Winter Weekend Getaways
The 10 Spot
1) MENDOCINO. Christmas by the coast, anyone? The Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens’ Festival of Lights (through December 17) promises treats, lights and live music. Catch a glimpse of migrating whales on a whale-watching cruise, kayak through ocean caves or visit the Montgomery Woods State Natural Reserve for some of the tallest trees in the world.
2) CALAVERAS COUNTY. Walk the North Grove Trail among giant sequoias at Calaveras Big Trees State Park, and head to Moaning Cavern Adventure Park or the Black Chasm Cavern for an underground adventure.
3) LASSEN VOLCANIC NATIONAL PARK. Outdoor buffs will enjoy the many lakes, volcanoes and hydrothermal areas in this gorgeous park. Winter activities include cross-country and Nordic skiing, ranger-led snowshoe walks, sledding and more.
4) AMADOR COUNTY. Sutter Creek has holiday events galore, with the Parade of Lights (December 9) and the Old Fashioned Christmas Open House (December 1-2). Jackson Rancheria Casino Resort has a Holiday Bazaar (December 3), and Preston Castle is having an Olde Tyme Christmas celebration (December 9).
5) NORTH LAKE TAHOE. South Lake Tahoe is so last season. Head further north to spice things up this winter. Glide on the ice skating rink at Tahoe City Winter Sports Park or The Village at Northstar, take off on an adventure with Lake Tahoe Snowmobiling Tours, or take part in Christmas festivities at Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows.
6) NEVADA CITY AND GRASS VALLEY. For some old-timey fun, check out the Nevada City Victorian Christmas (Sundays and Wednesdays through December) or revel in the Cornish Christmas festivities at Grass Valley (December 1, 8, 15 and 22).
7) LODI. Aside from visiting Lodi’s umpteen wineries, you can attend the Festival of Trees at the San Joaquin County Historical Museum (December 2-3), experience the Tree of Lights (December 7) at city hall, or ring in the new year at Viaggio’s New Year’s Eve Masquerade Ball.
8) SAUSALITO. Visit this charming seaside town and embark on the Sausalito Gingerbread House Tour through December, watch out for giant gingerbread men singing carols downtown (December 2-3), and check out a lighted boat parade and fireworks at the Sausalito Winterfest (December 8-10).
9) YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK. For some snow and solitude, head to the Sierras. Ski to your heart’s content at the Yosemite Ski and Snowboard Area, go ice skating at Half Dome Village, and have a feast at the Bracebridge Dinner at the Majestic Yosemite Hotel (December 10-22), which takes you back to the Old English era.
10) SAN FRANCISCO. The Golden City never loses its sheen. For some holiday fun, begin with a performance of A Christmas Carol at Geary Theatre on Christmas Eve and stop by the Botanical Garden for free admission on Christmas Day. You mustn’t miss the gigantic Christmas trees and décor at Union Square and Pier 39.