10 Charming Things To Do in Southern California This Holiday Season
When the holiday season rolls around, Southern California may not be the first place that comes to mind, but there are a ton of great events that allow you to get into the holiday spirit. Whether it’s strolling through festive markets, attending parades, or exploring dazzling light displays, these Christmas events in Southern California will help your family create lasting memories with your loved ones this Christmas.
There are literally hundreds of holiday events throughout the season, but I’m going to share just a few that are my personal favorites, and things I’ve actually done that will put a big dose of holiday cheer in your step and make your season memorable.
1. The Festival of Lights in Riverside
Located in Riverside County,The Mission Inn Hotel & Spa goes all out every holiday season. Transforming its exterior into a holiday light show that is visited by more than 500,000 people over the course of its 6-week run.
The Festival of Lights in Riverside is one of the nation’s largest holiday light collections, voted “Best Public Lights Display” by USA Today. It is an extravagant display of Christmas lights that combines with the famous and historic California hotel for a unique night out! This six-week event is completely free and open to the public, so you don’t have to be a hotel guest to wander through the hotel’s décor, but it’s pretty tempting to stay anyway or have dinner at their Spanish Patio.
This stunning hotel’s castle-like towers, Mediterranean domes, sprawling arcades and cascading balconies will be decorated with 5 million twinkling holiday lights. You’ll be greeted by two giant nutcracker figures flanking the entrance with towering palm trees draped in meters of fairy lights.
In addition to the decorations at the Mission Inn, the streets surrounding the hotel have been closed down and filled with small family-friendly attractions.
2. Lightscape at Los Angeles Arboretum
Lightscape Reimagined for 2023, presented by US Bank merges nature and art in the mesmerizing Fire Garden, awesome Arch of Light, eye-catching Feast of Light, exotic Dancing Palms, and other spectacular installations.
The enchanting, after-dark, illuminated trail will span one mile and feature spectacular sights with eye-catching artistic installations that come alive at night with color, imagination and sound.
Visitors will be treated to a one-of-a-kind, immersive experience in the garden, wandering into a festive world of wonder with thousands of twinkling lights.
3. Christmas Nights at 123 Farm
Nothing rings in the Holiday Season better than a well-done Christmas Event. And we appreciate the places like the 123 Farm’s Christmas Lights Festival in Cherry Valley that go all out to make something special for families to enjoy.
123 Farm does a fantastic job of capturing the joyful spirit of the season… without breaking the bank. You can purchase tickets online or at the entrance and have a magical night without spending extra unless you want to. Just a stroll around the farm is enough to get you in the holiday mood!
You can stroll through the lavender fields and olive groves draped with 1 million twinkling lights to soak up the history of this century-old farm while enjoying festive foods and drinks.
The glittering star of the show is hands down the majestic thousand-year-old California live oak tree which stands at over 50 feet tall. It’s an awe-inspiring symbol of strength and wisdom which continues to flourish.
Head to the Eatery in the main lobby, where you’ll find delicious dishes like clam chowder in sourdough bread bowls and holiday cocktails.
Warm up with soups made with locally organically grown vegetables and pasta made from ancient grains, then share a delicious wood-fired sourdough pizza. Make sure you save space for their famous hot chocolate.
The 123 Farm’s lavender hot chocolate deserved to be on its own because it’s that good. It’s a tasty itinerary treat you must have when you’re there. There’ll be a dedicated hot chocolate stand at the heart of the farm, where you can have servings of cocoa in a souvenir mug (and, yes, there’s lavender flavor too).
4. Enjoying Christmas Danish-style in Solvang
Solvang is a quintessentially Danish town located in the Santa Ynez Valley, 30-miles northwest of Santa Barbara. Visiting Solvang is like visiting Europe with rolling hills, vineyards, classic Danish style architecture, and Danish pastries.
Solvang is known as one of the ten best winter holiday towns in the United States and Readers Digest confirmed this reputation by calling Solvang the “Best Christmas Town in California.” The Danish village comes alive during holiday season with sparkling Christmas lights, musical performances, an enchanting parade, seasonal treats at the local bakeries and unique shopping opportunities.
Solvang is a magical place to visit during the holiday season because it has the wonderful small-town feel, a cheerful energy, and countless holiday decorations. Solvang brings European holiday charm to California’s Central Coast. Solvang is fun to visit any time of year, but during the holidays Solvang looks like a scene from a Hallmark movie. People come here to forget about the rest of the world and just enjoy a winter wonderland.
Read more about Christmas time in Solvang here.
5. Authentic German Christmas at Old World Village in Huntington Beach
With Christmas coming just around the corner, a visit to the Old World Village – an authentic German Christmas Market in Huntington Beach is a must do if you’re in the Orange County area. This beautiful outdoor shopping & dining center features quaint European-style buildings and cobblestone streets, and it’s all decked out for the holidays!
