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Only-in-California holiday events attract travelers to the Golden State

By Lindsay Wright 11/27/2017

As destinations around the Golden State gear up for the busy holidays, many are preparing for events and festivities to celebrate the season with travelers visiting family and friends in their region. And just like California, many traditions are unlike anything else.

Unless you’re a pro, it’s unlikely that surfing is something you’d be seeking to do in November and December. But in some places in California, it’s a common way to ring in the holiday season. And you won’t find just anyone riding waves: Santa suit-clad surfers kick off the season in style in competitions throughout the state.

At the Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel in Dana Point, a two-day Surfing Santa Competition has been holding strong since 2010. On average, nearly 100 surfers dress like Santa or other holiday-inspired characters to support Surfers Healing, the original surf camp benefiting children with autism. Additionally, a Holiday Surfboard Auction showcases a selection of custom hand-painted surfboards to support the cause.

“The Stand Up Paddle Boarding and Surfing Santa Competition demonstrates the diversity of how the holidays are celebrated in California, especially in coastal cities like Dana Point,” said a representative from Visit Dana Point. “Travelers who are used to the traditional holiday events can create new family holiday memories.”

Visit Dana Point is also strategic about marketing to families for holiday travel, encouraging visitors to consider traveling to the destination prior to Christmas for seasonal events like the Surfing Santa Competition. The destination brands itself as the ideal family getaway for families during the season due to its beautiful weather and range of activities that can be experienced for travelers of all ages.

In the chillier Sierra foothills of Nevada City, Victorian Christmas comes alive each year. This year marks the event’s 40th anniversary, commemorating a special time when the quaint mountain town is filled with dancers, magicians, cloggers, music, crafts, and even literal chestnuts roasting on an open fire. Horse-drawn carriage rides, carolers and magical string lights make visitors feel as though they’ve stepped back into time.

“Victorian Christmas has become a signature event for our town,” says Nevada City Chamber of Commerce Director Cathy Whittlesey. “We are known throughout Northern California. It is an important part of our marketing and branding efforts.”

Nevada City’s historical look and feel lends itself to the event, Whittlesey says. Approximately 10,000 people attend the event over the course of the season.

In Yosemite Valley, the Bracebridge Dinners series also takes visitors back into time for its annual holiday tradition. Lord Neville of Bracebridge kicks off an 18th-century inspired affair, with more than 100 performers, costumes, songs, and a yuletide feast reminiscent of the era. Held at the Majestic Yosemite Hotel, the seven-course feast including an adaption of Washington Irving’s Sketch Book has been held every year since 1927.

Holiday activations like these can be found in destinations throughout the state. And while they may seem unconventional to some, these can't-miss events are a perfect fit for a state as unique as California.

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