Dust off those ugly sweaters and ring in the holiday season with these magical December events and experiences.
It’s that time of year when everything twinkles or sparkles and your winter outfits finally get to see the light of day. With Christmas just around the corner, there are tons of dazzling spectacles that are filled with festive cheer for you to enjoy. Whether it’s a hillside wonderland decked out with oversized ornaments or a haunted holiday brunch that oozes seasonal spirit, you’ll find tons of ways to make it a memorable month. Here are the most wonderful things to do in December in LA:
1. Trade In Your Wheels For Skates And Glide Into The Season At An Outdoor Ice Rink
Most of the year is spent cruising along boulevards on roller skates and skateboards, but this season is all about the ice skates. In SoCal, you have the unique opportunity to partake in this winter pastime with the summer-like sunshine kissing your face as you glide across a frozen rink. You can choose between skating at LA’s largest ice rink located right in front of the Crypto.com Arena, a cliffside rink in Palos Verdes or you could head a little further away for a legendary beachfront experience. Or visit them all. Here are 7 of the best places to go ice skating in and around LA:
- LA Kings Holiday Ice
- Ice At Santa Monica
- Pershing Square Holiday Ice Rink
- Skating by the Sea At Palos Verdes Civic Center
- Paséa Hotel’s Oceanfront Ice Rink
- SkyPark At Santa’s Village
- Skate By The Sea at Hotel del Coronado
2. Walk Along This Glittering Trail At This Holiday Road
Holiday Road’s winter haven features a larger-than-life holiday celebration encompassing all traditions. You’ll be welcomed into King Gillette Ranch with a glittering tunnel and giant candy canes, which opens up to a vast paradise shimmering with oversized holiday decorations that represent all cultures and parts of the world. This annual tradition is a treasured Los Angeles experience and encapsulates all the magic of the month, perfectly. Get tickets to what’s likely to be the most popular event of the season here.
3. Witness A Neon Carnival On Water With A Christmas Cruise
Holiday boat parades have been illuminating the SoCal coast for over half a century and each year gets bigger and brighter. It’s California, so naturally, you’ll find dozens of Santa’s captaining yachts, motorboats and other aquatic modes of transport, not just the usual sleigh. Here are two notable celebrations on the ocean water that you don’t want to miss:
- Marina del Rey Holiday Boat Parade – December 11, 2021
- Newport Beach Boat Parade – December 14 to 18, 2022
- Naples Long Beach Boat Parade – December 10th, 2022
4. Hike To These Aqua Thermal Springs And Treat Yourself To A Healing Soak
Just a few miles away from Santa Barbara, nestled amongst the lush hills, you’ll find a stunning outdoor spa. These cascading thermal pools known as the Montecito Hot Springs can be reached with an easy trek and are filled with sulphur which is known for its healing properties. Is there anything better than rewarding yourself with a free, hot soak after a long week? Probably not. Find all our favorite hot springs around LA here.
5. Take In A Stunning Candlelight Holiday Concert
The wildly popular Candlelight will be setting the winter nights aglow with these mesmerizing musical concerts set in some of L.A.’s most beautiful venues. Wrap yourself in seasonal nostalgia with awe-inspiring renditions of classics across genres. Whether it’s a mainstream hit like“Thank God It’s Christmas” by Queen or heartwarming tracks from holiday films like “Christmas Time is Here” from A Charlie Brown Christmas, you’ll find something for every musical taste. Here are the seasonally-themed editions coming this December:
- Candlelight: Holiday Jazz and Soul Classics feat. Ella Fitzgerald
- Candlelight: Holiday Special ft. “The Nutcracker” and More
- Best Hits and Christmas Favorites Performed by Vitamin String Quartet
6. Stroll Through An Illuminated Cosmic Haven At Astra Lumina
Starting December 8, The South Coast Botanic Gardens will be transformed into a cosmic haven of twinkling lights, falling stars, and otherworldly wonder. In this nighttime walking experience, you’ll wind through a glowing world that tells a tale of astral proportions. Get tickets to Moment Factory’s latest nexus of art and technology here!
7. Immerse Yourself In Festive Movie Magic At Yuletide Cinemaland
Heritage Square and Street Food Cinema are back with the incredible Yuletide Cinemaland. Soak up the holiday ambiance at one of LA’s largest outdoor cinema pop-ups where all your favorite Christmas classics and cult hits will be screened with fun singalongs, delicious street food, and multicolored lights dancing amongst historic Victorian buildings. You’ll even get to tour some of the homes decked out in holiday decorations this year. Book ahead to avoid missing out!
