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Map pins blink like holiday lights.
(Patrick Hruby / Los Angeles Times)

31 dazzling holiday light displays that make SoCal shine

Think back to your earliest fond memories of the holidays. Chances are they involve nippy weather and some kind of sparkly lights.

We don’t have much snow in Southern California to ring in the holidays, but we have plenty of nighttime light shows. This year you can experience the sparkle at festive neighborhood displays, elaborately festooned botanic gardens and zoos, and drive-through extravaganzas with music, dance and animation.

Some of the free neighborhood displays might feel a bit cheesy, until you consider how much heart goes into the decor, especially when volunteers spend weeks and sometimes months stringing tinsel, inflatables and lights just to entertain people they’ll never meet.

There’s some solid history to a few of these events as well. At Upper Hastings Ranch in Pasadena, the Holiday Light Up is marking its 71st year of a friendly neighborhood rivalry that grew from one street in 1952 to 45 streets today and some 1,100 homes (although not everyone in the area joins the decorating frenzy).

But for those who do, it’s a huge labor of love, and not inconsiderable expense, although technology has reduced some of the electricity costs with LED lights that use a fraction of energy and are less prone to breakages or fire.

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That became abundantly clear in Altadena, where about 100 volunteers spend 10 weekends ahead of the holidays using ropes and pulleys to hang 18,000 lights along the boughs of 155 venerable deodar cedar trees on Santa Rosa Avenue, a.k.a Christmas Tree Lane. Switching to LED lights meant the association’s electric bill “went from thousands of dollars a year to $400,” said Christmas Tree Lane Assn. President Scott Wardlaw of Arcadia, who’s been active in the organization since 2008. He got involved when his son chose the group as his high school freshman community service project and asked his dad to drive him so he could volunteer.

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Fifteen years is nothing, though, Wardlaw said, compared to volunteers like Tony and Maureen Ward, who moved onto Santa Rosa Avenue in 1971. Initially, they just helped string lights outside their home. However, in 1996 they threw themselves into volunteering for the association once their children were grown. Over the years, they took on leadership roles, and Tony supervised the annual light stringing in September, October and November and unstringing in February as a volunteer foreman for nearly 18 years.

At 80, Tony says he’s still helping, but he’s tapped 22-year-old Derek Nowak to take on the foreman role. “We’re working on getting some younger people in here to take over,” he said, adding that Nowak has been “working with us since he was 8 years old and he’s got the experience and commitment.”

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That staying power is the secret sauce for organizations like Christmas Tree Lane, said Wardlaw.

“It’s amazing to me that people come out year after year to do this job,” he said. “They don’t have to, but they decide to do it anyway because it’s a good idea. I always remind myself of this because sometimes it can feel like the world’s pretty crummy ... and then I think of things like our organization and I think, ‘Yeah, the world’s not so bad after all.’”

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A few final things to note:

  • Most of these shows are rain-or-shine events, so don’t expect a refund if it starts to drizzle on the night you bought tickets. Dress warmly, bring an umbrella and count your blessings that Southern California’s low temperatures rarely dip below 50 degrees.
  • Several of the free light shows are in residential areas where an informal group of neighbors voluntarily go all out to create holiday displays, so the start and stop dates for these events are sometimes vague. Pro tip: If you can, try to visit on weekday nights because traffic can get congested on weekends. Or better yet, if the area has sidewalks, park your car a block or two away and walk the route. (You’ll get in some steps, and in some neighborhoods residents sell hot chocolate or other treats from their driveways).
  • The holiday light shows are divided into four loose categories: free or paid walk-throughs and free or paid drive-throughs, which you can filter using the navigation bar above.
  • If we’ve missed any venues, send an email with details to jeanette.marantos@latimes.com and we may be able to include it. We’re also interested in hearing about single homes that put on a lavish, not-to-be-missed display, so if you find a great one, email me the address and your name and contact information. If we get enough, we’ll share those extravaganzas too.

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Showing  Places
Fever's Astra Lumina light show at South Coast Botanic Garden.
(Bruno Destombes)

Astra Lumina at South Coast Botanic Garden

Rolling Hills Estates Paid Walk-Through
Moment Factory and Fever present “an enchanted night walk amongst the stars” at South Coast Botanic Garden — a cosmic light show meshing lights, projection and sound into dazzling celestial events as you walk through the garden. The walk-and-gape show takes about 60 minutes.

