What Southern California lacks for in snow, it more than makes up for in festive and brilliant light displays. We all know SoCal isn’t exactly known for frigid temps and falling white powder in the wintertime (except in higher elevations), but there’s no denying that Tinseltown shines even brighter this time of year when a bazillion twinkling lights illuminate every corner of the region. So bundle up, put on your comfy kicks, and pack a Thermos of hot cocoa to take along with you on your evening adventure marveling at dazzling light displays in Southern California.
26th ANNUAL FESTIVAL OF LIGHTS
THE MISSION INN HOTEL & SPA
3649 Mission Inn Ave. | Riverside
Nov. 23, 2018 to Jan. 6, 2019
Named “Best Public Lights Display in the Nation” by USA Today, Southern California’s historic Mission Inn Hotel & Spa in Riverside County hosts its 26th Annual Festival of Lights, a six-week-long holiday extravaganza featuring one of the largest light displays in the country. The massive AAA-Four Diamond hotel is decked out in five million twinkling lights and 200 animated characters, all of which can be admired for free. The event also offers appearances from Santa, freshly fallen snow, and more. And around the property there are horse-drawn carriages, live entertainment, and food vendors.
L.A. ZOO LIGHTS
LOS ANGELES ZOO AND BOTANICAL GARDENS
5333 Zoo Dr. | Los Angeles
Nov. 16, 2018 to Jan. 6, 2019 (closed 11/22, 12/24, and 12/25)
For this seasonal event, a portion of the Los Angeles Zoo is transformed into a magical world of twinkling lights featuring 3D projections, animal-themed LEDs, lasers, and animated displays. You can catch a dazzling water and light show choreographed to music and attend the black light party at the reptile house. While most of the zoo animals won’t be awake, the reptiles and amphibians at LAIR will be on view and Santa’s reindeer will be welcoming zoo guests at Reindeer Village.
ENCHANTED: FOREST OF LIGHT
1418 Descanso Dr. | La Cañada Flintridge
Nov. 18, 2018 to Jan. 6, 2019 (closed 11/22, 12/24, and 12/25)
Our pick for coolest winter light display in SoCal would have to be Descanso Garden’s Enchanted: Forest of Light, a meandering one-mile path of glowing lights and mystical sounds featuring 10 unique light experiences. Some installations offer an interactive component that kids of all ages can enjoy, especially Luminous Lawn and Symphony of Oak. Ry was also mesmerized by 3 Starlight Garden and the geometric sculptures that cast stunning shadows on the ground when spun until he got a cut on the finger from one of the metal lanterns. Otherwise, I couldn’t pry the kid from the installation, and overall, Descanso Gardens was truly enchanting.
CANDY CANE LANES
Candy Cane Lanes dot the region spreading cheer to those who come and admire the luminous displays. These “lanes” or streets and neighborhoods where residents go all out adorning their homes and properties with plenty of lights and decorations typically draw massive crowds each holiday season. And for the especially hard core homeowner, no expense is spared to create elaborate light displays with animatronics choreagraphed to music.
CHRISTMAS TREE LANE
E. Mariposa St. & Santa Rosa Ave. | Altadena
BREA CHRISTMAS LIGHT NEIGHBORHOOD
2960-2970 Primrose Ave. | Brea
CANDY CANE LANE
1200 E. Acacia Ave. | El Segundo
GRISWOLD’S CHRISTMAS HOUSE DISPLAY (PRIVATE RESIDENCE)
The Griswold’s home from the comedy classic “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” recreated.
15912 Golva Dr. | La Mirada
UPPER HASTINGS RANCH CHRISTMAS LIGHTS
North of Sierra Madre Blvd and east of Michilinda Ave | Pasadena
THOROUGHBRED CHRISTMAS LIGHTS
Thoroughbred St. & Sapphire St. | Rancho Cucamonga
WAKEFIELD WINTER WONDERLAND
21865 Copper Hill Dr. | Santa Clarita
LIGHTS ON DISPLAY (PRIVATE RESIDENCE)
Computer controlled Christmas display featuring animatronics synchronized to music (13 minutes).
3901 Longview Valley Rd. | Sherman Oaks
SLEEPY HOLLOW CHRISTMAS LIGHTS
Pacific Coast Highway & Calle Mayor | Torrance
CANDY CANE LANE
Luboa Ave. and Oxnard St. | Woodland Hills
Rodeo Drive | Beverly Hills
100 Citadel Dr., Suite 480 | Commerce
THE AMERICANA AT BRAND
889 Americana Way | Glendale
IRVINE SPECTRUM CENTER
670 Spectrum Center Dr. | Irvine
THE GROVE LA
189 The Grove Dr. | Los Angeles