‘Best for Holidays': California Towns

Sonoma, Laguna Beach, and more beautiful burgs made a "Travel + Leisure"-picked list.

HOW DO YOU DETERMINE... what makes a destination truly tops in the end-of-the-year celebration department? Would the city need to have a lane of Christmas-type trees through the center of town? A bakery that makes the best spicy latkes? Or would a general feeling of festiveness need to prevail, no matter where you happened to find yourself within the city's borders? It's a little bit of a soft-edged topic, and every holiday-devoted traveler could correctly weigh in with a different viewpoint on the matter. But we can all agree that any location chosen for a roster called "America's Best Towns for the Holidays" would need to be lively, and lovely, and full of quaint and/or quirky and/or cool charms. The burgs that made the 2015 list, which was released in early November, qualify on all of those counts, and they're all somewhat-to-very close to many Californians looking for a dose of festive dazzle. Did your hometown get a shout-out as being particularly holiday-ish? Or a getaway you're ga-ga over? Take a look at all of the locales from across the U.S. on the list, then give a little extra love to...

CARMEL-BY-THE-SEA, which ranks at number 9, thanks to its storybook cottages and snug restaurants and painting-worthy cypresses and the fact that it keeps a Christmas-ornament-y spirit, somewhat, in its darling decor, all year long. The Cypress Inn and Wayside Inn both have mentions, but a number of local favorites are included. Paso Robles stands at #16 -- hello wineries, hello seasonally adorned Hearst Castle -- and Healdsburg's many artisanal offerings cement its sturdy spot at number 17 on the list of 25. La Jolla's sophisticated ocean-chic beauty lands it at a very nice number 19, and Sonoma and Laguna Beach appear side-by-side at #24 and #25 (Willow Stream Spa and the Sawdust Winter Fantasy are cited, sparkily and respectively.) Did your favorite glowing Golden State city get the holiday love? There are plenty more municipalities that do up the holly and ornaments each year. Over a fifth of the burgs on the roster are in California, which is pretty fab, and they run both north and south, so their flavors and feels cover the celebratory gamut. Beachy, wine country, funky, storybook? Your whimsical weekend out of town, this holiday, is just a short flight, or drive, or, perhaps, even a brief bike ride away.

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