If you find yourself traveling through the giant Mojave desert during the day, keep Calico Ghost Town in mind. Whether you are headed to Vegas or Utah, you can always take a “stretch break” from the freeway driving, to see the historic cemetery, grab a bite to eat or browse gift shops. Calico is an old, abandon, mining camp turned into a commercialized theme park – just a few exits after Barstow, on Interstate 15.
Numerous festivals are held annually at this historic silver mining camp in the desert.
FEBRUARY Calico’s California Days
educational displays about California’s history, games and contests for the entire family, live entertainment, a chuck wagon chili cook-off and more.
SEPTEMBER Calico Days
a weekend experience revisiting life in the Old West during the 1800s. We line up gun-fighting shows and musical entertainment along with other festivities, including a miner’s triathlon, burro race, costume contest, pie-eating contest and loads of activities for the kiddos.
OCTOBER Calico Ghost Haunt trick-or-treating, costume contests, pumpkin carving, kids’ carnival tent, live entertainment stage shows, scare sets and haunted attractions; plus a Campsite Decorating Contest.
DECEMBERHoliday Fest decorated for the holiday season, this iconic ghost town features dining, shopping and costumed characters, as well as live music
Celebrated annually since 1927, the Bracebridge Dinner transforms The Ahwahnee Dining Room into a Old English-era hall boasting Christmas cheer, beautiful music and a gourmet seven-course meal. The inspiration for this yuletide ceremony was Washington Irving’s Sketch Book that described Squire Bracebridge and English Christmas traditions of that period.
The Bracebridge Dinner is an elegant and artistic four-hour pageant of classic carols, Renaissance rituals and entertainment of the Middle Ages. More than 100 players create the roles of the Squire and his family, their servants, the Lord of Misrule, minstrels and other performers. The Ahwahnee Dining Room serves as the Great Hall and stage for the festivities and is decked with magnificent wreaths, an elaborate squire’s table, large banners and traditional Yuletide decorations.
Local farmers and ranchers parade fancifully decorated tractors and tractor-drawn wagons depicting holiday scenes down the Victorian Village’s historic Main Street. Sparkling country Christmas celebrations include the Tallest Living Tree Lighting, shopping and dining downtown. Romantic Christmas destination on the Northern California Redwood Coast!
Sawdust Winter Fantasy Art Festival
in Laguna Canyon
The Orange County beach haven known as Laguna Beach has long been known for their surf shops, gift shops and great art galleries.
Laguna Canyon Saw Dust festival grounds will be transformed into a winter wonderland where artists create, display and sell original creations over the course of five weekends. The Winter Fantasy is offers the most unique holiday shopping in all of Southern California. Art media includes jewelry, clothing, fused and blown glass, ceramics, woodwork, forged metals, painting, photography, sculpture, clothing and textiles.
Experience unique artwork from hundreds of artists, live holiday entertainment, outdoor cafes, art classes and demonstrations, petting zoo, plus Santa! With amazing art gifts, thousands of holiday decorations and picture-perfect moments.
BIG RIGS: The 18-wheelers stretching as long as 60 feet, include some with special parade additions that might be tacked on: bandstand platforms, dancing reindeer, flying fish, you name it. Join in this Eureka tradition, and you’ll never think of Jingle Bells in quite the same way again. The parade starts at 6 pm at Redwood Acres and goes to about 8:30 pm.
Balboa Park Christmas Lights
December Nights in Balboa Park, San Diego
Balboa Park December Nights Southern California’s premier holiday festival
“Christmas on the Prado” is now called December Nights
40 years running; Friday and Saturday night in early December
The event brings families and friends together to spread holiday joy, learn more about the cultural value of Balboa Park and kick-off the “most wonderful time of the year.”
Participating Balboa Park museums open their doors free of charge from 5-9 pm both evenings and more than 350,000 visitors are expected to experience the joy of San Diego’s largest free community festival. Those who attend will participate in a truly multicultural experience, enjoying food, music and entertainment from around the world.
Revelers can watch top-notch musical and dance performances, enjoy delicious and diverse food choices and help spread a heavy dose of holiday cheer.