We had a great time trying their mouthwatering authentic German dishes such as Chicken Paprikash and Traditional Potato Salad. One thing you must do here is trying their beers. Biergarten has over 30 imported beers on tap, such as Warsteiner and Spaten. After eating we went shopping at their Christmas Market that’s filled with delightful treats and goodies imported from Europe.
We had a great time browsing the wide assortment of vendors and admire all of the unique handmade crafts and gifts, snacking on traditional German food like curry-wurst & fries, potato pancakes, bratwurst, goulash, and famous german cookies as we looked for last minute presents for our family and friends.
This Christmas Market will make you feel as though you have been transported all the way to Germany. Delicious German Food and Christmas Market all in one spot!
6. Pine Rose Cabin at Lake Arrowhead
One of our family’s favorite winter traditions is escaping to a cabin in the woods. What better way to enjoy a snowy vacation than staying in a beautiful log cabin tucked into a winter wonderland; whether you are a couple looking for romantic winter evenings by candlelight or an active family wanting a winter adventure with the children. Many visitors to SoCal might be surprised to know that just a short day-trip from Los Angeles sits a winter wonderland in the San Bernardino mountains – Lake Arrowhead.
What makes Arrowhead Pine Rose Cabins so special? All of the cabins are unique (each cabin is decorated to a specific theme) and are spread out over 6 acres of forest with many streams and ponds. Their charming rustic cabins nestled in a forest setting really got our family into the Christmas spirit. Each of the cabins is decorated for Christmas with its own tree.
After all of the busy schedules and running around that families do during the holiday season, it’s important to take a break. At a cabin you can recharge and reenergize. Spending unplugged nights in this cabin created many opportunities for quality time together.
Read my full review of the Pine Rose Cabin here!
6. Holiday Greenery Shopping at the Original LA Flower Market
Walking into the Original LA Flower Market is nothing short of a feast for the senses. The exotic fragrances of different types of flowers and greenery hit your nose like a bullet train. Staff members are running from place to place to ensure only the finest cuts are displayed on shelves.
Just a few garlands of evergreens, a colorful wreath in the window, or an arrangement of poinsettias can create just the right abundance of festive vibes. My favorite place to look for holiday greenery in Los Angeles is Mellano & Company at the Original Los Angeles Flower Market. You can get all your holiday greenery/plants/flowers all in one place. Christmas fresh wreaths, garlands and centerpiece swags are made here daily.
7. The beach Christmas tree at Crystal Cove State Park
In December, the Crystal Cove Historic District is decked out from the trails to the sea with holiday decor and lights, plus the iconic beach tree. The tree is a bit hard to find if you don’t know where you are going. The easiest way to find the beach and tree is to search for directions to The Beachcomber Café which will direct you to the Los Trancos lot across the street from the beach. When you park in the lot you can either take a 5-10 minute walk on a path that leads under the street or you can take a Beachcomber shuttle for $1.50 a person each way.
I love how simply the beach Christmas tree is decorated. The beach provides the backdrop and the sunset adds to the mood. We visited around sunset time and it wasn’t as crowded as I expected. With a little patience you should be able to get some good shots
8. Peppertree Lane in Laguna Beach
Who has experienced the charm of Peppertree Lane? It looks like you’ve stepped out of Laguna Beach and into a little corner of Europe!
Peppertree Lane is a charming little area in downtown Laguna Beach with a handful of shops and restaurants. You could easily miss it if you’re not paying attention!
The Peppertree Lane building was built in 1934 around a live Peppertree. During the summer, people line up for gelato at Gelato Paradiso. During the holiday season, the area is all decked out. When passing through the arched brick entries of this Laguna landmark, one can leave reality behind and experience the mood of a European holiday.
One of our favorite shops here is La Rue du Chocolat, famous for their fine handmade chocolates, truffles, and fresh chocolate-dipped strawberries. La Rue du Chocolat means the street of chocolate. They have been creating handcrafted chocolates since the 1950s.
9. South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa
With over 250 boutiques, South Coast Plaza is well known both locally and internationally as a premier shopping destination. The holidays are the most wonderful time of the year at South Coast Plaza. There is glorious décor, visits with Santa Claus, festive boutique windows, live music on the weekends, fabulous installations, and a flurry of new brands and boutiques to explore.
10. Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills
As the days grow shorter and winter’s chill sets in, the city of Beverly Hills is gearing up for a dazzling celebration that promises to warm hearts and spark the holiday spirit. The Rodeo Drive Holiday Lights extravaganza, kicking off with a grand Holiday Lighting Celebration, is set to transform the iconic streets into a radiant winter wonderland.
As you stroll along Brighton Way, let the twinkling lights guide you through the enchanting scenes that capture the essence of the holidays. The Rodeo Drive holiday decor promises to be a visual feast!
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