Things to Do In California In December
Cars Land Transforms for the Holidays at Disney California Adventure Park

Things to Do In California In December

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Looking for something to do in California in December? Whether you’re looking for family-friendly activities or things to get you in the holiday spirit, we’ve got you covered! We’ve compiled a list of some of our favorite things to do in California during the month of December. From festive events and activities to charming towns to visit, we’ve got something for everyone during the holiday season in the Golden State. So read on and start planning your winter vacation today!

Things to Do In California In December

One of the best things about California is that there’s always something to do, no matter what time of year it is. And December is no exception!

Cars Land Holiday
Things to Do In California In December 6

Holidays at the Disneyland Resort – Anaheim

Of course, no trip to California would be complete without a visit to Disneyland and Disney California Adventure. Decked out in festive lights and decorations for the holidays, the theme park is a great place to get into the spirit of the season. And there are plenty of holiday-themed events, activities and yummy treats to enjoy, like the Christmas parade, The Nightmare Before Christmas Haunted Mansion, and snow on Main Street.

Read More: The Merriest Place on Earth: A Guide to Holidays at Disneyland Resort

Sawdust Winter Fantasy – Laguna Beach

This annual event takes place in Laguna Beach and features hundreds of handmade Christmas trees, Santa’s workshop, live entertainment, and more. It’s the perfect place to find unique gifts for your loved ones.

Santa Cruz Holiday Lights Train – Santa Cruz

This festive train ride takes you through the streets of Santa Cruz while you enjoy live music and holiday lights. It’s a great activity for families or groups of friends.

LA Zoo Lights: Animals Aglow – Los Angeles

This popular event takes place at the Los Angeles Zoo and features millions of lights, holiday-themed entertainment, and more. It’s the perfect way to spend an evening with family or friends.

The Southern California Polar Express Train Ride – Perris

This popular holiday train ride takes you through the beautiful countryside of Southern California. You’ll enjoy live entertainment, hot cocoa, and more while you ride aboard the Polar Express.

things to do in los angeles
Things to Do In California In December 7

Enchanted: Forest of Light – Descanso Gardens – La Canada Flintridge

This annual event features a one-mile walking path that’s illuminated with colorful lights and decorations. It’s the perfect way to enjoy the beauty of nature during the holidays.

Lightscape – Los Angeles County Arboretum & Botanical Garden – Arcadia

This annual event features a one-mile walking path that’s illuminated with colorful lights and decorations. It’s the perfect way to enjoy the beauty of nature during the holidays.

Christmas Towns
Things to Do In California In December 8

Solvang’s Julefest Christmas Celebration, Danish Style – Solvang

There’s a reason Solvang is among the best Christmas towns in America. This small town is known for its Danish heritage, and during Julefest, it comes alive with traditional Christmas decorations, holiday lights, and more from November 27 – January 1.

Santa’s Village – Sky Park at Santa’s Village – Lake Arrowhead

Every year, SkyPark at Santa’s Village, the California home of Santa Claus, turns into a dazzling Christmas Wonderland. Create memories with your family and friends that will last a lifetime by experiencing the nostalgia of an “Old-World Christmas in the Woods.”

Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens Festival of Lights – Fort Bragg

Every winter, the Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens transforms into a breathtaking spectacle of glittering color. From November 25 through December 18, the 12th annual Festival of Lights will take place rain or shine each Friday, Saturday, and Sunday evening. You’ll be treated to festive cheer and creative light displays.

Jungle Bells – San Diego Zoo Safari Park – Escondido

This year’s Jungle Bells will feature the return of Aurora, a breathtaking and amazing experience with lights, 3D projections, and music. Also look forward to light shows, musical performances and entertainment, Santa visits (through December 25), delectable holiday foods, and more during the season of celebration.

Santa’s Tree Farm and Village – Half Moon Bay

In Half Moon Bay, Santa’s Tree Farm and Village, visitors can enjoy a 487-acre Choose and Cut Christmas tree farm with 6 distinct species of Christmas trees. They provide you with the saw, then send you off to choose and cut your perfect Christmas tree! Visit Santa’s Village for lots of holiday fun activities and events for the entire family to participate in.

