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Christmas at The Americana | © Chris Yarzab / Flickr
Christmas at The Americana | © Chris Yarzab / Flickr
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The Best Things to Do This Christmas in Los Angeles

Picture of Juliet Bennett Rylah
Updated: 1 December 2017
The holidays in Los Angeles are a little odd for transplants and tourists in that you can often walk around on Christmas Day in a T-shirt, and there’s never any snow. That doesn’t mean, however, that L.A. skimps on the festive cheer. There are many places where you can take a pic with Santa, sip on some eggnog, and hear all of your favorite holiday tunes whether you want to or not. Here are 11 ways to celebrate Christmas in Los Angeles in 2017.
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The Grove

Los Angeles’ open-air mall The Grove gets into the holiday spirit with a massive Christmas tree, festive décor, and it even “snows” every night at 7 p.m. and 8 p.m. It’s not real snow—Los Angeles never gets cold enough for that—but rather a foam that provides the appearance of snow, minus the chill. The grounds are also pumped with holiday music to keep the mood flowing while you finish your shopping. The Grove’s sister property, The Americana in Glendale, is equally festive, with a towering Christmas tree, hot cocoa carts, live performances, and more.

The Grove, 189 The Grove Drive, Los Angeles, CA, USA, +1 323 900 8080

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Skating at Pershing Square

Pershing Square transforms into an ice skating rink every winter, offering outdoor skating through January 15th—even on Christmas Day. General admission is $9, and skating sessions last an hour. You can rent skates, lockers, and skate helpers for an additional fee. It’s especially easy to get to this rink via L.A. Metro, as Pershing Square is a stop on both the red and purple lines.

Pershing Square, 532 S Olive Street, Los Angeles, CA, USA

Universal Studios Hollywood

Amusement Park
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Universal Studios Hollywood|©Prayitno/Flickr
Universal Studios Hollywood | ©Prayitno/Flickr

Universal Studios Hollywood

Though it’s always magical at Universal Studios’ The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Christmas adds a layer of cheer. Hogsmeade will be decked out in a seasonal fashion, while the Frog Choir will perform holiday songs. You can sip a piping hot butterbeer while watching the nightly light show, and you can stop by any of the many gift shops to pick up a stocking stuffer for the wizards (or muggles) on your list this year.

Elsewhere, guests may enjoy a holiday photo op with the Minions or The Grinch and his faithful dog, Max. Grinchmas, which features ornament decorating and Who-ville performances, is available on select dates. A one-day admission into the park starts at $105.

Universal Studios Hollywood, 100 Universal City Plaza, Universal City, CA, USA, +1 800 864 8377

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Festival of Lights

There is no better place to go for holiday lights than the Mission Inn in Riverside. This historic hotel was just 12 rooms when it was built in 1876, but it soon boomed to become the massive property guests find today. Their annual holiday spectacular incorporates over five million lights and 200 animatronics, permeating both the hotel and the surrounding grounds. This year marks the festival’s 25th anniversary, and items of note include a gingerbread replica of the hotel and an immersive candy-themed passage. The Festival of Lights runs through January 6th. It’s free to walk around, though reservations are advised if you think you might want to stay the night in this fascinating hotel.

Mission Inn Hotel & Spa, 3649 Mission Inn Avenue, Riverside, CA, USA, +1 951 784 0300


Festival of Lights | Courtesy of The Mission Inn Hotel & Spa

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Enchanted: Forest of Lights

Descanso Gardens’ Enchanted: Forest of Lights eschews the cheesy trappings of other holiday light displays for something truly unique. Take a mile-long stroll through the gardens, bathed in lights that are almost haunting in their beauty. Some exhibits are interactive, allowing guests to light up different areas with their movements, while others are fine for simply wandering through in awe. The landscape is quiet with subtle soundscapes, but no booming “Jingle Bells.” Enchanted: Forest of Light runs nightly through January 7th. Tickets start at $28.

