Pasadena is a small, unassuming city when compared to Los Angeles, but it features some of the most festive events and decorations that are sure to put anyone in the holiday spirit. When in Southern California, most people only attend overcrowded holiday events in the bustling larger cities, but if you are looking for something more unique this Christmas season, Pasadena is just the right place. Let us be your tour guide and show you why Pasadena is a great place for Christmas when visiting California this December.
Pasadena: The Magical Christmas Town You Will Not Want To Miss This Holiday Season
Dazzling Christmas Lights
Pasadena features a multitude of magical light displays that will transport you from a small suburban city to a winter wonderland in no time. Locals pride themselves on having unique and lavish Christmas lights that will make your jaw drop. Pasadena is a great town in California to spend a magical Christmas!
Upper Hastings Ranch Holiday Light Up
One grand display of Christmas decorations is located in the surrounding areas of Upper Hastings Ranch Drive and Alegria Street. This unique display is similar to Christmas Tree Lane, which we will mention later, but the Light Up prides itself on its distinguished themes and elaborately decorated houses. The Holiday Light Up is set up by December 10 and is a great street to drive through this holiday season for your Christmas tree fix.
Saint Albans Road
A lesser-known gem is located in San Marino, just minutes away from this Californian town that lights up during Christmas. Located on Saint Albans Road and Huntington Drive, this magnificent Christmas tree display is known for its towering trees strung with colorful lights. While shorter than Christmas Tree Lane, this hidden San Marino street is a great place for visitors to walk through in December to admire its grandiosity.
Noteworthy Holiday Shows
Pasadena is home to several iconic Christmas performances that make perfect family-friendly activities. Be sure to book in advance, as these popular shows are traditions among locals.
The Nutcracker is a magical Christmas ballet that is held at the Pasadena Civic Center every holiday season. A Pasadena classic, The Nutcracker tells the story of Clara and her magical adventures, transporting the audience through beautiful music and dance performances. This magical Christmas ballet is a family-favorite and a must-see the week of Christmas. This year, The Nutcracker will only be playing on December 20, so grab your tickets now.
A Christmas Carol
A Christmas Carol is a timeless classic and one of the most popular Christmas festivities in Pasadena. Located at the venue of A Noise Within, this event plays all throughout the month of December and is perfect for all ages. Not only is the story filled with fun and festive tunes, but the holiday experience features crafts for the kids, photo opportunities, and festive snacks for all to enjoy.
Cirque Dreams Holidaze
If your weekend plans are already booked up, Cirque Dreams Holidaze may be the show to add to your list. It takes place at the Pasadena Civic Center, located in Old Pasadena, on December 12 and 13. Truly a unique and dazzling show, Cirque Dreams Holidaze features world-class acrobats and dancers who perform breathtaking moves combined with holiday fun.
Holiday Candlelight is a Christmas concert held by the Pasadena Symphony and POPS located at the All Saints Church in Pasadena. This classic tradition is sure to sell out quickly, so be sure to plan ahead. The concert highlights holiday classics with the magical illumination of candlelights lit throughout the church. For music lovers, this show is one you will not want to miss.
Just like the name suggests, this show is truly a holiday spectacular. Located at the iconic Pasadena Playhouse, right by Colorado Boulevard, this show will leave you feeling merry and bright. Written by Sam Pinkleton, the story of the Holiday Spectacular is a fun way to get into the festive spirit with family. Grab tickets early; the show plays at the Pasadena Playhouse for the last 2 weeks of December only.
Spectacular Tours And Parades
Another hallmark of a Pasadena Christmas is the iconic parades and tours that you will want to plan before your visit to the city.
