Where to See Festive Christmas Lights in L.A. This Year (Including Drive-Thrus)
If you're celebrating the holidays in L.A. this year, we’ve got a whole host of special drive-thru lights, festive shows, Santa visits and more to keep you and your loved ones entertained. From a tunnel of lights in Arcadia to ice skating in the glittering Dodger Stadium outfield, here's where to see the most stunning Christmas lights in L.A. this year.
1. World of Illumination
You're cruising in your car with the sun roof open in Arcadia, but your view is decidedly polar in this attraction, which runs from November 17 to December 2. You and your passengers will be enjoying over 350 North Pole-themed light installations at this mile-long stretch of Reindeer Road, and the creators have synchronized music to tune into on your radio to really get into the spirit.
2. Dodgers Holiday Festival
Sports fans, meet ice skaters. That's the plan at the Dodgers Holiday Festival, where the team has made over parts of its stadium to accommodate an ice skating rink, holiday light installations and photos with Santa in the bullpen. It's on from November 26 to December 31.
3. The Elf on the Shelf Magical Elf Journey
Described as an immersive theatrical production, this is an hour-long walk-thru show in Pomona, in which the Elf on the Shelf saves Christmas by going on a journey to repair Santa's sled. There are tons of acrobatic elves (wearing masks, of course) running around in a toy repair workshop and gingerbread villages, with Santa and his sleigh available for a photo op. You're encouraged to dress festively, and you'll need to bring a smartphone (though some loaners will be available on site) to follow along in English or Spanish. (Open now through January 2.)
4. Santa's Speedway Christmas Lights Drive-Thru Spectacular
Picture this: You're driving on an actual NASCAR track for the holidays when the Irwindale Speedway is transformed into a magical display of lights and attractions, including a record-setting Christmas Tree of lights towering over 110 feet (um, that's 10 stories high). You drive past a village of Santa's elves busily creating toys, then on the half-turn there's a land of giant-sized holiday sweets (aka, 20-foot high lollipops). There's also a 700-foot long sea of lights and a "camping Christmas" where RV enthusiasts have created a campground in festive lights and decorations. This is all from the people who do up The Grove, Universal Studios and Warner Brothers for the holidays, so you know you're going to get a no-holds-barred and profesh light show. Open on November 26 through January 2.
5. Enchanted Forest of Lights
From November 21 to January 9, Descanso Gardens in La Canada-Flintridge bathes a mile of its forests, meadows and garden paths in arty interactive light installations. New this year in this nondenominational fantasia will be an entire town of magical stained glass in the rose garden by contemporary sculptor Tom Fruin; crowd favorites from previous years include giant sparkling, swirling hanging lamps from HYBYCOZO on the main lawn, 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.
6. Holiday Road
From December 3 to 31, 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.
7. Candy Cane Lane
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-cut out 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?
8. South Coast Botanic Garden Glow
Want to see something that's more artistic and less Santa-oriented? And maybe want to stretch your legs outside your auto? Then. This. Experience. Has. Everything. At the South Coast Botanic Garden from November 20 to January 17, you can buy a timed ticket to walk through the famously lush greenery, now transformed into visually stunning art installations depicting an oceanic experience using thousands of lights. Your walk is cued to an artistically curated soundtrack guiding you through this unique and unforgettable after-dark event featuring original electropop created for GLOW by DJ Jerzy, as well as Baja surf music, Vivaldi and the band Train.
9. Newport Christmas Cruise
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. While last year, the actual parade of boats was canceled due to COVID-19, this year you can board a boat from December 3 to January 2 and enjoy a water-view of all the estates around the Newport Harbor that are decorated. It's a return to an open-air, and very Christmasy, celebration of the season.
10. Mission Inn Festival of Lights
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, are lit in a big annual ceremony. While this year the lighting ceremony is cancelled, the lights are still up until January 6, and it's a great excuse for an overnight stay or just an evening meal so that you can stroll the grounds.
Starting early (November 12) and ending late in the season (January 16), this new light exhibition at the L.A. County Arboretum includes a stroll through a cathedral made of light, a garden alive with fire and a pocket of shiny, disco-ball hung trees populated by silvery humanoids. We especially appreciated the nice SoCal touch of lighted lotus blossoms in a pond.
Want to discover more fun things to do in LA this holiday season? Sign up to our newsletter here.