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24 Reasons to Love Christmas in Los Angeles
Christmas in Los Angeles is a very festive season. You'll find every conceivable traditional holiday activity from tree lightings and boat parades to theme park events and holiday shows, including some activities designed for colder weather - without actually having to suffer through the cold. There are also truly unique Los Angeles Christmas events and some more Unusual Christmas Traditions in LA. Some winter activities begin before Halloween and run through February, others are scheduled throughout November and December.
Click through the slides to see how we celebrate Christmas in Los Angeles. Some local LA Christmas traditions date back to the turn of the last century; others are just beginning as new traditions.
First Up: Hollywood Christmas Parade - An LA Holiday Tradition
The Hollywood Christmas Parade is one of the most longstanding holiday traditions in LA. Every year, the Sunday after Thanksgiving, Santa accompanies floats and marching bands down Hollywood Boulevard. The... parade starts at 6 pm. There are plenty of places to watch the parade for free along the street, or you can purchase grandstand seats.
Olivia Newton John is the Grand Marshall for 2016.
Erik Estrada (World's Funniest Moments, CHiPS) and Laura McKenzie (World's Funniest Moments, Laura McKenzie's Traveler) will serve as Broadcast Hosts of the parade. Dean Cain (VH1's Hit the Floor, Masters of Illusion, Lois &Clark: The New Adventures of Superman, Ripley's Believe It or Not!) and Montel Williams (The Montel Williams Show) will return in their roles as Special Featured Hosts of the parade.
There's lots of free curb space along the 2.5 mile parade route, but if you'd like to see the parade in relative comfort, you can buy tickets to the grandstand seating on Hollywood Blvd. Bleacher seats are located between Orange Drive and Highland Ave on both sides of the street.
When: Sunday, Nov 27, 2016, 6:00 pm
Where: U-shaped route starts at Orange and Hollywood Blvd. - travels east on Hollywood Blvd. to Vine, turns South on Vine to Sunset, travels west on Sunset back to Orange. Grandstand seats run from the beginning of the parade route to Highland Ave on both sides of the street.
Parking: Hollywood & Highland Center, $2 for first 2 hours, $15 max (no approach from Hollywood Blvd), check bestparking.com for additional lots in the area.
Metro: Red Line Station Hollywood & Highland
Info: (866) PARADE1 (866-727-2331). www.thehollywoodchristmasparade.com, Grandstand Tickets are available at Ticketmaster.com
Continue through this slide show to see more Los Angeles holiday traditions, some of which now begin in October!
Nearby:Continue to 2 of 24 below.
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Outdoor Ice Skating in LA - An LA Holiday Tradition
It began with Downtown on Ice and has now spread to venues across the LA Basin and into the Valley and Orange County. New technology allows outdoor rinks to stay frozen despite the warm weather so that outdoor ice skating in LA has become a widespread winter tradition. Skating now starts as early as the beginning of October and continues at some rinks through February.Continue to 3 of 24 below.
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Disneyland Christmas Fantasy - An LA Holiday Tradition
Disneyland at Christmas is quite enchanting with the park dressed up in its holiday finery complete with a nightly snowfall. Christmas themed characters and shows join the classic Disney family.
More about...Continue to 4 of 24 below.
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Knott's Merry Farm - An LA Holiday Tradition
At about 1/3 the price of Disneyland, Knott's Merry Farm, the Christmas celebration at Knott's Berry Farm, is pretty much the most Christmas fun you can have for your money. In addition to all the rides being open all day and night, there are tons of holiday shows, festive food, unique shopping, great decor and family fun for all ages.
Knott's Merry Farm Details and PhotosContinue to 5 of 24 below.
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CHILL at the Queen Mary
Not just another place to go outdoor ice skating in Los Angeles, CHILL at the Queen Mary is a winter holiday event at the Queen Mary in Long Beach that includes a ice skating, ice tubing, a couple rides, entertainment and different holiday activities every year, from snowman bounce houses to the world's biggest rocking horse. It originally included the Ice Kingdom exhibit of ice sculptures, but this year that has been replaced with Alice in Winterland, a non-frozen exhibit of Chinese lanterns and other interactive components telling the story of Alice in Wonderland.
Read more about CHILL at the Queen MaryContinue to 6 of 24 below.
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Grinchmas at Universal Studios Hollywood - An LA Holiday Tradition
Visit the Grinch at Universal Studios Hollywood
While Santa reigns in most of LA, the Grinch and the Whos of Whoville take over Universal Studios Hollywood to enchant Dr. Seuss fans young and old.
Get details on this year's Grinchmas at Universal Studios Hollywood.Continue to 8 of 24 below.
