The holiday season is upon us and it’s time to get out there and enjoy all the holiday events in Southern California with our family and friends. From popular holiday boat parades to a visit to Skypark at Santa’s Village to viewing Christmas lights in Los Angeles, there is an event for every holiday goer in SoCal.
Events are subject to change based on public health restrictions and recommendations. Check event websites for details.
Best Christmas Events in Southern California
Drive Thru Holiday Light Displays
If you’re looking for something safe to do with your family this holiday season that has proper social distancing in place, then this list of The Best Drive Thru Holiday Light Displays in Southern California is for you. There’s a new way to do the slow-roll-by-lights tradition, and it involves the same pop-up drive-thru that concluded the Halloween season.
Holiday Boat Parades
Enjoy a night out on the water and take in one of these festive holiday boat parades in Los Angeles, Orange County and San Diego. I recommend arriving two hours before sunset to reserve a spot along the waters edge. Also don’t forget to bring along a warm jacket and blanket or two, because the nights in SoCal can get unexpectedly chilly.
Pack up the car and take the family to see one of these 20+ Drive and Live Nativities in Southern California. There are live nativities listed in Los Angeles, Orange County, Riverside, San Bernardino and San Diego Counties. There is nothing more meaningful than celebrating the true reason for the season!
Start a new tradition by going to see a Nutcracker performance this year! There are over 50+ Nutcracker Performances in Southern California on this list. Don’t forget to capture that picture perfect photo with the cast afterwards.
Christmas Events in Los Angeles
Christmas Lights in Los Angeles
Grab a cup of hot cocoa and take your family out to see some classic Christmas lights in Los Angeles. LA has plenty of community treasures hidden in plain view; from the return of Grand Park’s Winter Glow, to Ziemkowski’s Lights on Display, which easily rivals any professional light and music show you’ll ever see. There are hundreds of holiday lights on display for all types of holiday fans to enjoy.
LA Zoo Lights, Los Angeles Zoo, Los Angeles
LA Zoo Lights is a great way to spend an evening at the zoo while walking around with hot cocoa in your hands! The zoo is transformed into a magical winter jungle complete with a disco ball forest, whimsical 3-D animations, a glowing “Northern Lights” featuring animal constellations that come to life, a picturesque kaleidoscopic savanna where glowing, large-scale animals roam and the very popular Twinkle Tunnel.
A popular return for the 2022/2023 season, guests can see the world’s largest illuminated pop-up storybook.
Lightscape, The LA Arboretum, Arcadia
Enjoy an enchanted evening of lights and music at a holiday event called Lightscape at The LA Aboretum. Direct from its sold-out run in London, Lightscape at the LA Arboretum returns this holiday season! Don’t miss this must-see spectacular holiday light show!
Experience a one-of-a-kind, immersive night adventure, wandering into a festive world of wonder with thousands of twinkling lights in the various attractions from the Cathedral of Light to the Star Tunnel and the Fire Garden.
Enchanted Forest of Light, Descanso Gardens, La Canada Flintridge
Descanso Gardens, one of my all-time favorite public gardens in Southern California, is hosting Enchanted Forest of Light from November 19, 2023 – January 7, 2024. As the sun sets, Descanso Gardens is transformed into a holiday wonderland with thousands of lights. It is simply mesmerizing!
Some other words that come to mind to describe the light display are captivating, riveting and and amazingly beautiful. Our favorite part is The Symphony of Oaks walk-through exhibit, which lets you manipulate lights and sounds in the garden’s historical Oak Grove.
The Magic of Christmas at Hogwarts Castle, Universal Studios Hollywood, Los Angeles
This state-of-the-art projection-mapping nighttime show, called The Magic of Christmas at Hogwarts Castle, transforms Hogwarts Castle into a holiday wonderland, bringing Christmas moments inspired by the Harry Potter series to life. The show wraps the ancient building in the sights and sounds of the season, including a majestically-large Christmas tree, the Hogwarts ghosts singing carols, a recreation of the Yule Ball, and students riding broomsticks and creating snowmen.
Christmas Events in Orange County
Grab the family, put them in the car and enjoy an evening out under the Christmas Lights in Orange County! With this list of over 100 light displays from SandyToesandPopsicles.com, you are bound to spend hours mesmerized by the festive lights.
Capistrano Lights, Mission San Juan Capistrano, San Juan Capistrano
Celebrate the holidays at Mission San Juan Capistrano, historic landmark and museum with 30 days of holiday fun. Capistrano Lights brings together people of all faith traditions during the holiday season. Join us for a nightly tree lighting in the Ruins of the Great Stone Church.
The Mission grounds will be decked out in lights and features a 10-foot wreath and community Christmas trees. From time to time during this period, community musical groups, choirs and orchestras may join the Mission with pre-tree lighting performances. Don’t miss out on the Mission at Night experience where history meets holiday! The nightly celebration runs from December 2 – 30, 2023.
Knott’s Merry Farm, Buena Park
The holiday spirit shines even brighter at Knott’s Merry Farm this year, taking place November 17, 2023 through January 7, 2024. Experience Knott’s largest Christmas celebration with winter wonderland-inspired décor transforming the entire park into a classic holiday festival, featuring a landscape of thousands of twinkling lights, miles of themed garland, jumbo snowflakes, and a variety of picturesque seasonal settings. Knott’s Merry Farm offers Christmas activities for families and joyful experiences inspired by the spirit of the holidays.
