Christmas is my favorite time of year, and yet, I knew that everything about the holidays would look different this year. COVID-19 has compelled brands to pivot, and their expertise and creativity in helping families celebrate safely is evident across the Southland. From drive-through holiday lights to socially-distanced Santa, here is the best of Christmas and Holiday events in Southern California, including Los Angeles, Orange County, and San Diego. This guide will be updated regularly throughout the season, so be sure to bookmark it to check back for updates.
Knott’s Taste of Merry Farm
Knott’s Merry Farm is our favorite holiday event, and while the park is still closed due to COVID-19, I am excited to tell you about the theme park’s latest food and retail event, Knott’s Taste of Merry Farm.
Food has always been integral to Knott’s celebrations and their creative pivot with their tasting events has been wildly popular. Dates for the season, which ends January 3, 2021, are nearly sold out! Like Knott’s Berry Farm’s previous “taste” experiences, a tasting card is your ticket into the park. An adult tasting card ($40) gives you 5 generous food tastings which include more than 60 unique, holiday-themed food and drink items. A Junior tasting card includes 3 food tastings for $20.
Once again, Knott’s more than exceeded expectations for their twist on Knott’s Merry Farm. The entire park is adorned with festive decor and lights. Carolers ring in the season on the balconies above ghost town and families can marvel at a previous production of Snoopy on Ice at the Calico Mine Stage. Photo opps are situated throughout the park, my favorites being the Calico Square Christmas Tree, Santa and Mrs. Claus at Santa’s Christmas Cabin (Wilderness Dance Hall, and Santa Snoopy! See my full post for everything you need to know about Knott’s Taste of Merry Farm. November 20-29, December 4-6, December 11-13, December 18-24, December 26-30, and January 1-3. General Event hours: 12 pm to 9 pm. Select dates event hours: 12 pm to 8 pm on November 29, December 6, December 13, December 24, and January 3.
Holidays at LEGOLAND California Resort
Celebrate the Holidays at LEGOLAND with a special outdoor retail and dining experience. Held at the Park’s Fun Town, families will enjoy lights, live entertainment, seasonal treats, the famous LEGO Christmas tree (constructed out of more than 245,000 DUPLO bricks), festive decor, LEGO characters (Santa, Toy Soldier, Gingerbread Man) and more. Families can also walk around the newly themed Miniland U.S.A., build LEGO ornaments, and shop the largest LEGO retail store at The Big Shop. Turn it into a staycation with a stay at the LEGOLAND Castle Hotel. Tickets start at $14.99 online. November 20 – 29, December 4-6, 11-13, 18-31, and January 1-10
SeaWorld Christmas Celebration
From the creators of Hauntoween comes a brand new drive-thru winter experience. The first-ever WonderLAnd immersive drive-thru experience will feature nearly one million synchronized dancing lights time-coded to an array of seasonal songs. Additionally, families will see a myriad of themed, immersive vignettes and installations, including “Holidays Around the Globe,” a magical winter forest surrounding their version of the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree, the North Pole mountains, a 90-foot twinkling snowflake tunnel, and a snow flurry vortex tunnel. At the end, kids can wave to Santa Claus, Mrs. Claus, and their elves while they fill your trunk with a stocking-filled treat. November 30 – December 23, December 26 – December 30, 5 pm to 11 pm
Embark on a holiday expedition of light and travel through places that glow and twinkle during Wild Holidays at San Diego Zoo Safari Park. Experience the Enchanted Lagoon where you’ll enjoy music, “firefly” lights and a colorfully lit waterfall; get into the holiday spirit with the DJ over at Safari Park Radio 197.2; enjoy a musical light show with a holiday twist at Safari Base Camp; stroll across the Bridge of Lights and Tiger Trail; stroll through Nairobi Village and watch the hanging lanterns change color amid background music; and be on the lookout for roaming entertainment including the Safari Parker, the Firefly Stilt Walkers, and Songs of the Season. November 27-29; December 5, 6, 12, 13, 19-23, 26-31; January 1-3 from 4 pm to 8 pm.
Hikari – A Festival of Lights at Tanaka Farms
When the sun goes down, Tanaka Farms is transformed into over a mile of twinkling lights. Hikari means shine in Japanese, and that is exactly what Tanaka Farms will do this season…shine bright! This drive-through event will take you through their 30-acre farm with themed lighting including trees, scarecrows, tractors, and sugarcane. Every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, you’ll receive a special visit from Santa. After your drive, you can visit the Holiday Market Stand which sells holiday decor, souvenirs, and Christmas trees. November 27, 2020 through January 10, 2021
Christmas Train at Irvine Park Railroad
Reflections at Descanso
Skypark at Santa’s Village
Home for the Holidays Christmas Boutique
Winter Holiday & Stocking Stuffer Sweets Crawl
Food and the merriment of the holidays collide in The Bite LA’s latest drive-through, COVID-friendly event. The seasonal twist on their drive-thru experience offers immersive Winter Holiday fun appropriate for the whole family. Tickets include a stocking stuffer sweets crawl with eight sweet bites and a complimentary stocking, a snowman sno-ball fight with a bag of 5 cotton plush sno-balls, the Winkle, The Holiday Gnome Village, stories and songs with Santa, live a the Yule Log Stage, and an ugly car sweater contest (you could win a prize). Vegan, Vegetarian and Gluten Free Stocking Stuffer Sweets will be available! Now through December 27, 2020
Light of the World: Christmas Lights at Saddleback
Saddleback Church is hosting an unforgettable Christmas lights experience at their Lake Forest campus! Experience a wonderland full of lights, decorations and music…free! December 1-24.
