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Best Holiday Escapes Near OC

December 8, 2012 6:00 AM

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(credit: festivaloflightsca.com)

(credit: festivaloflightsca.com)

(credit: Mission Inn)

(credit: Mission Inn)

The winter holiday season often means long lines at malls, crowded movie theaters and busy restaurants. Fortunately, frazzled Orange County residents looking to escape the yuletide hustle and bustle need only drive a few hours in any direction to bring back that holiday cheer. From dirt biking in the desert to buying chocolate from a Dutch boutique, these great escapes will take you off of the beaten path and down the road to holiday serenity.

Mojave National Preserve (Photo by Truc Dever)

(credit: Truc Dever)

Mojave National Preserve
2701 Barstow Road
Barstow, CA 92311
(760) 252-6100
Price: free
www.nps.gov

Holiday travelers don’t usually associate the desert with Christmas, but Mojave National Preserve offers spectacular desert landscapes without the overbearing heat in wintertime. Explore abandoned mines and race down sand dunes throughout this 1.6-million-acre park. This desert paradise is perfect for hiking, camping, off-roading and dirt biking. The preserve is open year round and is as far as you can get from animatronic singing elves and holiday shoppers.

Related: Getaway Guide: One Tank Trip To Barstow, CA

(credit: juliancalifornia.org)

(credit: julianca.org)

Julian Historic District
2129 Main St.
Julian, CA 92036
(760) 765-1857
Price: free
www.julianca.com

Hidden away in the Cuyamaca Mountains east of San Diego is the historic town of Julian. This charming mountain getaway is famous for its apple pies and gold mining roots. Spend the night at a local bed and breakfast, and fill your days with hiking, wine tasting and shopping at one of the many specialty shops in the historic district. In the winter, snow blankets the ground and brings the holiday spirit to sunny Southern California.

solvang villageCity of Solvang
1644 Oak St.
Solvang, CA 93463
(805) 688-5575
Price: free
www.cityofsolvang.com

Known as “Little Denmark,” the city of Solvang transports visitors back to old world Europe. During winter, this quaint Dutch village comes alive with holiday festivals, parades, pageants and a tree-lighting ceremony. Families can enjoy sweet Danish treats and pastries, or buy hand-crafted goods from more than 150 unique shops. This pedestrian-friendly getaway boasts great weather year round and is just a three-hour drive north from Orange County.

(credit: Oak Glen)

(credit: oaktreevillageoakglen.net)

Oak Tree Village Oak Glen
38480 Oak Glen Road
Oak Glen, CA 92399
(909) 797-2311
Price: free
oaktreevillageoakglen.net

The wooden sign that welcomes visitors to Oak Tree Village promises 14 acres of family fun. Set amid Southern California’s largest apple-growing region, this mile-high retreat gets enough snow in the wintertime for sledding and building snowmen. This country-themed village is home to Apple Annie’s Restaurant and Bakery, which is famous for its fresh baked, five-pound, mile-high apple pie. Oak Tree Village is open seven days a week any time of year.

(credit: festivaloflightsca.com)

(credit: festivaloflightsca.com)

Mission Inn Hotel & Spa
3649 Mission Inn Ave.
Riverside, CA 92501
(951) 784-0300
Price: from $190 a night
www.missioninn.com

At the heart of Riverside’s historic downtown sits an exquisite four-diamond resort that has been a favorite stop for world leaders and Hollywood celebrities. The Mission Inn Hotel and Spa is a national historic landmark with enchanting architecture and European charm. During the holiday season, the Mission Inn glows with more than 3.6 million lights displayed as part of the annual Festival of Lights. The grounds are elaborately decorated and Dickensian carolers entertain visitors with jolly holiday melodies.

Related: The Best Scenic Drives Within 60 Miles Of Los Angeles

Truc Dever is a freelance writer covering all things Orange County. Her work can be found on Examiner.com.

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