lake.
Ranked at no. Ranked 9 in the Top 10 Christmas Cities in the United States by TravelPulse.com, Big Bear Lake is home to a famous city Christmas tree lighting ceremony and receives 52.7 inches of snow each winter.
It also offers its own Christmas market for locals and visitors to enjoy.
Alpine Slide at Magic Mountain and Big Bear Snow Play are open daily from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Nighttime Glow Tubing will begin at both locations on November 29.
Visit Santa Claus and Mrs. Claus
Say hello to Santa and Mrs. Claus every weekend at The Village at Christmas Tree Corner. Christmas Tree Corner is located at the corner of Village Drive and Pine Knot Avenue.
December 17-18. Head to the Christkindlmarkt and celebrate the holidays with some long-standing German traditions. Located at the Big Bear Convention Center, 42900 Big Bear Blvd., Big Bear Lake, CA 92315. Think Oktoberfest but for the holidays.
Big Bear Lake Tree Lighting
Santa’s Grand Entrance and Tree Lighting November 25, 5 pm to 8 pm Village Drive and Pine Knot Avenue.
New Year’s Eve Torchlight Parade
7 pm-midnight. Snow Summit will host the 58th annual torchlight parade on December 31. Admission to the parade viewing area is free and open to all ages. Live DJ and music. Watch over 200 skiers and snowboarders light up the night as they descend the mountainside in the dark with torches to create a mesmerizing light show before the (snow)ball drops to ring in the New Year.