California's Gateway to Yosemite for the Holidays

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A tractor parade of lights, wine strolls, snow and affordable rates come together to make Madera County an ideal Holiday destination.

A child enjoys tubing down a run at Badger Pass Ski Area

Numerous events occur throughout the region during the Holiday months that make a great excuse for a get away

While fall has only just arrived, the time has come to start planning for the holidays.

While many take the time to visit family, others use the time off around the holidays to take the family and visit other places. The attractions in Madera County, California’s Gateway, to Yosemite make for a perfect holiday retreat.

For people looking to escape snowy weather, the valley communities of Madera and Chowchilla offer a temperate climate and fun things to see and do, such as the Tractor Parade of Lights December 5. The Tractor Parade, which is now open to nearly any type of vehicle as long as it is adorned with at least 100 Christmas Lights, is a fun way to usher in the Holiday season.

“They get really creative,” said event coordinator Jerry Noblett, speaking about the entrants. “We have farmers who have decorated tomato harvesters and have them in there,” he said. “They were huge.”

Noblett said the entries range from tractors and other farm vehicles to classic cars and even children’s electric cars. “It gets pretty wild in terms of what they can do with the lights,” he said.

In addition to the Tractor Parade, adults can enjoy the Wine Stroll. Local businesses in the downtown area sell wine glasses for $10, and those glasses are good for samples from regional wineries that will be on hand at the participating businesses. For those who would prefer something warmer, hot beverage mugs are available for $6.

The other communities of the valley also stage Christmas Tree Lightings. The Chowchilla Lions Club has a long history for theirs, as they celebrate the 42nd Annual Christmas Tree Lighting with numerous activities for the family, including an appearance by Santa Clause, December 5. When combined with the Coffee Cats & Chowchilla Art Guild Christmas Boutique, one can make a whole day of the Holiday fun. The community of Madera Ranchos will also hold a Christmas Tree Lighting. The festivities there are planned for December 4.

Someone looking for the perfect holiday wine to compliment their dinner plans, or perhaps as a gift for their favorite connoisseur, can check out the Madera Wine Trail. Created by the Madera Vintners Association, the wine trail encompasses one dozen wineries located throughout the county. Wine lovers can find the perfect compliment to their turkey, ham or any other delicious holiday entrée, while having the opportunity to actually meet the vintners themselves, a fun experience that has been lost in many of the larger wineries elsewhere in California.

For those who reside in warmer climates and are looking for the traditional winter feeling, eastern Madera County offers numerous options as well. Christmas Tree Lightings take place throughout the region, from the 10th Annual Bass Lake Tree Lighting in late November, to the December 4th lighting in Oakhurst.

“Numerous events occur throughout the region during the Holiday months that make a great excuse for a get away,” said Jarrod Lyman, Director of Media for the Yosemite Sierra Visitors Bureau. Additional events include Christmas at Fresno Flats Sunday, December 6 and Christmas in the Mountains in Oakhurst December 11 and 12.

Additionally, great holiday rates can be had at nearly every hotel, bed and breakfast and vacation rental. “While we are a year round destination, summer is our biggest season. As such, families looking for a holiday retreat are able to do so here while saving enough money for a that anticipated gift for their kids or someone special,” Lyman said.

The region’s proximity to Yosemite National Park and Badger Pass Ski Area, as well as numerous snow play areas, makes it the ideal spot for someone looking for the picturesque winter wonderland. For more information, log on to http://www.yosemitethisyear.com, or http://www.facebook.com/yosemitesierra.

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Jarrod Lyman
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