In the loop


December brings winter wonderlands, travel to days of yore and even fire-breathing dragons. We pass along some possibilities in this monthly roundup of tips for short hops to nearby events and longer trips around California.

To the northwest in Sacramento, Sutter’s Fort Historic State Park re-creates early yuletide traditions with “A Simple Emigrant Christmas & Candlelight Tours” on Saturday, Dec. 8 (; 916-445-4422), and the Governor’s Mansion State Park fills with lavish period decor and holiday music Saturdays, Dec. 8 and 15 ( governorsmansion; 916-323-5916).

In San Francisco the Hyatt Regency Hotel charms with its iconic 200-piece Snow Village, lobby-wide cascading lights, huge tree, ice-skating rink outside the back door, and snowfall three times daily through Monday, Dec. 31 (; 415-788-1234).

Down below in Los Angeles, the Getty Villa presents four centuries of artistic interpretation of the “Last Days of Pompeii” through Monday, Jan. 7 (; 310- 440-7300) and the LA Phil celebrates the season in Walt Disney Concert Hall with a beautiful “Holiday Organ Spectacular” on Friday, Dec. 14, and two performances of “Holiday Sing-Along” with special guest Julie Andrews on Saturday, Dec. 22 ( TheHall; 323-850-2000).

To the southeast, Palm Desert Living Zoo and Gardens offers camel and train rides, Santa Claus and weekend sparkle for the WildLights Holiday Festival through Dec. 31 (; 760-346-5694). In Big Bear on Dec. 31, skiers bear torches to ring in the New Year (; 909-866-5766).

To the southwest on the coast, Oxnard adds to the fun with its 47th Annual Boat Parade of Lights and Festival on Saturday, Dec 8; Christmas Tree Lane from Dec. 9-25; and Holly Trolley Holiday Light Tour Tuesday-Thursday Dec, 11, 12 and 13 (; 800-269-6273).

On Sundays, Dec. 9 and 16, the San Diego Bay Parade of Lights illuminates the night from Shelter Island to the downtown waterfront (; 619-224-2240) then follows up on Thursday, Dec. 27, with “America’s largest balloon parade,” the Port of San Diego Big Bay Balloon Parade and Family Festival (; 619-283-5808). “Jungle Bells” – dazzling lights, jumping elves, a North Pole miniature train, Chocolate Town, the 4D “Ice Age: A Mammoth Christmas” flick, animal encounters and more — at the San Diego Zoo runs Saturday, Dec.15, through Sunday, Jan. 6 (; 800-407-9534).

Around the state – at Fresno’s Save Mart Center Dec 19-22, San Jose’s HP Pavilion, Dec. 26-30, Sacramento’s Sleep Train Arena, Jan 3-6, and Anaheim’s Honda Center, Jan 17-20 – the movie-inspired “How to Train Your Dragon” immerses audiences in a magical, mythical live spectacular of action, heroics, laughter and flying dragons with 40-foot wingspans (

Planning ahead: Reserve in advance to attend Road Scholar’s Feb 17-20 “CSI in Fact and Fiction” in Van Nuys, a package that includes meeting with mystery writers and a criminal forensics expert, crime scene bus tour, hotel and meals (; 877-426-8056).

Ridgecrest resident Donna McCrohan Rosenthal covers travel stories for AAA, Bakersfield Magazine and several West Coast publications. The author of 14 books, she has appeared on Oprah and A&E Biography and lectured at the Smithsonian.

Story First Published: 2012-12-05