Skip the Sweaters at These Sunny Holiday Destinations

If the darker days and chillier temps of November have dampened excitement over the impending holidays and the weather it might bring—fear not. Forget those cumbersome sweaters and winter accessories, order your peppermint mocha iced instead of hot, and head south to these sunnier (but no less festive) holiday destinations. The four warm-weather towns below are making spirits bright with seasonal celebrations, elaborate lighting displays and decor, outdoor activities, and much more.

Holiday lights in Oceanside, California – courtesy of Visit Oceanside

Perfectly situated between metropolitan San Diego and Los Angeles, Oceanside is a quintessential California coastal escape that includes wide sandy beaches, a quaint New England-style harbor, historic wooden pier and charming bungalow neighborhoods. O’side (as locals affectionately call it) is a destination of discovery where visitors can explore everything from California history at the “King of Missions” to surf culture at the California Surf Museum and awe-inspiring sea life through exciting ocean adventures.

Kicking off the holiday season is the popular Thanksgiving Day O’side Turkey Trot, which takes participants along a scenic course through downtown Oceanside and along the coastline. Festivities continue into December with the official tree lighting in the Pacific Plaza on December 7th that includes visits with Santa, arts, crafts and a gift mart. Other December events include holiday concerts performed by the San Luis Rey Chorale at the historic Mission San Luis Rey, a holiday-themed Sunset Market each Thursday and the Oceanside Harbor Parade of Lights on December 9th where fishing boats, sail boats, yachts, kayaks and dingys dress up in holiday swag and circle the Oceanside Harbor to enchant onlookers. For anytime fun, Oceanside’s Top Tier Escape Rooms, voted the best in San Diego, is debuting a special Christmas themed challenge to delight holiday revelers of all ages.

Visitors can also discover Oceanside’s beauty and culture from the perspective of two new tour offerings: Pegasus Sidecar tours and electric Moke tours. With Pegasus Sidecar Tours, participants hop into a vintage sidecar attached to a classic motorcycle and embark on guided adventures along scenic routes that include the historic Mission San Luis Rey, Oceanside Pier, and more. Sidecars hold up to two people and small pets can come along too. Moke and Sons self-guided tours are a fun, eco-friendly and stylish way to cruise “California style” around town. A throw back to a European classic, the newly minted low-speed Moke Electric Vehicles can be delivered directly to Mission Pacific Beach Resort and The Seabird Ocean Resort and Spa and are a family-friendly option for cruising the Historic Highway 101 and surrounding areas. Packages are available for 2 hours, 5 hours or all day.

Don’t forget to make souvenir, too. At Art Magic, memories of days spent at the beach are captured through epoxy resin as participants design ocean-themed trays, cheese boards, and coasters. Oceanside Museum of Art’s monthly bite-sized Taste of Art happy hour includes a museum educator-led lively artist discussion over drinks and nibbles followed by an activity where participants create a work of art inspired by the artist. Sip, Paint, and Gaze happens every Friday night at The Seabird Ocean Resort & Spa. Open to resort guests and non-guests, participants find inspiration in coast views as they paint a sunset masterpiece while enjoying libations. Finally, located in a former gas station from the 1930s, Rising Co. cooperative offers a rotating calendar of make and create workshops where participants can learn how to oil and stamp veg-tan leather, turn plastic bags into zipper pouches, and more.

An incredible sunrise in Daytona Beach by Ravi Pinisetti – Unsplash

From holiday spectaculars and concerts to the golden anniversary of one of the largest car shows and swap meets in the United States, winter travelers spending their holidays in the Daytona Beach area and locals alike will discover plenty of festive happenings to enjoy.

Daytona International Speedway will be the location of two holiday traditions in the Daytona Beach area – the Magic of Lights and the Turkey Run. From November 17th through December 31st, Magic of Lights will transform the storied race track into a drive-through holiday-theme light spectacular featuring dozens of displays, festive favorites, and digital animation, all constructed with millions of individual LED lights to create a memorable holiday experience for the whole family.

Inside the comfort of their own vehicles, guests will enjoy Magic of Lights’ classic holiday favorites including Winter Wonderland, the 12 Days of Christmas, Toyland, festive Elves and Reindeer Road. In addition to the 200-foot long Enchanting Tunnel of Lights, there will also be other illuminated displays including the 32-foot-tall, animated Mattel’s Waving Christmas Barbie®, Prehistoric Christmas featuring life sized dinosaurs celebrating the season, and the legendary BIGFOOT® Monster Truck. Created with over two million sparkling lights, Magic of Lights is a nostalgic and festive event everyone will enjoy.

Another popular event at the Speedway, the 50th Annual Daytona Turkey Run on November 23rd through 26th will feature thousands of unique automobiles and swap meet vendors in the infield of the “World Center of Racing.” Considered to be largest combined car show and swap meet in the US, this family-friendly four-day event attracts close to 200,000 attendees every Thanksgiving holiday week to the Daytona Beach area.