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Christmas Boat Parades - An LA Holiday Tradition
From Marina del Rey to Newport Beach, the waters off the Southern California coast sparkle with lights as festively decorated boats parade through the night. Some cities have just one parade, Long Beach has two different ones and Newport Beach and Dana Point run the same parade on multiple nights.
Schedule of Los Angeles and Orange County Holiday Boat ParadesContinue to 9 of 24 below.
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The Nutcracker Ballet - An LA Holiday Tradition
Almost every ballet company and ballet school in the region and a number of visiting companies put on some version of The Nutcracker Ballet for the holidays. Some last a night or a weekend, others run for several weeks.
Schedule of Nutcracker Performances Around Los AngelesContinue to 10 of 24 below.
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Holiday Plays and Shows - An LA Holiday Tradition
From classics like A Christmas Carol to LA originals like Bob's Holiday Office Party, holiday cheer shows up in various incarnations on stages all over Southern California with dozens of holiday-themed performances.
More about...Continue to 11 of 24 below.
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Christmas Tree Lightings - An LA Holiday Tradition
Holiday Shopping Events and Tree Lightings are a festive tradition in LA. From traditional tree and menorah lighting ceremonies and visits with Santa to nightly falling snow and a walk-through ice palace, LA shopping centers put on all kinds of programs to lure you in and keep you entertained.
More about...Continue to 12 of 24 below.
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Christmas Caroling in LA - An LA Holiday Tradition
Although you won't find a lot of people caroling door to door, there are lots of places to listen to and sing along with your favorite Christmas and Hanukkah songs around LA from tree lighting celebrations to concert hall sing-alongs.
Christmas Caroling Events around LAContinue to 13 of 24 below.
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LA Zoo Holiday Lights in Griffith Park - An LA Holiday Tradition
The DWP Holiday Light Festival won't be coming back in it's original location, so they've created a new light show at Griffith Park within the Los Angeles Zoo. The new LA Zoo Lights display includes LED lights, lasers, 3D projections and animal-themed sets and interactive displays. They've also incorporated a few favorites from among the original DWP lights collection. Zoo staff assure me they've taken precautions to make sure the new light show doesn't bother the animals. Dates run from Thanksgiving weekend to the weekend after New Year's. The evening show from 6 to 10 pm requires a separate ticket from the daytime zoo ticket. Reduced price earlybird tickets are available.
More on LA Zoo LightsContinue to 14 of 24 below.
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Reindeer Romp at the LA Zoo - An LA Holiday Tradition
Reindeer Romp at the LA Zoo gives Zoo visitors young and old a chance to see live reindeer and enjoy hands-on arts and crafts, live music, visits with Santa and more. The event usually runs from Thanksgiving through the weekend after New Year's. More details at lazoo.org.Continue to 15 of 24 below.
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Las Posadas on Olvera Street - An LA Holiday Tradition
Since LA was once part of Mexico and the Mexican-American population is still the majority, it is not surprising that the tradition of Las Posadas is alive and well on Olvera Street at El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historic Site, the oldest part of LA. During Las Posadas, a costumed Mary and Joseph, (or alternately statues of them), accompanied by a procession of singers, musicians and community members, go from house to house looking for a room, being turned away at each stop by singing innkeepers in a call and response routine. Las Posadas on Olvera Street is held for nine nights beginning December 16. Entertainment begins at 6:00, procession at 7:30. Info: (213) 625-5045
More about...Continue to 16 of 24 below.
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The Enchanted: Forest of Light at Descanso Gardens
Enchanted: Forest of Light is a new holiday light exhibit at Descanso Gardens in Glendale. The nighttime interactive experience features a one-mile walk through 8 distinct lighting displays in some of the most beloved areas of the gardens. Tickets are timed and must be purchased in advance. Check for discount tickets at Goldstar.Continue to 17 of 24 below.
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Winter Fest OC at the OC Fair and Events Center
A brand new holiday tradition beginning in 2015, Winter Fest OC transforms the indoor and outdoor spaces of the OC Fair and Event Center in Costa Mesa into a winter wonderland. It includes a lot of the same attractions as Queen Mary's CHILL, such as 6 lanes of ice tubing, ice skating - which moves outdoors this year - a nightly tree lighting, giant rocking horse, carolers and other stage entertainment. There's no ship, but there are 30 carnival rides and games open on the midway, a trackless train, petting zoo and arts, crafts and games for kids. You can also walk through the world's largest Christmas ornament. Santa appears on The Hangar rooftop in the tree-lighting show when he's not holding court for photo opportunities inside The Hangar.