Descanso Gardens, 1418 Descanso Drive, La Canada Flintridge, CA, USA, +1 818 949 4200

Knott's Merry Farm

Amusement Park
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Knott’s Berry Farm © Jeremy Thompson / Flickr
Knott’s Berry Farm | © Jeremy Thompson / Flickr

Knott’s Merry Farm

Knott’s Berry Farm in Buena Park is great at repurposing its Old West-themed amusement park for the holidays. It becomes Knott’s Scary Farm at Halloween, and at Christmastime, it turns into Merry Farm. Visitors will enjoy crafts, seasonal décor, photo ops with Santa, and live performances, including the Snoopy Ice Show and the Calico Christmas Saloon. Guests may also visit the park’s many year-round rides and attractions in between all the merry-making.

Knott’s Berry Farm, 8039 Beach Boulevard, Buena Park, CA, USA, +1 714 220 5200


Knott’s Merry Farm | Courtesy of Knott’s Berry Farm

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The Nutcracker

Nothing says Christmas quite like the delicate opening strains of Tchaikovsky’s “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairies.” Fans can catch a full performance of The Nutcracker with Miami City Ballet December 7th–10th at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in downtown Los Angeles. The Moscow Ballet will perform The Nutcracker at The Wiltern in Koreatown on December 15th and 16th.

Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, 135 N Grand Avenue, Los Angeles, CA, USA, +1 213 972 0711

The Wiltern, 3790 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA, USA, +1 213 388 1400

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L.A. Zoo Lights

See the Los Angeles Zoo in effulgent holiday splendor this holiday season. L.A. Zoo Lights features dazzling lights and projections, actual reindeer, and photo ops with Santa on select dates. Tickets begin at $14.95 for adults, $11.95 for children, and free for kids two years old and younger.

Los Angeles Zoo, 5333 Drive, Los Angeles, CA, USA, +1 323 644 4200

014 ZooLights17-Jamie Pham

L.A. Zoo Lights | © Jamie Pham / Courtesy of Los Angeles Zoo

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Krampus Ball

For something a little less saccharine, check out the Krampus Ball. Here, folks gather to celebrate the Austrian folklore monster who comes to punish the naughty children every December. This year’s fete will take place at The Alpine Village in Torrance on December 2nd, and will feature performances by Krammpstein (a Krampus-themed Rammstein cover band), Rosemary’s Billygoat, Hammerstein Musk Bavaria, and a Krampus troupe. The festivities kick off at 8 p.m.—feel free to come in costume. Advance tickets are suggested, as the ball usually sells out. If you can’t make it to Torrance, you can always attend the Krampuslauf on December 14th at 8 p.m., in which the horned beasts will parade through the streets of downtown Los Angeles in search of souls to judge.

The Alpine Village, 833 W Torrance Boulevard, Torrance, CA, USA, +1 310 327 4384


Krampuslauf | © Paul Narvaez / Flickr

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CHILL at the Queen Mary

The Queen Mary is a retired ocean liner in Long Beach where you can rent a room for the night, have dinner and drinks, or take a ghost tour. For the holidays, they’ll be offering a 38,000-square-foot Ice Adventure Park, complete with ice skating, ice bumper cars, a zip line, ice tricycles, and more. The fest will also include holiday traditions from around the world, international cuisine, live performances, photo ops, and other merry activities.

The Queen Mary, 1126 Queen Highway, Long Beach, CA, USA, +1 877 342 0738

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Santa’s Tavern

At the J.W. Marriott Los Angeles L.A. Live, you’ll find Santa’s Tavern, a gingerbread bar made out of 1,300 pounds of dough and sugar. Inside, find seasonally appropriate cocktails, such as the Mistletoe Mimosa (Tattinger Prestige Rose and cranberry), and mixology courses. On December 16th, guests at the Holly Jolly Day celebration will also get access to L.A. Live’s ice skating rink, dessert stations, seasonal fare, and photo ops. Tickets are $30 for adults and $18 for kids 12 and under online, or $35/$20 at the door.

J.W. Marriott Los Angeles L.A. Live, 900 W Olympic Boulevard, Los Angeles, USA, +1 213 765 8600

Gingerbreadhouse_Ryan Forbes

Santa’s Tavern | © Ryan Forbes