Los Angeles is arguably the most notable city when planning a trip to California. The highly populated county of LA has something to offer for all ages and interests. And being a coastal state, California may not be the first destination in mind when planning for the holiday season. But contrary to popular belief, Los Angeles offers some of the most spectacular Christmas lights and festive events that will leave you feeling merry and bright this holiday season.
Whether you are looking for big-city iconic tree lightings to kick off the holiday season or small-town locally curated holiday markets, Los Angeles is home to a host of festive fun that will check off the whole family’s Christmas bucket list. With all the overwhelm of the holiday season, let us make planning your trip to Los Angeles this Christmas a breeze. Below, we outline our top picks for the best Christmas lights and events in Los Angeles for 2023 to get you in the holiday spirit and wrap up the year with a bow!
Tips From A Los Angeles Local
For those who do not like extreme weather conditions, Los Angeles is the perfect place to be. During December, the weather in LA features cool mornings and evenings and warmer, comfortable afternoons. Low temperatures dip down to about 40 degrees Fahrenheit and highs go up to around 70–80 degrees. Typically, rainfall is minimal in Los Angeles, even during the winter, but this December is projected to be a wet one due to El Niño. Be sure to keep a lookout for the forecasts so you can plan ahead and make the most of your magical Los Angeles Christmas.
Where To Stay
If you are looking for a Californian big-city Christmas experience, the heart of downtown LA is the place to be. There are tons of festive events that are within walking distance from any accommodation in the center of the city. Downtown Los Angeles is traveler-friendly and visitors can get around via ride-share or electric scooter. If you have a car to get around, the surrounding areas of Los Angeles offer a more cozy Christmas experience unique to local areas. Some of our top picks include the cities of Pasadena, Glendale, downtown Santa Monica, and Big Bear.
The Best Christmas Lights And Events In Los Angeles
Christmas Trees Galore
While California is not known for its forest of cruciferous trees, there are several spots home to rows of Christmas trees transformed during the holiday season. Drive or walk through some of these top spots to marvel at the towering trees strung with shining lights.
Christmas Tree Lane
The mile-long drive known as Christmas Tree Lane is located on Santa Rosa Avenue in the city of Altadena. While LA is known for its palm trees, Christmas Tree Lane puts it on the conifers map with Christmas-tree-lined streets. Beginning on December 9, the iconic Santa Rosa Avenue is lined with Christmas trees decked out in twinkling holiday lights. Christmas Tree Lane is one of the most well-known holiday Christmas light displays in Los Angeles and is sure to put you in the holiday spirit. It does get a bit busy during peak hours, but the twinkling lights are truly a sight to see. Just a short drive from Los Angeles, Christmas Tree Lane offers some of the best holiday lights that the city has to offer.
Sleepy Hollow Christmas Lights Extravaganza
Sleepy Hollow Christmas Lights Extravaganza, located in the seaside neighborhood of Torrance, prides itself on its excessive Christmas lights that are sure to rack up the neighborhood’s electricity bill. While the neighborhood is commonly referred to as Sleepy Hollow, the residents sure bring the area to life with thousands of twinkling lights.
St. Albans Road
While St. Albans is one of the smallest holiday light displays of the season, the towering evergreens on this street are a sight to see. Located in the small city of San Marino, St. Albans is home to looming evergreens that line almost the entire block. It may not be worth seeing if you need to take a long detour, but if you are in the area, the colorful holiday lights of St. Albans Road are a great showing.
Candy Cane Lane
Candy Cane Lane seems to be a popular name and is shared by more than two neighborhoods in LA. But the one you will not want to miss is located in Woodland Hills and has been a tradition for decades. Candy Cane Lane in Woodland Hills goes all out during the holiday season and features thousands of holiday lights. Its displays bring holiday cheer to the community and all who come to see it.
Upper Hastings Ranch
The twinkling lights of Upper Hastings Ranch, located on different blocks in Pasadena, are decade-old traditions. Each block of the area features a different theme of holiday light displays and is a great community effort to bring the Christmas spirit to all.
Twinkling Light Displays
In addition to traditional displays of Christmas lights, Los Angeles is no short of creative holiday light shows and displays that are sure to bring sparkle to your eyes this Christmas.
Enchanted Forest Of Light
The Enchanted Forest of Light is the perfect Holiday event in California for those looking for something different from the traditional lined Christmas tree decorations. Located at Descanso Gardens in La Canada, the whimsical, colorful lights are a modern way to celebrate the traditions of the holiday season. The Enchanted Forest of Light is interactive and involves spectacular lantern sculptures and bright installations throughout its botanical gardens. Take a walk through the luminescent forest to enjoy a nocturnal winter wonderland while holiday music puts you in the Christmas spirit.