Dates: Through Dec. 31

Hours: Timed entry between 5:30 to 9 p.m. Thursdays through Sundays through Dec. 16, then nightly through Dec. 31. Visitors can stay until gates close at 10 p.m.

Admission: Reserved tickets are required and prices vary depending on the day and time. Prices range from $29 (typically for weekdays, later in the evening) to $38 for ages 13 and older, $21-$27 for ages 4-12, and $24-$32 for ages 65 and older. Children under 4 enter free. South Coast Botanic Garden members get a 15% discount on tickets, but need a promo code from the garden. Preferred on-site parking ranges from $20 to $25, depending on the day; off-site parking pass with a shuttle to the gate is $10. Beverages and snacks may be purchased on-site.
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Brea Eagle Hills Christmas Lights

Brea Free Drive-Through
Brea Eagle Hills Christmas Lights is a longstanding and very popular neighborhood light event, so expect tons of sloooow-moving traffic — plan at least 45 minutes for the tour — if you choose to drive. Many visitors recommend parking outside the housing tract and walking the route. Public parking and restrooms are available nearby at the Brea Sports Park, 3333 E. Birch St. Some neighbors have traditionally sold snacks and warm drinks from their yards. The city of Brea also limits parking to only one side of the street in the Eagle Hills neighborhood between 4 and 10 p.m. for emergency vehicles.

Dates: Dec. 1-26

Hours: Dusk to 10 p.m.

Admission: Free
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Candy Cane Lane in El Segundo

El Segundo Free Drive-Through
El Segundo’s Candy Cane Lane — about 25 homes in the 1200 block of East Acacia Avenue — has been a tradition since 1949, except for 2020 during the pandemic. This year, it’s featured in the new Eddie Murphy movie, aptly named Candy Cane Lane, that airs Dec. 1 on Prime Video, so expect the regular crowds to be even larger this year. Santa Claus will kick off the neighborhood display of music and lights at 7 p.m. on Dec. 9, by touring the avenue and “lighting” all the houses and displays as he goes.

Dates: Dec. 9-23

Hours: 7-11 p.m.

Admission: Free
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Homes decked out in lights
(Michael Robinson Chavez / Los Angeles Times)

Candy Cane Lane in Woodland Hills

Woodland Hills Free Drive-Through
Candy Cane Lane is an annual neighborhood holiday decor extravaganza — the kind of 60-plus-years tradition that happens when homeowners work together and get a little competitive about who has the best light display — that starts at the intersection of Lubao Avenue and Oxnard Street (by Pierce College) in Woodland Hills. This is a pretty informal event, without any specific spokesperson or website, but the lights typically go up after Thanksgiving and stay on through the end of the year, according to the West Valley-Warner Center Chamber of Commerce. This is a slow-drive-through-the-neighborhood-and-gape event.

Dates: Through Jan. 1

Hours: 6-10 p.m.

Admission: Free
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The Capistrano Lights event on display
(Andrew Worthington / Mission San Juan Capistrano)

Capistrano Lights at San Juan Capistrano Mission

San Juan Capistrano Paid Walk-Through
The venerable courtyard of Orange County’s only mission at San Juan Capistrano is bathed in lights and oversized holiday decor, with Dickens-era carolers, a harpist in the chapel, crafts for children, a butterfly orchard, a huge nativity scene and photos with Santa.

Dates: Dec. 2-30

Hours: Tickets available for selected days only: Dec. 2-3, 9-10, 16-17, 22-23 and 26-30. Ticket holders can enter as early as 10 a.m. to tour the mission, but the holiday programming of lights, music and Santa begins at 3:30 p.m. and ends at 6:30 p.m. The mission closes at 7 p.m. during Mission Lights, except on opening night, when it closes at 8 p.m.

Admission: Limited tickets are available at the door, but online purchases are recommended due to high demand, $20 ages 12-59, $17 seniors ages 60+, $14 ages 5-11 and free for children 4 and younger. Member tickets are $9 for anyone over 4.
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Motorists cruise Santa Rosa Avenue, better known as Christmas Tree Lane
(Calvin B. Alagot / Los Angeles Times)

