10 Family Friendly Ways to Celebrate the Festive Season in Los Angeles

November 13, 2018
November 13, 2018 Hilary

10 Family Friendly Ways to Celebrate the Festive Season in Los Angeles

California Adventure Christmas

I love the holiday season and the magical transformation that happens when cities are festooned with millions of twinkling lights. I look forward to their warm glow and the festive feelings they bring all year long. It did take me a few years to get used to celebrating in a warm climate, but I’ve since decided it’s just as magical. From over the top festive theme parks and ice skating to neighborhoods dripping with Christmas lights and boat parades here are 10 family friendly way to celebrate the festive season in Los Angeles.

Pacific Palisades Holiday Lights #losangeleschristmas

Palisades Neighborhood Los Angeles

The Disneyland Resort

It’s no secret I love visiting the Disneyland Resort, but my favorite time to visit is during the Christmas Season when The Happiest Place on Earth becomes the Merriest Place on Earth. Each of the 5 lands as well as Main Street are adorned with themed decorations and treats and millions of glittering lights are hung throughout both parks.

Christmas Disneyland California #disneychristmas

Disneyland USA


Daily activities within the park include a tree lighting ceremony, nightly fireworks with snow, festive light shows and holiday parades. In addition to all of this many of the Park’s attractions have special holiday overlays including, Sleeping Beauty’s Castle, The Haunted Mansion, and It’s A Small World.

Christmas Disneyland California #mainstreetusaholiday

Main Street USA Disneyland Holiday

Sleeping Beauty’s Castle
Holiday at Disneyland #disneylandchristmas

Sleeping Beauty Castle Holiday

It’s A Small World Holiday
Christmas Disneyland California #smallworldholiday

It’s A Small World Holiday

Christmas Fantasy Parade
Christmas Disneyland California #disneyholidayparade

Holiday Dreams Parade Disneyland

From the spires atop Sleeping Beauty’s Castle to the peppermint beignets and masks in New Orlean’s Square to the jungle trees in Adventure Land and even the balloons no detail has been forgotten.

Visit Santa in Critter Country

If an annual visit to Santa Clause is one of your family’s holiday traditions your kids might enjoy visiting him at his Critter Country cottage. Though he is competing with Winnie the Pooh, who happens to live just next door. My boys and I lucked out when we noticed Santa’s line was shorter than Pooh’s and decided to check this tradition off our to do list early.

Santa Claus 2018 Disneyland California

Santa’s Critter Country Cottage Disneyland

The World of Disney

If you’re looking for something to bring home you’ll find everything you could ever want and more inside the World of Disney including Mickey ears, toys, t-shirts, pajamas, frames, mugs, bakeware and even dishes and luggage. I admit to picking up an ornament or two…

World of Disney Disneyland California #worldofdisney

World of Disney

Disney’s California Adventure

Season’s Speedings from Cars Land in Disney’s California Adventure where the holiday decorations are both beautiful and unique.

California Adventure Holiday Disneyland California #seasonsspeedings

Season’s Speedings

You’ll find everything from traditional sparkling Christmas trees and big red bows to festive fortune cookies, carburetor garlands and traffic cone trees during your visit.

All these gorgeous decorations make for great photo opportunities all you have to do is get the kids to sit still and smile…

All the treats have been given holiday makeovers as well. We wanted to give you the full scoop (pun intended), so we sampled as many as we could including, a peppermint flavored ice cream cone in a peppermint chocolate dipped waffle cone, a triple chocolate ice cream bar, peppermint beignets, festive chocolate brownies, and vanilla cupcakes filled with chocolate treats.

The Disney Resort Festive Holiday celebration runs from  to , 2019. 

Universal Studios Hollywood

Universal Studios is not just a theme park, but a working movie studio as well, and as you can imagine they pull out all the stops during the festive season. Each area of the park has its own holiday theme including the famous Studio Tour, which is full of fun surprises, and of course there’s the Butterbeer, which can be enjoyed in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter all year round, but feels very much like a holiday treat, especially when its hot.

Universal Studios Grinchmas #grinchmas #universalstudioshollywood

Whoville Christmas Tree Universal Studios

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter

If you aren’t therealready, the snowy rooftops in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter will get you in the winter spirit.

Wizarding World of Harry Potter Universal Studios

Wizarding World of Harry Potter

Venice Canals Boat Parade

Have you heard of the famous Venice Canals? No, not that other city in Italy with canals, these are the ones in Los Angeles. Did you know we have our own? Normally a quiet residential neighborhood every December the Venice Canals come alive with merriment when they hold their annual festive boat parade and neighborhood decorating contest. This will be the 35th year!

Venice Canals Holiday Venice California #venicecanals

Venice Canals Boat Parade

This year’s Venice Canals Boat Parade will take place on Sunday, December 9th.

Christmas Displays

Even palm trees take on the spirit of the winter season when wrapped in twinkling lights. An evening drive to view the holiday lights is a favorite annual tradition in our family, and there are no shortage of stunning displays around Los Angeles.

