The Most Festive Things to Do This Holiday Season in LA

From dazzling light displays to ice skating, holiday flicks, and more.

It’s that magical time of year again, and this year the holidays feel even more special as we’re once again able to gather with family and friends and enjoy some of our favorite holiday events IRL (depending what happens with Omicron of course). But don’t worry if you prefer to celebrate from a distance, we’ve got options for you, too. Whether you’re looking for dazzling light shows, photo opps with Santa Claus, pop-up ice rinks, movie screenings, or live performances, this list of festive events happening in LA is sure to get you in the holiday spirit. As always, be sure to check COVID vaccine or negative test requirements for any event you plan on attending and stay safe out there.

Los Angeles County Arboretum & Botanic Garden
Los Angeles County Arboretum & Botanic Garden

Ongoing through Sunday, January 16
$
LA Arboretum/Arcadia
Rather than worry your entire family as you balance precariously on a ladder and attempt to hang holiday lights, set off on a magical, illuminated journey of light at the internationally acclaimed Lightscape at the LA Arboretum. Peruse the sparkling Winter Cathedral, experience the breathtaking Fire Garden, and more as the botanical gardens are transformed with incredible light displays.

Ongoing through Saturday, December 25
Free
The Grove, Americana at Brand, and Palisades Village
All of Caruso’s LA shopping destinations will transform into festive wonderlands throughout the holiday season, with each one centered around a towering Christmas tree. But first, take part in the Festival of Lights and stop by for a menorah lighting at The Grove or Palisades Village any evening from November 28 through December 5. The Grove will also host a ceremonial lighting during the evening of December 2. Enjoy twice nightly snowfalls without the below-freezing temperatures as each property turns into a winter wonderland at 7 pm and 8 pm through Christmas Day. Santa Claus will also be on hand for present negotiations and photos, or catch him riding in a decorated trolley at the Americana at 7 pm and 8 pm every night through Christmas. Next door to the Grove, the Original Farmers Market is getting into the holiday spirit with live music and comedy performed in the plaza and carollers strolling throughout the market, plus crafts like gift wrapping with the Salvation Army and ornament decorating between Friday, December 17, and Friday, December 24.

Ongoing through December 31
$
Dodger Stadium
Take part in a white Christmas as the newly renovated Centerfield Plaza at Dodger Stadium becomes an illuminated, open-air ice skating experience. Happening nightly from 5–10 pm, the holiday festival will also include bounce houses and offer opportunities to take holiday pictures with a variety of backgrounds like giant wrapped gifts, snowmen, Santa’s sleigh, and a 40-foot Christmas tree. You can also enjoy live music performances and wander through light tunnels and interactive installations, including an immersive Northern Lights experience. Holiday-themed food and beverage will be available, including cocktails, craft beers, wine, and hot chocolate.

Santa Monica Pub Crawl
Photo courtesy of Santa Monica Pub Crawl

Saturday, December 18
$
Santa Monica
Don your Santa suit or most festive gear for one of the city’s most beloved holiday events. The Santa Monica Pub Crawl returns with over 20 participating businesses and multiple routes to choose from, including favorites like Circle Bar, Rick's Tavern, The Victorian, Lanea, and more. Tickets will grant you access to one free drink plus discounted drinks and food specials, priority entrance, no cover charges, DJs and live entertainment, plus entry into Santa’s Secret After Party. All attendees will be required to show proof of vaccine or negative COVID test at check-in in order to collect their wristbands. Proceeds go towards the Westside Food Bank; over the past 12 years, the pub crawl has raised enough to cover half a million meals.

Catch your favorite holiday flick

Saturday, December 4–Sunday, December 26
$-$$
Melrose Rooftop Theatre and Heritage Square Museum
Melrose Rooftop Theatre (MRT) is embracing the holiday spirit with a movie lineup that features cult favorites like Home Alone 1 (December 5), The Grinch (December 8), and Die Hard (December 20) screening nightly through Christmas Eve. Heat lamps will be on hand to stave off the evening chill, and guests can opt for a dinner-and-a-movie menu courtesy of recently reopened E.P Restaurant, or go the more casual route with concession snacks and specialty cocktails. The after-dark screenings also provide a gorgeous rooftop view of the city.
Across town, Street Food Cinema is returning to Heritage Square Museum to deck the historic halls for Yuletide Cinemaland, an immersive holiday event series featuring seasonal film favorites and an interactive winter village from December 4 through December 26. You’ll be greeted with a twinkling light tunnel of over 20,000 lights before entering an enchanting village with plenty of Instagrammable moments and festively decorated Victorian-era homes. Stop by the Tinsel Tavern Bar for hot chocolate, craft beer, mulled wine, and other seasonal delights and food trucks will also be on hand if you’re craving something more filling. Each night will feature two screenings of holiday films like Elf, A Christmas Story, and It’s a Wonderful Life.

the nutcracker
@losangelesballet

Saturday, December 4–Sunday, December 26
$$-$$$
Various locations
After cancelling their 15th season, the Los Angeles Ballet returns with an original production of The Nutcracker that’s set against Tchaikovsky’s iconic score in 1912 California, with choreography by co-artistic directors Thordal Christensen and Colleen Neary. Viewers will feel transported inside of a storybook as they follow along with Clara and her beloved Nutcracker to the Land of Snow and the Palace of the Dolls. Catch the show at various venues across Los Angeles, including The Alex Theatre, Redondo Beach Performing Arts Center, UCLA Royce Hall and The Dolby Theatre. The Dolby Theatre performances on December 23, 24, and 26, will feature the Los Angeles Ballet Orchestra, with ballet conductor Andrea Quinn.