Christmas Tree Lane in Altadena

Altadena Free Drive-Through
Altadena’s Christmas Tree Lane — a.k.a California State Landmark No. 990 — starts its 103rd year of elaborate drive-by holiday decorations with a Winter Festival on Dec. 9 at the Altadena Public Library, 600 East Mariposa St. The festival includes an arts and crafts fair, strolling carolers, schmoozing elected officials, free hot chocolate, food trucks and a chance to participate in the countdown at 6:30 p.m. to illuminate the lights on Christmas Tree Lane, nearly a mile of shining decor strung among 155 massive deodar cedar trees lining both sides of Santa Rosa Avenue. Traffic will be blocked on the street until 11 p.m. that day, so revelers can admire the twinkling lights on foot, but that’s the only time organizers recommend walking the route because there are no sidewalks and it’s difficult to see pedestrians unless they are brightly lit. This is a slow-drive-through-the-neighborhood-and-gape event. Admiring is free, but the association of volunteers who spend 10 weekends manually hanging some 18,000 lights every year welcome $35 memberships online to offset the cost of lighting the trees and keeping them healthy.

Dates: Nightly from Dec. 9-Jan. 7

Hours: The lights turn on at 5:30 p.m. and off at midnight. Winter Festival hours on Dec. 9 from 3 to 9 p.m. Christmas Tree Lane will reopen to traffic by 11 p.m. on Dec. 9, after the festival is complete.

Admission: Free
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A manger scene outside a decorated home
(Patricia Marroquin/Moment Editorial/Getty Images)

Christmas Tree Lane in Oxnard

Oxnard Free walk-through
Oxnard’s Henry T. Oxnard Historic District is transformed into an elaborately decorated Christmas Tree Lane in December. You can drive the route, but walking is the preferred way to savor the 139 historic homes, most built before 1925, representing various architectural styles, including Mission/Spanish Revival, Bungalow, Craftsman and Colonial Revival. These homes are extraordinary to view any time, but during the holidays the lights and decor (added by the owners) make the scene all the more special. The houses are clustered on F and G streets between 5th Street and Palm Drive. Be sure to drive past Oxnard’s giant Christmas tree display — billed as the tallest in Ventura County — at Plaza Park, 500 S. C Street. The tree-lighting ceremony on Nov. 30 runs from 5 to 9 p.m. with entertainment, food trucks, a holiday marketplace and Santa!

If you’re willing to pay $13.50 per person, you can tour Christmas Tree Lane as well as Oxnard’s Heritage Square Gingerbread Exhibit from a double-decker trolley Dec. 12-14 on Holly Trolley, the Holiday Tour. Prepaid reservations required.

Dates: Dec. 10 through 26 from 6 to 10 p.m.

Hours: 6 to 10 p.m. nightly

Admission: Free
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Dana Point Harbor Christmas Boat Parade.
(Christine Barnes)

Dana Point Harbor Holiday Lights and Board Parade of Lights

Dana Point Lights to see for free
Dana Point’s holiday revels continue to grow, with lots of lights around the harbor, including its popular “Merry Kiss Me” display and giant blue whale, a large glowing Menorah at the foot of the harbor during Hanukkah from Dec. 7-15 and the annual Boat Parade of Lights Dec. 8-10, this year with a Candy Land theme, starting at 6:30 p.m. each night. The city of Dana Point’s Jolly Trolley runs from 5 to 10:30 p.m. each night of the parade between Doheny State Beach to the Ocean Institute at the far edge of the harbor.

An extra note: If you arrive during the day on Dec. 2-3 and have a Santa fan tagging along, check out Dana Wharf Sportfishing & Whale Watching’s annual Boat Rides With Santa — 20-minute harbor cruises with Santa, between 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Reservations are required and tickets are $5 for adults and children, with all proceeds supporting the Soroptimist of Capistrano Bay‘s work to support women and girls.

Dates: Dec. 8-10

Hours: Starts at 6:30 p.m. each night

Admission: Free
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The Flower Power at Descanso Gardens' Enchanted Forest of Light
(Descanso Gardens)

Descanso Gardens’ Enchanted Forest of Light

La Ca?ada Flintridge Paid Walk-Through
Descanso’s annual holiday light show stretches a mile through the gardens, with luminous eye candy that includes a new hanging light installation under the oaks, a labyrinth of 3-D geometric sculptures and glowing “meadow grass” in the rose garden and a “town” of stained-glass buildings on the main lawn created by sculptor Tom Fruin.

Dates: Through Jan. 7

Hours: Timed entry every half-hour between 5:30 and 8:30 p.m.; open until 10 p.m. daily, rain or shine, except Dec. 24 and 25.

