It’s the holiday season and aside getting the tree up and wrapping presents indoors, there’s plenty to do outdoors to celebrate this joyous time of year.
From dazzling light shows and parades to skating on ice rinks and even sledding down real snow, here are 20 ways to enjoy the holidays in Southern California in 2023.
Capistrano Lights: Mission in Lights
When: 3-6 p.m. select evenings Dec. 2-30
Where: Mission San Juan Capistrano, 26801 Ortega Highway, San Juan Capistrano
Mission San Juan Capistrano gets lit for the holidays with Capistrano Lights. The festivities include nightly tree lighting, Dickens-era carolers, a full-scale nativity scene, light features including a new lighted halo grove and a new butterfly orchard and pics with Santa.
Culver City Holiday Tree Lighting Sled-tacular
When: 5-8:30 p.m. Nov. 30
Where: Town Plaza, 9500 Culver Blvd., Culver City
Downtown Culver City will be under 25 tons of fresh snow during a tree lighting ceremony that will include sledding, carnival games, booths and visits with Santa at the North Pole. The tree is a 22-foot-tall Rocky Mountain Pine that will be lit with 7,500 LED lights.
Electric Light Fantasy (E.L.F)
When: 5:30-10:30 p.m. daily through Dec. 31
Where: Moreno Valley, 22632 Town Circle, Moreno Valley
Cost: $35 per car
Check out the Elf life with this drive-thru light show. It features more than two million lights synchronized to music. Cars will roll through tunnels and various holiday scenes during this one-mile drive that takes around 35-40 minutes to complete.
Festival of Lights
When: Through Jan. 7
Where: Mission Inn, 3649 Mission Inn Ave., Riverside
One of the most elaborate holiday displays is in Riverside at The Mission Inn. During the self-guided tour, guests will see giant nutcrackers, palm trees, buildings and pretty much everything in and around the Inn wrapped in bright holiday lights.
Fontana Christmas Parade and Festival of Winter
When: 10 a.m.- 4 p.m. Dec. 9
Where: Miller Park Amphitheater, 17002 Arrow Blvd., Fontana
The parade starts at 10 a.m. at Sierra Avenue and Arrow Boulevard. It will include floats, music and community groups. After the parade the Festival of Winter begins at Miller Park Amphitheater, where kids can go on train rides and down a snow slide. Santa will be hanging out there for pics all day.
Go Little Tokyo for the Holidays
When: 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Dec.16- 17
Where: Japanese Village Plaza, 335 East 2nd Street, Los Angeles
Meet Shogun Santa, who’s billed as LA’s only Asian Santa, at the Japanese Village Plaza. Kids will be able to take pics and check out the Christmas tree and light displays at the plaza.
When: 5- 9:30 p.m. Nov. 24-Dec. 27
Where: King Gillette Ranch, 26800 Mulholland Highway, Calabasas
Cost: Tickets start at $24.99 per person
This mile-long leisurely walk through King Gillette Ranch includes larger-than-life holiday installations and thousands of Christmas lights. People will see the North Pole, an Elf Village, Gingerbread Lane, light tunnels, massive Christmas tree forests and get to meet Santa and Mrs. Claus, too. Plus there are food trucks and bars for the adults.
Hollywood Christmas Parade
When: 6-8 p.m. Nov. 26
Where: Hollywood Boulevard at Orange Drive, the U-shaped parade route will travel east to Vine, then to Sunset and west back to Orange Drive.
Cost: Bleacher seats start at $70
Hosted by Erik Estrada, Laura McKenzie, Dean Cain and Montel Williams, the parade will include celebrities like Chris Kattan and “General Hospital” star Josh Kelley as well as marching bands, balloon floats, equestrians and Grand Marshall Col. Paris D. Davis, a recent recipient of the Medal of Honor.
Ice at Santa Monica Presented by Netflix
When: 11:30 a.m.-9:30 p.m. Sundays-Thursdays, 11:30 a.m.-11:00 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays through January 15.
Where: Corner of Fifth Street and Arizona Avenue
People can skate around the ice under sparkling holiday lights and other decorations. This year there are several holiday events planned including a holiday pet pageant on Nov. 29, an ugly holiday sweater night on Dec. 6 and because we can’t live without her, a Taylor Swift birthday night on Dec. 13.
When: 9 p.m. Nov. 17-Jan. 7
Where: Fairplex, 1101 W. McKinley Ave., Pomona
More than five million lights illuminate this immersive 1.5 mile trek through 10 zones that includes more than 25 larger-than-life interactive scenes plus synchronized music and lights. People can roam through the Rose Garden, which is filled with 35,000 LED roses, and see the Enchanted Forest and the Endless Mirrors zones. There are also live performances including a high wire act and Motorcycle Globe of Death show.
