15 Ways To Find Bliss This Holiday Season

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By Nora Heston Tarte

With the stress of the holidays knocking at your door, it’s important to find ways to infuse rest and relaxation into the season, or pick up new past times to boost your mood. Lucky for you, San Joaquin County is full of places that fit the bill. Whether learning a new skill during your downtime sounds like the perfect escape or slipping away to a massage is music to your ears, find a personalized way to leave the hustle and bustle of the holiday season behind with our handy guide.


shutterstock_316135832Get Creative: Wine & Paint Night

Let the creative juices (and the grape juices) flow, at a wine and paint night in San Joaquin County. This artistic activity is sweeping the nation, encouraging participants to make a masterpiece with a little help from a knowledgeable instructor and your good friend, vino. This social event focuses on pairing wine with paint, so you can take to the canvas with family and friends and go home with a souvenir (hopefully) worthy of hanging on your wall. Rosa’s at Tower Park will hold events on December 4 and 18 at 7 PM, but Lodi isn’t the only city that will play host to this imaginative combination. Grant’s Bar in Tracy, the Best Western Heritage Inn in Stockton and Chick’s Place in Manteca all have evenings scheduled in December. PaintNite.com keeps an updated calendar.

Connect with Nature: Walk Lodi Lake Trail

Step away from the malls and put your holiday shopping aside while you reconnect with nature. Lodi Lake Trail offers an easy trek that makes it a perfect fit for everyone—from small children to walkers with dogs. The views and fresh air will benefit your psyche, and as an added bonus a little exercise is a great way to combat the holiday heavies. Along the way you’re likely to catch a glimpse of young animal families who frequent the trail such as deer, ducks, birds and squirrels.

Knead Your Knots: Wine & Roses Spa

Stop in for a massage to release toxins and increase relaxation; it may be the best way to beat holiday stresses. From a 90-minute deep tissue massage to one that ends with a silky body polish to reveal glowing skin, there are plenty of options for those who need pampering for body and soul. If a straightforward approach doesn’t quite fit the bill, there are less conventional offerings at the spa at Wine & Roses. A detox cupping ritual stimulates circulation using cups and natural oils. The same technique can be employed to treat celluli, as either a stand-alone treatment or an add-on to up the ante on a traditional appointment.

Walk a Four Legged Friend: Volunteer at an Animal Shelter shutterstock_279548804

Studies show that animal companionship contributes healthily to the quality of a person’s life. From certified guide dogs that help those who are disabled to dogs trained to visit children’s wards in hospitals, there’s a reason we employ animals to raise spirits of those in need. When you crave a little pick me up yourself this winter, grab a leash and get walking. Local animal shelters and nonprofits, like Animal Friends Connection Humane Society in Lodi, need volunteers to walk dogs. It’s a win-win-win for those looking to for a little happy; you get the satisfaction of helping the community, benefit from spending time with a furry friend and stock up on extra endorphins released when you exercise. Who knows, maybe you’ll even be encouraged to make your work out partner a permanent resident in your home.

Learn to Sew: JoAnn’s Fabrics

Learning something new, regardless of what it is, is one of the best ways to exercise your brain, and sewing brings with it a slew of other positive benefits. Whether your goal is to simply sew buttons back on a favorite blouse, or become a full-blown Martha Stewart crafting handmade gifts for everyone on your shopping list, the skill can save you a little cash at the tailor while also helping to harness your independence. JoAnn’s Fabrics has courses suitable for beginners and more experienced sewers. They even boast offerings for kids. So whether you’re looking to pick up a new hobby to delve into this December, or simply wish to enjoy your favored pastime with a group, you can find camaraderie and expertise in a crafty class.

Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth: Frosted Flour

When you get a hankering for something sweet, give in. Processed sugar, or sucrose, is known to increase endorphins resulting in a temporary high for indulgers. Chocolate has also been linked to increasing generosity. While it may not be the healthiest way to get a quick pick-me-up, it’s a perfectly acceptable tactic to use when you need a mood booster. Reach for a cupcake at Frosted Flour in Lodi to satisfy your craving. From simple Vanilla Swirl (topped with sprinkles) to Salted Caramel (boasting chocolate, caramel and sea salt), there’s a flavor to curb every craving. Double the sweetness with Frosted Flour Too, also in Lodi.

shutterstock_308686040Sweat it Out: Bikram Yoga in Stockton

Looking for a healthier way to feel better? Exercise. Not only does a workout session reduce pain perception, it’s linked to spikes in self-confidence, as well. Chase away the holiday blues with a hot yoga class to remedy stress, anxiety and depression. Bikram Yoga in Stockton offers all of the benefits of exercise with the added mood-boosters related to sweating it out. During Bikram participants complete traditional yoga poses in high temperatures to burn calories and step up their regular workout routine. Studies also show that women respond positively to male sweat, so if the class is co-ed, it’s all the better!