Loews Santa Monica Beach Hotel
Loews Santa Monica Beach Hotel

Various dates through December 31
$-$$$
Loews Santa Monica
The holiday season is packed at Loews Santa Monica Beach, which is celebrating with activities like breakfast with Santa, hotel carolers, tea with a twist, and more. On December 4, 8, and 11, enjoy breakfast with Santa on the beach, including reindeer antler making, cookie decorating, photo opps, and more from 8–11 am. A portion of proceeds will be donated to Elemental Music, a Santa Monica nonprofit that works with more than 300 young, up-and-coming musicians. You can even book a boozy tea party with Elemental Music, featuring tea-infused cocktails, sweet and savory bites, and special winter performances from the nonprofit, plus a fashion show from local clothing boutique Jane. Catch carolers singing acapella throughout the hotel on Friday nights from 4–6 pm, meet and greet with Santa on Saturdays from 5–6:30 pm, and enjoy live holiday music on Saturday evenings from 6–8 pm. Watch a beachside holiday flick while you nosh on seasonal treats and write letters to Santa, or book an igloo or fire pit to enjoy holiday cocktails and seasonal tapas plates with the Pacific Ocean as your backdrop. There’s even an opportunity for furry friends to get into the holiday spirit with brunch with Santa Paws on Saturday, December 4, from 11:30 am to 1 pm, featuring breakfast for you and your pup (including “puppachinos”), photo opps, cookie decorating and other crafts, goodie bags, and more, with 20% of ticket proceeds donated to LA Love and Leashes.

Various dates through December 23
Free
Hollywood/Highland
The Los Angeles based pop-a cappella group, Jingle 5 Carolers, will be performing from 2–6 pm along the Hollywood Walk of Fame, with additional holiday entertainment that includes candy cane stilt walkers, a sing-along Sugar Plum Fairy with toy soldiers and ballerina characters, and live music from a holiday jazz band. The Hollywood hub will also offer socially distanced photo opps with Santa Claus and his entertaining elf helper on Saturdays and Sundays from 2–4 pm. It’s a great pre-game plan for anyone who plans on seeing the Los Angeles Ballet perform The Nutcracker at the adjacent Dolby Theatre.

love actually
Photo by Rob Latour, courtesy of Love Actually Live

Various dates through December 31
$$-$$$
The Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts/Beverly Hills
Love it or hate it, Love Actually has actually become one of the most iconic holiday movies of this century, so much so that the folks at For the Record and Wallis Annenberg Center have partnered on an immersive musical performance of the film that’s running through the end of the year, featuring Broadway talent and a 15-piece orchestra, plus a soundtrack that features “Christmas Is All Around,” “Trouble With Love,” and “Both Sides Now.” For the first time, out-of-towners can reserve a festive hotel package at L’Ermitage Beverly Hills during the show’s run and the hotel is also offering a thematic pre-show meal at their restaurant Avec Nous with a limited-time menu inspired by the show. Matinee dates will feature an English-inspired high tea service with a special cocktail menu.

Ongoing through January 8, 2022
$
L.A. LIVE Xbox Plaza/Downtown LA
What better way to pregame a sporting event or concert at L.A. LIVE than with a skate around a pop-up ice rink? Presented by Coca-Cola®, the LA Kings Holiday Ice rink returns after taking a pause last year, with many L.A. Live restaurants offering “Supper & Skate” dinner specials to those who present their ticket stub. Delta SkyMiles Members receive $3 off tickets and access to the Delta SkyMiles Skate Priority Entrance. LA Kings season ticket members will also receive a discount. General admission tickets are only available for purchase on-site during hours of operation.

Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade
Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade

Wednesday, December 15–Sunday, December 19
Free
Newport Harbor
Now in its 113th year, Newport Beach’s famous holiday boat parade returns with yachts, boats, kayaks, and canoes decorated to the nines as they chug along Newport Harbor. The parade begins at approximately 6:30 pm each night, starting and ending at the tip of Lido Isle. Marina Park offers the largest public viewing option with 177 parking spaces, nautical-themed playground, and a picnic area, or go all out and book a room at the nearby Balboa Bay Resort to enjoy the parade from the comfort of your room’s balcony or on the resort’s lawn. There are also a number of dining options within walking distance from various public viewing spots.

Ongoing through Sunday, January 2
$$-$$$
Arcadia
Maybe you’re one of those people who was secretly happy when everything pivoted to a drive-thru format last year, allowing you to experience immersive holiday joy from the comfort of your warm vehicle with minimal social interaction. If that’s the case, then you’ll love Reindeer Road, an immersive polar-bound journey that takes you through mountainous terrain, glacial peaks, and northern ice caves and forests as you head to Santa’s Workshop, with reindeer, snowmen, toys, and light displays dazzling you along the way. Reindeer Road is open rain or shine and one ticket grants your entire vehicle access to the event.
 

Ongoing through Sunday, January 2
$-$$
Pomona Fairplex
Join Scout Elf Tiny Tinkerman on his mission to create more Christmas spirit with an outdoor holiday journey that includes light shows, ice skating, open-air trolleys, walking paths, holiday shopping, a Christmas village with gift shopping, holiday treats, and the opportunity to interact with Scout elves and create your own magical keepsake. The immersive experience comes courtesy of Elf on the Shelf creator Chanda Bell, with original music by Curtis Moore (The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel), scenic design by David Korins (Hamilton, Dear Evan Hansen), and lighting design by David Weiner (Romeo and Juliet). Raise even more holiday cheer by bringing new, unwrapped toys sealed in original packaging to benefit Toys for Tots. Tickets can be purchased on site if capacity allows, but cash is not accepted.

Want more Thrillist? Follow us on Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube, TikTok, and Snapchat.

Danielle Dorsey is the Los Angeles Editor at Thrillist.