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San Francisco Skyline at Christmas
Photo Tour of California at Christmas
It's easy to tell when a photo of the San Francisco skyline was taken during the Christmas Holidays. All the buildings at the Embarcadero Center are outlined in white lights. In this photo, taken from near the Ferry Building, the tower is also lighted in holiday colors.Continue to 2 of 12 below.
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San Francisco Union Square at Christmas
If you can only go one place in San Francisco during the Christmas holidays, go to Union Square. Macy's lighted facade is just part of the holiday decorations.
You'll find more photos of Union Square at Christmas in this image gallery.Continue to 3 of 12 below.
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Los Angeles Griffith Park at Christmas
If you want to go see the Christmas lights in Griffith Park, you may have heard about a drive-through light display, but that tradition has been replaced by a walk-through extravaganza at the Los Angeles Zoo, called Zoo Lights. use this guide to find out all about it.Continue to 4 of 12 below.
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Redondo Beach Robert Road at Christmas
This is my favorite place to see holiday lights in the Los Angeles area, with lots of decorations and a traditional feel. It's easy to tell that residents have been putting up the same lights for years and you'll find few LED lights and none of those inflatable yard decorations that every other neighborhood seems to have these days. In fact, the most charming part of the look is the strings of white lights hanging gracefully from all the trees.
Some people call the area Sleepy Hollow or Candy Cane Lane. No matter what name you give it, you can reach this pleasantly decorated neighborhood from Pacific Coast Highway. Take Pacific Coast Hwy to Robert Rd (near the Redondo Beach Hollywood Riviera area, between Calle Mayor and Prospect).
It's a great place to just park your car and walk. You can park on Pacific Coast Highway, Calle Mayor or Prospect Avenue and walk in on Robert Road. You should know that there are no sidewalks and while there's plenty of light, the ground can be a little uneven. Plan to spend about an hour if you walk around and half an hour if you drive through on a moderately busy night.
Find out about the lights - and more - in the guide to Los Angeles at Christmas.Continue to 5 of 12 below.
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Huntington Harbor Cruise of Lights
You don't hear much about this event, but it's one of my favorites. Homeowners along the waterfront in Huntington Beach harbor get really extravagant with their holiday lighting. The cruise (which benefits the Huntington Harbour Philharmonic Cruise) takes you for a leisurely trip to see them.
If you want to go, here's the guide - and all the tips you need to have the most fun.Continue to 6 of 12 below.
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Newport Beach Harbor Christmas Boat Parade
Many of California's coastal cities have their Christmas parades on the water, filled with lighted yachts instead of motorized floats. The parade at Newport Beach is one of the best and longest-running.
If you think it would be fun to watch it in person, use this guide to find out how.Continue to 7 of 12 below.
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San Diego at Christmas: Neighborhood Displays
A few San Diego neighborhoods go all out during the holidays and this is one of the cutest, where every house creates their own lighted Christmas postcard. Check out our top picks from the rest of them.Continue to 8 of 12 below.
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Hearst Castle Dining Room at Christmas
Hearst Castle is generally less crowded in December, and they offer holiday-themed evening tours, which are an especially nice way to see the lighted decor. Learn more about visiting Hearst Castle at Christmas.Continue to 9 of 12 below.
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Mission Inn Festival of Lights, Riverside
Between Los Angeles and Palm Springs in Riverside, the Mission Inn puts on a holiday Festival of Lights that has been named best in the country by USA Today. You can also have breakfast, brunch or tea with Santa and if you stay overnight, you can get an elf to come tuck your children into bed.Continue to 10 of 12 below.
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Bracebridge Dinner, Yosemite
Yosemite's Bracebridge Dinner is a tradition that dates back to the days of famed photographer Ansel Adams. It's based on a story from Washington Irving's The Sketch Book which describes Christmas Day, 1718 at Bracebridge Hall in Yorkshire, England. You can expect lords and ladies, jokers and jesters — and a sumptuous feast.
If you want to attend the Bracebridge Dinner, you can get all the details about it in this guide.Continue to 11 of 12 below.
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In Orange County, lots of St. Nick lookalikes are everywhere at the Surfing Santa Competition at Salt Creek Beach. It's a charity event sponsored by Surfers Healing and the Ritz Carlton Laguna Niguel. Details are at their website.
At Seaport Village in San Diego, the jolly old elf wears a Hawaiian shirt and board shorts. He can't get his surfboard into the calm bay, so he arrives in a speedboat instead. Get the details for this event — which has been called one of the best Santa sightings by USA Today — at the Seaport Village website.
In the town of Capitola near Santa Cruz, Santa has to transfer from his surfboard to an outrigger canoe to get to the beach. The annual Surfin' Santa event is held in late November. You can get this year's date at the Capitola Chamber of Commerce website.Continue to 12 of 12 below.
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Festival of Lights, Los Gatos Vasona Park
Vasona Park is a charming county recreational park in the town of Los Gatos, at the edge of the Santa Cruz Mountains as you drive from San Jose to Santa Cruz. But their holiday lights display is not a small town affair. In fact, it may be the best drive-through light display in Californian now that the Los Angeles' Griffith Park and Del Mar near San Diego are cancelled.
To relieve traffic congestion, you need a timed reservation. They also have a couple of walk-through nights when food trucks will be available. Get details and tickets at the Santa Clara County Parks Department.