The slide from Thanksgiving to Hanukkah to Christmas with pit stops in cookie baking land and present wrapping junction can leave you feeling more Grinchy than jolly. Plunge headlong into the holidays in a way that lights up every face in the house by taking a trip to see a dazzling holiday lights display. All of these sparkling spots will leave your kids shining with excitement (and the reflected glow of a million watts).
photo: Jamie Pham
Wild for Lights: Los Angeles Zoo
See the zoo come alive while most of the animals sleep (though you can catch the nocturnal creatures for once!) starting November 27 from 6-10 p.m. After the daytime crowds leave, the zoo transforms into a magical winter jungle with lights, lasers, 3D projections and interactive displays. Animated LED “monkeys” lead the way through various “only in Los Angeles” displays (including animals on a freeway). Giant floating snowflakes, weekend visits from Santa, holiday themed treats, and the only place in town to visit real reindeer make this an experience your family won’t forget. Admission is $13 for adults and $11 for children ages 2-12.
Learn more about Zoo Lights here.
photo: Downtown LA Walking Tour
Historical Holiday Shine: Downtown LA Walking Tour
Discover the center of the city in the brightest way. Lights, decorations, festivities and holiday cheer are everywhere you look when you take this special Holiday Lights walking tour of downtown. From a Nutcracker village to icicle sheets to Las Posadas to a bright ice rink and more, you’ll celebrate Chritsmas, Hanukkah and the bright lights of our big city. The tour is for everyone from kids to grandparents, and departs nightly from Nov. 28-Dec 30 at 6:30 p.m. Tickets are $15 for adults and free for kids. If the whole tour is too much, head to a spot where you can play at the playground (or in the fountain if it’s a warm day) until the sun sets, then watch as Grand Park magically comes alive with tons of twinkling lights for the holidays.
Learn more about the walking tour here.
Learn more about Grand Park’s holiday display here.
Storytime Walk: Wakefield Court, Saugus
BYOC (cocoa, peeps) to this winter wonderland in the northern Los Angeles area. You can drive or walk in and out of the glowing double cul-de-sacs which feature unique themes from Star Wars to Gingerbread House displays. Because of the self-guided Night Before Christmas story you can read along the route, it’s best on foot. There’s always a community charity drive (this year it’s to bring unwrapped toys for the local Boys and Girls Club). Weeknights are the least congested times to visit and the lights are on from 5-10:30 p.m.
photo: The Grove’s facebook page
The Biggest Tree: The Grove, Los Angeles
Complete with Santa and his reindeer streaking across the sky, The Grove shopping center in Mid-City is a great spot to see beautiful holiday lights. With Los Angeles’ largest Christmas tree and the fountain’s water show set to holiday tunes, this place is sure to elicit “oohs” and “ahhs” from your little ones. While you’re there you can try to catch Santa in his gingerbread-themed workshop. And if giant trees are your (Santa’s) bag, check out our list of the best tree lightings in town. Even if you miss the lighting ceremony, the trees all twinkle through Christmas.
Learn more about The Grove’s holiday display here.
Not So Sleepy: Sleepy Hollow Christmas Lights Extravaganza, Torrance
One of the more popular light displays on this list, the entire neighborhood comes out with lights, Christmas icons, and tons of holiday cheer. You’ll find this California winter wonderland at Robert Road off Pacific Coast Highway, north of Calle Mayor. This neighborhood comes out in full force for the holiday with groups touring the area in golf carts and local kids selling hot chocolate. Park and walk–traffic moves at a turtle’s pace.
A Beachy Display: Naples Island, Long Beach
If you are looking for a beachy Christmas vibe, check out the canals of Naples. Nestled in a Long Beach inlet, this tiny island provides some really splendid private home light displays, a Christmas Boat Parade on December 12, and a stunning view of the bay dotted with floating lighted Christmas trees. A great spot for an evening stroll, the waterfront walkways are child friendly, and there’s no traffic to worry about. Insider tip: another great Long Beach spot is Daisy Avenue, with their plethora of decorated Christmas Trees.
