The Best Holiday Events and Things to Do in Southern California

Recently I joined a blog hop where we all talked about our homes and why we bought them. Well today we’re back, although on a very different note. Today we’re all sharing about the Spirit of Christmas in our own towns or areas, hosted by Jennifer of Town and Country Living. And I’m sharing all about the best holiday events in Southern California. I rarely do any posts about travel, and I definitely have never done one about things to do in my home town so this is such a fun treat for me!

People who haven’t visited Los Angeles often think of it as either crowded and full of traffic, or a place where everyone is a wanna-be actor who is gorgeous, tan and aloof. And nothing could be further from the truth. Los Angeles isn’t really one city; it’s actually many small cities that encompass the whole area. And it’s as diverse as any other large city, with lots to do and see. And this is especially true at the holidays. You may be surprised by how many Christmas and holiday events we actually have here!

There are literally hundreds of holiday events throughout the season, but I’m going to share just a few that are my personal favorites, and things I’ve actually done. Since I am in between Santa Barbara and Los Angeles, these events are spread throughout much of Southern California…


1. Christmas at The Grove

the grove christmas tree lighting

Much like the lighting of the tree in Rockefeller Center in New York, the annual tree lighting ceremony at The Grove in Los Angeles draws thousands. If you’ve never been to Los Angeles, The Grove is a gorgeous outdoor walking mall with a large beautiful fountain and a trolley that draws crowds and tourists year-round. But it’s especially festive on this night in mid-November when they bring in musical acts, fake snowfall and fireworks to do the big unveiling.

the grove los angeles things to do holiday events tree lighting

 And of course, Santa makes an appearance as well! There are many families with small kids, but lots of other people come as well because it’s so festive, fun and entertaining. And The Grove is right beside the landmark Original Farmer’s Market which has tons of food choices and interesting things to eat and see so it’s easy to make a whole night of it. And of course, you are already at a mall so some holiday shopping is easily done, too!


2. Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade

christmas boat parade newport beach

Newport Beach is in Orange County, about 30 miles south of downtown Los Angeles. The Christmas Boat Parade is their biggest holiday event. This is a yearly event that has been happening for over 100 years and it’s fantastic!

newport beach christmas boat parade holiday events southern californianewport beach holiday boat parade

We’ve gone a couple of times now and it’s so much fun to watch all the boats and kayaks parade by all dressed with lights. In fact, our little town does our own “boat parade” in honor of this one, however, here they drive on the streets and of course, they’re not half as professionally decorated! 😉


3. Candy Cane Lane and Sleepy Hollow

sleepy hollow christmas holiday events southern california

I don’t know about you, but one of my absolute favorite things to do is to take one night during the season and go driving to see Christmas lights. We all put on sweats or jammies and bring coffee and hot chocolate (and of course, a few sweet treats 😉 ) and it really has a way of putting us all in the spirit of the season. Here in Southern California there are quite a few neighborhoods that really go all out but our two favorite are Candy Cane Lane which is in the San Fernando Valley and Sleepy Hollow which is near the Los Angeles airport.

sleep hollow christmas lights viewing southern california

candy cane lane woodland hills christmas light display


4. Solvang’s Jule Fest

solvang jule fest best holiday events southern california

Solvang is a Danish-themed town near Santa Barbara and it’s charming already, but during the holidays, it really lights up! They have a month-long celebration called “Jule Fest” (meaning Yule Festival) with events happening all during the month of December.

solvang california christmas lights decorations jule fest

We live about an hour or so away so we haven’t done all that they have, but we have gone to the tree lighting, the parade, and of course, the wine-tasting tours! 😉 There are also meet and greets with Santa, as well as guided candlelit tours of the town, scavenger hunts, and more.

solvang california christmas parade things to do in southern california


These are just a few of my favorite holiday events in Southern California, but there are many more. A few other things I’ve heard of but have never done are the LA Zoo Lights, the Hollywood Christmas Parade, and the Polar Express Train Ride (so sad I didn’t do this when my kids were little!)

So if you happen to land in Southern California during the holiday season, be sure to check out a few of these fun events. There’s nothing like a little holiday music and maybe some lights to get everyone in the spirit of the season!



holiday events and things to do in Southern California


And now be sure to visit some of my friends below who are also sharing all about the Spirit of Christmas in their towns. From Washington state, to Chicago, and beyond, it’s so fun to see all the different holiday events going on in different parts of the country!


Neighborhood Spirit of Christmas Tour

Saw Nail and Paint / It All Started with Paint / Maison de Cinq / Southern Hospitality




Spirit of Christmas Tour

Town and Country Living / My Sweet Savannah / Finding Silver Pennies


Spirit of Christmas Tour

Hymns and Verses / Duke Manor Farm


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  1. Oh my beautiful lights! I am putting S.California on the holiday bucket list with a glass of wine with you one day! Merry Christmas!

    1. Aww I love that Laura!! Yay – do it!!

      Merry Christmas to you too!


    1. Solvang is so fun! If you ever make it here, you’ll have to visit!

      thanks so much for organizing Jennifer, so happy to join you all!


  2. Oh what fun! I’ve never been to LA, but I have friends and family there, so it’s well past time to visit! Maybe I’ll go next year during the holidays so I can experience some of these cool sounding events! Thanks for the tips! 🙂

    1. I think you would love it Barbara!! You should make a trip of it – and you have to go to Solvang:)


  3. Southern California is beautiful anytime of year, and you’ve captured it so well this holiday season. I lived in San Diego for 7 years, and loved it so much.

    1. I didn’t know that Susan! And yes, it really is a special place:)

      Happy holidays to you!