Admission: Tickets must be purchased online, $20 to $40 for members; $25 to $45 for nonmembers. (Children under 2 enter free but still require a ticket.)
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Colorful lights on display during the Festival of Lights at Tanaka Farms
(Emily Ganiko / Tanaka Farms)

Hikari: Festival of Lights at Tanaka Farms

Irvine Paid Walk-Through
Hikari means “shine” in Japanese, and Tanaka Farms is living up to that name with a wagon ride to the “Land of a Thousand Lanterns” and walks through the grounds with more lights, live music, food for purchase, arts and crafts, barnyard animals and a chance to take photos with Santa. There’s also a Christmas tree lot and Holiday Market open to shoppers for free.

Dates: Through Dec. 30

Hours: Open Wednesdays through Sundays through Dec. 16, then daily through Dec. 30 except for Dec. 24 and 25), 4:30 to 10 p.m. (Last entry is at 8 p.m.)

Admission: $25 to $35 for ages 13 and older, $15 to $25 for ages 3-12, depending on the night. Children 2 and under as well as military service members, retirees and veterans enter free with military ID. Activity tickets are $6 or six for $30 for games, arts and crafts, mini-ATVs, face painting and photos with Santa. Parking is $10, but if you’re just coming to shop for trees and holiday merchandise, tell the parking attendants and they’ll direct you to free parking.
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The entrance to Holiday Road at King Gillette Ranch lit up
(Line 8 Photography)

Holiday Road at King Gillette Ranch

Calabasas Paid Drive-Through
Holiday Road is a 2/3-mile, self-guided walking trail through glowing candy canes, nutcrackers and polar bears, giant gingerbread folk and houses, shimmering tunnels, sparkly trains and trees all draped in lights, plus a chance to see Santa and Mrs. Claus. Hot chocolate and toddies are available for purchase.

Dates: Through Dec. 27

Hours: Open Fridays through Sundays through Dec. 16, then nightly except Dec. 25 from 5 to 9:30 p.m. The parking lot entrance closes at 9 p.m.

Admission: Tickets are $29.99 to $44.99 per person, depending on the night. Children 2 and younger enter free. Advanced purchase required (unless the venue isn’t sold out that day.)
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Imaginarium at Pomona Fairplex

Pomona Paid Walk-Through
Imaginarium is a lantern show with more-fantastical-than-usual luminescent flora and fauna (e.g. giant mushrooms and elegant anime-type dragons with enormous antlers) along with Christmas trees and other holiday-themed displays. The show also includes a mirrored infinity room, interactive games and a vast field of 35,000 blooming LED roses that practically begs for selfies. The show promises 1.5 miles of synchronized music and lights, circus performances included with admission three times a day, and food and beverage for purchase.

Dates: Wednesdays-Sundays (and Dec. 26) through Jan. 7

Hours: 5 to 10 p.m.

Admission: $27 to $29 depending on the day for ages 13-61, $21 to $23 ages 3 to 12 or 62 or older, $19-27 for military people and their families with ID depending on the day. Family packs for four tickets are $92 to $100.
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Lit up frogs
(Jamie Pham / L.A. Zoo)

L.A. Zoo Lights

Griffith Park Paid Walk-Through
The L.A. Zoo’s “Animals Aglow” holiday event features oversized animals, flowers and trees with some serious glow and animation, such as one spectacular bright blue peacock, along with the obligatory, eye-popping walk under a shining tunnel. One wonders what the zoo’s residents think?

Dates: Through Jan. 7

Hours: Open Wednesdays through Sundays, except Dec. 24-25 from 6 to 10 p.m.

Admission: $29 to $35 for ages 13 and older, $18 to $23 for ages 2 to 12, depending on the day. Children under 2 enter free. Discounts up to 27% for members of the zoo.
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A family of three pose for a selfie under a peaked tunnel of cascading white lights
(Mel Melcon/Los Angeles Times)

Lightscape at Los Angeles County Arboretum

Arcadia Paid Walk-Through
The Los Angeles County Arboretum says it’s “reimagined” its annual Lightscape walking tour this year with new sights and sounds along the Serpent Trail and Forest Path. The displays include a fire garden, “Arch of Light,” glowing tulips and dancing palms, but don’t worry — its popular walk-through winter cathedral of white lights is returning as well. Lightscape winds about a mile though the Arboretum’s gardens, on wheelchair-accessible paths. There are food trucks on site every evening, along with a full bar.

Dates: Through Jan. 2 except closed on Nov. 30 and Dec. 4-6, 11-13 and 25.

Hours: Tickets must be reserved in advance, with timed entry between 5:30 and 8:30 p.m., but visitors can stay until the gates close at 10 p.m.

