From the unique beauty of lit-up palm trees to a zoo full of technicolor animals, there’s nowhere quite like LA when it comes to dazzling holiday light displays. And while there are dozens of twinkling displays across the city to check out across the city, we’ve pulled together the best spots that are guaranteed to leave your family glowing through the New Year. Scroll down to find your favorites.
photo: Shahrzad Warkentin
1. Garden of Lights: Enchanted: Forest of Lights
Descanso Gardens lights up its lush landscape for the second year in a row with their one-of-a-kind holiday light display called, Enchanted: Forest of Lights. Beginning Nov. 19 and running through Jan. 7, the light show features several interactive displays. Our favorite? The Symphony of Oaks walk-through exhibit, which lets you manipulate lights and sounds in the garden’s historical Oak Grove. Pro Tip: Make sure to bring the stroller for little ones. Tickets are $28 per person while kids under 2 are free. Timed entries run from 5-10 p.m. each evening. This is a popular event with peak times already selling out, so if you’re hoping to go this year, get your tickets ASAP. Bonus: Special entry tickets also include a dinner reservation at Maple restaurant.
Dates: Nov. 19-Jan. 7
Times: 5-10 p.m.
Cost: $28, kids 2 and under are free
1418 Descanso Dr.
La Cañada Flintridge
photo: Jamie Pham
2. 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!) Nov. 17–Jan. 7 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 LA displays (including animals on a freeway). A black light party in the LAIR reptile house, 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. This is only the third year of Zoo Lights, and it’s extra special as it kicks off the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Zoo so there will be new features like the new light waterfall and shadow puppet installation.
Dates: Nov. 17-Jan. 7
Times: 6-10 p.m.
Cost: $10-$19.95, kids 2 and under are free
5333 Zoo Dr.
3. All Aboard!: Griffith Park Holiday Lights Train Ride
Climb aboard the Griffith Park Railroad for a magical train ride after dark. From Nov. 24-Dec. 30 (closed Dec. 24 and 25) the miniature Southern Railroad train (not to be mistaken with the Travel Town railway right around the corner) glows with displays made up of thousands of twinkling lights. The first ride departs at 5 p.m. and the last one runs at 8 p.m., Monday through Thursday and 9 p.m. Friday through Sunday.
Dates: Nov. 24-Dec. 30
Times: 5-8 p.m. (Fri-Sun until 9 p.m.)
Cost: $4, 18 months and under are free
4400 Crystal Springs Dr.
photo: Downtown LA Walking Tour
4. 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 Christmas, Hanukkah and the bright lights of our big city. The tour is for everyone from kids to grandparents, and departs nightly from Nov. 25-Dec. 30 at 6:30 p.m. Tickets are $17 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.
Date: Nov. 25-Dec. 30
Time: 6:30 p.m.
Cost: $17 for adults, kids are free
800 N. Alameda St.
photo: may grace A. via Yelp
5. 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 bring unwrapped toys for the local Boys and Girls Club). Weeknights are the least congested times to visit.
Dates: This is a neighborhood display so there no set dates, but typically runs from Dec. 1 through Christmas.
Times: 5:30-10 p.m.
Wakefield Court between Seco and Haskell Canyon off Copper Hill Drive and Courtland in Saugus, CA
photo: Lea N. via Yelp
6. 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. Your drought-tolerant tots will be especially ecstatic to experience the “snowfall” that happens every night at 7 p.m. and then again at 8 p.m. 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 from Nov. 15 through Christmas.
Dates: Nov. 13- Dec. 25
Times: Nightly, with snowfalls at 7 p.m. and 8 p.m.
189 The Grove Dr.
photo: Damaris E. via Yelp
7. Candy Cane Lane: South Bay Edition
Not to be confused with the Candy Cane Lane in Woodland Hills, or Sleepy Hollow in neighboring Torrance. This El Segundo neighborhood along the 1200 block of Acacia Street lights up with unique home displays and has been since 1949. You’ll need to park your car and walk through, but it’s a short few blocks so nothing little legs can’t handle. The walk is well worth it when kids get to meet Santa waiting in his sleigh at the end of the street. This year’s display will be up starting in mid-December and run nightly from 7-9 p.m. through Christmas. Santa makes his appearance most nights, but the line can get long to say hello and take pictures so try to arrive early.
Dates: This is a neighborhood display so there are no set dates, but typically runs from early Dec. through Christmas
Times: 7-9 p.m.
1200 block of Acacia St.
8. 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 and churros. Park and walk—traffic moves at a turtle’s pace.
Dates: This is a neighborhood display so there are no set dates, but typically runs from the second weekend in Dec. through Dec. 23
Times: 6:30-9 p.m.
Robert Road off Pacific Coast Highway, north of Calle Mayor
9. A Prize Winner: Lights On Display
If your family is a fan of The Great Christmas Light Fight on ABC, then you’ll want to tune in to this awesome light display in Sherman Oaks that was a winner on the show. What makes this display truly unique are the homemade animatronic characters and the light-synchronized concert. While it’s just a single home destination, it has an incredible amount of detail to check out, from dancing snowmen to jolly Santa himself, you could spend a good hour taking it all in. The house at 3901 Longview Valley Road lights up for the season on Nov. 24 and puts on a show nightly from 5–10 p.m.
