Holiday events and Christmas activities in Los Angeles

Your guide to the best holiday events and activities, from Christmas carols and concerts to shopping, snow days and fun places to take guests from out of town.

Photograph: Courtesy Los Angeles Ballet

You won't find snow-covered trees and below-zero temperatures in LA, but there are still plenty of holiday events and Christmas activities to get you in the festive mood—even when it's 70 and sunny in December. From meeting Santa and his (real) reindeer in Malibu to singing Christmas carols and scooping up crafty gifts at holiday markets—our list of the city's best events and things to do this season will help make LA a winter wonderland all month long.

RECOMMENDED: More Christmas events in Los Angeles

Top picks

LA Zoo Lights

After going dark in 2009, holiday lights return to Griffith Park—this time at the LA Zoo. Whereas the old DWP Holiday Lights brought motorists careening through the park's windy roads, the zoo's fest will find visitors trekking through a 60 to 90-minute self-guided tour of the zoo grounds, covered in ligh tunnels, floating snowflakes and icicle lights. and . Most of the animals will be asleep, but you will find real reindeer as well as LED-lit likenesses of monkeys, gators, rhinos and more. Plus, come out weekend afternoons for visits with Santa and other activities.

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Los Angeles Zoo Until Sunday January 4 2015

LA County Holiday Celebration

While Santa may still be working with his elves to load up his sleigh, you can relax and enjoy a pre-Christmas Eve celebration at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. Gather up your friends and family and go hear LA's biggest holiday show, which includes more than 20 choirs, music ensembles and dance troupes from all over the city. The free three-hour show celebrates LA's multicultural observation of the holidays with everything from an all-female mariachi ensemble to a Korean dance troupe. Doors open at 2:30pm and guests are encouraged to come and go as they please throughout the show. Reservations and tickets are not necessary; parking at the Dorothy Chandler is also free. Those who still have last-minute holiday responsibilities to attend to can listen to a live stream of the concert on PBS SoCal.

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Dorothy Chandler Pavilion Wednesday December 24 2014 Free

More Christmas events

Hershey Felder as Irving Berlin

"God Bless America," "There's No Business Like Show Business" and "White Christmas" are a glimpse into Irving Berlin's portfolio of over a thousand songs written during his 60-year career. The Russian-born composer, one of America's greatest songwriters, will come to back to life in LA courtesy of Hershey Felder, writer and star of the performance, to tell the story of a man who wasted no time in achieving the American Dream. This performance at the Geffen Playhouse will surely be a feel-good treat for the holiday season.

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Geffen Playhouse, Westwood Until Sunday December 21 2014

Reindeer Romp

These aren't just any Arctic deer: Santa's reindeer are making a home at the LA Zoo this holiday season (except on Christmas, of course; they're busy). While those giant antlers will be around every day, you'll have to swing by on weekends untl Christmas for photos with Santa and holiday crafts. In addition, the animals will be getting their own enrichment presents to unwrap on the following schedule: gorillas (Sat 10:30am), tigers (Sat 3pm), African wild dogs (Sun 10:30am) and elephants (Sun 3pm).

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Until Sunday January 4 2015

LA Zoo Lights

After going dark in 2009, holiday lights return to Griffith Park—this time at the LA Zoo. Whereas the old DWP Holiday Lights brought motorists careening through the park's windy roads, the zoo's fest will find visitors trekking through the front half of the festively illuminated grounds on foot. Though most of the animals will be asleep, you will be able to see reindeer and sit for a photo with Santa. There's a charming premise that ties everything together: A group of LED monkeys have comandeered a Christmas tree and the zoo's power supply. The glowing "Animal Power" cord they've draped across the grounds electrifies everything from desert flora laced with lights to a purple, disco ball-filled forest. Standout displays include elephant statues animated with projection mapping, a twinkly light tunnel and "ZOOray for Hollywood," a festive interpretation of LA landmarks. For better or worse, it's a tasteful, sometimes understated display—there's no snow or strobing lights, and the holiday music is sporadic—but LA Zoo Lights is sure to become an LA holiday staple. Tip: Buy your tickets in advance to avoid the worst of the entry lines. Also, tickets are $5 cheaper until December 11. And wear comfortable shoes; the lights only cover a fraction of the zoo grounds, but you'll be shuffling slightly uphill for most of the way. RECOMMENDED: Christmas lights in Los Angeles: Where to find holiday lights