Admission: Tickets are $29 to $35 for ages 13 and older, and $14-$18 for ages 3 to 12, depending on the day. Members save $6 per adult ticket and $4 per child ticket. Children 2 and under enter free. On-site parking is $20 and must be purchased online. Discounted rates are available for a family pack of four tickets (for two adults and two children) or for four adults.
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Lightscape San Diego at the San Diego Botanic Garden.
(Lightscape San Diego)

Lightscape San Diego at San Diego Botanic Garden

Paid Walk-Through
San Diego Botanic Garden worked with Sony Music and U.K.-based Culture Creative to create a mile-long walking trail of glowing musical installations, with floating orange poppy flowers, known as Floraison; a sprawling meadow of fiber-optic flowers; its Liquid Sky display — colored laser beams projected on fog to create a canopy of overhead lights; a tall, peaked tunnel of white lights known as the Winter Cathedral; and this year’s addition, Flow, “dynamically controlled points of light” to create “an organic floral shape” in honor of the gardens. Food and drink are available for purchase.

Dates: Wednesdays-Sundays through Jan. 1, 2024, except open Dec. 18-19 and 26. Closed Sunday, Dec. 24, as well as Christmas Day.

Hours: 5-10 p.m. (Last entry at 9 p.m.)

Admission: Timed entry tickets are $26-$32 for ages 13 and older, $16-$20 for ages 3-12, depending on the days. Members and military families with ID pay $3 less. Children 2 and younger enter free. Ticket prices increase by $5 for adults and $2 for children if purchased the day of the event. Parking is $10-15 depending on the day, if purchased in advance, $20-$25 if purchased at site or day of the event.
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Lighted trail
(California Botanic Garden)

Luminaria Nights at the California Botanic Garden

Claremont Paid Walk-Through
California Botanic Garden has the state’s largest collection of California native plants, and now visitors can view them at night with special holiday luminaria, string lights, art installations, live music, and food and beverages for purchase.

Dates: Dec. 8-10, 15-16 (Dec. 8 is open to members only)

Hours: 6 to 9 p.m.

Admission: $20 adults, $15 for seniors age 65+, students with ID and children ages 3-12. Members pay $15 adults, $10 seniors/students/children 3 to 12. Children under 3 enter free.
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Magic of Lights at Angel Stadium.
(Magic of Lights)

Magic of Lights in Coachella Valley's Empire Polo Club

Indio Paid Drive-Through
Here’s an immersive holiday lights drive-through with a very appealing price. You can basically fill up your car (safely) to experience FOUR lighted tunnels — odes to blizzards, snowflakes and candy canes — plus a fourth that’s 200-feet long, and some 40 scenes of lighted holiday displays over a winding, mile-long route. Of course there will be a winter wonderland (in the desert), the 12 days of Christmas, Toyland, elves, monster trucks, a 32-foot-tall animated Christmas Barbie who waves and a “prehistoric Christmas” featuring life-size dinosaurs “celebrating the season” while blowing the minds of paleontologists everywhere.

Dates: Nov. Through Dec. 31

Hours: 5:30 to 9 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays, 5:30 to 10 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays

Admission: Tickets are cheaper if purchased in advance, online, $25 or $30 per standard vehicle, depending on the dates you choose. A limo or party bus ticket costs $60. If purchased at the gate, tickets are $35 or $40 for standard vehicles, and $75 for limo/party buses. Tickets for buses are $100, whether online or at the gate.
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Manhattan Beach Pier in Manhattan Beach
(Roundhouse Aquarium)

Manhattan Beach Pier

Manhattan Beach Free walk-through
Here’s a chance to catch some lights and ocean breezes, all for free. The 928-foot-long Manhattan Beach Pier is bedecked with lights all the way to the towering display on the Roundhouse Aquarium at the end of the pier. Downtown Manhattan Beach has lights to enjoy too in its business area, so this could be a nice way to walk, window shop and enjoy the ceaseless song of the Pacific Ocean.

Dates: Through early January

Hours: Nightly at dusk

Admission: Free
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A sparkling display at the Marina del Rey Boat Parade Spectacular in 2022.
(Venice Paparazzi)

Marina Lights and Boat Parade Spectacular at Burton Chace Park in Marina del Rey

Marina del Rey Lights to see for free
The 10 acres of trees at Marina del Rey’s Burton Chace Park are covered in sparkling lights during December, for a free festive stroll along the water. Although the total build-out won’t be completed until Dec. 9, in time for the marina’s 61st Boat Parade Spectacular from 6 to 8 p.m., preceded by five minutes of fireworks. (Fisherman’s Village at 13755 Fiji Way is another good public viewing location, according to the website.) And for an explosive, colorful and thrifty end to 2023, visit the park on New Year’s Eve for the marina’s free annual fireworks display, at 8:59 p.m, and again at 11:59 p.m. (with live entertainment, face-painting and other activities for children, and food trucks starting at 7 p.m.)

