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
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.