Jing-a-ling-a-ling! It’s that time of year when we share some of the best holiday events around Southern California. And there’s no dearth of options – from boat parades to light shows to holiday-themed studio tours. And best of all, it’s SoCal, so the weather should be cooperative when you’re ready to play under the palms.


Nov. 26 – Jan. 6

Solvang lit up for JulefestSolvang lit up for Julefest — Photo courtesy of Solvang Conference & Visitors Bureau

For those who haven’t been to Solvang, the magical little town straddling central and Southern California, now is the time. Holiday celebrations in this Danish wonderland are in line with their “Hygge for the Holidays” theme, complete with Danish delicacies (aebleskivers!), Danish-influenced shops and horse-drawn trolley rides.

Floating holiday parades

Dates and locations vary

Dana Point Parade of LightsDana Point Parade of Lights — Photo courtesy of Dana Point Harbor Partners

Perhaps nothing is more coastal California than the festive boat parades that roll out every December in beach cities throughout Southern California. A few to keep on your radar: the Dana Point Parade of Lights (Dec. 9-11), the Marina del Rey Boat Parade (Dec. 10), the Santa Barbara Waterfront Parade of Lights (Dec. 11) and the San Diego Bay Parade of Lights with more than 80 private decorated boats motoring around San Diego Bay (Dec. 11 and Dec. 18).

Light shows

Dates and locations vary

Fantasy forest lights at Descanso GardensFantasy forest lights at Descanso Gardens — Photo courtesy of Descanso Gardens

The nights are illuminated around SoCal all through the holiday season with spectacular light installments, most of which run through January. Some of the more notable include the Enchanted: Forest of Light at Descanso Gardens in La Cañada, Lightscape at the San Diego Botanic Garden, and another Lightscape at the L.A. County Arboretum.

The Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles Holiday Concert

Dec. 17 and 18

The Gay Men's Chorus of Los AngelesThe Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles — Photo courtesy of Gregory Zabilski

Don’t miss the annual Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles’ holiday spectacular. Their themed shows are a perfect mix of classy and campy, and they’re attended by people of all ages, religions and genders. This year, it’s “A Motown Holiday” at Glendale’s Alex Theatre featuring R&B and pop artist Shanice.

Hanukkah Festival at the Skirball Cultural Center

Dec. 18

Dancing at the Hanukkah Festival at the Skirball Cultural CenterDancing at the Hanukkah Festival at the Skirball Cultural Center — Photo courtesy of Mercie Ghimire

Celebrate the Jewish Festival of Lights with music, storytelling, crafts and tasty treats (latkes! jelly donuts!). The event will feature a variety of musical guests and Skirball storytellers will recount the age-old story of Hanukkah before a sunset candle lighting.

Holiday teatime

Dates and locations vary

Holiday Tea at The Peninsula Beverly HillsHoliday Tea at The Peninsula Beverly Hills — Photo courtesy of Vanessa Tierney Photography

What better time to indulge in afternoon tea than during the holidays? A number of upscale properties are offering special holiday tea experiences, including The Montage Laguna Beach and the Teddy Bear Tea at The Langham Pasadena, the latter including a take-home teddy bear. Or raise a glass of Laurent-Perrier Champagne at The Peninsula in Beverly Hills, as part of their December Holiday Afternoon Tea where a portion of proceeds are donated to Easterseals Southern California.

Holidays Made Here Studio Tour

Dec. 22 – Jan. 1

Visit Lorelai and Rory's house in Stars HollowVisit Lorelai and Rory’s house in Stars Hollow — Photo courtesy of Emily Ohara

Looking for something that’s truly Instagram-ready? Check out the limited-time Holidays Made Here Studio Tour in Burbank where “Gilmore Girls” fans can jump into holiday scenes around Stars Hollow.

Zoo lights

Dates and locations vary

ZooLights at the Santa Barbara ZooZooLights at the Santa Barbara Zoo — Photo courtesy of Santa Barbara Zoo

Three big zoos in Southern California are all onboard with festive light installations that come alive when most of their four-legged residents go to sleep. These include the popular LA Zoo Lights: Animals Aglow (Nov. 18 – Jan. 22), the first-ever zoo lights at the Santa Barbara Zoo (Nov. 3 – Jan. 15) and the best-named Jungle Bells at the San Diego Zoo (Dec. 9 – Jan. 1).

Kuumba Kwanzaa celebration

Dec. 17

Celebrate Kuumba – the Kwanzaa principle of creativity – with storytelling, songs, puppetry and more during this Kwanzaa Celebration at the California African American Museum in downtown LA. Teaching artists from Able ARTS Work, a nonprofit organization offering opportunities in the creative arts for people of all abilities, will also lead a workshop to inspire participants to display their own Kuumba spirit.

Muzeo Express’ holiday model train exhibit

Dec. 3 – Jan. 22

"Polar Express" model train scene at Anaheim's Muzeo Museum“Polar Express” model train scene at Anaheim’s Muzeo Museum — Photo courtesy of Muzeo Museum and Cultural Center

Downtown Anaheim’s Muzeo Museum and Cultural Center is bringing back their Muzeo Express holiday exhibit featuring whimsical model trains and scenes from well-known movies, such as “The Polar Express” and Radiator Springs from Disney’s “Cars.” Certain evenings will also offer readings or showings of these classics with free treats and hot chocolate.

Las Posadas at Olvera Street

Dec. 16 – 24

The annual Las Posadas Christmas tradition on Olvera Street features merchants and their families walking through El Pueblo de Los Angeles (considered the birthplace of Los Angeles, by the way) in a ceremonial reenactment of Joseph and Mary’s nine-night search for sanctuary.

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