Dates: Dec. 9 for the boat parade

Hours: 6 to 8 p.m., preceded by 5 minutes of fireworks

Admission: Free
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The main entrance to Riverside's Mission Inn is glowing in lights.
(Mission Inn)

Mission Inn Festival of Lights

Riverside Free walk-through
This is the granddaddy of SoCal’s holiday light shows. The city of Riverside provides a riot of vendors and holiday lights along its Main Street promenade, along with an ice-skating rink this year, but the chief attraction is the Mission Inn — an extraordinary venue that covers a full city block and is draped with lights and moving figures on all sides

Pro tip: The Mission Inn covers a full city block and is draped with lights and moving figures on all sides, but if you want to see the elaborate holiday decor inside without renting a room or buying a meal, make a reservation to tour the Mission Inn. The history is fascinating. You’ll get a peek inside this storied hotel, and if you take the last tour of the day, the outside lights will be ablaze when you emerge. The 75-minute tours are by reservation only and cost $20 for ages 12 and older, $17 for seniors, and $15 for children ages 11 and younger as well as residents of Riverside and San Bernardino counties. There are also several stores nearby, such as Mrs. Tiggy Winkles gift shop, and the new Cheech Marin Center for Chicano Art & Culture, a.k.a the Cheech, next door, if you want to browse a little before the lights come on.

Dates: Through Dec. 31

Hours: Lights come on at dusk every night.

Admission: Free to walk outside; however, if you want to see the decorations inside, you’ll need to take a tour, rent a hotel room (starting at $229 a night) or have a reservation at one of the inn’s restaurants. (Or maybe grab a drink at one of its two lounges.)
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The route of the Naples Island Christmas Boat Parade in Long Beach.
(David White)

Naples Island Christmas Boat Parade

Long Beach Free walk-through
The annual Christmas Boat Parade, along the scenic canals of Naples Island in Long Beach, has been a tradition for 77 years. This year’s parade is Dec. 16, starting at 6 p.m. with large boats festooned with lights for this year’s theme, Christmas around the World. Smaller decorated boats will head out at 6:30 p.m. The best places to view the parade are on the bridges and waterfronts along the island’s canals, including the bridge sections of 2nd Street and Appian Way as well as Alamitos Bay Marina, according to the Long Beach Visitor & Convention Center. If you can’t make the parade, the island is still a lovely place to walk or float to admire the decorations on the houses lining the canals. And if you want to walk among more lights in Long Beach, check out the giant tree and decorations at Terrace Theater Plaza, 300 E. Ocean Blvd., about four miles west of the canals.
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Newport Dunes Lighting of the Bay outside Newport Dunes Waterfront Resort in Newport Beach.
(Newport Dunes)

Newport Dunes Annual Lights of the Bay

Newport Beach Free walk-through
Newport Dunes Waterfront Resort has been lighting up the bay for more than three decades and this year’s Fire & Ice Festival includes 50 floating holiday trees and decorations that reflect off the water in a magical way, along with an ice skating rink by the water, a Christmas tree lot and other activities. The lights come on daily at dusk and you can view them for free, but of course there are opportunities to spend money too, such as s’more-making ingredients at the resort’s on-site store, which can be used in the public fire pits (first come, first served), and the beachfront Igloo Bar (open on Wednesdays through Sundays).

Dates: Through Jan. 1

Hours: Dusk to 9:30 p.m. daily

Admission: Free. On-site parking is free for the first 30 minutes, then $10 to $25 depending on your length of stay. Ice skating sessions are $20 or $25 for 90 minutes on the ice, depending on the day and time.
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Buildings and palm trees brightly lit by holiday lights on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills
(Kate Jones)

