The holidays are a great time to take advantage of time off work and plan an overnight trip. Here are some of the best winter holiday getaways that are just a short drive from Silicon Valley.
Winter is a lovely time to visit Yosemite National Park, because the crowds subside and there are plenty of family-friendly winter activities. Ice skate outdoors, as they've been doing since 1928, at Half Dome Village with views of Half Dome. The Badger Pass Ski Area (opens mid-December, depending on snow) is the oldest ski resort in California and a great place for beginners to get comfortable on the slopes.
The Ahwahnee Hotel offers special culinary events through the holiday season, including the Bracebridge Dinner (transforming the dining hall into a Renaissance-era traditional Christmas celebration) and the Grand Grape Celebration (a renowned winemakers dinner).
In December, Tenaya Lodge offers several holiday celebrations (Gingerbread-making workshops, dinner with Santa, and more) at a four-diamond resort.
For snow and winter sports addicts, Lake Tahoe is the place to be. From downhill skiing and snowboarding, to cross country skiing, snowshoeing, sledding and ice skating, Lake Tahoe has it all. Not to mention, the deep blue lake framed by white snow is one of California's most iconic vistas.
The various Tahoe area resorts, come alive during the holiday season. Heavenly Resort offers a number of events during their "Heavenly Holidays" celebration. Events include holiday-themed happy hours, a 16-foot snow globe, and ice sculptures. The MontBleu Resort Casino & Spa offers their annual Festival of Trees and Lights in late November or early December. Proceeds benefit the Lake Tahoe hospital and community health services.
The Central Coast
The small communities near the Central Coast offer a lot to see and do during the holiday season.
On Hearst Castle's "Holiday Twilight Tours" visitors get see William Randolph Hearst's stunning San Simeon mansion dressed up for the holidays with extravagant displays of lights, two 18-foot Christmas trees, and a one-of-a-kind poinsettia tree. Tours run from November 24 to 25 and December 16 to 30 in 2017 (aside from Christmas Eve and Day).
The Cambria Christmas Market offers a chance to holiday shop in the style of a European holiday market, with German food, wine, and more than one million twinkling lights.
Historic Downtown Paso Robles has a number of holiday events including a Christmas Light Parade (December 2, 2017), Vine Street Victorian Showcase (December 9, 2017), and, for kids, the Victorian Teddy Bear Tea (December 16, 2017).
The city lights and holiday shopping, arts, and culture make San Francisco a great place for a holiday break.
Union Square is the retail hub of the city and there are colorful holiday displays including a giant Christmas tree lit by 33,000 lights, a handsome mahogany menorah, and an ice skating rink. You can also enjoy holiday music and special shopping events.
The San Francisco Zoo & Gardens hosts a seasonal "Zoo Lights" exhibit on weekend nights through the holiday season. Enjoy the exhibits, lit by twinkling holiday displays, meet Santa (and his reindeer), and enjoy special holiday events.
The city offers dozens of seasonal arts and music events. Check out the San Francisco Symphony for their annual performance of Handel's "Messiah" on December 14 and 15 in 2017, and the American Conservatory Theater's performance of the Dickens classic, "A Christmas Carol" (December 1 to 24, 2017).
Napa and Sonoma
Napa and Sonoma offer plenty of holiday cheer in wine country.
The Napa Valley Wine Train's seasonal "Santa Trains" lets children ride the rails with Santa Claus while parents enjoy the best of Napa's wines.
Downtown Healdsburg offers several holiday events, including the Downtown Holiday Party, a model train exhibit, breakfast with Santa, and a holiday home tour.
The town of Petaluma offers the unique chance to meet Santa and Mrs. Claus when they arrive by tugboat in the annual Santa's Riverboat Arrival.