5 Top Holiday Attractions in Southern California

5 Top Holiday Attractions in Southern California

  • white lights line an arch, christmas tree with lights ans gold star

  • speedboat, night, boat decorated with holiday lights

  • Arboretum decorated with colorful lights

  • Tall tower with blue uplighting, christmas tree with lights

Southern California, the land of sunshine and palm trees, celebrates the holidays with a certain West Coast style. It’s not over the river and through the woods, but its unique charm is well worth visiting. If you are planning a trip to Southern California during the holiday season, these are a few events that you do not want to miss.

  1. Holiday Themed Parades

What do you get when you combine ten tons of snow and hundreds of twinkling lights? The Santa Barbara Parade of Lights, of course! This event is located in Santa’s Village on the City Pier. Motorboats, sailboats and even paddlers decorated in a “Hollywood Holidays” theme compete for cash prizes during the boat parade. Be sure to get there early since the first 200 children receive goody bags and can take pictures with holiday “celebrities”. Insider’s Tip: Pack a jacket, blanket, and possibly a thermos of your favorite hot drink to keep you warm while you enjoy the fireworks after the parade. This year, this amazing event will take place on December 10.

There are many holiday-themed parades around the area; hopefully, your schedule will allow you to enjoy at least one while you’re visiting.

Marina Del Rey – December 9:
Before the parade, there is Snow Wonder at Burton Chance Park. The kids will enjoy real snow and sledding. The adults will enjoy the live DJs and various food trucks.

Newport Beach – December 13 – 17:
Newport Harbor has two light shows in one. Not only is there the boat parade, but you can also take a boat tour of the harbor and see the waterfront homes dressed in holiday splendor.

San Diego Parade of Lights – December 10 and 17:
The parade route runs through San Diego Harbor so you can pick your favorite viewing spot from Harbor Island, Seaport Village and the Maritime Museum. Many local companies, like the Maritime Museum or Hornblower Cruises, offer special dine and view options for the parade.

  1. A Parade unlike Any Other: The Tournament of Roses Parade – January 1

For over 100 years, the Rose Parade and the Rose Bowl Game have been a spectacle to truly behold. Thousands of people take to the sidewalks of Pasadena while millions more watch from their televisions as floats decorated with a range of flowers, seeds, plants and of course thousands of roses cruise along Colorado Boulevard. It takes roughly two hours for the 50+ floats to travel the 5 ½ mile parade route.

The theme for the upcoming parade is, “Making a Difference” and the creations made out of roses are truly a sight to see. Over 20 marching bands from all over the country compete for their spot in the parade, making this event not only pleasing to the eyes but the ears as well. Insider Tip: Bring your sidewalk chalk, chairs and snacks and plan to arrive early for the best views.

  1. The Holidays at the Disney Resort – November through January

Disneyland© celebrates the holidays with their own unique style and whimsical flair. From November through January, the park is decked out with lights, holiday decor, and shops filled with great gift ideas for all ages. Santa comes to the Magic Kingdom and all of the park shows take on a little holiday spirit. It’s good to note that even without park tickets, visitors can experience a piece of the magic of Disney’s holiday spirit at Downtown Disney©. Downtown Disney features restaurants and Disney© themed shops perfect for strolling on a nice day.

  1. Balboa Park December Nights – December 1 and 2

Balboa Park goes all out for the holidays with their Balboa Park December Nights celebration. Starting at 3:00 pm on Friday and noon on Saturday, the park museums are free and holiday shows and specials occur throughout the park. Stay for dinner and spirits as the International Houses serve delicious holiday cuisine from countries all around the world. After dark, the park is filled with holiday lights and carols way into the night. You’ll definitely feel festive among the 350,000 people who attend annually.

  1. A Winter of Whimsy at Hotel Del Coronado – December 6

Hotel Del puts on a pretty fun holiday celebration, but it’s their kickoff party that is really off the charts! Fireworks on the beach, a visit from Santa, and ice skating demonstrations complement the ongoing seasonal festivities. During the holiday season, you can experience Skating by the Sea on the Hotel Del ice rink, s’mores on the beach, brunch with Santa, Polar Bear Tea and the iconic Hotel Del decked out with holiday lights and seasonal splendor. Hotel Del, with its old-school style and seaside location, is a very So Cal way to celebrate the season. If you want to plan a holiday staycation, they offer some pretty great holiday packages.

If you’re dreaming of a bright Christmas, then a visit to Southern California for the holidays is right up there! You can have sunshine and surf by day mixed with the evening seasonal celebrations at night. On top of the fabulous seasonal flair, you have all of the Southern California attractions you know and love.

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This post was written by Hilton Suggests Team Member, Jennifer C. Are you interested in traveling to California? Let us know if we can we help you with any other recommendations. Tweet us for more great local travel tips!
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