New for this year is the walk-through Festival of Lights which goes from a Victorian Christmas theme to a unique Old West Cowboy North Pole combo and an indoor Snow Play Area with snow blown in daily, which includes a sled-riding... area for kids (no adults, unfortunately). It's real snow, which will leave the kids cold and wet, so wear/bring appropriate clothes and gloves.
Winter Fest OC is open daily from Friday night the weekend before Christmas through the first Sunday in January. Hours vary.Continue to 18 of 24 below.
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Bob Baker Marionettes Holiday Show - An LA Holiday TraditionBob Baker Marionette Theater has put on a holiday show perfect for the youngest visitors. Sometimes a version of The Nutcracker, other years a variety show, the fascinating puppet show has been a Los Angeles holiday tradition since 1963.
More on Bob Baker's Marionette TheaterContinue to 19 of 24 below.
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Downtown LA Holiday Walking Tours
The annual DTLA Holiday Lights Tour, offered by DTLA Walking Tours is a nightly tour of the festive holiday decorations and traditions in Downtown LA from the weekend after Thanksgiving through the weekend after Christmas.
This special tour exposes visitors to the beauty of Downtown LA at night to celebrate the seasons of Christmas, Hanukkah and more. It includes attractions like Las Posadas on Olvera Street, a Nutcracker Village, Icicle sheets, an ice rink and many more light features around Downtown Los Angeles.
For more information on the 2 hour tour, visit http://www.dtlawalkingtours.com/holiday-lights-tour.Continue to 20 of 24 below.
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Holiday Home Tours
Holiday home tours are a fundraising opportunity for various organizations around LA and Orange County from Pasadena to Newport Beach. They give you a chance to go inside fabulously decorated homes - usually of some historic significance - just to admire or to get ideas for your own decor. Some of the major ones around LA are:
The Sandpipers Holiday Home Tour in Manhattan Beach
The West Adams Progressive Dinner Tour in Central Los Angeles
The Balboa Island Holiday Home Tour in Newport Beach
Additionally, most of the Historic Home Museums in Los Angeles are decorated and have special events for the holidays.
A free way to get a peek inside some beautifully decorated homes from the outside is to take a stroll around Naples Island in Long Beach between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day.Continue to 21 of 24 below.
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Holiday Lamplight Celebration at Heritage Square Museum
If you can't decide which decade you'd like to celebrate Christmas, you can visit holiday parties in three different eras at Heritage Square Museum's Holiday Lamplight Celebration. Costumed hosts escort visitors from one Victorian house to the next to enjoy warm apple cider and holiday treats, music, dancing and retro parlor games. This event is not recommended for children under 6 or for people with mobility issues due to uneven terrain, dim lighting and tight indoor spaces. It usually takes place for two days the first weekend of December. Reservations are required.
More about...Continue to 22 of 24 below.
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Victorian Christmas Weekend at the Banning Museum
The Banning Museum in Wilmington holds an annual Victorian Christmas Celebration each December. The free open house includes tours of the house decorated for the holidays, carriage rides, holiday cookies and visits with Santa. Many of the other Historic Home Museums around Los Angeles are also decorated for the holidays and have special celebrations. Usually the first full weekend in December.
More on Victorian Christmas at the Banning MuseumContinue to 23 of 24 below.
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LA County Holiday Program - An LA Holiday Tradition
Every Christmas Eve, the LA County Board of Supervisors funds the LA County Holiday Program, a 3 hour concert of local choirs, musical groups and dance companies representing the diverse cultures and neighborhoods of Los Angeles County. The program is December 24 from 3 to 6 pm. The concert is free, but seating is limited, so go early or plan to wait in line for early shifts of audience members to leave.
Los Angeles Holiday Program ScheduleContinue to 24 of 24 below.
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The Magical Christmas Caroling Truck - An LA Holiday Tradition
Every year on Christmas Eve from 4:30-11 pm, the Magic Christmas Caroling Truck drives through the north Los Angeles neighborhood of Toluca Lake. Decorated like a holiday parade float, the festive flatbed is laden with volunteer musicians and singers who carol through the community.
The tradition began in 1984 when a group of 12 studio musicians wrapped a recording session and decided it would be fun to go play Christmas carols in their neighborhood from the back of a pickup truck.
Today over 200 volunteer singers and dancers perform to a backing track recorded in the same studio, with new songs added every year. The route covers 10 miles of streets in Toluca Lake and North Hollywood.
You can sometimes find the Magical Christmas Caroling Truck in the Burbank Christmas parade and other community events.
For the route map, sing-along lyrics and other information visit www.christmascaroling.org
Continue to LA's Most Unusual Christmas Traditions