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6 of Our Favorite Sacramento Holiday Events and Traditions

We might be a little biased here, but we can’t think of a better place to spend cozy Christmas holidays than at HI Sacramento hostel. The beautiful old Victorian house looks like a dream when it’s decorated with tinsel and lights, the hostel has activities and treats to make it homey, and the city of Sacramento becomes a wonderland full of fun seasonal activities. 

Take a look at our favorite things to do in Sacramento during the holidays: 

Going to see the Christmas lights in the Fab 40s 

Each year, the houses in the Fab Forties neighborhood in east Sacramento are lit up with bright, colorful Christmas lights and decorated with festive ornaments for the entire city to enjoy. Rent a bicycle from HI Sacramento and ride to 40th and J Streets (about 15 minutes from the hostel) and cruise along the dreamy streets. Pro tip: go a little before sunset to get ahead of the crowds, and make sure you have lights and reflective clothing when you bike. 

ice skating downtown sacramento

Ice skating Downtown 

Though Sacramento doesn’t get a white Christmas like a lot of the country does, you can still get a bit of a winter wonderland feel at the pop-up ice skating rink on K Street. Sitting right in the heart of downtown Sacramento, the rink features theme nights, like ‘80s throwback night, and it’s open until 10:00 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays if you want a post-dinner go around the ice. It costs just $12 for admission and skate rental, and you can even rent gloves and socks if you’re not prepared for the cold rink. 

Celebrating holidays around the world at the Global Winter Wonderland 

This time of the year is not just about Christmas: all around the world there are celebrations from different traditions and heritages, and they all collide in Sacramento’s kaleidoscopic Global Winter Wonderland. The all-in-one bonanza features illuminated displays highlighting holidays around the world, music and dance performances from different cultures, international food, plus fairground games and rides. The Global Winter Wonderland takes place at the Cal Expo center, and you can get admission for two people for $29. Check the dates on the Global Winter Wonderland website to see when it’s open. 

christmas at hi sacramento

Exchanging white elephant gifts at HI Sacramento 

Make family out of your fellow travelers and join in this hostel’s white elephant gift exchange. Everyone brings a little item to swap with their Secret Santa during a fun evening in the cozy, festive great room at HI Sacramento. Whether you’re traveling alone or with friends, this is a really great way to get into the spirit of the season, and you’ll leave with a memento to go with a good memory. 

Eating holiday dinners at the hostel 

Speaking of cozy and festive, the hostel is known for spontaneous and planned “family” meals where all the guests gather to prepare and enjoy a group dinner. If there isn’t a dinner event planned during your stay, why not gather a gang of eager cooks and eaters and make a meal to share, whether it’s a simple pasta, or a three-course meal, or a mix of dishes from around the world.  

Shopping for gifts at local craft markets 

Sacramento is full of creative folks and each holiday season you can support the local artisans and crafters at various markets and fairs throughout the city. Two of our favorites are the Maker’s Mart and the Holiday Craft Fair, which both feature sweet handmade gifts like jewelry, ceramics, art, and soaps. It’s also fun to just walk around and look at all the beautiful creations while sipping a cup of hot cider. 

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HI USA Tip: Extend the holiday festivities and take the train from San Francisco (or the other way around) to experience two different sides of Northern California.