Los Angeles proves that you don’t need snow on the ground or below-zero temperatures to enjoy the holiday season. Even with only a slight chill in the air, L.A. has plenty of fun events that’ll get you in the Christmas spirit. They’ll make sure you go from saying “bah humbug” to singing “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.”
From tree lightings to movie screenings to ice skating rinks, special Christmas lights, and much, much more, you won’t need to look far to get into the holiday swing of things.
Check out the list below to see a list of some of local favorites for the season.
(Numbered only for reference, in no particular order)
1. L.A. Zoo Lights
It might sound a little weird to walk through the zoo in the dark with no animals to be seen, but it’s actually really fun! The L.A. Zoo is illuminated with lots of holiday-themed lights on the trees and zoo structures. For some discount ticket options to the after-hours spectacle, be sure to check our affiliate friends over at Golstar
2. Holidays at Universal City Walk
City Walk will be hoppin’ with holiday spirit and an epic Christmas tree. Live music performances from artists like We Are Scientists and Michelle Williams will fill the cool air with tunes. From Nov. 29 to Dec. 25, Santa will be in the Snow Zone ready to take selfies and check if you’ve been naughty or nice. Plus, fake snow will fall every hour from 6:00pm to 9:00 pm nightly to give you a taste of winter.
3. Unique L.A. Holiday Market
With Christmas and Hanukkah on the horizon, it’s time to look for gifts and stocking stuffers for everyone from your loved ones to your boss. If you’re looking to go unique and special, check out the Unique L.A. Holiday Market on Dec. 5 and 6 from 11:00am to 6:00pm. at the Penthouse of the California Market Center. Admission is $10 (plus fees) in advance and $10 at the door, while parking is $6. Kids 12 and under get in for free.
4. Lights on Display in Sherman Oaks
Since moving to Los Angeles in 1999 Mike Ziemkowski (a professional video editor by day) has taken his childhood passion for Christmas decorating to amazing heights, creating an annual Christmas lights display (it’s called ‘Lights on Display’) in the front yard of his Sherman Oaks home that rivals any professional show you’ll ever see. Worth taking a trip to check out if you’re doing a tour of the city just looking for the fanciest Christmas lights displays you can find.
5. Artisanal L.A. Holiday Show
One of my favorite events in this city have been Artisanal L.A. shows. If you loved — or missed — the Spring and Fall shows, you’ll definitely need to check out the Aristanal L.A. Holiday Show on Dec. 5 in Old Pasadena from 11 a.m. until 8 p.m. The event, held on Holly Street and beyond, will feature local businesses and makers selling unique gifts, and you’ll be able to get photos with Santa. Admission is free.
6. Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade
Growing up on the East Coast, my family would often drive around certain neighborhoods to admire amazing decorative Christmas lights. Here in Southern California, you can do the same, but with boats. For the past century, the annual Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade has been illuminating the beachy seas with colorful lights and Christmas spirit. From Dec. 16 through 20, the Commodores Club of the Newport Beach Chamber of Commerce will host the 107th edition of the parade in Newport Harbor.
7. CHILL at the Queen Mary
You won’t need any Netflix to pair with this CHILL. The annual frozen adventure at the Queen Mary in Long Beach returns on Nov. 20. You’ll be able to experience Winter by walking through the extensive Ice Kingdom ice sculpture exhibit, where the temperature is 9 degrees. Yep, you read that right. CHILL will also feature ice tubing and skating, a Victorian Village, polar paintball. swinging sleigh ride, and the Enchanted Forrest hedge maze. Tickets are $34.99 for adults and $24.99 for kids. Goldstar also has discount ticket offers for most of the available dates.
8. Christmas at Disneyland
The Happiest Place on Earth will be the Merriest Place on Earth until Jan. 6. The theme parks and resort will feature a Christmas Fantasy Parade, Jingle Cruise, a Frozen Sing-A-Long at California Adventure, a Winter Village at Downtown Disney, opportunities to meet Santa, and so much more! Park admission required to partake in the festivities.
9. Knott’s Berry Farm’s “Knott’s Merry Farm”
There’s lots of Christmas fun at Knott’s Berry Farm, Charlie Brown! And yup, the theme is the endearing comics character and his friends. Snoopy dances on ice in the “Merry Christmas, Snoopy!” show and Chuck celebrates the holiday with the Peanuts gang in the live show “Christmas Time Is Here, Charlie Brown.” Admission is required for the merriment. Be sure to check the folks over at Goldstar for discount ticket packages if you plan on going.