Marina Del Rey Boat Parade
Another unique display of lights and decorations during the festive season is the marina lights of the Marina del Rey Boat Parade. More than 70 boats line up and parade through the marina with an aim to win categories for the best decorations. The parade begins on December 11 with a fireworks display to kick it off. This annual tradition is a crowd favorite, so be sure to grab a spot near Burton Chace Park or Fisherman’s Village in order to get a good view.
LA Zoo Lights
For all the animal lovers out there, the LA Zoo brings an animal-themed holiday light display that is a unique experience. The theme for the year is “Animals Aglow” which stays true to the animal-inspired decorations with a holiday twist. The LA Zoo lights feature large animated animals that produce a festive glow all throughout the park. This light show is perfect for the whole family and an event you will want to plan for.
The Venice Canals are another iconic destination in Los Angeles that is transformed during the holiday season and features sparkling Christmas lights that line the area. Dell Avenue does get a bit locked up during peak holiday times, so we recommend parking a couple of blocks away. The boat parade that floats along the brightly lit Venice Canals typically begins the first week of December.
Lightscape At The Arboretum
Another installation of magical Christmas lights is located at the Lightscape, presented by the LA County Arboretum. Trees and decorations light up the mile-long pathway and are sure to bring you some holiday cheer. This year, the arboretum has leveled up the event and has created new routes and stops along the path. Get the first look at some of the new installations in the illuminated forest light show and winter wonderland decorations that the Lightscape has to offer.
The Astra Lumina light show is not exactly a Christmas special, but the celestial-inspired lights in Los Angeles are still a great way to get you feeling holly and jolly this festive season. The light show is located at the South Coast Botanic Garden at the Rancho Palos Verdes Estates and features more than nine cosmic light installations that are mesmerizing and captivating. If you are looking for a light show that is sure to leave you in awe, be sure to check out the Astra Lumina show that runs throughout December.
Holiday Road Santa Monica
Holiday Road is located at King Gillette Ranch in the Santa Monica Mountains. The road features a mile-long walking trail with whimsical Christmas decorations, extravagant archways, a Christmas Crafts Village, and an amazing holiday display of icicle lights that hang from above. Stroll along Holiday Road to enjoy the magnificent lights, decorations, and holiday treats. For the adults, Holiday Road also features a holiday bar with festive drinks.
Christmas is all about giving and there is no better place to grab one-of-a-kind gifts than a holiday market. Los Angeles holiday markets showcase local artists and crafters, bringing you the most unique gifts to give this winter.
Smorgasburg Holiday Market
The Smorgasburg Holiday will be held on Sundays from November 27 to December 18. Smorgasburg is one of LA’s hottest markets, lined with food trucks and small businesses. During the holiday season, the market gets a festive makeover filled with holiday music, decorations, and Christmas gifts to purchase. The market is filled with local crafters bringing you top quirky gifts that will make you the best Santa Claus this season. In addition to the classic Smorgasburg Market, they will also be promoting a special SmorgasMART for visitors to shop local packaged foods from vendors in the area. This holiday market is a great, free, family-friendly event to celebrate the holiday festivities while supporting small businesses.
Holiday Market At Century City Westfield
The Westfield at Century City Mall is the perfect destination to get your holiday shopping done. The mall is filled with all the shops for your gifting needs. Throughout the holiday months, the mall is transformed into a winter wonderland. Right in the center sits the Holiday Village which presents holiday-curated gift shops, Christmas treats, and a North Pole scene great for photo ops. Make your Christmas shopping less stressful by grabbing a cup of hot cocoa and singing along to your favorite Christmas carols.
Other Festive Events
Los Angeles, a melting pot of cultures, is home to a diverse range of holiday celebrations that stray away from the classic Christmas events. If you are looking for something that will mark a memorable Christmas in LA, these occasions may be worth checking out.
Yuletide Cinemaland is an outdoor screening of classic holiday films such as Elf, Home Alone, The Muppet Christmas Carol, Scrooged, and more. The films are shown twice throughout the night, once at 6 p.m. and once at 8 p.m. Yuletide Cinemaland is reminiscent of a European town square filled with festive fun. Enjoy your favorite Christmas films at Heritage Square while also engaging in other activities. The markets feature craft beer and mulled wine for the parents and hot cocoa for the kids.
Pershing Square Ice Rink
Another popular Christmas event to get in the holiday spirit is ice skating. While there are numerous ice skating rinks scattered throughout Los Angeles, the most notable is Pershing Square’s outdoor holiday ice skating rink. The area is transformed into a holiday wonderland and is the perfect place to glide around the ice while getting the true LA feel of the towering skyscrapers.