The Venice Sign

Originally hung across Windward Avenue at Pacific by Abbot Kinney himself, this current version was installed in 2007. Most often lit with traditional white marquee lights, the Venice Sign changes throughout the year in support of various events and holidays.

Venice Sign Venice California #venicesign #christmasinlosangeles

Venice Sign

Santa Monica Pier

My favorite time to visit the Santa Monica Pier is at night when it’s all lit up. The Ferris Wheel at Pacific Park is festive all year round, but especially during the holidays. Not only that, but the Pier boasts the only over water Roller Coaster in the world.

The Santa Monica Pier Sign #santamonicapier

The Santa Monica Pier

The Santa Monica Pier is open 24 hours a day 365 days a year, but check with individual businesses for their specific hours of operation.

WinterLit at the Third Street Promenade

Santa Monica’s Winterlit celebration will take place throughout the downtown area with many of the activities taking place in or near the Third Street Promenade. The Promenade is a vibrant pedestrian friendly shopping and dinning area in the heart of Santa Monica. Last year’s celebration included an interactive art exhibition by the duo DABS MYLA.

DABSMYLA Holiday Santa Monica Place Santa Monica California


This year promises to be just as special. The Downtown streets and trees are lined with thousands of colorful lights and if that isn’t enough visitors will be treated to the occasional “snow” flurry.

Hanukkah will be celebrated with gatherings under the promenade’s giant menorah.

DABSMYLA Holiday Santa Monica Place Santa Monica California


Menorah lightings will take place on the 1300 block of the Promenade from December 2 – December 9 at 6pm.

The light show will take place along the 1200 block of the Promenade daily every half hour from 5:00 pm – 10:00 pm November 19 – January 21. Other activities include outdoor films throughout the season, an official tree lighting with Santa on November 30, crafts for children, and so much more. Check the Winterlit website for more information.

Ice Skating at Santa Monica

Ice the city’s annual skating rink is located just two blocks from the Third Street Promenade. Before you hit the ice, get in the spirit with a cup of warm cocoa, or if you prefer a scoop of ice cream at the rink’s snack bar. Don’t worry if you’re not ready for a triple Salchow, or don’t own skates. All skill levels are welcome and skates are available for rental. There is even a tiny rink for the littles.

Ice Skating Santa Monica California #santamonicaiceskating

Ice Santa monica

Ice is located on the corner of Fifth Street and Arizona Avenue. The season runs from November 3 – January 21, 2019.

Holiday Beach Bike Ride & Street Art Hunt

Always on the hunt for art I was delighted when we discovered holiday themed art while  on our annual holiday beach bicycle ride. Our favorites are The Grinch yarn bombs by the artist Made By London, which have popped up every year. We can’t wait to see what her Grinch will be up to this season.

Holiday Shopping

You’re in luck if holiday shopping is on your to do list, because Los Angeles has no shortage of shopping opportunities. The Grove and Century City in Los Angeles, the Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica and Abbot Kinney in Venice are just a few of your options. You might be interested to know that The Grove’s Christmas tree is one of America’s tallest.

Pin for later:

Family Friendly Christmas in Los Angeles #familytravel #disneylandchristmas #familyholiday #christmasinlosangeles   Christmas in Los Angeles

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I love to travel & explore the world both near and far! I do my best to make the most out of life each and everyday! I have two boys and they are, at the ages of 13 and 18, world travelers and all around go along guys. There isnt anywhere I cant take them. It is my hope this blog will be a way to share the fun things Ive learned while on our many adventures together!

Comments (44)

  1. I’m sure I’d struggle celebrating Christmas in a warm climate. Disney looks amazing, I bet the atmosphere is incredible and I like the look of the Venice canal parade too. The nearest I’ve come to Christmas in LA is a visit to Santa Claus Lane near Carpenteria in January! Great photos #farawayfiles

  2. Lyn

    We love Christmas and LA looks like a great place to celebrate. It’s a small world would be top of my list to see.

  3. Looks brilliant. Christmas with blue skies is novel! Disney do everything brilliantly. We visited Disney Paris one Christmas and really loved it despite it being freezing! Wilbur #farawayfiles

    • Hilary

      Paris at Christmas must be so beautiful! We went to Disneyland Paris once and it reminded me a lot of Seattle weather, so must be cold at Christmas.

  4. It never even crossed my mind to visit Disney during the holiday season! I kept looking at your photos and thinking “Imagine having to put up all of those decorations!” You’d never complain about all the work that goes into putting the Christmas tree up at home ever again! #FarawayFiles

    • Hilary

      Even more unbelievable they put most of them up in one night! My son complains about putting up the lights every year… this year we got an artificial prelit tree. 😳

  5. Clare Thomson

    I think lights make everything magical. I’d be tempted to have fairy lights in our house all year round if I didn’t think it would make Christmas seem a little less special. You’ve made Christmas in LA sound so much fun. #farawayfiles

    • Hilary

      I completely agree about lights. They make everything more magical. I’d love to have them in the yard all year long.

