You’ve probably had to fend off this tired question before: How can we get in the holiday spirit here on the West Coast when it’s warm in December? Well, first of all, it’s cold — by L.A. standards, at least. But there’s also plenty of holiday cheer if you know where to see Christmas lights in Los Angeles. In between a deluge of Christmas events and frantic shopping trips — you’ve consulted our holiday gift guide, right? — take the time to check out these twinkling neighborhoods. Just make sure to bring along an extra sweatshirt and some patience: Not even Christmas lights can escape L.A. traffic.
While L.A. might lure in visitors with breezy palm trees, the region is no slouch when it comes to conifers. Case in point: This grand, mile-long driveway of cedars in Altadena becomes blanketed in lights each holiday as it transforms into Christmas Tree Lane. Take a majestic cruise down the hill after it lights up the second Saturday in December (Dec 8, festival at 2pm, lighting at 6pm). Just a heads up: While you may feel inclined to drive through with your headlights off, that would be illegal.
Santa Rosa Ave, between Woodbury Ave and Altadena Dr (Altadena)
Nov 17 2018-Jan 6 2019
Descanso Gardens’ light-up experience has ditched the kitsch in favor of a whimsical, wondrous, curiosity-driven display that’s among L.A.’s most stunning and, more importantly, most fun. The interactive, nighttime program has set up eight illuminated installations around the botanical garden grounds, from luminescent forests to free-standing hands-on art pieces.
Descanso Gardens, La Cañada
“Balian” may revive memories of red-striped ice cream cups for LAUSD alumni, but today the family name is most closely tied to its Mediterranean Revival mansion in Altadena. Each Christmas visitors flock to the house to see thousands of lights elegantly draped across its corner plot. The destination has its fair share of campy elements — oversized, wooden nativity animals and the near-constant strobe of light-up toy vendors — but that first gasp-worthy glimpse as you turn off of Allen Avenue makes the house a must-visit. There’s plenty of street parking along the residential streets (be courteous) and Christmas Tree Lane is only a few blocks away.
1960 Mendocino Ln (Altadena)
We’ll admit it: Los Angeles has no true holiday counterpart to the festive windows of New York’s 5th Avenue. That said, our own tony shopping district, Beverly Hills, knows how to add a bit of opulence to the holidays. With much pomp and spectacle (beginning Nov 15), lights swirl around the palm trees that line Rodeo Drive, up the steps of Via Rodeo, over the span of Wilshire Boulevard and onto the extravagant Beverly Wilshire.
Rodeo Dr, between Santa Monica Blvd and Wilshire Blvd (Beverly Hills)
We all like showing off to our neighbors, but the homeowners behind Candy Cane Lane take it to the extreme. For over 60 years, these eight blocks — centered around Lubao and Oxnard Streets in Woodland Hills — have been blanketed in lights. The displays light up starting the second Saturday in December and last through the end of the year.
Lubao and Oxnard St (Woodland Hills)
Sometimes you simply want to see as many lights as possible, and Torrance’s Sleepy Hollow neighborhood surely delivers. Follow the stream of brake lights overflowing from Robert Road for a trek through this visual overload. Starting in early December, seemingly every tree, house and lawn becomes blanketed in an electric bill-dizzying degree. The display runs every night from 6 to 10pm, starting in early December up until New Year’s Day, and you can walk the few blocks if you’d prefer (park on the PCH, Calle Mayor or Prospect Avenue).
Robert Rd, off of the Pacific Coast Hwy, and surrounding streets (Torrance)
A decades-old tradition of coordinated holiday display among homeowners makes the sloping grid of ranch-style homes in Upper Hastings Ranch a scenic year-end destination. Each block of the Pasadena neighborhood decorates according to a different theme; one street might be lined with light-up candy canes while another is flanked by an army of inflatable Santas. After an official lighting in early December, you can cruise around the twinkling foothill community until the new year.
North of Sierra Madre Blvd and east of Michilinda Ave (Pasadena)
Even before the Halloween pumpkins disappear from Main Street, you’ll be able to spot signs of the holidays at Disneyland. The beloved theme park turns into the merriest place on earth for a full two months (Nov 9–Jan 6), with Christmas makeovers of popular rides and holiday-themed nighttime shows. As far as Christmas lights go, you’ll spot festive decor all over the parks, from the auto-themed Americana decorations in Cars Land to icicle lights draped atop Sleeping Beauty Castle. But the real standout is the joyous facade of “It’s a Small World.”
1313 Disneyland Dr (Anaheim)
Nov 16 2018-Jan 6 2019
After going dark in 2009, holiday lights have returned to Griffith Park — this time at the L.A. Zoo. Whereas the old DWP Holiday Lights brought motorists careening through the park’s windy roads, the zoo’s fest finds visitors trekking through the front half of the festively illuminated grounds on foot. Though most of the animals will be asleep, you will be able to see reindeer and sit for a photo with Santa. Standout displays include elephant statues animated with projection mapping, a twinkly light tunnel and festive interpretations of L.A. landmarks.
Los Angeles Zoo | Los Angeles, CA, Griffith Park
Nov 23 2018-Jan 6 2019
Riverside’s stunningly beautiful Mission Inn is bathed in 4.5 million twinkly lights during the annual Festival of Lights. The free six-week-long holiday tradition begins the day after Thanksgiving with a “switch-on” ceremony. Throughout its run, you’ll find horse-drawn carriage rides, fresh snow and more than 400 animated figures.
The Mission Inn Hotel & Spa, Inland Empire
Dec 19 2018-Dec 23 2018
Ah, the joys of Christmas in a Mediterranean climate, where boat owners can deck out their ships in holiday lights and set sail without the impediment of icy weather. For the 110th year, the Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade is doing just that as over 100 decorated yachts and ships parade around a 14-mile circuit in the Newport Harbor. You can see the parade for free during each of the five nights from any bay-facing point along the harbor, but there are also reserved seats and dining packages available for purchase.
Until Jan 6 2019
While not strictly a holiday display, this timed-ticket, nighttime event held across the grounds of the Arboretum should satisfy your search for all things illuinated. The event includes a slew of Chinese lanterns — but not the small, hanging type. A field in the Arcadia botanical garden is covered with parade-float–sized structures, with other themed archways and playful creatures lining the pathways around the grounds.
Los Angeles County Arboretum & Botanical Garden, Arcadia