Family-Friendly Holiday Celebrations in California
Not to miss holiday festivities for the family By Mimi Slawoff
Reindeer Romp and Zoo Lights at the LA Zoo (Los Angeles Zoo and Botanical Gardens)
Dazzling lights displays, boat parades and Santa Claus are coming to town bringing holiday cheer and even snow (some real, some fake) at theme parks from Thanksgiving to New Year’s in Southern California.
Here’s a sampling of fun holiday activities to enjoy with kids in southern California.
Original Farmers Market, Los Angeles
Eat, shop and be merry at L.A.’s famous market Dec. 19 - 24. Enjoy free seasonal music, strolling caroler and decorated shops and food stalls. Notice that the ornaments on the Christmas tree are miniature versions of the Farmers Market green wooden shopping cart. There’s also a Hanukkah celebration featuring songs, children’s crafts and the construction of a giant Lego menorah on Dec. 21.
Reindeer Romp and Zoo Lights, Los Angeles Zoo
Hear sleigh bells ringing, meet Santa and his reindeer, make holiday crafts and take photos Nov. 28, 2014 – Jan. 4, 2015. Come sundown, Zoo Lights brightens the zoo with illuminated animal decorations and family-friendly activities under the stars.
Rodeo Drive Holiday Lights, Beverly Hills
Carolers on Rodeo Drive (Flickr: Prayitno)
This posh neighborhood celebrates the holidays with 16 full-size Baccarat chandeliers, iridescent palm trees and nearly 150,000 lights between Santa Monica and Wilshire Bouelvards, The Beverly Hills Lighting Ceremony, complete with fireworks, takes place at 6 pm Nov. 23. Santa and Mrs. Claus are coming to town Dec. 6 and will visit with kids on weekends until Christmas. A Menorah Lighting Event happens at 7:30 pm Dec. 16.
Breakfast with Santa, Descanso Gardens, La Canada-Flintridge
Share a jolly morning and breakfast buffet with Santa at 9:30 and 11:30 am Dec. 20 and 21. $50 adult, $29 ages 12 and younger). Children three and younger eat free. New this year: an unlimited mimosa bar for $35 each. Reservations required: www.patinagroup.com/descanso. Deadline: Tuesday, Dec. 16.
“Holidays Around the World” Boat Parade, Ventura
Lights and boats at the Ventura Harbor (Ventura Harbor Village)
See more than 35 boats decked out in yuletide cheer followed by nightly fireworks Dec. 12 and 13. The Ventura Harbor Village and promenade will be decorated with lights, sea creatures and a floating holiday tree from Thanksgiving through New Year’s Day.
Holiday Trains at Fillmore & Western Railway, Fillmore
All aboard three different holiday trains that lead to holiday cheer, meals and shopping. On the North Pole Express, kids can share your Christmas wish list with Santa Nov. 29 – Dec. 23. The Christmas Tree train brings families to a lot where you can select and cut the perfect tree. Bring your camera for photos with St. Nick on the Dinner with Santa train Dec. 12 and 19. Enjoy a hearty dinner of turkey, ham, potatoes, vegetables and dessert.
IlluminOcean, Dana Point Harbor, Dana Point
IlluminOcean in Dana Point (IllumOcean)
This innovative and free festival features18 huge sea sculptures, 40 nights of lights, moving light tunnels, sounds, special effects, carolers, crafts and photos with Santa (on select days) Nov. 26, 2014 - Jan. 4, 2015 at the Dana Point Harbor. While in town, watch the annual Boat Parade of Lights on weekends in December.
Holiday Walking Tours, Venice
Vintage Venice Reel to Real Tours leads a holiday lights walking tour through the Historic Canal District home to 1920s bungalows, mansions and decorated bridges. See the area’s resident ducks in the Linnie Canal Park, and lights from homes and bridges reflected in canal waters. The 3.5-hour tours operate daily (excluding Christmas and New Year’s) from Dec. 13, 2014 – Jan. 4, 2015. $40 per person.
Solvang, Santa Barbara
California’s Little Denmark twinkles in celebration of Julefest (pronounced Yule-fest), a Danish holiday tradition. See the Julefest Tree Lighting Ceremony at 5 p.m. Dec. 5 in Solvang Park.
Riverside Festival of Lights, Riverside
Riverside Festival of Lights at Mission Inn (Flickr: Pyro Spectaculars by Souza)
Historic Mission Inn Hotel & Spa is draped with about 3.5 million lights. Dickens' carolers sing from the balconies and more than 400 animated figures decorate the surrounding area. Staying at the inn? The inn offers special holiday packages for all budgets.
Hotel del Coronado, San Diego
This SoCal icon put San Diego on the map in 1904 with the first electronically lit, outdoor Christmas tree. Today, Lighting of The Del kicks off the holiday season with 100,000-plus twinkling lights along rooflines, turrets, dormers and balconies, and California’s only outdoor ice skating rink that overlooks the Pacific Ocean from Thanksgiving through Jan. 4, 2015. Skating lessons offered daily.