Where to See Festive Christmas Lights in Los Angeles This Year (Including Drive-Thrus)

Christmas-in-la: Tanaka Farms light display
Facebook/Tanaka Farms

If you're celebrating the holidays in L.A this season, we’ve got a whole host of special drive-thru lights, festive experiences, Santa visits, and more to keep you and your loved ones entertained. From a family farm turned blazing light fest to a “snowstorm” in the heart of the city, here's where to see the most stunning Christmas lights in Los Angeles this year.

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christmas in la enchanted
Descanso Gardens

1. Enchanted Forest Of Light

  • Dates: Nov. 19 to Jan. 7
  • Walk or Drive? Walk
  • Cost: $45 adult, $30 child

Descanso Gardens in La Canada-Flintridge bathes a mile of its forests, meadows, and garden paths in arty interactive light installations. This year’s nondenominational fantasia will include crowd favorites from previous years, like an entire town of magical stained glass in the Rose Garden by contemporary sculptor Tom Fruin, swirling hanging lamps from HYBYCOZO on the main lawn, and dramatic lighting effects in the ancient forest and a pathway that lights up when you walk on it, created by internationally renowned creator Jen Lewin.

2. Newport Christmas Cruise

  • Dates: Parade (Dec. 14 to 17), Cruises (Dec 1 to 31)
  • Walk or Drive? Walk
  • Cost: Cruises: $36 Adult, $32 Child, $5 Infant

The Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade tradition began over 100 years ago with a dozen boats that set sail, strung with decorations by their owners. The parade will take place from December 14 through December 17, and you can watch from multiple public viewing spots on land. If you want to take the experience a step further, outside of those dates in December, you can view the parade from the water while you cruise alongside the elaborately decorated yachts. From December 1 to December 31, you can also take an evening cruise to enjoy a water-view of all the estates around the Newport Harbor that are decorated.

christmas in la calabasas cat

3. Holiday Road

  • Dates: Nov. 24 to Dec. 27
  • Walk or Drive? Walk
  • Cost: $25 to $40

The sprawling grounds of King Gillette Ranch in Malibu will be filled with eye-catching, twinkling lights and festive installations to welcome visitors as they meander through the winding outdoor trail. Guests will be transported into a winter wonderland complete with everything from the North Pole, Elf Village, Gingerbread Lane, light tunnels, and Christmas tree forests.

Where to See Christmas Lights L.A. - A bright teal and blue illuminated peacock stands against the dark night sky. Other illuminated figures shaped like plants are featured in the photo.
L.A. Zoo

4. Animals Aglow at the Los Angeles Zoo

  • Dates: Nov. 17 to Jan. 7
  • Walk or Drive? Walk
  • Cost: $32 Adult, $20 Child

While the animals of the L.A. Zoo are getting their beauty sleep, you can experience the L.A. Zoo Lights right on the grounds. Featuring incredible lantern sculptures of wild animals among plants and trees, this immersive display is a great way to celebrate the holidays and provides a ton of photo ops and delight for the littles. While outside food and beverages aren’t allowed, they do have them for sale inside the zoo.

5. Candy Cane Lane

  • Dates: Dec. 11 to New Year's
  • Walk or Drive? Drive
  • Cost: Free

Before the days of branded entertainment "experiences," there was an American small-town tradition of neighbors decorating their front yards with a Christmas creche, or, say, a wooden cutout of Saint Nick on his sleigh. What with one neighbor outdoing another, with more lights and ever-increasingly elaborate tableaux...behold, there was born the Christmas street. There are several in Southern Cali, and the one in Woodland Hills, Candy Cane Lane, is our favorite because it's been going on for 60 years on eight blocks around Lubao Avenue and Oxnard Street. Go just at sundown for the least-crowded time, and make a game of it with your family—who can spot the Santa hat–wearing minions first? How many Santas can you find? And what inspirations can you take back to your own home?