Well-known traditions include food from around the globe at the International Christmas Festival at the House of Pacific Relations Cottages; the annual Santa Lucia Procession at the Plaza de California; unique gift shopping at the museum stores and with the artisans of Spanish Village; and musical and dance presentations from the San Diego Junior Theatre, San Diego Civic Youth Ballet, Del Cerro Baptist’s Christmas Story Tree, and more.
Where the traditions and lifestyles of the vaqueros blend with traditions and lifestyles of cowboys who worked there way west from Texas, Arizona and Nevada. Live music, concerts, great food, wine and beer.
Amazing autumn colors can be found through OCTOBER and NOVEMBER in California, but you’ll need to leave the city in order to find the very best colors and scenic beauty. Fall season happens quickly (within weeks) in the high country and slower (months) in the lowlands. Plenty canyons and parks in the urban centers have hiking trails thru some nice trees, but nothing compares to the backroads, creeks and rivers of the big mountains.
Elevations, the higher the better, is where you’ll find the real displays of color. Aspen groves can be found along mountain slopes, creek canyons from 5000′-10,000′ in elevation. Cottonwood trees are found in the drier regions, in ranching areas and in desert canyons – up to about 6000′ elevation. Aspen trees start to turn yellow as soon as the chill of nights drop; if the temperature shift is subtle, the aspen leaves become more orange as the days go into the fall season. If an early snow or freeze happens, just one night, the glorious foliage becomes dead brown crispies dangling in the wind.
CAMP FIRE RESTRICTIONS are still be in place from the dry summer, and now comes the autumn winds. Any decent amount of rain can change the fire burn status, so make sure to check with the rangers for up-to-date fire info.
Best Autumn Campgrounds in California
Many of these campgrounds are located in or near aspen groves & are simply spectacular during the fall months. Some may be located near alder groves. Maple trees located along rivers turn golden between September and October.
Higher elevation (7000′-9000′) colors will change faster and earlier in the year (as soon as September), whereas the lower countryside may wait until late October.
Pack warmly, cuz the cooler temps at night (20-30 degrees) is what makes these awesome, little autumn leaves change colors. The change can happen very fast (in days). When the early season snows move in – usually a minimal dusting by October, fall colors can fade fast.
The Eastern slopes of the Sierra Nevada is the ‘place to be’ for Autumn Colors in California. The dramatic desert meets the tallest granite peaks. Every canyon is a different scene, many lakes lined with aspen groves, some have a creek with aspens.
North Lake Campground
Lake Sabrina Road
Bishop Pass (high country hikes)
Lee Vining, CA
Lee Vining Canyon / Hwy 120
One of the biggest aspen grove canyons in the state of California.
NFS Campgrounds in Lee Vining Canyon: Big Bend, Aspen Grove, Boulder, Moraine, and Cattleguard Campground.
NFS Camps @ Yosemite’s EAST GATE (9000′ elev): Ellery Lake, Junction, Saddlebag Lake, and Sawmill Campground.
Impressive Rock Creek Road #4S12 in Rock Creek Canyon, one of the very best “Scenic Autumn Drives” in the whole Eastern Sierra. Numerous NFS Campgrounds on this road; many of which close for the season, just about the time then fall colors peak.
One of the better winter star shows. This well known meteor shower peaks in mid December, right in the middle of Christmas Rush. It’s a nice time to plan a desert camping trip around or a weekend away in the mountains. Look in the southern part of the nights sky these shootings stars.
The meteors from this shower are slow moving, can be seen in December and usually peak around the 13th – 14th of the month, with the date of highest intensity being the morning of the 14th. The shower is thought to be intensifying every year and recent showers have seen 120–160 meteors per hour under optimal conditions, generally around 02:00 to 03:00 local time.
The meteors in this shower appear to come from a radiant in the constellation Gemini (hence the shower’s name). However, they can appear almost anywhere in the night sky, and often appear yellowish in hue. Well north of the equator, the radiant rises about sunset, reaching a usable elevation from the local evening hours onwards.