Just hear those sleigh bells ring-a-ling and you know Christmas is near. Santa’s ready to come out of hibernation, but you’ve probably still got plenty of holiday shopping and planning to figure out. Questions abound: What do I buy for my sister’s new baby? Where can I get a re-usable Christmas tree? How can my kids meet Santa? What are the best holiday activities in Los Angeles? We’ve got some great ideas that will make planning a cinch and Christmas a hit.

1. Just because we live in such a gorgeous climate, doesn’t mean we can’t have our wintery, holiday feel, too. Take the kiddos down to one of the many Ice Skating Rinks in LA and swirl up a good time!

2. Kids go ga-ga for trains, and they’ll be even more thrilled when they see the smoke billowing out the top! The Christmas Tree Train is coming to town this holiday season, taking you and the little ones on a real train to a Christmas tree farm. This is a perfect holiday activity that will have your kid’s eyes and hearts bursting with excitement.

3. The Nutcracker is a classic holiday event that the entire family can enjoy. This timeless ballet is playing all over town, with everything from the very traditional to new interpretations on the long-time classic. Check out our list of the Best Holiday Nutcrackers and Ballet Performances in town.

4. Still scrambling to finish your holiday shopping list? Don’t even know where to being? We’ve got an assortment helpful 2012 Gift Guides for youngsters of all ages (even the big kids like dad) that will have you in and out of the shops in no time.

5. Nothing indicates Christmas is near more than the smell of yule tree and pine needles. Yet to snag that perfect holiday tree? Don’t worry, we’ve got a list of the Best Christmas Tree Shops in Los Angeles.

6. Christmas has never been so sweet. Now at the Discovery Science Center’s Gingerbread Exhibit, you and the kiddos can check out over 100 artisan gingerbread houses, as well as participate in countless holiday activities from meeting Santa to making holiday cookies!

7. Don’t let the holidays come and go without making the outing to see holiday lights! Truly nothing gets the family in the holiday spirit like bright lights and gorgeous (or over the top) holiday scenes. Check out our Favorite Places to See the Brilliant, Holiday Lights.

8. Enjoy a classy Christmas event–High Tea at Hotel Bel-Air. In the midst of all the holiday happenings, it will be a welcome break to sit down for an hour or two and enjoy some of the finer things this season, like mint tea and sandwiches.

9. Green is the theme of this year’s holiday season, with ideas on everything from saving electricity to sending electronic greeting cards, there are plenty of easy (and fun) ways you can have an eco-friendly holiday.

What does your family look forward to every holiday? 

— Jessica Abelson