- Elf (December 3 & 23)
- Edward Scissorhands (December 10)
- The Muppet Christmas Carol (December 17)
- A Christmas Story (December 18)
- How the Grinch Stole Christmas (December 19)
- Home Alone (December 20)
- The Nightmare Before Christmas (December 21)
8. Wander Through These 10 Technicolor Holiday Light Displays
The city is positively glowing with mesmerizing festive installations this year. Whether it’s the iconic Candy Cane Lane, a historic inn covered in fairy lights, parks and gardens with glittering decorations and lights, you’ll find plenty of dazzling displays around the city. From Buena Vista Street to Mission Inn, here are 10 of the best places to see holiday light displays around L.A:
- ‘Wildlights’ At The Living Desert
- The Mission Inn Festival of Lights
- GLOW at The South Coast Botanic GardenChristmas Tree Lane
- Christmas Tree Lane
- Sleepy Hollow Christmas Lights Extravaganza
- ‘Sparkle DTLA’ at The Bloc
- Dana Point Harbor
- Buena Vista Street
- Old Pasadena
- The Grove
9.See Invincible, The Rock Musical Version Of Romeo & Juliet Set To The Music Of Pat Benatar And Neil Giraldo
Pat Benatar and Neil Giraldo have helped bring to life this reimagining of the most famous love story ever told. Invincible is a rock musical that brings Verona into the modern day, fueled throughout by the music of Benatar and Giraldo. The musical has debuted in Los Angeles, and it promises to be a thrilling yet tender experience you won’t want to miss. Tickets are still available, so get yours and rock your heart out!
10. Sip On Mismosas At A Christmas Nightmare Brunch
Reimagine Christmas with a Burton-Esque twist at Beetle House’s Christmas Nightmare Brunch. Jack Skellington could be donning a Santa hat while you sip on cocktails and dine on hot waffles amongst the cobwebs. Meanwhile, Freddy “Christmas Sweater” Krueger or Sandy Claws himself will be taking the stage for a frightfully festive performance. There are even rumors that Krampus is lurking around too, so hurry and get your tickets to this spooky feast!
11. Get Your Festive Foliage On At One Of These 7 Christmas Tree Farms
What would this time of year be without the ritual of decorating a tree with the fresh smell of pine filling the air? Although it might seem more fitting to have a glittering palm tree in LA, nothing quite marks the season like a traditional Christmas tree. Here are 7 wonderful places to find (or cut) your own natural beauty to put up in your home for the season.
12. Go Over To The Dark (& Hilarious) Side With This Steamy Star Wars-Themed Burlesque Show
Everyone’s favorite franchise is heating up the winter with a sultry burlesque show. The Empire Strips Back became an instant hit in San Francisco earlier this year and it has finally made its way to LA shores. Get ready for dancing Droids, sexy Stormtroopers and a delightfully luke-warm Taun Taun with Russall S. Beattie’s unforgettable Star Wars-inspired production.
13. Shift Your Perspective At This Mind-Bending Multidimensional Art Exhibit
Michael Murphy specializes in “perceptual art,” which changes depending on where you’re standing. He’ll often combine images to make powerful statements, and as Murphy sees it, the true art is the experience that the viewer takes home. So bring your own perspective to his multidimensional art at “Perceptual Shift”: The Art Exhibition! Get tickets and all the details here.
14. Mingle With Kings And Queens At This Game of Thrones Official Fan Convention
Winter is coming and it’s bringing all your favorite Westeros royals along with it. The first, officially-licensed Game of Thrones Official Fan Convention lands in LA on December 11. You’ll get to see John Snow and the rest of the HBO cast in the flesh with tons of exciting, themed happenings and merchandise to explore. Watch your cherished series come to life. Get your tickets here!
15. Ditch The Tinsel And Angels For The Wildy Entertaining ‘Tarantina’
Imagine all of Quentin Tarantino’s iconic femme fatales in one sizzling spectacle. Now stop imagining because ‘Tarantina’ has created an entire Tarantino-verse with your favorite vixens like Kill Bill’s Bride, From Dusk Till Dawn’s Santanico Pandemonium, Death Proof’s Butterfly, and more. Get your tickets here to see the show that Tarantino himself is a fan of!
16. Fill Up Those Stocking By Shopping At These Surreal Places This Holiday
Christmas shopping in LA is unlike anywhere else in the world; it’s a retail mecca dipped in the fantastical imagination of Hollywood. This year you can avoid elbowing your way to coveted items and enjoy an otherworldly Stranger Things retail experience, or go back to the 1920s while you marvel at the ornate displays and decorations along Buena Vista street.