10. Go Ice Skating
No snow? No problem! Angelenos still love themselves some ice skating in the winter — and there are plenty of opportunities to get your skate on. The Pershing Square Ice Rink in Downtown, ICE in Santa Monica, and the Burbank Ice Rink all feature smooth and cold rinks to show off your moves on the ice. Admission fees and skate rental costs vary with each rink, so make sure to check their respective websites before go.
11. Holiday Lights Tour in Venice by Reel to Real
Every year during the holiday season the Venice Canals sparkle with the gorgeous reflection of Christmas lights, and what better way to explore the spectacle than through a walking tour provided by Vintage Venice Reel to Real Tours. Your guide Jonathan Kaplan will provide a unique insight into the history of Venice while guiding you to some of the neighborhoods’ most treasured spots and hidden gems. The special Christmas tours start in the afternoon and last around 3.5 hours. Offered Dec. 15 to Jan. 4.
12. Shop in the “Snow” at The Grove
L.A. rarely gets snow, but during the holidays, The Grove is willing to give you the illusion of snowflakes from 7:00pm – 8:00pm nightly while you shop ’til you drop for presents. It may sound hokey, but it’s pretty darn magical as the “snow” falls and surrounds the outdoor mall’s impressive Christmas tree.
13. Holiday Sing-A-Long At The Walt Disney Concert Hall
On Dec. 19, you can sing all the Christmas classics accompanied by the Hall’s huge pipe organ, a choir, and a jazz combo to get you in that holly, jolly spirit. Before the performance kicks off, a pre-concert “Winter Wonderland” party will feature free hot chocolate and an opportunity to get a selfie with Santa.
14. Holiday Lights Walking Tour
From Nov. 28 until Dec. 30 Downtown LA Walking Tours will lead a 6:30 p.m. trek through the illuminated bliss of DTLA’s Christmas and Hanukkah lights. The walking tour lasts two hours and meets at Los Angeles’ Union Station. Tickets for adults are $15, while children 13 and under are free.
15. LA County Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony
The Music Center Plaza will light Los Angeles County’s very own Christmas tree on Nov. 30 at 5:30pm Sip on free hot chocolate while you enjoy music performances, as well as the evergreen itself. Admission is free.
16. Union Station Tree Lighting Ceremony
As an alternative to the Music Center you could head over to the tree lightning ceremony at Union Station on the same Monday, (Nov. 30) featuring an official kick-off ceremony plus a performance from the All-American Boys Chorus.
17. Street Food Cinema Screens Christmas Vacation
Holiday movies are a fun way to get into the Christmas spirit, so how about an ol’ favorite — National Lampoon’s classic tale Christmas Vacation, starring the always hilarious Griswald family. The comedy will screen at the Palace Theatre in Downtown L.A. and will feature lots of fun activities, like a photobooth with drunken Santa, a stocking stuffer boutique, a Naughty or Nice station, and drunken cake pops.
18. Hollywood Christmas Parade
Usher in the Christmas season on Nov. 29 with the Hollywood Christmas Parade, grand marshaled by Penn and Teller this year. According to the website, the parade route will travel from Hollywood Blvd. and Orange east to Vine, south on Vine to Sunset Boulevard and west on Sunset and then turning back to Orange. Tickets for the grandstand are available through Ticketmaster.
19. Mr. C Poolside Cinema Screens Love Actually
One of my personal favorite Christmas movies is Love Actually, even though it’s more about love and loss than the holiday itself. The 2003 modern winter classic will screen as part of this Beverly Hills poolside screening series at Mr. C on Dec. 22 at 7:00pm You can laugh, cry, and feel Christmas all around (a la Billy Mack in the movie) in a heated poolside tent with dinner, cocktails, and popcorn. Tickets start at $35.
20. It’s a Wonderful Life at the Arc-Light Hollywood
Perhaps no movie in history embodies the Christmas spirit more than this 1946 classic starring Jimmy Stewart. Catch a special screening at the Arc-Light in Hollywood on December 16.
What are your favorite things to do for Christmas in and around Los Angeles? Let us know in the comments below!