Think global, holiday local
This year, make the family come to you
Crowded airports and surly TSA agents. Congested freeways and inclement weather. So, why exactly did you agree to leave town to visit your family for the holidays?
This year, make your relatives come to you. Whether they’re sophisticated metro city dwellers or hail from Nowheresville, USA, Sacramento is sure to charm this season.
Put away your car keys and airline-regulation toothpaste and instead celebrate at home with these five options that bring the world to you.
Holiday on ice
Is there anything more nostalgically Christmas-y than the ice-skating scene from A Charlie Brown Christmas? It’s not hard to imagine the Vince Guaraldi Trio’s “Skating” tinkling in the air as you lace up your skates at the Downtown Sacramento Ice Rink. Open each year from November through January, this outdoor plaza is one festive way to spend an afternoon. The rink, operated by Downtown Sac, is open seven days a week (hours vary, check the website for exact details) and there are also parties, including a Holiday Shoppe (December 8) and a Silent Disco skate (December 20). Have a large family? Group reservations are also available; $6-$15; 701 K Street; godowntownsac.com/events/signature-events/ice-rink.
Light it up
If you’re a fan of all things sparkly, the annual Global Winter Wonderland is a must. Forget that trip to the Fab 40s to look at holiday lights; this Cal Expo event, open through January 6, puts any home display to shame. It's Disneyland’s Electrical Parade on holiday steroids. It’s not just about the lights, though (although, really, the lights). There are also rides, entertainment, shopping, dining and games, including laser tag. All this plus special cultural nights centering on themes such as Kwanzaa, spirits and … zombies. Check the website for a daily schedule. $17-$32 for admission; $30-$39 for ride packages, 1600 Exposition Boulevard; globalwonderland.com/sacramento.
Old-fashioned good tidings
If you don’t mind a short drive, then plan a trek to the foohills for the annual Nevada City Victorian Christmas. Held Wednesdays (5-9 p.m.) and Sundays (1:30 –6 p.m.) through December 23 in downtown Nevada City, this festively old-fashioned event evokes Victorian-era holiday celebrations. It has street vendors and food stands, gaslamp-lit streets and carriage rides, carolers dressed in era-appropriate attire and even a visit from Father Christmas. nevadacitychamber.com/nevada-city-events/victorian-christmas.
All aboard the holiday express
Normally, we’d advise you to avoid all the planes, trains and automobiles this season, but the Magical Christmas Train is exempt from that anti-travel sentiment. Hosted by the Sacramento RiverTrain folks, this 90-minute ride is a family friendly adventure with appearances from Santa Claus and his elves. This year’s trip stages the story of “Skippy the Traindeer” (see what they did there?) who must help Santa rescue a disillusioned child’s Christmas spirit. The train departs various times and dates through December 23. $15-$54; sacramentorivertrain.com/experiences/magical-christmas-train.
All that glitters
Listen, we know Old Sac is the epitome of touristy kitsch—but that’s not necessarily a bad thing and, besides, your visiting family will probably love it. Because, you know, tourists. Visit the Waterfront district November 23-December 20 to take in the glittery spectacle that is the Theatre of Lights. Fashioned as a 19th century light-studded winter wonderland, it also sets the stage for a retelling of the classic Twas the Night Before Christmas. Performances are scheduled Thursday-Sunday at 6 and 7:30 p.m., with only one show scheduled at 6:30 p.m. on Christmas Eve. Also on hand: virtual snowflakes, Santa sightings and the nightly lighting of a Christmas tree. All events are free. K Street between Front and Second streets in Old Sacramento; (916) 970-5226; sacramentorivertrain.com/experiences/magical-christmas-train.