LA County Tree Lighting Ceremony
When: 5-8 p.m. Nov. 27
Where: Jerry Moss Plaza at The Music Center, 135 N. Grand Ave., Los Angeles
The 50-foot holiday tree is going to be lit among snow flurries and live music and free hot chocolate. There’s going to be a marketplace featuring artisans and vendors selling holiday themed wares, plus mariachi music.
LA Zoo Lights
When: Nightly through Jan. 7
Where: 5333 Zoo Drive Los Angeles
The annual holiday celebration lights up the Zoo at night and turns into a memorable landscape with lantern sculptures of animals, blooming flowers and trees, ice crystals, light tunnels, twinkling forests and other light displays throughout the venue.
Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade
When: 6:30 p.m. each night from Dec. 13-17
Where: Public viewing at Marina Park. 1600 W. Balboa Blvd., Newport Beach
About 100 or so decorated yachts, canoes, sail boats and other vessels will slowly cruise along the harbor in a nightly display of floating holiday lights. The parade launches and ends at Lido Isle.
Magic of Lights
When: 5:30-9 p.m. Sundays-Thursdays, 5:30- 10 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays through Dec. 31
Where: 81800 51st Ave., Indio
Cost: $25-$60 per vehicle
Hit the road and see some magical stuff at Magic of Lights. The drive-thru lights experience will let cars cruise through holiday scenes and feature seasonal characters enhanced by LED technology and digital animations.
Newport Dunes Fire & Ice Festival
When: Nov. 24-Jan. 1
Where: Newport Dunes Waterfront Resort, 1131 Back Bay Drive, Newport Beach
Cost: Festival is free; ice skating and concession are available for purchase.
Get your skates ready because the Inaugural Fire & Ice Festival features a massive 4,000 square foot waterfront ice rink. The skating will be particularly memorable once the sun goes down as the bay is illuminated with twinkling holiday lights. Skating costs $20-$25 for a 90 minute session. The festival includes the Igloo Bar with hot toddies, cocktails and hot chocolate and coffee. The Igloo Bar is open 4-9 p.m. Wednesdays-Sundays. People can also sit around the public fire pits, which are available on a first come, first served basis, or stroll through the Holiday Inflatable Garden. Live entertainment is also planned with DJs spinning on select nights and fire dancers on Friday and Saturday nights. There will be live musical performances along with the annual Lighting of the Bay ceremony during the Fire & Ice Festival’s opening night celebration Nov. 24.
When: Various showtimes Dec. 8-23
Where: The Montalbán Theatre, 1615 Vine Street, Hollywood
Cost: $37 for children; $47 for adults
Santa has run away and joined the circus. No, not really, but Santa and Mrs. Claus have teamed up with acrobats and other performers for this holiday-themed big top show. Expect acrobatics, dancing, illusions, comedy and Santa, too.
South Lake Avenue Holidayfest
When: Noon-6 p.m. Dec. 2
Where: 401 S. Lake Avenue, Pasadena
The free holiday celebration will include carolers in costume, holiday characters such as such as Olaf, The Grinch, Frosty, Snoopy, The Abominable Snowman and the Cat in the Hat walking around. There will also be cookie and ornament-making stations and free photos with Santa. There’s also a lineup of bands that includes Fleetwood Mac tribute band Twisted Gypsy.
Union Station Tree
When: 8 a.m.-8 p.m. daily through Dec. 31
Where: Union Station, 800 N. Alameda Street, Los Angeles
Union Station is getting into the spirit of the holiday season with a majestic 30-foot tree on the South Patio. The tree has become a very popular selfie spot at the busy station, but people can also wander throughout the iconic station to check out more holiday lights.
Victorville Christmas Parade
When: 10 a.m.- 1 p.m. Dec. 2
Where: Seventh Street between La Paz and Forrest Drive
The Kiwanis Club of Victorville is hosting the 76th Annual Victorville Christmas Parade. This year’s theme is Christmas on Route 66, so expect floats, cars, bands and since it’s a Christmas parade, keep an eye out for Santa.
Winter Fest OC
When: Select dates Nov. 24- Jan. 7
Where: OC Fair & Event Center, 88 Fair Drive, Costa Mesa
Cost:$29.99-$79.99 online, $50-$110 at the gate
The OC Fair turns into a winter playland with an ice skating trail, a 150-foot-long, 9-lane ice tubing slide and real snow and a snowball throwing zone, too. For the little ones there’s a snow carousel and sledding and for the adult kids there’s the new holiday lounge where they can sip on seasonal cocktails, wine and beer.