Rodeo Drive Holiday Lighting Celebration

Beverly Hills Free walk-through
So maybe you can’t do all (or even some) of your holiday shopping on Rodeo Drive, but that shouldn’t stop you from taking a stroll along this iconic street to do some free window drooling ... uh, shopping and take in the city’s lavish “Up Up & Away Holiday” light display. Beverly Hills has several nearby lots where you can park for free for one or two hours during daytime hours. After your walk on Rodeo Drive, check out “The Glowing Gardens,” with a larger-than-life tree and ornament sculptures at Beverly Ca?on Gardens, 241 N. Canon Drive, just a couple of blocks away, and the “Unwrap the Magic” projection show every half-hour between 6 and 9:30 p.m. on the Beverly Hills City Hall Tower, at the corner of N. Santa Monica Boulevard and N. Crescent Drive. The city’s historic Jolly Trolley car offers rides from Rodeo Drive to City Hall Thursdays through Sundays (except holidays) from 6 to 9 p.m. Need more? On your way in or out of town, visit the “Lights on the Lily Pond” show in Beverly Gardens Park, 9439 Santa Monica Blvd., through Jan. 1 with free shows every 15 minutes between 6 and 9:30 p.m.

Dates: Through Jan. 1

Hours: Every evening at dusk

Admission: Free
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Santa Barbara Zoo Lights' first holiday light show.
(Courtesy of the Santa Barbara Zoo)

Santa Barbara Zoo Lights

Santa Barbara Paid Walk-Through
Santa Barbara Zoo joins the holiday light fray with thousands of silk-covered “lanterns” in the form of animals and exotic plants, including giant butterflies, peacocks and creatures from the African plains and Australian Outback.

Dates: Through Jan. 14

Hours: 4:30 to 8:30 p.m. Closed Mondays and Nov. 28, Dec. 5, 12, 14, 24-25 and 31, and Jan. 1, 8 and 9.

Admission: $22 or $32 for ages 13 and older, $20 or $30 ages 3 to 12, depending on dates, children 2 and under enter for free. Zoo members pay $2 less per ticket.
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Street with lights on the trees.
(Seaside Neighborhood Assn.)

Seaside Holiday Lights

Torrance Free Drive-Through
Residents of the Seaside Ranchos neighborhood of Torrance, otherwise known as Sleepy Hollow, have been working together to create elaborate residential holiday light displays since 1984. This is an all-volunteer effort. No one is required to participate, but the displays involve about 300 houses and bring in thousands of visitors every year. The city of Torrance puts out cans to collect trash and restricts street parking to only one side of the road for emergency vehicles, but otherwise the homeowners do all the work.

Many residents sell food and drink from their property, said Seaside Neighborhood Assn. President Tricia Blanco, but there are no public restrooms and visitors are asked to stay out of people’s yards. Walkers are welcome if they park elsewhere, but if you drive, expect long waits, especially on weekends. The website includes a map of the light displays, which are largely located on Robert Road, Doris Way, Linda Drive, Carol Drive, Reese Road and Sharynne Lane. Enter from Pacific Coast Highway on Robert Road.

“This used to be just a neighborhood thing, but now it’s an attraction,” Blanco said.

Dates: Dec. 1 to Jan. 1

Hours: Dusk to 10 p.m. nightly

Admission: Free
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A view of the Sherman Library and Garden's event Nigthts of 1000 Lights Holiday Light Show.
(Charles Park/Charles Park Photography)

Sherman Library & Gardens' Nights of 1000 Lights

Corona del Mar Paid Walk-Through
Sherman Library & Gardens is a tiny botanic garden that packs a mighty punch with its annual holiday show, which typically sells out early in the season. This year’s theme, “It’s Candy Land!,” is an homage to the vintage (and maddening) board game for children. Expect tours along the Rainbow Trail through the Lollypop Woods and Gumdrop Mountains, Molasses Swamp, Old Peanut Brittle House, the Peppermint Stick Forest (and light tunnel) and the Candy Heart Carnival with carnival games for all ages. You can visit the Candy Land Express Train on your way to visit Santa in his workshop and then make some s’mores by a fire pit. A cash-only vendor is selling tacos, quesadillas, water, and hot chocolate, and for those who imbibe, there’s also a bar selling beer and wine.

Dates: As of press time, the only dates not sold out were Dec. 14-15 and Dec. 17-22.

Hours: 6 to 9 p.m. with three possible entry times, but only 8 p.m. entry times were still available as of press time.