Listen to Classical: Stockton Symphony

Can listening to classical music really make you feel better? According to science it can. Studies have linked the musical style to improved memory, increased alertness, honesty, better sleep, pain relief and low blood pressure. The Stockton Symphony is the third oldest continuously performing orchestra in California, and the perfect place to get a dose of musical inspiration. Through live music, the Stockton Symphony’s mission is to inspire joy in its audience. December performances include two days of Pops II: A Gospel Christmas Celebration on December 12 and 13 when Tramaine Hawkins will lend her vocal talents to resident musicians.


Cliché as it may sound; laugher truly is the best medicine. Experts have found that laughing not only decreases stress hormones, but also increases immune cells and infection-fighting antibodies to help you stave off sickness, which is imperative for surviving cold and flu season. Stockton and Lodi both offer an array of late night venues with open mic nights and comedian events to help you laugh the night away. The Stockton Empire Theater is known for bringing in such acts, and StocktonComedy.com keeps a list of local hotspots hosting comedians for the night. Can’t wait to have a chuckle? Head north to Sacramento where the Punch Line Comedy Club and Laugh Unlimited offer non-stop giggles.

Take to the Lake: Kayak at Lodi Lakeshutterstock_318310199

A little fresh air goes a long way. Not only does spending time outdoors literally save lives through photosynthesis, it also strengthens your immune system. Not to mention, nine out of ten people claim fresh oxygen gives them energy- exactly what you need to carry yourself through the busy holiday season. Because San Joaquin County boasts sunny days and fair temperatures through winter, there’s no excuse to hole up indoors in December. Instead, try a new activity that will get you out and about without traveling far. Lodi Lake is the perfect setting for kayaking. The Headwaters Boat House is stocked year-round with kayaks and gear, as well as rentals, so there’s no excuse to stay on land. If kayaking isn’t for you, pick up a paddleboard or canoe.

Get Healthy: Stave Off Sickness

Catching a cold is sure to put a damper on your holiday festivities, so instead of letting illness bring you negative vibes, make sure it never hits. Washing your hands often and taking daily vitamins are no-brainers for making it through winter cold free, but you can take your nutrition regimen a step further to give your immune system an even bigger boost. Sheri’s Sonshine Nutrition in Lodi offers a full range of products to help you out, as well as grocery items you can consume guilt-free. Located on the corner of School Street, it’s a staple in downtown Lodi.

Socialize: Find a Holiday Party

Tis’ the season to get out and party! Introverted individuals sometimes find the confines of their apartment a more suitable place to spend a Friday night, but studies show that even the most reserved find happiness in socializing. Whether it’s a small hello from a passerby or an acquaintance striking up a conversation at a get together, there’s science to suggest these simple human interactions do wonders for our frame of mind. Get out of your comfort zone by attending a holiday extravaganza. Viaggio On the River’s Annual New Year’s Eve Masquerade Ball on December 31 is one such option, where masks are encouraged and so is a little mystery. Champagne toasts will keep your lips loose while dinner and dessert will sustain energy for dancing.

Throw A Holiday Party

If attending one of the Valley’s finest events doesn’t strike your fancy, create a party to rival it instead. Hostesses with the mostess should get inspired by the magic of the holiday season. From a sit-down dinner party complete with plated dessert to a funky themed party that requires costumes, there’s no shortage of options when the ball is in your court. Invite all of your friends to gather and ring in the New Year, toast to Christmas or light a menorah. Regardless of your motive for rejoicing, the holidays are the prime time to turn your abode into celebration central.

DIY: Make Holiday Gifts

shutterstock_229502719Give your holidays a homemade touch by stuffing stockings with gifts created DIY-style. Pinterest, Brit.co and other online platforms offer all the instructions you need to create stylish handmade scarves, repurposed furniture and décor made out of wine corks, while local shops carry the supplies. Make it a party by inviting your friends to do the same. Put yourself in charge of secret Santa at the office and encourage the team to tap into their artistic side by constructing the item they will later give away, or ask your family to pare down the holiday budget with handcrafted gifts and a spending limit. Even if you’re the only one doing it, with a little bit of glitter and a whole lot of effort, your holiday gifts will rival those bought at the store.

A Historic Touch: Holiday High Tea

Take a step back in time and enjoy Lockeford Inn’s Holiday High Tea. The traditional, full-service teatime adds a sophisticated touch to your winter festivities, completed by homemade sandwiches, scones with Devonshire cream and dessert. It’s a perfect escape for history buffs keen on learning about the Inn’s storied past, or those who want to enjoy the decadent Christmas decorations that outfit the guest rooms, all while sipping an array of tasty teas, including pots of the British English variety. As part of the experience, formal tours will be offered so guests can learn about the property. Tickets are $37 each, with two dates- December 6 and 12. Tea starts at 1:30 PM.