The holidays are a special time in L.A., when Angelenos don their most festive shorts and string Christmas lights from palm trees. There’s plenty of cheer around town and no lack of ways to spend it. From Disney’s yearly celebration to pop-up ice rinks to brilliant lantern installations, here are our favorite ways to celebrate the December holidays.
Experience multicultural holidays at Disneyland
The massive Christmas tree still greets park visitors around the holidays, but Disneyland also makes efforts to put on an inclusive holiday celebration. During the Disney Festival of Holidays you can sample holiday foods from around the world, mark Three Kings’ Day during Disney ¡Viva Navidad!, and ooh and ahh at the astounding seasonal fireworks show accompanied by a dusting of “snow.”
Check out a glittery boat parade
When you want to check out the best holiday lights in any other city, you drive around the richest neighborhood you can find. That works in L.A. too -- just take a drive around Beverly Hills after December 15 to see some seriously blinged out mansions (R.I.P. Hancock Park’s House of Davids and their many Santa hats). But for a shimmering treat, head down to Newport Beach for the annual Christmas boat parade, where the chichi sailors deck out their yachts as only rich folk can do.
Drink eggnog at a holiday-themed bar
Whether celebrating with friends or recovering from family, everyone could use a drink around the holidays. Good thing plenty of bars welcome merry revelers with seasonal decorations and pop-up themes. The Miracle pop-up group sets up operations somewhere in town every year, but there are plenty of independent merrymakers behind bars all over serving custom cocktails and good ol’ eggnog.
Ice skate in the sunshine
Only in L.A. can you skate on Christmas in 60 degree sunshine. While it never gets cold enough for lakes to actually freeze over, artificial ice rinks pop up every December, from Pershing Square downtown to Santa Monica to the Queen Mary in Long Beach. Slip on a pair of skates and do your best Charlie Brown impression.
Visit Santa and some reindeer at the zoo
Any old mall can suit a Santa for cheesy pictures, but only the L.A. Zoo pairs the husky saint with live reindeer. During the annual Reindeer Romp, the caribou are on full display, aided by handlers ready to provide educational talks to kids. The other animals get in on the seasonal fun too, receiving gift boxes that they promptly destroy.
Listen to carols at the Walt Disney Concert Hall
The carolers who ring your doorbell on a not-so-snowy eve undoubtedly come with the best intentions, but their voices have nothing on the epic pipes of the classically trained singers who belt out holiday tunes at the Walt Disney Concert Hall’s yearly Festival of Carols. It might not be free (though neither are those surprise carolers if you tip them dutifully), but the Los Angeles Master Chorale gathers some of its top performers for this ticketed event.
Wander beneath magical lanterns
Each year the L.A. Arboretum takes a global tone in their holiday lights with the Magic Lantern Art Festival. In the botanic garden, multi-colored Chinese lanterns light the way to a wonderland of light-up installations, with mythical creatures and oversized animals the size of parade floats. Chinese performers and food trucks are also on hand to round out the entertainment.