The Most Festive Christmas Markets in California

Glowing lights, fingers wrapped around a hot mug of mulled wine and a festive frisson in the air. There really is no better place to be than at a Christmas market in California.

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San Diego, CA

Mulled wine by the kegful, carols sung in the background and twinkling lights aplenty: nothing says Christmas like an outdoor market. Though it's Europe that is typically known for its ode to Christmas shopping, the tradition has crossed over the pond and there are plenty of Christmas markets in California. From festive sweets and mince pies to gluhwein served by enthusiastic waiters, the Christmas market is the place to be in December. Plum Guide took its giant red sack in search of the jolliest Christmas markets in California. Here's our pick of the lot.

Cambria Christmas Market

The folk behind Cambria Christmas Market have taken the great and good from a traditional German market and transported it to California. Sip on mulled wine as you browse the artisan stalls and delight in the two-million strong light displays. While away the hours in search of the perfect bauble and feast your way through the food stalls as you do it. Don’t forget to take the obligatory selfie in front of the dazzling light tunnel.

Cambria Christmas Market, Santa Barbara | Image by staticantics is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Cambria Christmas Market, Santa Barbara | Image by staticantics is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Cat Canyon Ranch, Plum Guide home in Santa Barbara

Cat Canyon Ranch, Plum Guide home in Santa Barbara

The Great Dickens Christmas Fair

No list of Christmas markets in California would be complete without this whimsical addition. Watch out for Scrooge at this ode to Charles Dickens. San Francisco is transformed into the olde world complete with vintage lamps on the Victorian-London inspired streets. Bring your glad rags if that’s your thing, fancy dress is positively encouraged. (It’s more old fashioned top n tails than Mrs Claus though. Don’t make the same mistake as us, people will stare.) Actors parade the streets in regalia for your entertainment and you can catch a show at one of the seven stages dotted around.

Grape Ridge, Plum Guide home in Santa Rosa

Grape Ridge, Plum Guide home in Santa Rosa

Sacramento Christkindlmarkt

Head to the capital for a healthy dose of festive cheer. The Sacramento Christkindlmarkt is packed to the rafters with stalls touting the perfect gifts for your loved ones. Try your hand at Christmas crafts with bauble and ornament making – the more glitter the better. Traditional German foods are plentiful so feast on Thuringian sausage, raclette and sticky, sweet stollen. California is magically transformed into Berlin. Stay in this villa a short drive from Sacramento.

Noble Grapes, Plum Guide home in Sacramento

Noble Grapes, Plum Guide home in Sacramento

December Nights Balboa Park

December Nights is San Diego’s largest Christmas market. As you would expect this event is a dazzling celebration of all things yuletide. Live festive music blares from the Organ Pavilion, so expect to be humming Jingle Bells the whole time. Grab yourself a cup of mulled wine and weave your way through the stalls in search of Aunty Doris’ perfect gift. We think she will just love another snow globe.

Urban Shack, Plum Guide home in San Diego

Urban Shack, Plum Guide home in San Diego

German Christmas Market, Huntington Beach

Exactly what it says on the tin, my friend. The folk behind the German Christmas Market have gone to great lengths to create an authentic experience here. Nativity plays and the Orange County Christmas Fair will have you spraying fake snow everywhere and singing Mariah Carey at the top of your voice. Everybody will love it if you do this! For full immersion in the experience take a German dinner in the Old World Festival Banquet Hall.

Huntington Beach, California

Huntington Beach, California

Cali Escape, Plum Guide home in Newport Beach, California

Cali Escape, Plum Guide home in Newport Beach, California

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