Christina O'Haver, The Union Democrat

Travel is expected to increase slightly this Thanksgiving despite the financial quandaries many still face, according to a AAA Northern California travel forecast.

More than 5.4 million Californians are expected to travel 50 miles or more over the four-day weekend, a 0.6 percent increase from last year.

"After several years of economic uncertainty, Californians are well-versed in budgeting so they can gather with family and friends to celebrate holidays together," AAA Northern California spokeswoman Cynthia Harris said.

Tuolumne and Calaveras county visitors bureaus are expecting to see the usual influx of tourists, who will be able to participate in family-friendly holiday-themed events in addition to outdoor activities.

"It's a huge weekend with all of the activities," said Lisa Mayo, director of sales and marketing for the Tuolumne County Visitors Bureau. "It's kind of the kickoff to Christmas."

Weekend events in Tuolumne County include the Downtown Sonora Christmas Parade, Sonora Christmas Festival at the Mother Lode Fairgrounds, Hometown Crafters Christmas Craft Faire at Sonora Opera Hall, Groveland Craft Faire at Community Hall and Santa trains by day and night at Railtown 1897 State Park.

Calaveras County will be bustling with the Klassen Klassic Turkey Trot in Murphys, a live production at Murphys Creek Theatre, Bear Valley Winterfest and the Dorrington Christmas Tree Lighting.

Ginger Malatesta, officer manager for the Calaveras County Visitors Bureau, said people also visit the Sierra foothills over the holiday to enjoy the outdoors and "get away."

"People like to get out and kind of walk off that big meal," she said.

Mayo said Tuolumne County attracts visitors from near and far during Thanksgiving weekend and the sluggish economy hasn't appeared to negatively impact its holiday tourism.

"Overall, the holidays are a special time and people are for the most part, I think, going to follow their traditions," she said.

AAA projects a 0.5 percent increase in Californians traveling by motor vehicle this year and a 1.8 percent decrease in Californians traveling by airplane.

California families who travel by car are likely to drive an average of 887 miles over the extended weekend.

The number of California residents traveling by other modes of transportation such as boats and trains is expected to increase 11 percent from last year.

The projected increase in California travelers this Thanksgiving aligns with AAA's nationwide forecast, which predicts that more than 43 million people will travel 50 miles or more over the four-day weekend, representing a 0.7 percent increase when compared with last year's travel statistics.

For more information on Tuolumne County events, visit or call 533-4420.

For Calaveras events, visit or call 736-0049.

Contact Christina O'Haver at or 588-4526.