You might think of swaying palms as the main treescape in Southern California. But if you're dreaming of a "White Christmas" (like Irving Berlin was when he wrote the song), you can pretend you're in the North Pole for just a little while — just by visiting the monumental pine trees that have been planted here!
That's right — you don't have to go deep into the forest for a coniferous escapade. Because there are great groves of evergreen trees right here in the lowlands, by our beaches and in our residential neighborhoods.
So why not skip the Christmas tree lot and go straight to the living Christmas trees that are taller than your wildest dreams and have lived longer than most anybody can remember?
After all, these trees carry a legacy that extends way beyond the holiday season — and they're the gift that keeps on giving, year after year.
1. Christmas Tree Lane, Altadena, Los Angeles
Planted by the Woodburys, the pioneer founders of Altadena, in 1885, Christmas Tree Lane is the longest-running spectacle of its kind in Southern California — having celebrated 100 years in 2020 (and lit every year since 1920 except for the wet seasons of 1943-1944).
This one-mile stretch of deodar cedar trees of Santa Rosa Avenue lights up (thanks to strings of 10,000+ lights) in December and early January, with the light switch flipped to the "ON" position nightly at 6 p.m.
However, you can enjoy this botanical landmark all year. When you're missing that Christmas tree smell at any other time of year, there's nothing keeping you from driving (or walking) down Santa Rosa for a little pine fix. Just beware that although the road is paved, there still aren't any sidewalks alongside the field stone drainage channels.
2. Christmas Tree Lane, Granada Hills, Los Angeles
In the North San Fernando Valley community of Granada Hills, there's another stretch of deodar cedar trees along White Oak Avenue, between San Jose Street to the south and San Fernando Mission Boulevard to the north. This one is just 0.75 miles long, and it's not artificially lit — but it's just as lovely as the more famous version of "Christmas Tree Lane."
Over 100 deodar cedars were planted in 1933 by John Orcutt, then-superintendent of the sprawling Sunshine Ranch, which had begun to be subdivided in the 1920s to ultimately become "Granada" and then "Granada Hills." According to Jim Hier's Granada Hills book (Arcadia Publishing), Orcutt got them as saplings from Teague Nursery in Woodland Hills in order to mark the entrance to the ranch. It was along this same section of White Oak that the first residential home of Granada Hills was built (at the corner of Kingsbury Street).
Nowadays, White Oak Avenue and its trees — 114 of them designated Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument No. 41 in 1966 — are perhaps more famous for the "flying bicycle" scene in the 1982 movie "E.T." There's even a mural on the Andrews & Van Lohn Insurance building at the corner of White Oak and Los Alimos Street that commemorates the filming that occurred on the street in 1981.
3. Los Feliz Boulevard Cedar Trees, Los Feliz, Los Angeles
Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument No. 67 is the stretch of cedar trees that line both sides of Los Feliz Boulevard between Riverside Drive and Western Avenue in the Los Angeles community of Los Feliz, designated in 1970.
There are two types of cedars here — deodar and Atlas cedar, the oldest of which date back to 1922 when the Los Feliz Improvement Association and the Los Feliz Women's Club began planting them to beautify Los Feliz streetscapes. The last of the cedars from this partnership were planted in 1934.
During rush hour or at night, it can be hard to admire these towering trees from behind your windshield — so find a time during the day to pause and take a gander. They mark each of the southern entrances to Griffith Park nicely, from Fern Dell to Crystal Springs and everything in between.
4. Hotel del Coronado Christmas Tree, Coronado Island, San Diego
The Hotel del Coronado in San Diego has an unusual claim to fame as home of the world's first outdoor, living "Christmas" tree with electrical lighting, first unveiled on Christmas Eve 1904. At that time, indoor Christmas trees with lights — more often than not, candles — had already become commonplace. But an electrical string of lights wrapped around a huge Norfolk Island pine tree was considered a technological marvel!
From a botanical standpoint, it's not actually a true pine — but this conifer is often planted ornamentally as a "living Christmas tree" for its distinctive triangular shape.
The tree still stands today — and you can see it whether you're staying overnight at the Hotel Del or just visiting. (It's a highlight on the hotel's historical walking tour.) During the holiday season, the Norfolk Island pine lights up again nightly as part of the "At First Light" Lightshow Spectacular, which runs for 11 minutes on the half-hour and hour between 5 and 9 p.m. starting in late November and through Jan. 2.
5. Liberty Station Norfolk Pine Tree, Point Loma, San Diego
The nationally-landmarked former Naval Training Station at Point Loma has been transformed into the vibrant, multi-use Liberty Station — where you can find restaurants, nightlife, theatre and more mixed with its deep military history. On its North Promenade (formerly known as John Paul Jones Court), just behind Stone Brewing and Liberty Public Market, is a Norfolk Island pine, reaching a height of 88 feet.
It stands in the exact same spot as a white fir tree that was planted in 1928 after being removed from the Cuyamaca Mountains. The tree itself was a gift to thank the officers and men of the center's command who helped extinguish a destructive wildfire in the Cuyamacas. Unfortunately, that first tree gift died a few months after its replanting — so, it was replaced by the current Norfolk Island pine and decorated for Christmas for many years during the military's occupation of the station.
Today, this Christmas tree is the subject of a grand tree-lighting that takes place the day after Thanksgiving to kick off Liberty Station's holiday festivities, which also include a children's ice rink and seasonal performances that run through early January.
6. Heritage Tree, Encinitas, San Diego
The North San Diego County city of Encinitas has its own historic Christmas tree, located at the corner of 4th and C Streets, just a block away from Moonlight Beach. The "flipping of the switch" occurs annually in early December and is sponsored by Encinitas Historical Society, which is located at the 1883 Schoolhouse nearby on F Street.
The year 2019 marked the 25th anniversary of the lighting of the 87-foot Norfolk Island pine tree, which was planted in 1952 by brothers Peter and John Danforth in their mother's front yard as a Mother's Day gift. (The Danforth family was part of the early settlement of Encinitas.) It was first lit in 1994 as the result of a "light-the-tree" campaign launched by local resident Luis Ortiz.
The tree gained its "heritage" status in 2011 (only the second in Encinitas to be designated as such) — and today, Ortiz still helps maintain the LED-lit attraction, which has gained its own address (406 4th Street). As one of the largest trees in the area, it can reportedly be seen for miles.