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Holiday doings around the West.

Christmas by candlelight at Northern California missions and adobes

Celebrating the holidays in a mission or an old adobe can be a memorable experience, as your voice mingles with those of other carolers or you take a candlelight walk past historic barracks or homes. In Northern California, you can enjoy Christmas festivities at three state parks.

Sonoma State Historic Park: in the town square of Sonoma, off State Highway 12; (707) 938-1519. The park's free annual Christmas program begins at Mission San Francisco Solano around 6 P.M. on December 13. Carolers gather at the nearby historic barracks (20 E. Spain Street) to collect their tapers, then tramp across the street through the brisk night air to the mission chapel for carols. The evening ends with warming cider taken with 1840s senoritas and Mexican soldiers.

San Juan Bautista State Historic Park: 36 miles south of San Jose on U.S. Highway 101, then 3 miles south on State 156; (408) 623-4881. Here, from 6:30 to 9:30 P.M. on December 12, you can take a free candlelight tour of the mission and park. A procession from the mission ends up at Plaza Hall for refreshments.

Monterey State Historic Park: 1 1/2 miles west of State 1, near Fisherman's Wharf; (408) 649-7118. At 20 of the park's adobes, decorated for the season, Christmas is celebrated with candlelight tours from 5 to 9 P.M. on December 10 and 12. Refreshments will be served along the way. Dress warmly. Buy tickets ($10, $1 ages 6 through 17) at the Cooper Store, 525 Polk Street.

Horse-drawn sleigh rides in the Cascades

A crisp December day is a perfect time to set out into the winter landscape--and what better way than by horse-drawn sleigh. Wrapped snugly in heavy blankets, you enjoy sparkling flurries as you're whisked over open meadows and along forested corridors. Heavy hoofbeats resound along snow-blanketed paths, and bell-laden leather harnesses creak and jingle.

The 1- to 2 1/2-hour rides are fine family outings. Afterward, you can warm up with a hot drink in front of a fire or, at one location, enjoy a full dinner. Below we list (north to south) Cascade outfitters that offer rides from the season's first to last snows. Call to make reservations.

Washington. Leavenworth: Eagle Creek Ranch Inc. Call (509) 548-7798 for details about this winter's schedule.

Easton: Happy Trails Horseback Riding Ranch. Day and evening rides are available by appointment; closed Christmas. Cost is $12.50, $6.25 ages 10 and under. For reservations, call (509) 656-2634.

Oregon. Bend: Nova Sleigh Rides. Hours are 10 to 7 daily for day rides, 6 to 8:30 for the dinner ride; open Christmas. Day rides cost $12, $6 ages 4 through 9. For dinner ride costs, information, and reservations, call (503) 389-9458.

Sunriver: Sunriver Lodge and Resort. Hours are 10 to 4 weekends and by appointment weekdays with two days' advance notice; closed Christmas and New Year's Day. Cost is $35 per sleigh with a maximum of four people. For reservations, call (800) 962-1770 or (503) 593-1221, ext. 4420.

Making light of the holidays in Phoenix

Lights are strung along saguaro ribs, tumbleweeds are transformed into a Christmas tree, and luminarias brighten walkways and porches: they're holiday displays done desert-style.

At The Foothills at South Mountain Park, cactus and palo verde bedecked with strings of white lights enliven the Phoenix landscape from November 27 through January 3. Take in the display on a 4-mile drive on well-signed roads, or park on Clubhouse Drive for a good view of the whole affair. From Interstate 10, take Chandler Road west 3 1/2 miles to the development. For more information, call (602) 460-4636.

One of the best but least-known luminaria displays is at the residential development Sun City West. An estimated 8,000 families prepare more than 200,000 luminarias to be set aglow at dusk on Christmas Eve. From Interstate 10, take Dysart Road north 16 miles to Grand Avenue. Go left to Meeker Boulevard, then turn right and follow it to the lights. For more information, call (602) 584-6851.

On December 4 and 5, some 9,000 luminarias line paths at the Desert Botanical Garden. Walks around the garden run from 6 to 9 P.M., with free cookies, cider, and music. Tickets are $8 for adults, $3 for children 5 to 12. No tickets are sold at the door. Call Dillard's box office at (602) 678-2222 for tickets. From I-10, take the 202 Loop and exit on McDowell Road, turning right onto Galvin Parkway.

For a different taste of Christmas in the Southwest, visit the Phoenix suburb of Chandler for its Tumbleweed Christmas Tree Lighting. To create the 30-foot tree, the city uses 1,000 tumble-weeds, crowning the creation with 25 gallons of white paint, 50 pounds of glitter, and 1,500 colorful lights. The tree is on display at Dr. A. J. Chandler Park from Thanksgiving to January 4, with the tree lighting ceremony at 8 P.M. December 5. The lighting is followed by the arrival of Santa, live music, and food. From I-10, take Chandler Boulevard east 4 miles, turning right on Arizona Avenue. Call (602) 786-2727 for more information.

Della Robbia wreaths at the source in Southern California

From modest beginnings, Della Robbia wreaths from The Boys Republic, a home and school for disadvantaged boys ages 13 to 18, have done well. Since 1923, presidents have hung them in the White House, ambassadors and dignitaries have hung them in residences overseas, and ordinary citizens have hung them in countless homes across the United States.

November 30 through December 16, you can tour the factory and buy wreaths (about $33 to $50) at the school, located about 35 miles east of Los Angeles in Chino.

Every year, students gather cypress and liquidambar pods, pine cones, flowering eucalyptus, and other plant materials. After Thanksgiving, they open a makeshift factory and--with the help of local workers--produce and ship some 60,000 wreaths patterned on the 15th-century majolica ceramics made by the Della Robbia family.

To reach the school from the Pomona Freeway (State 60), take the Corona Expressway (State 71) 1 1/2 miles south; exit west on Grand Avenue to 3493. Wreaths are sold in the sales office on campus. Hours are 7:30 to 5 daily; call ahead for tours: (714) 591-9122. Wreaths are also sold in Pasadena at the Ritz-Carlton Huntington Hotel.

Santa Train: a nostalgic holiday excursion steams south of Tacoma

Trains and their romantic whistles have the power to stir up thoughts of holidays past. Tacoma's steam-powered 1920s locomotive, the Snowball Express, is no exception, tugging at nostalgia's coattails as it chugs through this Washington town. If you're looking for a way to introduce children to old-time Christmas fun near Seattle, this may be just the ticket for you.

During the first three weekends in December, Mount Rainier Scenic Railroad runs the restored locomotive and refurbished cars along the old Milwaukee tracks from Elbe, about 30 miles south of Tacoma, to Mineral Lake. With the train puffing along at about 10 miles per hour, the excursion takes about 20 minutes. Santa swaggers and bounces from car to car, talking to the children on board, and an elf coaxes passengers to sing carols.

The train makes four or five runs daily. Cost is $6 adults, $3 ages 12 and under. Call (206) 569-2588 for information. Passengers assemble at the green baggage car in Elbe, just off State 7.
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Title Annotation:Special Issue: Best of the Holidays
Date:Jan 1, 1992
Previous Article:Old-time Lanai enters a new era.
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