Central Valley, CA winter traditions

Much of Central Valley, California is considered to be a low-latitude desert, very hot and dry in the summer and cool and damp in the winter. If you want to see snow and experience some cold temperatures, you need to travel into the Sierra Nevada Mountains to the east because that’s rare for the Valley during the winter.  

Not exactly the kind of Currier and Ives winter scenes that we’ve come to associate with all of the winter traditions we love to celebrate around the holidays.

However, the Central Valley of California is home to a plethora of seasonal celebrations and festivals. There’s something for everyone in the family, from tree lightings and carriage rides, to festive moonlight steam train rides, fabulous light displays, and even a lighted boat parade in Stockton. Pick any city in the Valley, and you’re sure to find that it hosts an annual holiday parade.

Enjoy the annual Holiday Lights at CALM — the California Living Museum — in Bakersfield, a drive-thru light display that features millions of lights to enjoy from the comfort of your car. Downtown Vacaville hosts Merriment on the Main, a holiday tradition since 1983. There’s live music, tree lighting, good food, and who else, but Santa.


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But, if you’re looking for the mother lode of festive family fun this holiday season, Fresno’s got it all.

Is Fresno the place to be?

Christmas Tree Lane in Fresno is a Central Valley holiday tradition dating back 97 years.  Every Christmas season North Van Ness Boulevard in Fig Garden is turned into a one-way street, lined with more than 100 decorated homes and 300 trees complete with festive lights and decorations. From toy soldiers and angels to elves, reindeer, and all kinds of animated holiday scenes and music, Christmas Tree Lane is truly a magical experience.

Visitors from all over the Central Valley look forward to this holiday event which begins on December 1st and runs through December 25th. Whether driving or walking the nearly two miles of this beautiful holiday display, you’ll enjoy the millions of lights that are turned on promptly at 6:00 PM.

Drive or walk down Candy Cane Lane in Clovis for another spectacular display of over 100 houses that are elaborately decorated with lights, displays, and yard art. Take a horse-drawn carriage ride through the beautifully decorated streets of Old Town.

For a unique holiday experience, check out Zoo Lights at the Chaffee Zoo. The entire zoo is transformed into a magical winter wonderland, complete with decorations and miles of holiday lights. The Zoo provides live entertainment, holiday treats and beverages, and a chance to give Santa that list you’ve been making all year.

And, don’t forget to check the 91st annual Downtown Fresno Christmas Parade on Fulton Street, the oldest parade in the Central Valley.

What are your traditions?

Living in the Central Valley provides you with the opportunity to share many favorite winter traditions with family and friends, to celebrate the things you are thankful for, and to look forward to making some new winter traditions in the new year.


Jane’s Ranch — Perfect for a Snowy Day — Chai Tea
(Makes two mugs)

3 cups of milk (I use 2%)
1 knob of fresh ginger peeled (about 1-2 inches)
1 cinnamon stick
4-6 cloves
1 star anise
Half a nutmeg clove
2 cardamom pods
6 black peppercorns
1 vanilla bean split in half
3 teaspoons of Darjeeling tea

Directions: Put milk and spices in a saucepan and bring to almost a boil, stirring constantly. Turn off heat. Add three teaspoons of Darjeeling tea, cover and steep for 4-6 minutes. Pour through a strainer into warmed mugs. Add sugar to taste. (Chai is generally on the sweet side, so I add two teaspoons per serving).

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