Dates: Nov. 24-Dec. 25
Times: 5-10 p.m.
3901 Longview Valley Rd.
10. Lights With a Bang: Marina del Rey Boat Parade and Fireworks
Fireworks aren’t just for the 4th of July. During the holidays they make a dazzling start to a parade of twinkling lights on the water. This year marks the 55th anniversary of the Marina del Rey Holiday Boat Parade. Make a full day of it by enjoying some playtime in the “snow” from noon to 6 p.m. at “Snow Wonder” in Burton Chace Park. From there you can grab the best spot in the house to watch the fireworks display that goes off from 5:55 – 6 p.m. followed by the parade of boats draped in lights until 8 p.m. Pack your jackets and blankets because it definitely gets chilly once the sun goes down.
Date: Dec. 9
Times: 5:55-8 p.m.
Burton Chace Park
13650 Mindanao Way
Marina del Rey
photo: The Getty Center
11. Artistic Lighting: Illuminate Your Holidays at The Getty Center
It’s impossible to believe The Getty Center can get any more beautiful than it already is, but when the sky grows dark and the holiday lights turn on, the view becomes even more breathtaking. Starting after Thanksgiving, stay a little later at the Getty on Saturday nights and you’ll be treated to a serene light show where the trees light up with twinkling white lights and snowflakes are projected on the walls. This is the perfect spot for a more calm and quiet experience if you’d rather avoid a big crowd. Saturday nights the Getty is open until 9 p.m. so you can stay up past bedtime and enjoy the lights a little longer. Get a cocoa from the carts and relax. While the trees are lit up every night, if you want to see the projected lights, stick with Saturdays.
Dates: The lights start Thanksgiving weekend and last through December
Times: The moving lights are only on Saturdays after dark
Cost: Entry to the Getty is always free, but parking is $15
1200 Getty Center Dr.
12. 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 Dec. 9, 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.
Dates: This is a neighborhood display so there are no set dates, but the lights are usually up by the first week of Dec. and run through the month, after dark. The parade is Dec 9.
Times: 6 p.m.
Park in the Mothers’ Beach lot off of Appian Way, or in the marine lots east of Davis Bridge, Marine Stadium, and 54th & Bayshore and walk along the island.
photo: Tea D. via Yelp
13. Drive By Lighting: Candy Cane Lane, Woodland Hills
This little West Valley neighborhood centered on the intersection of Oxnard Street and Lubao Avenue in Woodland Hills is just a couple of blocks. 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 in the season. Several houses sell hot chocolate and holiday snacks. This is a baby-friendly spot with lots of families walking with baby carriers and strollers.
Dates: This is a neighborhood display so there are no set dates, but the lights are usually up by early Dec. and run until Dec. 25.
Times: Nightly after dark
Oxnard Street and Lubao Ave.
14. 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., a jazz band or some carolers, depending on the night. Don’t forget to look up as you drive home, the kids will be delighted to spot Santa’s sleigh led by Rudolph and his crew, flying high over the intersection of Wilshire and Beverly Drive. (AKA, Pretty Woman territory, for us old people.)
Dates: The lights kick off with a ceremony on Nov. 24 through the end of the year.
Times: 5-8 p.m.
200 block of Rodeo Dr.
15. 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.
Dates: Dec. 10-Jan. 1
Times: 6 p.m.-10 p.m.
photo: Jen S. via Yelp
16. 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.
Dates: Dec. 9 and the lights will stay up through Dec.
Times: 6 p.m.
Santa Rosa between Mariposa and Mendocino
17. 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.
Dates: This is a neighborhood display so dates vary, but the lights are typically up in early Dec and run through the month.
Times: After dark.
Saint Albans Road
18. 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 after Thanksgiving, 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 with a selfie at the end of your walk.
Dates: This is a neighborhood display that typically begins in mid-December and runs through the month.
Times: Nightly after dark.
7300 block of Yolanda Ave.
photo: Mission Inn
19. 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. Though it is a bit of a trek, it’s well worth the drive. The castle-like, historic hotel is illuminated nightly with nearly 4 million holiday lights. There are visits from Santa Claus, a chance to kiss under 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. The festival kicks off on Nov. 24.
Dates: Nov. 24-Jan. 5
Times: Daily after dark
Cost: The lights are free, but to book a hotel room, rates start at $279
3649 Mission Ave.
20. 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 (near) LA outing. The lights come alive Nov. 22 and run Friday and Saturday nights through Dec. 24, and then for select nights through the end of the year, from 6-9 p.m.
Dates: Nov. 24 and runs on selected nights through Dec. 24
Times: 6–9 p.m.
Cost: Adults $10, Children $8, Children (under 3) Free
47900 Portola Ave.
Palm Desert, CA
Do you have a favorite spot to see festive lights? Leave us a comment and let us know!
—Shannon Guyton & Shahrzad Warkentin