- Ring In The Holidays At These Charming Local Shops And Eateries In A Historic District
- Get A Serving Of Holiday Cheer At Universal Hollywood’s CityWalk
- Browse The Quaint Lanes Of Buena Vista Street
- Enjoy A Retro Retail Adventure At This Stranger Things Experience
17. Pay A Visit To Santa’s Magical Hood
Contrary to popular opinion, Santa is actually a huge fan of the sunny West Coast and him and his elves have been bringing that North Pole magic to Lake Arrowhead for years. Adventurers of all ages will find an alpine adventure with gingerbread men, candy and seasonal decorations filling this festive village. Partake in workshops, find souvenirs, take hikes and so much more at Skywalk Santa’s Village. Find out all the details here.
18. Head To This Twinkling Night Market At A Century-Old Lavendar Farm Near L.A
- Credit: Highland Springs Ranch & Inn
The picturesque 123 Farm, known for its beautiful swaths of violet flowers over the summer, has a stunning night market. Its towering trees and fields have been 1,000 years in the making and you can continue to enjoy its beauty post the summer blooms. Every Thursday to Sunday through October 24, you can stroll through the lavender fields and olive groves draped with lights to enjoy food, live music, games and unique handmade goods. Find out more here.
19. Give The Gift Of Giving By Helping Out Or Donating To A Local Charity
Whether you donate to the LA Food Bank, the LA Mission or volunteer to help, you can make sure there’s enough cheer, warmth and food to go around this holiday. You could even gift someone with a donation to give to the charity of their choice. Let’s be honest nothing feels better than helping others and it could be the perfect alternative to the stocking stuffer that lands up untouched in a cupboard.
20. Catch The Last Of The Fall Foliage Around L.A. At One Of These 6 Natural Havens In LA
This stunning autumnal color palette happens a little later over here than it does on the East Coast. And while some may say L.A. doesn’t have a real fall season, these breathtaking pockets of foliage prove otherwise. It just happens a little later around here. Whether you want to see red, orange and yellow leaves or you just want to enjoy the city’s outdoor landscapes, here are 6 of the best places to do it:
- Huntington Library, Art Collections & Botanical Gardens
- South Coast Botanic Garden
- Los Angeles County Arboretum & Botanical Garden
- Descanso Gardens
- Franklin Canyon Park & Reservoir
- Big Bear
21. Go On A Gondola Cruise Amongst The Enchanting Lights In Long Beach
Italy may be off-limits for some, but you can still go on a Venetian escape along the canals in Long Beach. Cruise under the romantic bridges filled with festive lights and stunning surroundings. Find out more here.
22. Ski Under The Stars In Big Bear
This picturesque setting is your taste of Switzerland on the West Coast at this Big Bear spot. While it is a little bit of a drive, it’s worth seeing a real winter wonderland where you can partake in exhilarating sports all day and even some nights. On select weekends when the weather allows, the powdery slopes are illuminated with glowing lights for nighttime skiing. Stay in one of the cute cabins in the resort and you’ll have yourself a very merry Christmas indeed. Get all the details for your skiing getaway here.
23. Ride Into A Kaledescopic Christmas Extravaganza
Hop in your four-wheeled sleigh and prepare to be dazzled by tunnels featuring millions of lights, gleaming decorations and festive fare. At Christmas in Color, guests will be sent weaving through endless light tunnels in dazzling color spectrums, with giant snowmen and candy canes floating by. It’s one of the largest light displays happening, even SUVs will seem microscopic in this larger-than-life maze. You’ll have a glowing Christmas forest, arches with snowflakes, snowmen and other twinkling installations on every corner.
24. Sip On Boozy Hot Chocolate And Christmas Cocktails At This Holiday Pop-Up Bar
Blitzen’s holiday pop-up returns and it’s served with a retro twist and a side of delicious puns—just like every year before but with a brand-new menu. Here and Now will turn into the gaudiest, over-the-top Christmas haunt where you’ll sip on drinks with silly names, catch live shows, belt out hits with a singalong and be showered with snow in a sleigh. Find all you need to know about it here.
25. Dine At One Of The Best Places In America, Right Here In LA
LA undoubtedly has one of the most diverse and incredible food scenes in the world. Here global culinary trends are spun into local hotspots overnight with a seasonal California touch. But don’t just take our word for it, trust the entire team of editors and food critics at the Times who scoured the entire country for the best places to dine this year. It’s no surprise that three Los Angeles restaurants had spots on the list of 50. Discover these incredible foodie gems here.
[Featured Image: The Mission Inn via Facebook]