Learn more about the Naples Island Boat Parade here.
photo: Tea D. via Yelp
Drive By Lighting: Candy Cane Lane, Woodland Hills
This little West Valley neighborhood is a couple blocks, centered on the intersection of Oxnard Street and Lubao Avenue in Woodland Hills. It’s more of a stay-in-your-car adventure, but the closer you get to Christmas, the longer it can take (up to two hours), so plan on going early. Several houses sell hot chocolate and holiday snacks. This is a baby-friendly spot with lots of families walking with baby carriers and strollers.
Posh Electricity: Rodeo Drive, Beverly Hills
For a more glamorous excursion, check out the brightly lit storefronts and street displays on Rodeo Drive. Grab a hot chocolate and stroll south down Rodeo Drive starting at South Santa Monica Boulevard. Make sure you make it down to Rodeo Two, a pedestrian street between Dayton Way and Wilshire Boulevard, where you can catch Santa, the Mrs. or some carolers, depending on the night.
Check this list to see when you can catch Santa and singers on Rodeo.
Thematically, Spot On: Hastings Ranch, Pasadena
This Pasadena area neighborhood will be a sure hit with your little elves. Starting the first weekend of December, each block has its own theme—from Santa’s Toy Shop to a snowy Winter Wonderland. This is a large neighborhood with a ton to see, so driving is recommended. Most drivers go slowly so you can enjoy it as if you’re walking.
photo: Jen S. via Yelp
Oldie & Goodie: Christmas Tree Lane, Altadena
Purported to be the oldest large scale Christmas light display in the country, Altadena’s Christmas Tree Lane is sure to get you in the spirit. If you head out this way be sure to visit the Balian House, a 4-acre property and mansion with over 10,000 holiday lights and Christmas decorations.
A Majestic Stroll: Saint Albans Road, San Marino
Saint Albans is lined with tall majestic pines that are all bedecked in colored lights for the season. This old San Marino neighborhood will delight munchkins and grownups alike with its stately old California architecture all dressed up for the holidays. This is a short trek, so bundle up, park the car and take a stroll.
Tunnel of Lights: Yolanda Lights, Reseda
Located on the 7300 block of Yolanda Ave south of Valerio, this holiday light tunnel is ideal for those who want to walk, bike, blade, or take a stroller through a beautifully lit tunnel. Beginning November 28, it runs down both sides of the street, so there’s plenty of room for your little ones to go zooming through. Don’t forget to sign the photo guestbook at the end of your walk.
photo: Mission Inn
There’s Light at the Inn: Mission Inn, Riverside
The Festival of Lights at the Mission Inn Hotel features one of the nation’s largest holiday light displays of this kind. The castle-like, historic hotel is illuminated nightly with nearly 4 million holiday lights. There are also visits from Santa Claus, the world’s largest man-made mistletoe, horse-drawn carriage rides, freshly fallen snow, an elaborately decorated Christmas tree in the hotel lobby and tasty holiday confections at Casey’s Cupcakes in the Inn. You can also plan your visit to coincide with taking breakfast, brunch, or afternoon Tea with Santa, then skate the day away on the ice rink as you wait for darkness to fall and the lights to come alive.
Learn more about the holiday events at the Mission Inn here.
photo: Jo S. via yelp
A Desert Delight Worth the Drive: WildLights
The Living Desert’s WildLights Holiday Festival lights the desert zoo up with thousands of twinkling lights, dazzling displays, live music, festive games and activities. Get the lay of the land with a ride on the Holiday Express train, then delight kids with camel and carousel rides, Prancer’s Playland, Santa’s Corner, and Mrs. Claus’ Kitchen with hot chocolate, s’mores, holiday-themed Wildlife Wonder Shows and more. Spend the day and then the night, checking out the splendors of the desert with this only in LA outing. The lights come alive select nights through the end of the year from 6-9 p.m. Admission is $8-$10.
Learn more about the Living Desert’s WildLights Festival here.
Do you have a favorite spot to see festive lights? We want to hear about it!