Where to See Christmas Lights L.A. - A number of people walk through the South Coast Botanic Astra Lumina attraction. It is surrounded by lots of trees and is illuminated with bright fuchsia lights.
South Coast Botanic Garden

6. South Coast Botanic Garden Astra Lumina

  • Dates: Nov. 9 to Dec. 31
  • Walk or Drive? Walk
  • Cost: $25 child, $29 seniors, $35 adult

Want to see something that's more artistic and less Santa-oriented? And maybe want to stretch your legs outside your car? Then. This. Experience. Has. Everything. At the South Coast Botanic Garden, you can buy a timed ticket to walk through the famously lush greenery, now transformed into visually stunning art installations that bring the magic of the starry skies down to Earth using thousands of lights. Your celestial walk is cued to an artistically curated soundtrack guiding you through this unique and unforgettable after-dark event.

7. 123 Farm

  • Dates: Nov. 9 to Jan. 7
  • Walk or Drive? Walk
  • Cost: Adults $12; Seniors, Students $8; Children 12 and under $4

If you’ve ever made the drive from L.A. to Coachella, you’ve passed 123 Farm. In Beaumont you’ll find this small farm tucked away from the 10 freeway where each winter guests flock to experience Christmas Nights. Buy a cup of cocoa from a life-sized gingerbread house, take horse-drawn carriage rides on select nights and take in over one million lights spread from the lavender fields to the oak trees and beyond. Just be sure to check traffic ahead of time, as it can be a significantly longer drive during peak hours.

christmas in la mission inn
The Mission Inn Hotel & Spa

8. Mission Inn Festival Of Lights

  • Dates: Nov. 18 to Jan. 7
  • Walk or Drive? Walk
  • Cost: Rooms from $195

What says California Christmas more than taking a refreshing plunge into a pool surrounded by the warm dusk air and 4.5 million twinkly lights? That's the plan at the Mission Inn Hotel & Spa in Riverside, the sprawling resort complex where all those lights, along with more than 400 animated toy soldiers and other seasonal elements, blaze for the holiday season. Seeing them up close is a great excuse for an overnight stay or just an evening meal so that you can stroll the grounds.

Where to See Christmas Lights L.A. - In a dark forested area, a low tunnel is illuminated by white twinkle lights. In between the trees are illuminated star shaped structures.
L.A. County Arboretum

9. Lightscape

  • Dates: Nov. 17 to Jan. 2
  • Walk or Drive? Walk
  • Cost: Adult from $29; Child from $14

This light exhibition at the L.A. County Arboretum has been re-imagined for the 2023 holiday season, with new nature-inspired installations such as a firey garden, extended arch of light, am eye-catching Feast of Light assemblage, dancing palms and other spectacles. Not to worry, selfie collectors: The fan-favorite crystalline cathedral made of light will return. You can grab a hot cocoa—or a hot toddy if that’s more your speed—to keep you warm as you explore the festive display.

10. Holiday Light Festival Train Ride

  • Dates: Nov. 24 to Jan. 7
  • Walk or Drive? Walk
  • Cost: $7 per person, $12 Priority Entry; Free for 18 months and younger

Just a stone’s throw away from the zoo, you can find Griffith Park’s annual Holiday Light Festival Train Ride. The ten-minute train ride around the one-mile track in Griffith Park has been transformed into festive scenes using thousands of lights. This year, there are also several themed photo-ready areas so you can show all your relatives that yes, you actually have holiday cheer.

11. Venice Canals

  • Dates: First Saturday in December
  • Walk or Drive? Walk
  • Cost: Free

If you haven’t been to the Venice Canals before, there’s no better time to check them out than around the holidays. This hidden gem on the Westside becomes even more charming when seasonal lights deck the bridges over the canals. Bring along a warm beverage and walk along the canals and through the neighborhood to see decorated homes too. It’s not quite the canals of Italy, but we’ll take it! For a charming community spectacle, arrive early to get parking on the first Saturday in December, when every year since 1983 locals hold a holiday boat parade. They put on festive costumes, decorate rowboats and paddleboards and gently parade along the waterways to the delight of assembled onlookers.