The Elf on the Shelf’s Magical Holiday Journey
The global phenomenon Elf on the Shelf comes to life in a beautiful, immersive storybook drive-thru experience. Building on the stories, characters, and themes, The Elf on the Shelf’s Magical Holiday Journey takes families on an hour-long adventure to help save Christmas after Santa Claus encounters a sleigh mishap. You’ll be transported to a series of larger-than-life dreamworlds to help find the magic Santa needs to fly again. Sets include the Toy Repair Workshop, Gingerbread Village, Arctic Winter Wonderland, and Santa’s Magical Grotto. Guests can purchase eats and treats before the experience and then shop after via their drive-thru holiday retail shop. The experience was designed by David Korins, award-winning creative director and set designer of the original Broadway productions of “Hamilton,” “Beetlejuice,” “Dear Evan Hansen,” and the Oscars 2019, and directed by Vance Garrett, Chief Creative Officer, Constellation Immersive, whose production highlights include “Sleep No More” and “29 Rooms.” The sheer talent of Korins and Garrett offers families a special way to celebrate the iconic holiday tradition. To promote the season of giving, there will be a toy drive benefiting Toys for Tots and Children’s Hospital LA. Families can make a monetary donation at the time of ticket purchase or bring an unwrapped toy to the ticketed experience. Tickets start at $19.95 for children and $24.95 for adults. The Elf on the Shelf’s Magical Holiday Journey takes place at the Fairplex in Pomona November 12, 2020 through January 3, 2021. More info here.
Night of Lights OC
Winter Fest OC’s re-imagined drive-thru experience will take families through a magical winter wonderland. Families will enjoy more than 1,000,000 lights through a mile-long route. Highlights include themed holiday scenery, special effects (snow flurries and bubbles), animated light shows and tunnels synchronized to music through your car radio or smartphone.
Pre-order your favorite holiday treats, including hot cocoa, cinnamon sugar donuts, and Mom’s Bake Shoppe cookie buckets and brownies, prior to your Night of Lights OC experience. Vehicle admission starts at $39.00 (includes up to 5 people) and you can save $2 with the code WINTEROC2. Dec. 10 through Jan. 10 (excluding Christmas Eve), with time sessions ending at 9:30 p.m. nightly.
While indoor operations for the Aquarium of the Pacific have temporarily been suspended, you can still celebrate the holidays with their outdoor event. During Aquarium Holidays, families will enjoy holiday decor including holiday trees and lights. Several of their outdoor animal exhibits will also be decorated for the holidays. Every day, the first 25 people to find a Santa figure hidden somewhere at the aquarium will win a small prize. The aquarium will also showcase a virtual Hanukkah program on December 13 and a virtual Kwanzaa program on December 26. Admission $19 or free to members. The Aquarium will also offer discounted late nights Saturday and Sundays through December for $15 after 6 pm. Saturday, December 5, to Wednesday, December 23, 2020 (plus Sunday, December 26, 2020) closing at 9 pm.
Christmas in Color
Drive through millions of lights synchronized to holiday music you’ll hear through your radio. Drive by giant candy canes, snowmen, arched pathways and more. Daily through January 3, 2021 5:30 pm – 10 pm (closed Thanksgiving and Christmas Day)
Dana Point Harbor Lights
The Polar Express at MainPlace Mall
Visits with Santa? Definitely not canceled! MainPlace Mall is offering a new way for families to take photos with Santa, safely. Their interactive, COVID-safe, journey-to-Santa experience is inspired by the iconic film, The Polar Express.
Santa is located on the lower level in the Macy’s court and is offering a completely contactless experience. Kids can talk to Santa from a safe distance to share their wish lists or place a letter in the mailbox to be read later. The set is free and open to the public with professional photos available for purchase. Photos are taken with 6 feet of distance between Santa and guests. The photos are staged to minimize the visibility of the distance.
Santa and all guests are required to wear masks during visits. Families are encouraged to make a reservation online at ShopMainPlaceMall.com. November 27 through December 23: Daily from 11:00am-7:00pm
Lighting of the Bay at Newport Dunes
Pavilion of Holiday Trees – South Coast Plaza
Holidayz at the Park
Celebrate the holidays at the Orange County Great Park, which has been transformed into a winterscape featuring holiday-themed events, displays, and lights. Families will be able to stroll through Palm Court, which features an outdoor light display and holiday decorations, including “Air Santa” (a larger-than-life airplane paying homage to Saint Nick’s travels and the park’s military roots). Irvine residents will also be able to attend a series of Pajama Party Drive-In Movies (must pre-register and include a food donation to the Orange County Food Bank) including Frozen II and The Santa Clause. On Saturday, December 5th, families can take an outdoor family photo in their specially designed 3D sleigh with Santa. Lastly, the park will host a Gingerbread House Decorating Workshop on December 12th with two time slots (10 am and 12:30 pm). All decorations and supplies are included in the class fee of $55 (one parent and child). November 21, 2020, to January 3, 2021
Earlier this Fall, SilverLakes Park hosted Fright Farms and Not So Spooky Farm, two drive-thru Halloween experiences. The creators of those two experiences have transformed the space into a new Christmas drive-thru experience. Electric Noel is a holiday drive-thru light show where families will journey from Santa’s command center and the elf village to Main Street and Mistletoe Lane. The entire experience is contactless and will include storylines and music from Reba McIntyre and Frozen, facilitated through FM transmission to vehicle stereo. Tuesday – Sunday 5 pm – 10 pm through January 3, 2021