Pershing Square Ice Skating – Los Angeles

Ice skating in downtown Los Angeles under sunny skies is definitely a unique experience and an enjoyable holiday activity for all ages, from first-time gliders to experienced skaters. The Holiday Ice Rink Pershing Square offers plenty of fun and guaranteed smiles.

Christmas in Union Square – San Francisco

Come celebrate the holidays in Northern California! Christmas in San Francisco’s Union Square is a holiday tradition for locals and visitors alike. The square is transformed into a magical winter wonderland with a towering Christmas tree, sparkling lights, and festive decorations. Enjoy live entertainment, ice skating, shopping, and more.

Mission Inn Festival of Lights – Riverside

The Mission Inn Hotel & Spa is located in Riverside, California and is known for its beautiful Spanish architecture. During the holidays, the inn is transformed into a dazzling display of over four million lights. The festival runs from November through January and also features live entertainment, carolers, Santa visits, and more.

Christmas in the Park – San Jose

Christmas in the Park has taken place at Plaza de Cesar Chavez for over 40 years and continues to bring holiday cheer to people from all corners of the Bay Area. This annual event is a delightful walk-through experience that everyone will enjoy.

Every year, the two-acre park fills with over 40 musical and animated exhibits, shimmering lights, and a 50-foot Community Giving Tree. Some of the original displays from one of the biggest exhibits at Lima Train – like a melting snowman scene, caroling mice, and elf woodcrafting – have become fan favorites. While guests stroll through an illuminated forest of trees decorated by local San Jose schools, community groups and businesses, they feel as though they’re entering a delightful winter wonderland full of both lighthearted sights and sounds.

things to do in California December
Things to Do In California In December 9

Redding Garden Light Festival – Redding

The Redding Garden Light Festival is a beautiful holiday light display set up in the Turtle Bay Exploration Park. This year’s festival will feature over one million lights, as well as live entertainment and Santa visits.

Boat Parades – Various Locations

California is known for its many boat parades, which take place in various cities throughout the state. These festive events are a great way to get into the holiday spirit. Some notable cities are Newport Beach, Huntington Beach, San Diego, and Santa Barbara.

Outdoor Ice Skating – Various Locations

One of the best things about California is that you can go ice skating outdoors! The winter season might be warm in SoCal, but there are several rinks in cities like San Francisco and Los Angeles where you can skate surrounded by beautiful scenery without a winter coat.

Read more: Outdoor Ice Skating Rinks In Los Angeles And Orange County

Visit a Charming Christmas Town – Various Locations

One of the best things about California is that there are so many charming towns to visit. During the holidays, these towns come alive with festive lights and decorations. Some of our favorites include Carmel-by-the-Sea, Solvang, and Julian.

Go Whale Watching

Gray whales migrate in the warm waters of the Pacific Ocean from November until April, making December one of the best times to go on a whale watching excursion. Check out our full guide to taking a whale tour.

sand dune sledding
Things to Do In California In December 10

Try Sand Sledding

There’s nothing more SoCal than a crisp winter day sledding at the beach. Grab your saucer and head to one of these local beaches that build up sand dunes in the winter months.

Go on a Winter Adventure

If you’re looking for some outdoor fun in the winter, California is the perfect place to be. With ski resorts just hours away from the California coast you can go from surf to snow in the same day. From Mammoth Mountain to the Yosemite Valley, there are plenty of great places to go skiing or snowboarding. Or if you just want to relax, you can always take a scenic drive through one of the many beautiful mountain towns.

Read more: Best Places for Snow Near Los Angeles

Want to find more Holiday adventures? Check out The Best Christmas Towns In America, According to Research and 8 Popular December Global Holidays to Celebrate This Year

So what are you waiting for? Start planning your December vacation today! And if you need help finding things to do in California during the rest of the year, be sure to check out our other guides. We’ve got tons of great ideas for things to see and do all throughout the state. Happy travels!

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