California in December

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    California in December: 5 Things You Can Do

    December is a Good Time for Skiing in California
    Courtesy of Sugar Bowl Ski Resort

    December's Big Holiday: Christmas

    Christmas in Los Angeles: Over-the-top public and neighborhood light displays, traditional Mexican holiday celebrations

    Christmas in Orange County: Lighted boat parades, grand Christmas pageants, and Christmas Disney-style

    Christmas in San Diego: December Nights, holiday lights and boat parades

    Christmas in San Francisco: Lots of great musical performances and city lights

    Christmas in the Rest of California: Train rides, more boat parades, Yosemite's Bracebridge Dinners and Hearst Castle decked out for the holidays

    The LA Times says the best airfare deals for Thanksgiving and Christmas are found in early October.

    December's Other Big Holiday: New Year's Eve

    New Year's Eve in California: An overview of all the big celebrations

    Things That Look Like Fun To Do in December

    These events look like fun, but we haven't had time to try them yet.

    Inns of Distinction Tour, Carmel: An excellent opportunity to visit several of Carmel's most charming little inns and sample local cuisine.

    LA Zoo Lights at Griffith Park, Los Angeles: During the Christmas season, the Los Angeles Zoo hosts an evening attraction called Zoo Lights. The zoo is open after dark, with its lanes and trees full of glowing, lighted (and sometimes animated) animals.

    Santa's Skivvies Run, San Francisco: Always wondered what Santa wears under that big red suit? Runners strip down to their Santa themed skivvies and run for a good cause.

    Mavericks Invitational: It's a surfing competition that attracts top surfers, and it can happen anytime between November and March, as soon as the waves are big enough. This guide has all the details and information about how to find out when it's happening.

    Geminid Meteor Showers: Nature puts on a holiday lights display mid-month. The best places to see them are far away from city lights and where there are few trees: Joshua Tree or Lake Shasta are great choices.

    Whale Watching in December: Gray whales and fin whales are most common.

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    Things to Do in California in December That You Must Plan Ahead For

    New Year's Eve in San Francisco, December's Last Event
    Shawn Clover/Flickr/CC BY-NC 2.0

    If you want to visit Death Valley in December, make hotel or campground reservations in September. As long as you pay attention to cancellation policies, there's little risk if you change your mind later. For more information, see the Death Valley camping guide and the Death Valley Hotel Guide.

    Tickets for the Polar Express train in Sacramento go on sale October 1. The experience is based on the popular book and it's big hit with California families. They sell out by early November. Reserve here.

    You also need to plan ahead if you want to go to a big, ticketed New Year's Eve party.

    If you want to go camping at a California state park in December, make your reservations six months ahead of time in June. Everything you need to know is here.

    If you're planning to camp at Yosemite next November through December, make your reservations six months ahead of time in June to make your reservations online. You can do that online or by phone at 877-444-6777 or 518-885-3639 from outside the US & Canada. Get an overview and more options here.

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    More About California in December

    LA Zoo Lights at Griffith Park
    Courtesy of the Greater Los Angeles Zoo Association

    It Might Rain... It might put a damper on your travel plans, but we can't control what Mother Nature does. Just in case your vacation plans are sinking faster than the Titanic, here are some ideas for things to do on a rainy day in California:

    Or It Might Snow... Tioga Pass between Yosemite and the Eastern Sierras has been closed for a while now and it won't re-open until well after the spring thaw.

    If you plan to travel anywhere above sea level, you should know the requirements for snow chains. They apply to personal and rented vehicles - and we have some ideas if you need them for your rental.

    More California by Month

    If you're just starting to plan your California trip and want to know what it's like year round and not just in January, you can get a look at every month of the year using these guides: California in the Winter is great for skiing and snow play and all the events you'll find in the guide to California in December, January and February. It's also a great time for a winter weekend getaway.

    Spring gets going in March and April, and clear skies will continue at the coast into May. Get an overview of Things to Do in California in the Spring and try some of these California Spring Getaway Ideas.

    Summer holiday season starts in June and continues through July and August. It's the busiest tourist season and some parts of the state get almost unbearably hot, but it's a great time for mountain hiking. Start exploring Things to Do in the Summer and get busy planning your Summer California Getaway.

    Fall is my favorite time of year in California. You'll see why in this Guide to California in the Fall. Weather is beautiful in September and October. By November, winter rains may have set in – or not. Start thinking about your California Fall Getaway now.