Admission: $35, ($25 members, children 3 and under enter free.) The family package of $200 includes family membership for a year and four tickets.
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Colorful holiday themed sign that says BELIEVE at Upper Hastings Ranch Holiday Light Up
(Jon Nalick)

Upper Hastings Ranch Holiday Light Up

Pasadena Free Drive-Through
Holiday Light Up is another longstanding (since 1952) friendly neighborhood competition that benefits everyone willing to get in their cars and marvel at what ultra-creative homeowners can do to make spectacular holiday decor in their front yards. The event involves 45 themed streets and more than 1,000 homes (although only about 70% get involved, says Upper Hastings Ranch Assn. historian Tiffany Gardner.) This is a slow-drive-through-the-neighborhood-and-gape event, and closer to Christmas some of the residents amplify their decor with other holiday cheer, Gardner said. “We have had a group caroling on their lawn the Friday before Christmas every year for about 35 years; we have another neighbor that has a Christmas band with a honk-along (cars honk to “Good King Wenceslas”) ... and we regularly have Santa sightings here.”

Dates: Dec. 9 to Dec. 31

Hours: 6 to 10 p.m. nightly

Admission: Free
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Fireworks light up the sky and reflect in the dark water along a beach.
(Ventura Harbor Village)

Ventura Harbor Holiday Parade of Lights and Fireworks

Free walk-through
This is the 47th year for Ventura Harbor’s Holiday Parade of Lights and Fireworks, a two-day event that includes a kid’s carnival, faux snowfall and live musicians starting at 4 p.m. But the main event begins with the parade at 6:30 p.m., when gaily-decorated boats of every shape and size slowly make two tours around the harbor. Visitors can watch for free, wherever they can find a good viewing spot along the promenade or in water-facing restaurants, but note that reservations go quickly so bundle up if you watch from outdoors. And note this is a weather dependent event — especially the fireworks, so be sure to check the website before you go.

Dates: Dec. 15-16

Hours: The boat parade starts at 6:30 p.m. Fireworks begin at 8 p.m.

Admission: Free to watch the parade and fireworks.
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Wakefield Winter Wonderland

Santa Clarita Free Drive-Through
Santa Clarita locals know this Wakefield Court neighborhood as “Candy Cane Lane,” but it’s better known on social media as the Wakefield Winter Wonderland, a double cul-de-sac street of about 41 homes all lavishly decorated, complete with a ceiling of lights strung over the streets from home to home, from 21900 to 21999 Wakefield Court. Exact dates for this year’s light show haven’t been announced, so check the Facebook page before you go. The traffic gets pretty heavy (some reviewers on Yelp reported a milelong line of waiting cars), so many visitors recommend parking outside of the neighborhood and walking to take in the lights. Nights get cold in Santa Clarita; dress warmly. In years past, some of the neighbors have kept things warm with outdoor fires or by selling food and warm drinks from their yards.

Dates: To be announced

Hours: Dusk to 10 p.m.

Admission: Free
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Illuminated cutout house with giant candy cane and tiny girl walking through
Illuminated creatures at WildLights at the Living Desert Zoo and Gardens.
(The Living Desert Zoo Gardens)

WildLights at the Living Desert Zoo and Gardens

Palm Desert Paid Walk-Through
This is the Living Desert Zoo and Gardens’ 30th year of creating a winter wonderland of festive lights in the middle of Palm Desert, with a new 30-foot Christmas tree as well as glowing, life-size animal lanterns, a tunnel of lights with holiday music, bedecked G-scale model trains with more than 3,000 feet of track, and food and beverages available for purchase.

Dates: Dec. 1-2, 8-9, 14-24, 26-30. Note that Dec. 14 is only for ages 21 and older.

Hours: 6 to 9 p.m.

Admission: $19.95-$22.95 for 18 and older, depending on the day, $15.95 to 18.95 for ages 3-17. Children under 3 enter free. Adult members pay $2 less.
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(Anthony Joseph Domingo)

Yolanda Lights

Reseda Free walk-through
Think of Reseda’s Yolanda Lights as more of an art installation than your typical neighborhood holiday displays. For one, there’s no competition here — it’s just neighbors in the 7300 block of Yolanda Avenue working together to create a dazzling tunnel of lights for a good block on both sides of their street. Visitors are encouraged to walk the route — or bring their scooters, roller blades or skateboards to glide through — just be careful not to mow down any other pedestrians enjoying the view. The idea is built around neighborhood cooperation, not competition, according to the website, and if you’re interested in creating a similar tunnel in your neighborhood, creator and “electronics handyman” Anthony Domingo includes instructions about how to build your own arches of light. The opening dates haven’t been posted yet, so check the website or their Facebook page before you go.

Dates: Through Jan. 6 (approximate)

Hours: “Always open,” but the lights look best at night.

Admission: Free
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