Admittedly, New York City’s 5th Avenue probably has a lock on the most impressive urban holiday decor. Without the prototypical snow-covered streets, evergreens, and wind chill factor, outsiders might think that Los Angeles could never measure up. But we’re happy to report that, for those of us who know where to go, that could not be further from the truth. It may take a little more ingenuity for L.A. to get in the holiday spirit. From Dodgers Stadium to the South Coast Botanic Garden and beyond, the City of Angels is up to the task.
Free for All
For a leisurely walk or drive, these five won’t cost you a thing.
1. Festival of Lights at the Mission Inn | The Mission Inn Hotel & Spa, Inland Empire | Free
The Mission Inn boasts something that nothing else on this list can: more than four million lights in its annual display (that’s million, with an M). While pandemic restrictions mean visitors can’t get as intimate with the display as most years, it’s still a breathtaking sight to behold — particularly since it’s free to see. On display until January 6, 2021, the Riverside inn’s light menagerie is not to be missed.
2. Sleepy Hollow Christmas Lights Extravaganza | Robert Rd, off the PCH, and surrounding streets | Free
Torrance’s Seaside neighborhood offers its yearly promenade of illuminated trees, houses, and lawns — nearly everything that can be is embellished with strings of luminosity. Add your own brake lights to the mammoth procession, or, if you’d rather avoid traffic, you can park on the PCH and take in the light show on foot.
3. Beverly Hills | Rodeo Dr, between Santa Monica Blvd and Wilshire Blvd | Free
For a more luxurious take on holiday energy, venture down to Beverly Hills. In addition to the iconic palm trees trimmed with twinkling lights, Visions of Holiday Glamour will set up mannequins the colors of precious metals along Rodeo Drive, flanked by red and white spotlights, to mimic a North Pole fashion show — think Mrs. Claus meets Anna Wintour.
4. Venice Canals | Dell Ave | Free
Normally, the Venice Canals play host to a disarmingly charming boat parade, which, like many events, had to be put on hiatus this year. However, the canals are still done up in their holiday best. From the stark white lights that bedeck bridge trusses to the technicolor homes with their own light displays, the Venice Canals make for a lovely, Christmas-tinged holiday stroll.
5. Christmas Tree Lane | Santa Rosa Ave, between Woodbury Ave and Altadena Dr | Free
While not exactly the Rockefeller Christmas Tree species, L.A.’s conifer alley becomes an impressive canopy of Christmas lights during the holiday season. Open through January 7, the mile-long Altadena driveway merits its reputation as the “oldest large-scale outdoor Christmas display in the world.”
A Little Extra
Prepare to pay for these holiday excursions.
6. WonderLAnd | Woodland Hills | $70 per vehicle
Featuring six-light tunnels, house facades decked out in holiday trimmings, artificial snow, flashing trees, and, yes, outrageous lawn displays, WonderLAnd is an aptly wonder-inducing drive-thru holiday experience. Perfect for families in need of some non-video-game sensory overload for stir-crazy kids. Available until December 30.
7. Hikari: A Festival of Lights at Tanaka Farms | Tanaka Farms, Irvine | Mon-Thurs, $49/vehicle; Fri-Sun, $59/vehicle
Taking its name from the Japanese word for “light,” Hikari has engineered a mile-long trail of lights. Wondering why it costs slightly more to visit on the weekends? Well, on the weekends, there’s one very special visitor. We won’t tell you his name, but we’ll give you some clues: He’s got a beard that’s long and white; he comes round on a special night; he wears boots and a suit of red; he wears a long cap on his head…any guesses? You’ll have until January 10 to find out if you’re right!
8. The Elf on the Shelf’s Magical Holiday Journey | Fairplex, Pomona | $24.95/person
It’s hard to believe the Elf on the Shelf has only been around since 2005 — at this point, he seems a permanent Christmas fixture. Fairplex takes this to new heights, staging a full-fledged EotS story, replete with app-based narration, trained actors juggling pins and balancing on tightropes, and original music. It’ll run from now until January 3.
9. South Coast Botanic Garden’s GLOW | South Coast Botanic Garden, Rancho Palos Verdes/Rolling Hills Estates | Members: $29.95/person; Nonmembers: $39.95/person
For a less conventional approach to Christmas light fixtures, take a trip to the South Coast Botanic Gardens, where flora of all varieties will be illuminated in spectrally dazzling ways. Up until January 10, GLOW is a unique spin on holiday cheer, not to be missed.
10. Dodgers Holiday Festival | Dodger Stadium, Echo Park | $75 per vehicle
While the citizens of Los Angeles collectively await the moment when they’ll be able to fully celebrate the Dodgers’ 2020 World Series title, the Dodgers are doing what they can to liven up the holiday mood. Through December 24, the stadium’s exterior will feature drive-thru light shows, LED video displays, artificial snow, and lots of Dodgers-themed decor.