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 some of our go-to favorites.
photo: Descanso Gardens via Facebook
1. Enchanted: Forest of Lights: La Cañada Flintridge
Descanso Gardens lights up its lush landscape with their one-of-a-kind holiday light display called Enchanted: Forest of Lights. Beginning Nov. 18 and running through Jan. 6., the light show features several interactive displays. Our favorite part? The Symphony of Oaks walk-through exhibit, which lets you manipulate lights and sounds in the garden’s historical Oak Grove.
This is a popular event with peak times already selling out, so if you’re hoping to go this year, get your tickets ASAP.
Pro Tip: Bring jackets as it gets chilly at night.
Dates: Nov. 18-Jan. 6
Times: 5:30-8:30 p.m.
Cost: $28 per person; kids under 2 are free
1418 Descanso Dr.
La Cañada Flintridge
photo: Jamie Pham
2. LA Zoo: Los Angeles
See the zoo come alive while most of the animals sleep (though you can catch the nocturnal creatures for once!) Nov. 16–Jan. 6 from 6-10 p.m. After the daytime crowds leave, the guests can stroll through the zoo transformed into a magical winter jungle with a disco ball forest, whimsical 3-D animations, a glowing “Northern Lights” featuring animal constellations that come to life, and so much more. For the first time ever, the L.A. Zoo Lights experience will include picturesque Elephant Circle, which will be transformed into a kaleidoscopic savanna where glowing, large-scale animals roam. The popular Twinkle Tunnel will double in size and feature cascading swirls of light and a spectacular finale.
Pro Tip: One of the only places in LA to see real reindeer, you can catch them during regular zoo hours from 10 a.m.-4 p.m.
Dates: Nov. 16-Jan. 6
Times: 6-10 p.m.
Cost: $11.95-$16.95; kids 2 and under are free
5333 Zoo Dr.
3. Griffith Park & Southern Railroad: Griffith Park
Climb aboard the Griffith Park Railroad for a magical train ride after dark. From Nov. 23-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.
Dates: Nov. 24-Dec. 30
Times: 5-8 p.m. (Fri-Sun until 9 p.m.)
Cost: $5, 18 months and under are free
4400 Crystal Springs Dr.
photo: Downtown LA Walking Tour via Facebook
4. Downtown LA Walking Tour: Los Angeles
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 2-hour 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.
If the whole tour is too much, head to the playground (or Grand St. fountain if it’s a warm day) until the sun sets, then watch Grand Park magically come alive with tons of twinkling lights for the holidays.
Date: Nov. 25-Dec. 28
Time: 6:30 p.m.
Cost: $17 for adults; $5 for kids 5-12; 4 and under are free
800 N. Alameda St.
photo: Scott B. via Yelp
5. Wakefield Court Winter Wonderland: Saugus
BYOC (cocoa, peeps) to this winter wonderland in the northern Los Angeles area. You can wind your way in and around glowing double cul-de-sacs, which feature unique themes from Star Wars to Gingerbread House displays. There’s a self-guided Night Before Christmas story you can read along the route and there’s usually a community charity drive so bring an unwrapped toy to add some gift-giving joy. Weeknights are the least congested times to visit.
Dates: Nov. 26 through Christmas
Times: 5:30-10 p.m.
Wakefield Court between Seco and Haskell Canyon off Copper Hill Dr. and Courtland
photo: The Grove
6. 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. Even if you miss this tree-lighting ceremony, the trees still all twinkle from through Christmas.
Dates: Nov. 18- 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 St. 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: Typically begins the second Sat. of Dec. and runs through Christmas
Times: 7-9 p.m.
1200 block of Acacia St.
8. Sleepy Hollow Christmas Lights: Torrance
One of the more popular light displays on this list, this entire neighborhood in Torrance, comes out with lights, Christmas icons, and tons of holiday cheer. You’ll find this California winter wonderland at Robert Rd. off Pacific Coast Hwy., north of Calle Mayor. Expect 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: Typically runs from the second weekend in Dec. through Dec. 23
Times: 6:30-9 p.m.
Robert Rd. off Pacific Coast Hwy., north of Calle Mayor
photo: Lights On Display via Facebook
9. Lights On Display: Sherman Oaks
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.
Dates: Nov. 23-Dec. 25
Times: 5-10 p.m.
3901 Longview Valley Rd.
10. Boat Parade and Fireworks: Marina del Rey
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. 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.
Pro Tip: Pack your jackets and blankets because it definitely gets chilly once the sun goes down.
Date: Dec. 8
Times: 5:55-8 p.m.
Burton Chace Park
13650 Mindanao Way
Marina del Rey
photo: Heather P. via Yelp
11. 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. This year’s boat parade theme is a “Star Spangled Christmas” and launches on Dec. 8. Expect stunning views of the bay dotted with floating lighted Christmas trees. Even if you don’t make the parade, this is a great spot for an evening stroll, the waterfront walkways are child-friendly, and there’s no traffic to worry about.
Pro Tip: Another great Long Beach spot is Daisy Ave.