LA County Holiday Celebration
This year marks the 64th Annual LA County Holiday Celebration, which honors the diverse cultures of the city. The event features local artists, including performances from dance troupes, choral groups, and more. The celebration is held at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. This holiday event is the perfect place to discover new artists and celebrate the diverse music and culture of Los Angeles.
For Harry Potter fans, Universal Studios Hollywood is a must-visit for the holiday season. Harry Potter World captures the spirit of a winter wonderland and transports you to Hogwarts in no time. The whole theme park is decorated with holiday décor, snow caps, wreaths, and Christmas lights. The gift shops also offer holiday-themed souvenirs, making special gifts for the Harry Potter die-hards in the family. In the evenings of November 24–January 1, the Magic of Christmas at Hogwarts illuminates the castle with animated lanterns, banners, and more.
Home Alone In Concert
Home Alone is arguably one of the most loved Christmas movies. While you can watch it from the comfort of your own home, this event transforms the movie into something magical. If you are looking for a special experience this season, grab tickets for Home Alone in Concert at the Walt Disney Concert Hall. The talented Los Angeles Philharmonic brilliantly captivates you with a score written by John Williams and brings the holiday classic to life. The concert will be held this year from December 20 to 22.
There are several ballet companies that showcase the classic tale of The Nutcracker each year, but one of the most noteworthy is the Long Beach Ballet. This specific ballet show is one of the few productions in the area that presents a full live orchestra, a horse, pyrotechnics, and a flying sleigh to bring the story of Clara and her adventures to life. While you may have seen The Nutcracker before, the show put on by the Long Beach Ballet is sure to wow you.
Snow N Glow
Snow N Glow is a family-friendly holiday event where all ages can experience festive fun. It is dubbed as the winter playground, as you and your family have the opportunity to build a snowman, enjoy a good ol’ cup of hot chocolate, and much more. The event features fresh-made snow, snow tubing, and a festive atmosphere. If looking to host a party, you can also rent a private igloo to upgrade your winter experience. Additionally, if you can’t get enough of all the Christmas lights in Los Angeles, Snow N Glow also displays a mind-blowing light trail, lit with over a million lights.
Las Posadas is another Los Angeles holiday special that is local to the area. Starting December 16 through Christmas Eve, Olvera Street sellers and their families walk through the El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historical Monument. This procession is a celebratory re-enactment of the nine-night search for shelter, as detailed in the Bible. This annual tradition is one of the oldest events in Los Angeles and not only features the re-enactment but also holiday sing-alongs and the breaking of a pinata. It’s a true celebration of different cultures in the city.
If you are looking for a festive event perfect for the kids, Winter Frolic is one to note. The event is held at the Kidspace Children’s Museum in Pasadena. It is a perfect, safe space for children to play and get a glimpse of a winter wonderland, without the snow. The Kidspace is filled with interactive and imaginative cold-weather activities without the hassle of the wet winter snow.
Holiday Events In Surrounding LA Areas
While LA has much to offer in terms of Christmas lights and events, the smaller surrounding areas also have many Christmas celebrations that are worth a detour. Just a short drive away, any of these events will leave you feeling merry and bright!
Festival Of Lights At Mission Inn Hotel
There is no shortage of Christmas lights in Los Angeles, but if you are in the surrounding area, you may want to check out the Festival of Lights. Located in one of LA’s neighboring counties, the beautiful Mission Inn Hotel in Riverside is decorated with millions of holiday lights during the annual festival. Marvel in a magical holiday show of lit-up animated figures and enjoy the festive tunes playing all around. The festival begins in mid-November, ends in early January, and is free for the public to enjoy.
Knott’s Merry Farm
Located in Orange County, Knott’s Berry Farm is turned into the festive Knott’s Merry Farm for the holidays. The park is recast as a winter wonderland, complete in all its festive glory. Enjoy the themed decorations and magical performances. Don’t forget to try the holiday foods the park has to offer as well. The park offers classics with a holiday twist, including a mac and cheese sourdough bowl and holiday turkey poutine.
Another Orange County classic, Disneyland during Christmas is a popular tourist destination near LA. With rising prices and extra expenses from purchasing holiday gifts for all the in-laws, a ticket to Disneyland may not be possible. However, a walk around Disneyland Resort and Downtown Disney is free to the public. The outside areas of the park are adorned with the most lavish decorations that will make anyone smile. If you happen to be in Orange County, Disneyland Resort is a great place to grab some Disney merch while enjoying festive decorations — all Disney-themed.
Christmas In Los Angeles This Holiday Season
While planning a visit to Los Angeles this holiday season may be a bit overwhelming with all that the city has to offer, we hope that this list of suggestions helps you narrow down your top festive picks. With the countless Christmas lights in Los Angeles and the quintessential holiday events, you won’t go wrong with any of the choices mentioned above.
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