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.
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.
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.
Sleeping Beauty’s Castle
It’s A Small World Holiday
Christmas Fantasy Parade
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.
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…
Disney’s California Adventure
Season’s Speedings from Cars Land in Disney’s California Adventure where the holiday decorations are both beautiful and unique.
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.
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.
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!
This year’s Venice Canals Boat Parade will take place on Sunday, December 9th.
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.
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 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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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Kids of the Wild
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
Ooh! We’ve been to Santa Claus Lane! LA is pretty neat this time of year, but also very LA! Ha ha!
Kids of the Wild
We surfed off the beach there I think which felt very LA!
Yes, surfing is VERY LA!
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.
We love Small World Christmas It’s very very festive inside and out!
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
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.
Whoops you did mention it’s cold! Brrr…
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
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. 😳
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
I completely agree about lights. They make everything more magical. I’d love to have them in the yard all year long.
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
passion fruit, paws and peonies
Harry Potter world looks fantastic! I’d love that so much. Whereas I’m waiting for Grandchildren to go back to Disney, HP is good with even my grownup kids who would still love it haha! Maria xx
We love butterbeer, but I admit we love the rides more at Disneyland. I always feel sick after the rides at Universal.
Emma | Ladies What Travel
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
I LOVE LA, so I always wonder how anyone could just pass through! You must come back, but anytime of the year works!
Alex - My LIfe Long Holiday
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
Warm winter holidays definitely took some getting used, but we’ve managed. I LOVE the lights and never get tired of them!
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!!
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…
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
I agree with you wholeheartedly! We love Cars Land and it’s especially beautiful at night with all the neon!
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.
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!
Niche Travel Design - Shelley Jarvis
Disneyland is always fun. It would be even better at Christmas. Thanks for sharing. #farawayfiles
I agree! It’s especially magical at Christmas!
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
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!
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
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!
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!
We love glitz and glamour here in LA! Lots and lots of lights!
Megan - TMK
I wouldn’t necessarily think to go to LA at Christmas, but this blog post is telling me I maybe should! #farawayfiles
Yes! It’s very festive!!
Four Acorns / Quatre graines de chêne
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
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?
Ladies What Travel (@LadiesWTravel)
Wow, so many lights! I’ve never experienced Christmas in a warm climate, I think it would be a bit strange to me, but I have to say it does look pretty darn inviting there! #FarawayFiles
It definitely took me a few years to get used to it, but I admit I don’t mind the warmer weather!
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
It’s definitely one of the more beautiful displays of Christmas festivity I’ve ever seen! Disney just knows what they are doing!
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
I think Christmas is the only time to visit Universal. Ha ha! Sounds like a return trip to Cali is in order!