The Rose Parade is one of the most notable holiday events that wrap up the year. The parade takes place on January 1 and travels down 5.5 miles of Colorado Boulevard, passing through the iconic Pasadena City Hall. The grand parade is a 135-year-old Pasadena tradition that displays handmade floral floats, spirited performers, marching bands, equestrian units, and more. This year’s theme for the Tournament of Roses is “Celebrating a World of Music: The Universal Language.” Walk down Colorado Boulevard for a glimpse at the towering rose parade floats or grab a spot at some of the most notable locations on the street, including Pasadena City Hall or Pasadena City College, to make sure you don’t miss a beat.
The Rose Bowl Stadium Public Tours
If you are not able to make the Rose Parade, The Rose Bowl Stadium Public Tour is another unforgettable opportunity for the holiday season. This special tour guides you through the National Historic Landmark of the Rose Bowl Stadium, where you can walk in the footsteps of legends. The tour highlights the original locker room, press box, the Court of Champions, and an inside look at this great piece of Pasadena history.
More Festive Fun
If you want an even more jam-packed holiday when in Pasadena, check out these festive events throughout November and December for some extra Christmas cheer.
Nothing screams Christmas, holidays, and festive fun more than Christmas carolers. Located at One Colorado — in front of the rows of stores in Old Town Pasadena — carolers sing classic holiday tunes to bring cheer to shoppers. If you are planning on getting some Christmas shopping done at One Colorado, be sure to stop by and sing along to your favorite holiday tunes.
Holidayfest is an annual holiday tradition that is set to take place on Saturday, December 2, 2023, starting at noon. The holiday festival takes place on South Lake Avenue and is the perfect family-friendly event to celebrate all things Christmas. Shop at any business or restaurant on the streets within the South Lake Avenue District to win holiday prizes and giveaways. Along with special holiday promotions and giveaways, Holidayfest features a range of festive activities for all ages. Take photos with Santa Claus, decorate Christmas cookies, craft an ornament, enter to win raffles, and more.
Pasadena Ice Skating Center
For a classic winter wonderland experience, skate around the decorated rink of the Pasadena Ice Skating Center. Located near Pasadena City Hall on East Green Street, the Pasadena Ice Skating Center offers public skating sessions throughout the holiday season. You can also book an event or take seasonal skating classes if you are a bit nervous. Or, if ice skating is not for you, grab a cup of hot chocolate and enjoy the festive tunes while you people watch.
Festive Happenings Around Pasadena
There are many activities in the surrounding areas of Pasadena that may also be worth checking out. Whether you are looking for a wind-down activity on Christmas Day or a weekend getaway with the family, Pasadena Holidays has a wide range of events that are perfect for everyone.
Altadena Christmas Tree Lane: Santa Rosa Avenue
If you are planning a trip to Southern California this holiday season, a drive through Christmas Tree Lane is a must. Located just north of Pasadena, on Santa Rosa Avenue between Woodbury and Altadena Drive, Christmas Tree Lane features thousands of Christmas tree lights, known as the “Mile of Christmas Trees.” Altadena Christmas Tree Lane is the oldest light display of its size and has been a beloved tradition for over 90 years. Take a drive down Santa Rosa Avenue for a fun and free holiday light display that will surely lift your Christmas spirit.
Enchanted Forest Of Light
This beautiful display is located at Descanso Gardens in La Canada in the Los Angeles area. The mile-long walk features a jaw-dropping display of illuminated trees, stained-glass town models, and dazzling lighting effects through the shimmering forest wonderland. Descanso Gardens is a Los Angeles classic that features a beautiful botanical garden by day. However, if you are looking for some holiday fun, during the night, Descanso Gardens is transformed into a nocturnal wonderland from November through January.
Plan Your Trip To Pasadena
If you are looking to visit California anytime from November to January, be sure to bookmark the city of Pasadena for some festive Christmas fun. While most people only think of Los Angeles when visiting California, most of the holiday events are too crowded to fully enjoy the Christmas spirit. Pasadena is a great place for the holidays, as it features decked-out Christmas lights, iconic parades, long-time traditions, and shows that will make you holly and jolly this season.