Some of my favorite memories growing up in the valley have to do with holiday traditions. From the downtown, small-town Christmas parades, to the walks and rides down Christmas Tree Lane, and even Christmastime choirs that fill the shops and festivals around town. But one thing that my family always took advantage of during the holidays, is travel. Fresno is perfectly located right in the center of our great state of California, and my family always took advantage for the ideal proximity to the mountains, oceans, and lakes that surround us. This holiday season, use some of that vacation time to take an actual vacation – even if it’s just for a day! Join me as we dig through 4 of the best holiday getaway trips you can conquer in a day:
- Yosemite / 1 hour, 16 minutes away
Ok. So people literally come from all over the world to visit Yosemite National Park. Over 3.7 million people each year, to be exact. But if you live in the Fresno area, this monumental visit can be done in just a day – a short 1 hour and 16 minute drive! Head straight to the Badger Pass Ski area, the oldest downhill skiing area in California, open mid-December through April, or catch some cross-country skiing or snowshoeing around the backcountry. The famous Ahwahnee Hotel hosts a FAB annual holiday event, the Bracebridge dinner, held since 1927. The holiday dinner tradition completely transforms The Ahwahnee’s grand Dining Room into a Renaissance hall, where a Christmas pageant and 7-course dinner is served. Wow. And if you have a little too much egg nog, you can stay overnight at the posh wilderness hotel. Other must-sees during a day trip to Yosemite are Yosemite Falls, Bridalveil Falls, Mirror Lake, the Mist Trail and of course, Half Dome. Hike the historical John Muir Trail, Cathedral Lakes, or take in the stunning views at Glacier Point. Let’s go!
- Paso Robles / 1 hour, 52 minutes away
Two words: wine tasting. When my husband and I moved to Clovis, and we took a weekend trip to Paso Robles for our anniversary, we were SHOCKED at how close this amazing wine country is, and what a beautiful, easy drive it was too! Paso is home to about 30,000 people – many of them wine lovers and local winery staff. The wine industry is BIG here, and growing by the day. Travel + Leisure even named Paso Robles one of the best towns for the holidays – yep, and you just realized you live less than 2 hours from there! Rad. Take the short drive, then hop a wine tour and sip your way through this gorgeous San Luis Obispo County town. The weather in the holiday month of December is usually cool, but nice (and usually never as cold as Fresno in the winter!). JUSTIN Vineyards & Winery is located in Paso, and an off the beaten path MUST on any wine tasting trip here – an American Winery of the Year winner for 2015! Another fun option: take the Amtrak for only $16, leaving directly from Fresno (with a stop in Hanford and bus travel the rest of the way). What a deal!
- Monterey / 2 hours, 38 minutes away
In just under 3 hours (and a beautiful drive!), you can take your Christmas crew to a day trip in Monterey, CA. Take a day to kayak the bay, go whale watching, or just get your toes in the sand. Of course, Monterey is also home to the famous Monterey Bay Aquarium, where millions head every year to see the jellyfish, sharks and penguins in California. Stretch your legs after that car ride, with a walk down picturesque Cannery Row, and remember the history of the sardine canning in the city – now a row of shopping, and some of the best restaurants on the coast. If you’ve got kiddos with you, head over for an hour at Dennis the Menace Park, on Pearl Street, just off the downtown area (trust me, it’ll be a HIT!). I have always wanted to rent a segway or bike and ride down Recreation Trail to Fisherman’s Wharf – so if you do that, let me know how it is! The winter weather in Monterey is a coastal cool, so bundle up well!
- Bass Lake / 1 hour, 5 minutes
Bass Lake is just too beautiful and too easy to get to from Fresno – it’s a popular year round spot, that’s peaceful and mysterious in the winter, too. When you drive down into the little village that surrounds the lake, you can park anywhere, and take the short walk right down to the lake itself. Take a picnic lunch, or grab a bite at any of the local restaurants – Casa Velasco, the little house-like Mexican restaurant down the street from the main village, was my personal fave! But more than the chile rellenos, Bass Lake is just a sweet, mountainous town to take a stroll, and soak in the pine trees and views of Central California.So this holiday season, take a day on the weekend or even during the week, and drive until that 41 freeway takes you to a beach or a mountain town beyond your usual borders. A quick day trip can be the perfect way to recharge during this busy time of year – and you may even make a memory or two.
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