What US towns should I consider seeing in December?
California is a pretty big state and traveling anywhere else, except Florida, in the country in December and you will probably encounter bad weather. Plus, traveling around the Christmas holidays is expensive.
Be sure to take the train from LA to San Diego. Believe it or not San Diego is like another world compared to LA. It has a small town feel compared to LA. It's one of the most beautiful cities in the country. It's a major tourist destination and there are tons of things to do.
Balboa Park is the largest urban cultural park in the country. You can get a park passport which allows you entry to a dozen museums as well as the zoo. The first weekend in December (Fri-Sat night) there is a huge festival in the park called December Nights. All the museums are open for free and the whole park is decorated for the celebration. It's something that you should not miss.
Other attractions in the park are the Air and Space Museum, Ruben H. Fleet Science Center, the Natural History Museum, the Museum of Man, the Automotive Museum, the Hall of Champions, the Botanical Gardens, and the largest outdoor pipe organ in the world (free concerts on Sunday).
Also in December is the Parade of Lights, where locals place Christmas lights and decorations on their boats and parade around the harbor.
North County San Diego is home to the Zoo's Safari Park. There are multi acre enclosures where herds of wild animals roam plus lots of hiking trails. It's worth the visit and is a different experience from the zoo. You can ride a zip line, tour the park on a Segway, or take a photo caravan into the enclosures and feed the giraffes.
La Jolla offers great views, great surfing, great food, great theater, and great shopping.
Check out the surfers at historic Windansea Beach. At low tide you can walk out onto the tide pools. Walk along the Cove and check out the caves. Visit the Museum of Contemporary Art. Take a stroll on Prospect St and check out the shops, galleries, and have some authentic Mexican food at Alfonso's. Then head to the Birch Aquarium at The Scripps Institution of Oceanography. It has a spectacular view of the bluffs over the Pacific Ocean. The Tony award winning La Jolla Playhouse is located nearby on the campus of UCSD.
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If you are determined to travel outside of California, I would say Seattle, Las Vegas, and Miami are your best bets. New York City at Christmas time is also picturesque, but very cold. For winter sports it's California's Sierra Mountains (Lake Tahoe), Utah, Colorado, and Vermont. To visit real smalltown America, head to the Norman Rockwell Museum. It's in the artist community of Stockbridge, in Westerm Mass, near the Vermont border. It sits on an large estate and has some great views of the surrounding countryside.