Even if you love L.A., sometimes you just need a little getaway. Especially during the hectic holidays, it’s nice to seek out new surroundings. But holiday traffic is no fun. Think of Amtrak, which has stations throughout L.A., as your own little Polar Express this week. Hop on (we love doing so via the charming environs of Union Station downtown) and get off at one of these festive destinations for the day, and maybe you’ll actually feel recharged and ready for the family fights and fruitcake that awaits on Christmas.
Like L.A. but less manic, the beachside community of S.B. offers tons of holiday haps. Here’s a couple goodies:
The Christmas Revels: A Venetian Celebration of the Winter Solstice Set in Renaissance Italy and marking Venice’s “Festival of Fishes,” this event has performing groups, traveling commedia dell’arte troupes, guest artists, including the SBCC Sackbut Ensemble, and more sharing music and theatrical cheer. It’s a favorite Santa Barbara holiday tradition for the past 12 years. Lobero Theater, 33 E. Canon Pertido St. santabarbararevels.org/
Ugly Sweater & Wig Bar Crawl- Wigs of all sorts will be donned as SB hosts dance parties and drink specials at the best local bars and clubs in downtown. Wristbands for the event get access to 10+ walkable venues in downtown SB, and pop-up dance parties with a wild, wig-wearing posse and event host, Queen of the Crawl. 6-8pm. Check in at Wildcat Lounge, 15 W Ortega St. evensi.us/santa-barbara-wig-bar-crawl-ugly-sweater-edition-122119-wildcat-lounge/360512015
Snow Globe- A Spirited Pop-Up Bar Running December 5 to 28, at Finch & Fork, this pop-up bar inside the Kimpton Canary Hotel, features drinks, treats and surprises from the Santa of sippers, bartender George Piperis, including “Reindeer Games,” a flight of holiday clad Glennfidich Scotch or “Snow Globe,” a play on a gin and tonic served in a snow globe with edible glitter. Free. 6 to 10 p.m. 31 West Carillo St. santabarbaraca.com/events/snow-globe-bar/
- Getting There: Ride the train to the Santa Barbara Station (there’s only one)!
The quaint Danish village known as Solvang has been deemed “one of the 10 most Christmassy towns in America.” Here’s some fun things to do during a visit:
Julefest – Offering a bounty of festive family fun, with the legendary Santa’s Village a highlight, plus parades, “Wine & Stein” Strolls and candlelight tours. There’s always something heart-warming happening here during Christmas. More info at solvangusa.com/things-to-do/solvang-julefest/
Aurora Dronealis– Southern California’s first ever show its kind has drones taking to the sky as part of Julefest celebrations. Hundreds of autonomous drones move in a choreographed show highlighting holiday imagery and tradition. Visible from 5 miles in every direction, the show happens every 15 minutes. Grandstand seating is available for an up close sights and sounds including a custom music soundtrack. Concessions, holiday vendors and more will keep things lit. solvangdrones.com/
- Getting There: From the Santa Barbara station, connect to the Amtrak ThruWay bus, offering daily connections to downtown Solvang.
S.D. provides a fun timeout from L.A. that has nearly as many options in terms of nightlife, dining and sights. Lots of family fun too. Plus, their zoo is bigger and better than ours, especially during the holidays.
Jungle Bells at the San Diego Zoo –
During “Jungle Bells” at the San Diego Zoo, the park is transformed into a wild wonderland of twinkling lights, merry-making performances and festive foods. Special displays, a “holiday forest” and a ton of events provide a day of amusements. Runs Dec. 12 – Jan. 5. 2920 Zoo Dr. https://zoo.sandiegozoo.org/junglebells
- Getting There: Ride to the Santa Fe Depot, located in the heart of downtown San Diego. From the station, walk or take the trolley to the convention center. Discounted trolley passes can be purchased onboard the train in the Market Café (located on the lower level of Car 3).
Port of San Diego Holiday Bowl Parade – On Dec. 26 massive balloons fill the air during the Port of San Diego Holiday Bowl Parade, the country’s largest balloon parade. Floats, balloons and marching bands make for am eye-popping procession along San Diego Bay in downtown San Diego. holidaybowl.com/holiday-bowl-parade-and-5k/holiday-bowl-parade/
- Getting There: Ride to the Santa Fe Depot, located in the heart of downtown San Diego. From the station, the parade route is just a short walk to street-side viewing areas.
Christmakah (or whatever you celebrate) is done right in the O.C. The happiest place on earth in particular, goes all out for the holiday, because how could they not?
Holidays at The Disneyland – Both Disneyland and Disney California Adventure feature festive sights, lights and events all season long including the Christmas Fantasy Parade, and the Enchanted Castle decked out in shimmering icicles. Open through January 6. 1313 Disneyland Dr. disneyland.disney.go.com/
Snow Day an Anaheim Marketplace- On Dec. 28, Snow Day at the Anaheim Indoor Marketplace will offer 25 tons of snow in their parking lot. Kids and adults will be able to sled, take pictures with a snowman, see Christmas shows, drink free hot chocolate, watch ballet folklórico, get face painting, hear live music, do arts & crafts, and more. 1440 S. Anaheim Blvd. eventbrite.com/e/snow-day-at-anaheim-marketplace-tickets-86436398595?
- Getting There: Ride the train to Anaheim and show your Pacific Surfliner ticket for a free shuttle ride to and from the resort area on Anaheim Resort Transportation Route 15. The bus drops off and picks up passengers at the Disneyland Main Transportation Center. Amtrak riders can unlock a 5 percent savings on park admission and the Disney MaxPass at PacificSurfliner.com/Disney.