Dates: The boat parade is Dec. 8 and the lights will be up through Christmas.
Times: 6 p.m.
Park in Mothers’ Beach Lot off Appian Way or in the marine lots east of Davis Bridge, Marine Stadium, and 54th & Bayshore to walk along the island.
photo: Tea D. via Yelp
12. Candy Cane Lane: Woodland Hills
This little West Valley neighborhood at the intersection of Oxnard St. and Lubao Ave. in Woodland Hills is just a couple of blocks and can be 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 as well.
Dates: Second Sat. of Dec. through the end of the year
Times: Nightly after dark
Oxnard Street and Lubao Ave.
photo: Love Beverly Hills via Facebook
13. Rodeo Dr.: Beverly Hills
For a more glamorous excursion, check out the brightly lit storefronts and street displays in Beverly Hills. Grab a hot chocolate and stroll south down Rodeo Dr. starting at South Santa Monica Blvd. Make sure you make it down to Rodeo Two, a pedestrian street between Dayton Way and Wilshire Blvd., 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 Dr.
Dates: Nov. 15 through the end of the year.
Times: 5-8 p.m.
200 block of Rodeo Dr.
photo: Upper Hastings Ranch via Facebook
14. Upper Hastings Ranch: Pasadena
This Pasadena area neighborhood will be a sure hit with your little elves. Starting the second weekend of Dec., 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. 8-Jan. 2, 2019
Times: 6 p.m.-10 p.m.
Sierra Madre Blvd., Michillinda Ave., Hastings Ranch Blvd. and Riviera Pasadena
photo: Jen S. via Yelp
15. 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 that light closer to Christmas (last year they were on from Dec. 22-Dec. 31).
Dates: Dec. 8 and the lights stay up through Dec.
Times: 6 p.m.
Santa Rosa between Mariposa and Mendocino
16. 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: Typically up in early Dec and runs through the month
Times: After dark.
Saint Albans Rd. and Huntington Ave.
17. 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: Typically begins after Thanksgiving and runs through the end of the year
Times: Nightly after dark
7300 block of Yolanda Ave.
photo: Mission Inn
18. Mission Inn: Riverside
The Festival of Lights at the Mission Inn Hotel features one of the nation’s largest holiday light displays (and it’s 26th year) 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 a record-breaking 5 million colorful holiday lights along with 400 animated figures.
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. This year, the festival kicks off on Nov. 23.
Dates: Nov. 23-Jan. 6
Times: Daily after dark
Cost: The lights are free but booking a room is way more fun. Rates start at $279
3649 Mission Ave.
photo: The Living Desert via Facebook
19. WildLights: Palm Springs
The Living Desert’s WildLights Holiday Festival in Palm Springs 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. Staying the weekend? Check out our guide to Palm Springs.
Dates: Nov. 23 and runs on selected nights through Dec. 24
Times: 6–9 p.m.
Cost: Adults $12, Children $10, Children (under 3) Free
47900 Portola Ave.
Palm Desert, CA
photo: Melissa Heckscher
20. Six Flags Magic Mountain’s Holiday In the Park
Twinkling lights, magical snow drifts, Christmas carols…and the ceaseless sounds of frantic, terrified screams? Must be Christmastime at Six Flags! This year, the self-proclaimed “Thrill Capital of the World,” lights up the season with more than two million lights, special holiday shows, and seven uniquely-themed areas.
You’ll wander through snowfalls, take pics inside humongous LED-lit ornaments, stroll down musical tunnels of synchronized lights, and get cozy with the big guy in Santa’s Cottage. There are also a host of yummy seasonal treats (pumpkin spice funnel cakes!) that’ll have your little coaster-fanatics amped up even before they hit Bugs Bunny World.
Dates: Daily Nov. 17-25; weekends only through Dec. 9; daily Dec. 15-30
Times: Each day at 5 p.m., signaled by the first “snowfall” of the evening
Cost: Included with park admission (starting at $53.99 when ordered online). Children 2 & under are free
26101 Magic Mountain Pkwy.
photo: Melissa Heckscher
21. Knott’s Merry Farm
Now that Knott’s Scary Farm in Buena Park is a ghost of season’s past (at least until next year), lovers of all things Knott’s will be happy to see Snoopy’s digs all done up for the holidays with its largest Christmas display ever.
When you arrive, be sure to start with the Calico Park tree lighting, which comes complete with old-time carolers and the jolly old man himself (who pulls up to the shindig by way of an antique steam train). There’s also a lively Christmas Craft Village, five Peanuts-filled holiday shows (including Snoopy on ice!), and an hourly “Snow and Glow” show that features thousands of sparkling lights amidst gentle snowfall.
Dates: “Holiday in the Park” runs daily through Jan. 6
Time: Tree-lighting happens once nightly at 5:15
Cost: Included with park admission starting at $50. Children 2 & under are free
8039 Beach Blvd.
Buena Park, CA
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—Shannon Guyton, Shahrzad Warkentin, Andie Huber & Melissa Heckscher