This holiday season, park-goers of all ages can enjoy Christmas shows like Home for the Holidays, a musical revue featuring classic Christmas tunes, world-class performers, holiday lights, magical dancing toys, and dazzling snow all set on an elaborate, transforming wintertime stage. Also returning is the beloved ice show starring the famous beagle, the Peanuts Gang, and a cast of world-class ice skaters in Merry Christmas, Snoopy!
Holidays at the Harbor, Dana Point Harbor, Dana Point
Each night throughout the holiday season, the Dana Point Harbor’s magnificent light display will illuminate the evening sky for guests of all ages to enjoy. Themed light exhibits throughout the Harbor will include Candy Cane Lane, a “Merry Kiss Me” arch, a glowing whale, an illuminated mermaid, lighted trees, and more.
Hikari Festival of Lights, Tanaka Farms, Irvine
Attend a new holiday celebration called Hikari Festival of Lights at Tanaka Farms in Irvine! Literally translated, Hikari means shine in Japanese, and this holiday season Tanaka Farms will shine with over a mile of twinkling lights! As you drive through their 30-acre farm, you will be dazzled by farm-themed lighting from trees, to scarecrows, tractors…even their sugarcane got the holiday light treatment. Plus, every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday you can have a very special visit from Santa, himself!
Newport Dunes Fire and Ice Festival, Newport Beach
Coming this holiday season…a waterfront ice rink in the heart of Newport Beach! Enjoy ice skating with views of the water and Lighting of the Bay.
This family-friendly event will feature:
- One of the largest outdoor skating rinks in Orange County with skate rentals and skate aids – online booking is now available. Ice skating is weather permitting. (open daily)
- Igloo-style bar with festive beverages (Open Wednesday – Sunday, 4 pm – 9 pm)
- Fire tables & s’more kits (available daily)
- Fire dancer performances (Friday and Saturday nights at 5:45 pm and 7:45 pm)
- Lighting of the Bay – enjoy the holiday lights floating on the bay (daily beginning at dusk)
- Inflatable garden with plenty of holiday picture-taking opportunities (open daily
Christmas Events in Riverside & San Bernardino
Christmas Lights in the Inland Empire
Another holiday tradition is to go out and see Christmas lights with family and friends. So grab a carload of people and head out to see these wonderful Christmas Lights in Riverside and Christmas Lights in San Bernardino. Make sure to bring along a warm jacket and hat for the special occasion.
Logan’s Candies, Ontario
Logan’s Candies is a unique custom candy store located off the beaten path in downtown Ontario. They have been making signature candy canes and chocolates by hand for over 80 years. It is a home grown business and ran by the same family today. Logan’s Candies makes candy canes year round in all sorts of shapes and flavors. You can even custom order their candy canes for special events such as birthday party, the birth of a new baby or anniversary.
Skypark at Santa’s Village, Running Springs
Skypark at Santa’s Village creates a memorable experience for guests to savor the nostalgia of an “Old World Christmas in the Woods” with family and friends. There are many things to do and see at Santa’s Village which are included in the general price of admission. Visit with Santa Clause, go ice skating at Silver Bells Ice Skating Rink, take a ride on the Polar Express Train Ride and many other activities.
Annual Festival of Lights, The Mission Inn Hotel & Spa, Riverside
The Annual Festival of Lights, recently named “Best Public Holiday Lights Display in the Nation” by USA Today, creates a magical, Disneyland-like experience in the heart of Riverside and attracts more than 500,000 visitors each year. The castle-like hotel is illuminated with 5 million holiday lights.
Highlights of Festival of Lights include 200 animated figures including angels, elves and Dickens carolers; appearances by Santa Claus, the world’s largest man-made mistletoe, horse-drawn carriage rides, elf tuck-ins, freshly fallen snow, elaborately decorated Christmas trees; and delectable holiday confections at the famous Casey’s Cupcakes, among other festive offerings. Admission is free to walk around and enjoy the lights.
Christmas Events in San Diego
Christmas Lights in San Diego
Nothing feels more like the holidays than going out to see Christmas lights in San Diego. Here’s a list of the 40+ Best Christmas Lights in San Diego for this soul purpose.
Holidays at Legoland California, Carlsbad
While at Holidays at Legoland California you can meet tour favorite holiday characters Santa, the Toy Solider and Gingerbread Man. Head over to Fun Town where there’s a 30-foot, fully decorated LEGO Christmas tree with over 400 LEGO ornaments. And as the day winds down, the tree gets a-twinklin’ to holiday tunes at the Holiday Light Show. Taking place November 18, 2023 – January 7, 2023.
Jungle Bells, San Diego Zoo, San Diego
Familiar holiday traditions take on a wild twist at the Zoo’s Jungle Bells celebration. The Zoo will be aglow with holiday cheer and decorations, with music filling the air, joyful roaming entertainers, and special food items and sweets available. During Jungle Bells festivities, the Zoo will close at 8 p.m. Takes place Dec. 9, 2023 – Jan. 1, 2024.
Happy Holidays Field Tripping!