Holiday decorations in Scottsdale, Arizona – courtesy of Experience Scottsdale

The Sonoran Desert shines a bit brighter this season with holiday magic. From November 17th to January 6th, the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess transforms into a holiday headquarters during Christmas at the Princess, complete with 6.5 million sparkling LED lights. In addition to the Desert Ice Rink, S’mores Land, the Princess Express Train, and The Village, new this year is Aurora Ice, an ice lounge bathed in an illumination reminiscent of the Aurora Borealis, better known as the Northern Lights.

On November 25th, Scottsdale Quarter’s Santa Social offers an infinite supply of cheer with special character appearances, its annual tree lighting ceremony, a holiday feature film, and of course, a visit from Old St. Nick himself. Then, from November 24th through December 31st, Enchant, an immersive, extravagant winter celebration, returns with a new light maze where visitors help a mischievous elf named Eddie, and Sparky the reindeer, recover missing toys before Santa’s big night. The event also includes an ice-skating trail, live entertainment, and a visit from Santa and Mrs. Claus. Finally, from November 24th through January 7th, Holiday Lights at McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park offers enchanting displays and twinkling lights surrounding the park’s Paradise & Pacific Railroad and historic Charros Carousel for a picture-perfect evening.

Don’t forget to stop into some of Scottsdale’s wonderful museums. Western Spirit: Scottsdale’s Museum of the West introduces new exhibitions this season. “Women of the West: Highlights from The Fran and Ed Elliott Southwest Women Artists Collection” focuses on women artists connected to Arizona throughout the late territorial period and early 20th century. The museum will soon open an exhibit featuring works of art from a portion of the Eddie Basha Collection of American Indian and Western American fine art, one of the largest, privately-owned art collections of its kind. Also this season, the Musical Instrument Museum (MIM) showcases how cultures from around the world celebrate their unique winter holidays through “‘Tis the Seasons: Holidays at MIM” with performances from Dickens Carolers, Mariachi Rubor, and Rural Street Klezmer Band, and festive-themed activities such as a music-making workshop and a Kwanzaa storytelling (December 9th and 10th).

A heart sign and holiday lights in Frisco, Texas – courtesy of Visit Frisco

Frisco is where sports stars play, music’s biggest stars take the stage, and holiday magic comes to life. Connect these five ways to explore Frisco to make you and your guests the star this holiday season: hotels, events, shopping, dining, and sports. Kick off the holiday season in Frisco at Merry Main Street presented by Texas Health Hospital Frisco, Saturday, December 2nd from 3:30 to 8 p.m. The event will feature a holiday gift market, food vendors, school choir performances, Santa & Friends parade, and the lighting of The City of Frisco Christmas Tree in front of the George A. Purefoy Municipal Center. This is a free event, open to the public. Also on December 2nd, don your merriest running gear or costume and take part in one of Frisco’s most popular holiday traditions, the Frosty 5K & Merry Mile.

Taking place November 18th through January 8th, Christmas in the Square is one of the largest choreographed lights and music displays in North Texas. The nightly show begins at 6 p.m. and features more than 175,000 lights. Tune in to the radio in your vehicle or listen to the music piped through speakers as you take a walk through the Square. This year’s Christmas in the Square event will also feature Skate the Square, an outdoor ice-skating rink, as well as a Christmas tree lot. The light and music show is free to experience. Some activities do require a fee.

The Dallas Cowboys will host Cowboys Christmas Extravaganza powered by Reliant each Friday and Saturday at 6 p.m., November 17th through December 16th. The must-see 20-minute show on Tostitos Championship Plaza kicks off with the lighting of The Star’s 67-foot Christmas tree and holiday performances featuring the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders, Dallas Cowboys Rhythm and Blue Dancers, Santa Claus, and special guest appearances. Admission and parking for the event are free.

Witness more than one million lights at Riders Field from the comfort and convenience of your vehicle at The Light Park drive thru light show. Pre-purchase tickets and pile up your friends or family – and your pup, too – to make some memories. Snacks like popcorn, candy, sodas, water, and light-up lemonade are available for purchase.

Fridays and Saturdays in December at PGA Frisco mean toy soldiers, real reindeer, rides on the Fields Ranch Holiday Express Train, ornament decorating, tree lightings, and cozy outdoor movies on the big screen. Whether you’re looking to get into the holiday spirit or simply enjoy a fun-filled evening, Home on The Range for The Holidays is the place to be. This is a ticketed event with additional exclusive experiences available to Omni PGA Frisco Resort guests who purchase the holiday package.

On Monday, December 18th the U.S. Army Bowl brings the top high school football players together at Ford Center at The Star. The next day at Toyota Stadium, it’s time for classic Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) action at the Scooter’s Coffee Frisco Bowl. Take a tour of the Dallas Cowboys World Headquarters, The Star, to see where players train. Dive into the history of America’s team as you explore the Ring of Honor Walk in The Star District. Finally, keep the holidays going on January 7, 2024 with the NCAA Division I Football Championship (FCS) at Toyota Stadium, home to the best championship memories in college football.

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