  6. This brings back so many memories! We celebrated Christmas in L.A. a few years back. Quite an experience for us, Europeans, to take part in the festive season in a warm climate but we loved every moment. Disneyland is indeed magical that time of the year and it seems to have gotten even better, judging from your gorgeous photos! The Christmas vibe at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter looks wonderful too, would love to visit one day.. #FarawayFiles

    • Hilary

      We love butterbeer, but I admit we love the rides more at Disneyland. I always feel sick after the rides at Universal.

  7. I’ve only passed through Los Angeles on the way to other places – I’ll definitely check out these Xmas delights next time I’m on the west coast in the festive season! #farawayfiles

    • Hilary

      I LOVE LA, so I always wonder how anyone could just pass through! You must come back, but anytime of the year works!

  8. Oh the lights! Don’t you just wish they could leave them up the whole year!? I love that about the Venice canal boats – there’s a similar things happens here on Boxing Day in the nearby town of Matlock, it’s so much fun! I cannot imagine the Christmas holidays in warm weather tho – very strange! #farawayflies

    • Hilary

      Warm winter holidays definitely took some getting used, but we’ve managed. I LOVE the lights and never get tired of them!

  9. Celebraring the holidays in a warm climate. I have never done that, but every year I think… why not? Too bad most tickets for the holiday season to warm destinations are so expensive from Europe!!

    • Hilary

      It’s expensive from here too, that’s why we often end up staying put over the holiday season and save travel for summer. I wish airfares were more accessible. Hopefully you’ll get to experience it one day…

  10. It is such a magical time of year and the theme parks really know how to celebrate and put on a show. I don’t think it matters how old you are, the atmosphere will melt anyone’s heart.
    Loving the look of ‘Cars Land’, we’ve only been to Disney at Florida. #farawayfiles

    • Hilary

      I agree with you wholeheartedly! We love Cars Land and it’s especially beautiful at night with all the neon!

  11. I love all the lights at Disneyland. It must makes Christmas special in the warm weather. I’m used to a summer weather winter down under. Holiday season is filled with BBQs and beach time.

    • Hilary

      Yes, it’s all a matter of what you’ve grown up with isn’t it? For example: I’ve always loved umbrellas and still do, thats the Seattle in me, but haven’t really needed one in almost 20 years!

  12. I’ve always wondered what it would be like to celebrate Christmas with no snow, being from the ultimate Winter Wonderland 🙂 The light installations you have over there do not hold back!! I might find the Christmas spirit after all 🙂 #farawayfiles

    • Hilary

      Yes, the lights add so much to the feeling of winter and Christmas spirit don’t they? And I’m not even Christian, but I adore everything about how magical it looks! ha ha!

  13. afamilydayout

    I think I’d struggle to be Christmassy in the warmth and sun – too used to winter weather! That said it looks like there is so much to do I guess I’d soon get into the spirit – the boat parade definitely sounds like something I’d enjoy. #farawayfiles

    • Hilary

      The boat parade is really special as it’s a neighborhood event with families and small boats and homemade decorations! Such a lovely family night out and so festive!

  14. I do enjoy a serious show of lights around Christmas time, and I can well imagine that Disney and the like pull out all the stops, which would be something indeed to see. Cool!

  15. I couldn’t help thinking of Lalaland seeing your pictures of palm trees covered in twinkle lights! Having been to Disneyland Paris for the first time ever only a couple of months ago, I’m sure they do Christmas to perfection. So any lights, it’s mind-boggling! Love the photo of the “Winter is canceled” street art lol

    • Hilary

      One of my favorite pieces I’ve stumbled upon. Such a cute idea. Disney certainly does know how to do it up, don’t they! Did you enjoy Disneyland Paris?

    • Hilary

      It definitely took me a few years to get used to it, but I admit I don’t mind the warmer weather!

  16. Beth

    Gah! You had me at Disney! I haven’t even been there during the holiday season, but I love that place and know I would be in heaven if I could swing a trip near Christmas. This sounds like the perfect guide if spending December in LA, which for many out-of-towners is probably a change due to the climate. It took me some adjusting to palm trees and warm temps when I lived in FL compared to more seasonal weather in north GA. But those palm trees are amazing covered in lights, and Santa didn’t seem to be bothered! #farawayfiles

    • Hilary

      It’s definitely one of the more beautiful displays of Christmas festivity I’ve ever seen! Disney just knows what they are doing!

  17. Christmas at Disneyland is so much fun, but I never thought about visiting Universal Studios at Christmas! It’s so pretty and now definitely on my radar, plus I haven’t been since I was 5 and Jaws was the main attraction haha

    • Hilary

      I think Christmas is the only time to visit Universal. Ha ha! Sounds like a return trip to Cali is in order!

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