From Traditional to Unusual, Southern California Winter Holiday Must-Dos

The holiday season is upon us. While we might not get covered in snow like other parts of the country, Angelenos find a way to create winter wonderlands and festive escapes that the whole family can enjoy. Whether you like history, ballet performances, are in search of the perfect light display, or are looking for a place to take the best selfies, there are plenty of things to do throughout the region. If you want to avoid the crowds, many of the following attractions run until early next year.


Dec 8: SantaCon

On December 8 at 11 a.m. adults dressed like Santa will gather at an undisclosed location in Los Angeles for SantaCon and go bar-hopping. The exact location is not announced until the day before. If you want to participate, be on the lookout for the announcement on the Los Angeles Santacon Facebook page. 

SantaCon in Pershing Square | Al Pavangkanan/Creative Commons


Dec 8: Christmas Tree Lane 

The deodar trees that make up Altadena’s Christmas Tree Lane were planted in the 1880s and were meant to be part of the driveway leading to the mansion of Altadena founders Frederick and John Woodbury. In 1920 Pasadena merchant Frederick C. Nash, with the help of Pasadena Kiwanis Club, started decorating the trees. If you want to experience the lights, Christmas Tree Lane is located on Santa Rosa Ave, near E. Mariposa Street.


Dec 8 and 9: Renegade Craft Fair

Shopping for gifts? This year Renegade Craft Fair returns to Los Angeles December 8 and 9. Head over to Los Angeles State Historic Park for the free event, find handmade items for your loved ones, attend workshops, enjoy food trucks and cocktails. 

Renegade Craft Fair
Renegade Craft Fair | Orin Zebest/Creative Commons


Dec 15 - Dec 23: Long Beach Nutcracker

There are plenty of “Nutcracker” renditions taking place throughout the Southland. On select dates in December, The Long Beach Ballet will put on its performance at the Long Beach Terrace Theater that includes “a full symphony orchestra, a flying sleigh, a real live horse, on-stage pyrotechnics, and a cast of over 200.” 

Long Beach Nutcracker
Long Beach Ballet performing The Nutcracker | Courtesy of Long Beach Nutcracker


Dec 16 - 24: Las Posadas at Olvera Street

For decades, Olvera Street has held posadas that reenact the journey of Mary and Joseph with the use of costumes and music. The festivities take place, December 16-24 and start at 6:30 p.m. with a piñata for children, the procession starts at 7:15pm at the Avila Adobe House. After the procession, attendees can enjoy a cup of champurrado and sweet bread. 

Story continues below


Through Dec 25: Fa La Land

Fa La Land is an Instagramable pop-up museum with plenty of photo opportunities for visitors. According to the event’s website, attendees can “help make toys at 'Jingle Bell Toy Factory', get lost in a light fluorescent 'Fa La Forest', and jump in on the action at 'Fa La Fest'." The event, which is located at the ROW in Downtown Los Angeles runs until December 25. 


Through Dec 30: Holiday Twilight Tour at Hearst Castle

See how William Randolph Hearst and his guests celebrated Christmas at Hearst Castle in San Luis Obispo. The Holiday Twilight Tour shows the festive decorations and takes guests through locations like Casa del Sol-guest house, the social rooms of Casa Grande and the Neptune pool. The 75-minute guided tour takes places on select dates starting in late November. There is also an Accessibly Designed Holiday Twilight Tour for individuals who might have difficulty standing or walking for long periods of time. 

Hearst Castle Winter Holiday
Hearst Castle Winter Holiday | Adam Reeder/Creative Commons


Throughout December: Tuba Christmas

Like the name implies, Tuba Christmas includes the brass instrument — and lots of them. Every year, tuba players across the world come together at various locations to put on a performance. According to the Tuba Christmas website, the idea was conceived in 1974 by Harvey Phillips as a way to honor his teacher and mentor who was born on Christmas. If you live in California, there are several gatherings taking place throughout the month

Tuba Christmas



Through Jan 6: Enchanted Forest of Lights at Descanso Gardens

Surround yourself with nature this holiday season at Descanso Garden’s Enchanted: Forest of Light. The family-friendly event, which runs until January 6, lets you walk through and engage with interactive installations. Keep an eye out for thousands of light up tulips, control the colors that illuminate sycamore trees, and enter the Garden of Good Fortune. If you plan on attending, keep in mind that tickets have timed entry and must be purchased in advance. 

Descanso Gardens Enchanted Forest
Descanso Gardens Enchanted Forest | Samuel/Creative Commons


Through Jan 6: Santa’s Village at Lake Arrowhead

Get transported to a winter wonderland by visiting Santa’s Village at Sky Park located in Lake Arrowhead. After being closed for nearly 20 years, the village reopened in 2016. Join the fun, skate in the 60’ by 100’ Silver Bells skating pond, take a picture with Santa and visit his workshop, meet Mrs. Claus and explore the Gingerbread House. Santa’s Village runs from November 15 through January 6, 2019. If you plan on attending, be advised that visitors are required to sign a waiver before entering the park.   

Santa's Village
Santa's Village at Sky Park | Sandi Hemmerlein



Through Jan 6: The Mission Inn Hotel and Spa Riverside Festival of Lights

USA Today recently named the Festival of Lights the “Best Public Lights Display in the Nation.” During the festivity, The Mission Inn is covered with 5 million lights! Visitors can take a picture with Santa, enjoy live entertainment, take a ride on a carriage, ride a carousel, take a spin on a ferris wheel, hop an LED swing or seesaw and much more. The event takes place until January 6, 2019.  

Mission Inn Winter Holiday
Mission Inn Winter Holiday | Don Graham/Creative Commons


Through Jan 6: Hop aboard the Queen Mary for a Christmas Adventure

Since 2012, the grounds surrounding the Queen Mary played host to “Chill,” a holiday-themed attraction that in the past included ice skating, tubing, and ice sculptures. This year, the festivities will be held aboard the ship. A general admission ticket includes access to the vessel, its engine room as well as a meet & greet with Santa Claus, Christmas tree-lined decks, channel of lights, and a screening of the “Polar Express.”


Through Jan 6: Chinese Lantern Festival

Immerse yourself with colorful works of art at the Chinese Lantern Festival taking place at the Fairplex in Pomona until January 6, 2019. Enjoy over 1,000 handcrafted lanterns, watch Kung Fu and Chinese Martial Arts performances and stay for the food. 

Chinese Lantern Festival
Chinese Lantern Festival | Courtesy of Chinese Lantern Festival


Through Jan 6: LA Zoo Lights

Since 2014, L.A. Zoo lights has been lighting up the night sky with its bright displays. Take a self-guided stroll through sections of the zoo and experience animal-themed displays, a disco ball forest, a twinkling tunnel and various projections. You can also see reindeer and learn all about them from reindeer keepers. This year’s attraction runs until January 6. 

LA Zoo Lights


Through Jan 21: Ice Skating at Pershing Square

Bundle up, grab your friends, family and head to Pershing Square to skate in the middle of downtown Los Angeles. You can rent skates for $5 and skate helpers are also available for beginners that are under 4 feet tall.

We are dedicated to providing you with articles like this one. Show your support with a tax-deductible contribution to KCET. After all, public media is meant for the public. It belongs to all of us.

Keep Reading

Full Episodes

Clips & Segments