Those looking for nostalgic holiday magic will find it in the charming city of Visalia, considered one the of the best destinations for Holiday Spirit.
The city is just 3 hours from the hustle and bustle of Los Angeles and San Francisco in the center of California but feels other-worldly when the holiday lights are strung and the garlands stretch across “Candy Cane Lane.”
The countdown to Christmas continues all through the season with these fun and charming events sure to make holiday memories that will last a lifetime.
Related: Love food, wine and adventure? Discover this magical West Coast town
The holidays officially kick off on the first Sunday following Thanksgiving with the lighting of the city’s Christmas tree at Oval Park. Since 1953 residents have gathered for the ceremonial tree lighting.
Find a seat along the sidewalk on Main Street for the Central Valley’s largest Holiday parade, The Candy Cane Lane Parade. This year marks the 75th year the Parade has marched down Main Street while families and friends gather together to watch the floats, bands, dancers and more bring cheer to those excitedly awaiting the arrival of Santa and Mrs. Claus.
Related: How is the most Magical Place on Earth celebrating this year?
New this year is “Christmas on the Farm,” from December 4-January 2 at Vossler Farms. The farm will transition from its popular fall pumpkin patch and corn maze into a family-friendly holiday wonderland that includes a real outdoor ice-skating rink, a Santa Train, a nighttime magical lighted hayride, visits with Santa, the Grinch and much more.
Shop the Holiday Open Houses each Thursday night in Downtown Visalia during December as merchants extend their hours for shoppers looking for the perfect gifts for loved ones. Stroll arm-in-arm with a special person to look at the charmingly decorated shop windows and trees adorned with thousands of white lights.
Horse-drawn carriage rides in Downtown Visalia will also be available. Though not dashing through the snow, the jingling bells on the horses’ reins will raise your spirits as they clip-clop along Candy Cane Lane (AKA Main Street) aglow with twinkle lights.
Enjoy a seasonal drink or celebratory meal at the elegant Vintage Press Restaurant. Not only are their drinks and food spectacular, the decorations will put you in the holiday spirit. Dining at this iconic restaurant is a treat any time of the year, but especially during the holidays.
Santa returns to the Visalia Mall for cherished Holiday family photo opportunities. The Mall will also host sensory-friendly Santa experiences especially for guests with autism on December 5 and 12.
A visit to Visalia wouldn’t be complete without a trip to Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks. Take a guided snowshoe walk through the giant sequoia groves and enjoy a little snow play with the family.
Plan your visit for the second Sunday in December and gather around the General Grant Tree. The National Parks Service lays a wreath at the base of the giant sequoia, which is a living shrine to the men and women of the Armed Service. This solemn and touching ceremony at the tree happens each year regardless of weather. The Trek to the Trees is on the second Sunday of December but you can visit any time.
Along with all the holiday activities, there is more to explore. Take a self-guided walking tour of downtown to learn about Visalia’s history, take the kids to Imagine U Children’s Museum for interactive and creative play.
Bird lovers will want to see the Sand Hill Cranes at the Pixley Wildlife Refuge who winter here as part of their migration each year or take part in the Annual Christmas Bird Count in Sequoia National Park on Dec 18. This annual event is hosted by Sequoia Parks Conservancy and welcomes all abilities.
Visalia is known for having the famous Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks in its backyard, but natural charm, welcoming locals and abundance of experiences are why this Central California city is much more than a gateway to the great outdoors. This charming and vibrant city welcomes visitors for a nostalgic holiday experience creating memories that will last a lifetime. We look forward to greeting travelers this winter.
For more information or to book your stay, go to www.visitvisalia.com/a-nostalgic-holiday-in-visalia.