‘Twas the weekend before Christmas and there’s not a shortage of holiday fun for the family in Southern California. Enjoy an Irish Christmas in Escondido and the Garden of Lights at the San Diego Botanic Gardens. Orange County has lots of Christmas fun with the Newport Beach Christmas Parade, Santa’s Wonderland, Los Posadas, and ZimChristmas. On behalf of Red Tricycle, Merry Christmas!

North County

An Irish Christmas
Glorious music, traditional dance, storytelling, laughter and lots of Irish soul. Fri., 7:30 pm, California Center for the Arts, Escondido, Free. All ages. Event details.

Garden of Lights
As the sun goes down, the San Diego Botanic Garden will be transformed into a dazzling winter wonderland with over 100,000 sparkling lights illuminating the Garden for a magical holiday experience. Leave the hustle and bustle of the malls behind and enjoy a relaxing evening strolling through the lighted Garden. Families can enjoy winter fun in the snow, so please bring your own sled (no metal runner please). Fri. – Sun., 5:00 pm, San Diego Botanic Gardens, $4 – $12. All ages. Event details.

Nutcracker Holiday Tea
Families will enjoy a holiday tea and an abridged youth performance of Tchaikovsky’s ballet classic. Event includes tea, sandwiches and holiday sweets. Sat. & Sun., 11:30 am, The Grand Del Mar, $30 – $58. Ages 4 – 12.  Event details.

Orange County

Santa’s Wonderland
The OC’s newest holiday tradition will dazzle and delight your entire family. Become and honorary Elf in our Elf Academy, decorate gingerbread, play Reindeer Games, stop by Santa’s office and control room and check the Naughty/Nice list. Then make your way through the Mischief Maze. Shop the Mistletoe Market and enjoy a treat at the Candy Cane Cafe’. Finish your tour with a visit to Santa for a cherished family photo! Tours run every 2 hours reserve early for the best times. Fri., 10:00 am, Irvine California, $25. All ages. Event details.

Los Pasadas
A traditional Mexican Christmas celebration re-enacting Mary and Joseph’s journey as they seek shelter in Bethlehem. Enjoy traditional music, dance, food, and entertainment by Rhytmo Incorporated’s Mariachi Kids and Los Sonadores Foklorico Dance Troupe. Snack on traditional Mexican hot chocolate and pan dulce (sweet bread). Mexican dress is encouraged. Sat., 5:00 pm, Bowers Museum, Free. All ages. Event details.

Newport Beach Christmas Parade
Enjoy the 104th annual Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade of Lights. The event is definitely the premier Christmas event (not only for Orange County and Los Angeles but for all of Southern California). The parade sets sail from Bay Island each night. Sat. – Sun., 6:30 pm – 9:00 pm, Bay Island. Free. All ages. Event details.

While Christmas carols play in the background, “snow” drifts from the rooftop dispensed from a manufactured snow machine. On the rooftop, Santa waves from a chopper with rotating blades and a gingerbread man jumps on a lighted trampoline. Lighted wheels rotate on a choo-choo train; a tin soldier drums his drums; a snowman tips his hat; a gyrating Santa Claus dances; and even an illuminated Hula Dancer’ wiggles back and forth! Sat., 5:00 pm – 11:30 pm, Balboa Island. Free. All ages. Event details.

How is your family getting ready for the holidays? Do you have big plans for the weekend?

— Leah R. Singer

Photos courtesy of Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade Facebook page.