12. Christmas Tree Lane

  • Dates: Dec. 9 to Jan. 1
  • Walk or Drive? Drive
  • Cost: Free

At Christmas Tree Lane, an all-volunteer group lines nearly a mile of Santa Rosa Avenue in Altadena each year so that anyone who passes through can enjoy the holiday spirit. The tradition goes back a hundred years and is worth checking out if you’re nearby. You can park your car and walk the lane, or you can stay in your car and drive it if you’re not up for a walk. The lights are on every night in December from 5:30 p.m. until midnight.

13. Disneyland

  • Dates: Nov. 10 to Jan. 7
  • Walk or Drive? Walk
  • Cost: Tickets begin at $96/day

The happiest place on Earth is even happier when the holidays roll around. Disney doesn’t mess around with getting in the spirit of the season—they deck out the entire park, down to the rides themselves. You can experience the Haunted Mansion Holiday ride (think Nightmare Before Christmas), World of Color with a festive theme, the twice-daily Christmas Fantasy Parade, and so much more. And to really get your winter fix, stick around for the evening fireworks to see some snowfall.

14. Beverly Hills

  • Dates: Nov. 16 to Jan. 1
  • Walk or Drive? Both
  • Cost: Free

In LA, aside from the Hollywood Sign itself, it doesn’t get much more iconic than the sparkling streets of Beverly Hills. Window shop on Rodeo Drive under the glimmer of the lights and enjoy light installations all around the neighborhood—from sparkling light sculptures to a light show in the park and an“Unwrap the Magic” projection show viewable nightly every half hour from 6 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. on the Beverly Hills City Hall Tower. 

15. Winter Fest OC

  • Dates: Nov. 24 to Jan. 7
  • Walk or Drive? Walk
  • Cost: $20

If you’re up for a short drive south, the OC Fair & Event Center is transformed into a winter wonderland from November 25 to January 1. Along with ice skating, an ice tubing slide, a holiday market, and a snowboard simulator, you’ll find over one million lights surrounding you. With games, food and drinks, and tons of holiday activities, you can easily spend a whole day enjoying Winter Fest OC.

16. Upper Hastings Ranch

  • Dates: Dec. 10 to Dec. 31
  • Walk or Drive? Drive
  • Cost: Free

This tradition began in 1951 when a few Ranch families decorated their driveways with luminaria (paper bags with candles) to guide Santa Claus. It continued when a homeowner created the first wooden display and the friendly competition began. Today, expect musical performances from residents, personal appearances by Mr. and Mrs. Claus and other special surprises on these themed streets. All this, while Pasadena is busily prepping for its New Year's Day Parade of Roses—well done!

17. Hikari - Festival of Lights

  • Dates: Nov. 24 to Dec. 31
  • Walk or Drive? Walk, wagon ride
  • Cost: Adults from $25, children from $15

At Tanaka Farms in Irvine, what was once a drive-thru-only light display has grown into a full-blown winter festival. Now, your ticket will include a wagon ride and access to even more areas accessible by foot. With food, games, arts and crafts, photo ops and more, Hikari is more than just an exquisite display of lights—there’s even live music on Friday through Sunday nights!

18. Snow at The Grove

  • Dates: Nov. 13 to Dec. 31
  • Walk or Drive? Walk
  • Cost: Free

Ah, The Grove. Every Angeleno has a healthy dose of fear of that parking garage, but for those brave enough to face their fears will be rewarded with fabulous shopping, a great farmers’ market, and Christmas spirit to boot. With a towering Christmas tree and lights everywhere you turn, it’s the perfect place to get your holiday light fix while also getting some Christmas shopping done—and if you happen to find the perfect present for yourself, we aren’t judging. Make sure you stick around to see the snow, which falls at 7 and 8 p.m. each night until December 31.

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Senior Editor

Dana Dickey is a PureWow Senior Editor, and during more than a decade in digital media, she has scoped out and tested top products and services across the lifestyle space...

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