Angelinos know we have a lot of perks here in L.A., like year-round beautiful weather, the beach and desert and mountains at our fingertips and countless kid-friendly events right in the heart of the city. Another benefit is easy access to the rest of California. In a day’s drive you can travel all the way to the border of Oregon or Mexico. If you’re looking for a change of scenery this holiday season, how about a road trip to partake in seasonal merriments in Northern California where charming towns get into the holiday spirit. We’ve rounded up some festive NorCal towns offering family-friendly holiday happenings, for a little holiday travel inspiration.
The famous wine region is fun to visit year-round, but the largest town in Napa Valley, Napa, is also a perfect holiday destination.
The annual Tree Lighting Ceremony in Veterans Park kicks off Napa’s holiday season on Nov. 24 with free cookies and hot chocolate, performances from local youth dancers and the ceremonial lighting of the 20-foot-tall Christmas Tree. Downtown Napa’s annual Christmas Parade on Nov. 27 will feature decorated floats and pictures with Santa Claus. visitnapavalley.com
The Meritage Resort & Spa and Vista Collina Resort will host “Merry Meritage,” wine country’s Winter Village, featuring a holiday artisan market, Christmas tree and Napa Valley’s only holiday ice rink. The outdoor rink will be open from Nov. 11 to Jan. 2 at the Meritage Resort’s sister property, Vista Collina Resort, featuring theme nights and events like “Ugly Sweater Party” and “Holiday PJ Party,” carolers and Santa visits. Beer, wine and cocoa can be purchased from the on-site tasting rooms. $25 for all ages, includes skate rental. Families can also rent igloos, firepits or s’mores kits for pre- or post-skating fun. $175 for igloos (seating for 6), $225 for fire pits (seating for 8) and $175 for s’mores family fun (seating for 5 and a s’mores kit). meritagecollection.com
When it comes to California wine country, Napa gets all the love. However, there are many other charming towns with award-winning restaurants, bed-and-breakfasts and, of course, wineries. Healdsburg, just 50 miles northwest of Napa, is host to more than 160 wineries, world-class dining and a historic central plaza.
Wine Country Walking Tours will host the “Holidays in Healdsburg” tour Nov. 26 – Dec. 30. This seasonal tradition going on 10-plus years takes guests to local wine tasting rooms, art galleries and hidden gems while experiencing the seasonal window displays, carolers and holiday lights. Choose between the four-hour day tour or the two-hour evening tour, which can be customized to be family friendly. Prices include all food and tasting fees. $79-$119. winecountrywalkingtours.com
Have a Merry Healdsburg Weekend Dec. 3 – 5, which will kick off with the “Light Up the Plaza” event on Fri. Dec. 3. Healdsburg Plaza’s holiday tree and the popular Healdsburg Light Archway will be ceremoniously lit with lights and decorations. The Archway will feature an interactive component where the community can add inspirational messages. Families can take photos with Santa, grab a warm beverage from the hot chocolate truck, sing along to songs from “Frozen” and shop a selection of goods from local retailers at the plaza’s Holiday Sidewalk Market. Enjoy live music and holiday all weekend long. FREE. healdsburg.com
Children are invited to meet Santa Claus at Costeaux French Bakery Dec. 4, 11 and 18 during the Breakfast with Santa Program. Saturdays in December, except Christmas, from 9 – 11 a.m. Santa will be available for pictures, surrounded by the bakery’s famous nutcracker collection that showcases pieces from around the world. FREE costeaux.com
If your family is looking for snow, then head to the mountains. Lake Tahoe is home to some of North America’s largest ski resorts and family-friendly resorts like the Ritz-Carlton and Resort at Squaw Creek.
The Ritz-Carlton, Lake Tahoe, nestled mid-mountain at Northstar California Resort, is hosting festive winter programming perfect for families looking for holiday experiences, gourmet dining and easy access to skiing as the only ski-in/ski-out destination in Lake Tahoe.
Enjoy views of the slopes from The Living Room, which will offer shareable dishes like cheese and chocolate fondue and creative seafood towers, and a daily dinner buffet curated just for the littles ones in the family. The rotating kids’ menu, which will feature kid favorite dishes, is $35 per child. Other food offerings include Texas-style BBQ from The Backyard Bar & Grill and soups and winter-inspired cocktails from the outdoor Airstream Bar.
From Dec. 18 – Jan. 2 indulge in the hotel’s Holiday Days of Magic, featuring festive dinners, live entertainment and kid-friendly activities. The resort’s ballroom will have a Thanksgiving Day buffet from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Christmas Day buffet from 12 a.m. to 9 p.m., featuring harvested vegetable dishes and kids’ selections. $180 for adults, $50 for children. Mr. and Mrs. Claus will make special appearances and the resort will host gingerbread house-making activities for families, a Menorah Lighting ceremony and more. ritzcarlton.com
Embrace winter with ice skating sessions, snowshoe tours, sled races, snow fort and snowman building at the Resort at Squaw Creek. The ski-in/ski-out resort in North Lake Tahoe is also hosting a slew of holiday-themed activities through Jan. 1. Littles ones will love the life-size Gingerbread Village and cooking decorating classes while the whole family can enjoy family movie nights and holiday arts and crafts project. destinationhotels.com/squawcreek
If your family is feeling adventurous (because all those hours in a car together is part of the adventure, right?) try Redding, which is about a four hours’ drive from Lake Tahoe or San Francisco.
The Sheraton Redding Hotel at the Sundial Bridge, located on the banks of the Sacramento River, is hosting its second annual Redding Garden of Lights festival Nov. 19 – Dec. 31. The festival will take place at Turtle Bay’s McConnel Arboretum & Botanical Gardens, which features over 200 acres of native trees and plants, a one-mile walking trail, a children’s garden and a large seasonal pond. Designed by renowned light artist Tres Fromme, the Garden of Lights is one of the most festive light displays in the U.S. with over one million twinkling lights. Some highlights of the festival include the 30-foot wide illuminated igloo and snowy Polar Pathway, nearly 200 feet of immersive Light Tunnels and a Holiday Village, featuring family-friendly food and snacks. Visit any time between Dec. 4-24 for reindeer encounters. $14 – $24, free for ages 4 and under. reddinggardenoflights.org
The Sheraton Redding at Sundial Bridge is offering special overnight packages for holiday experiences like the Garden of Lights. The 2021 Redding Garden of Lights Package includes deluxe accommodations at the hotel and tickets for two adults to the festival. The hotel, which is located on the grounds of Turtle Bay Exploration Park, will feature festive amenities from holiday-themed drinks to s’mores by the fire. Package starts at $211 per night. marriott.com