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Until Sunday January 4 2015

Bob's Holiday Office Party

You complain about your holiday office party: weak egg nog, a $10 waffle iron from the white elephant gift exchange, Jill from accounting attempting to sing karaoke. Just be thankful you're not at Bob's Holiday Office Party. The play, which has been running since 1995, shares a look at Iowa-based insurance agent Bob Finhead as his friends and clients stop by for the annual party. Twin farmers, a stoner, a floozy and a pastor's wife are just some of the cast of characters that bring big-time laughs to the small-town setting as Bob struggles with fulfilling his dreams in the city as a professional inventor while grappling with leaving the charm of his small town. Bickering, fighting and drinking ensue. Well, some things might be familiar.

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Until Sunday December 21 2014

Groundlings Holiday Show

Critics' pick

The legendary Hollywood improv theater that launched the careers of Will Ferrell, Lisa Kudrow and many more comedians is putting on two showings of their hilarious, live holiday show. It's a festive, holiday-themed night of sketches and improv. (And you might just witness the next Kristen Wiig.) The show runs approximately two hours long, including intermission.

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A Christmas Carol

We all know that Ebanezer Scrooge is your favorite Christmas character. Beneath the façade of cheesy reindeer sweaters and Santa Claus hats is a grumpy old man yelling “bah humbug.” Get in touch with that inner grump with a holiday classic the whole family can enjoy. Presented by classical repertory theatre company A Noise Within, this version of the classic play will have original music yet will use only Dickens' original words. It's a rendition that's sure to leave you in a "God bless us, every one!" kind of mood. Warning: there is no intermission so you will have to hold it for 90 whole minutes. Go ahead, say it. Bah humbug.  

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Until Tuesday December 23 2014

Malibu Country Mart Winter Wonderland

This December the Malibu Country Mart is transforming into a one-stop holiday destination for all your Christmas and Hanukkah needs. Besides its extensive roster of luxury retailers (with in-store specials so you can start checking people off your shopping list), every Saturday before Christmas there will be free, fun activities for families to start getting kids excited for the holidays. Get into the holiday spirit in sunny Malibu, with dreidel playing and stocking decorating on Dec 6; photos with Santa and a cookie decorating party on Dec 13; and visits with Santa and his real (yes, real!) reindeer on Dec 20 at the event's grand finale.

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Free

The Nutcracker

Relive your childhood theatergoing experiences this Christmas with Uncle Drosselmeyer, Clara and her beloved Nutcracker at the LA Ballet. The timeless show will travel all over LA, from Glendale to Northridge, from Westwood and Hollywood to Redondo Beach over the 2014 holiday season, performing their classic pirouettes and Mouse King battles for all LA County to see.

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Royce Hall, Westwood Until Sunday December 28 2014

The Nutcracker

No Christmas bucket list is complete without an outing to see The Nutcracker. Sure, the story is the same every year—Clara always gets a nutcracker from the toymaker, the music never changes, and the guys’ tights are always too(?) tight—but it’s a holiday tradition nonetheless. Will Clara and the Nutcracker defeat the evil King Mouse? They say history repeats itself, but I don’t know…

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Until Sunday December 21 2014

Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade

Ah, the joys of Christmas in a Mediterranean climate, where boat owners can deck out their ships in holiday lights and set sail without the impediment of icy weather. For the 106th year, the Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade is doing just that as over 100 decorated vessels parade around a 14-mile circuit in the Newport Harbor. You can see the parade for free during each of the five nights, but there are also reserved seats and dining packages available for purchase.

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Until Sunday December 21 2014 Free

The UCB Yuletide Christmas Holiday Special and Pie Raffle!

Every year Mr. and Mrs. Claus hold a giant, joyous North Pole corporate retreat to take the temperature (usually cold) of their employees. Join the Clauses and all of your favorite UCB performers for holiday sketches, songs, festive merriment and an honest-to-goodness pie raffle.

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It's A Wonderful Life screening

Critics' pick

Frank Capra's 1946 beloved tale of a family man learning to look at his life in a whole new light at Christmas time, thanks to the creative perspective of an angel trying to earn his wings, is no less relevant today than when it first came out. The movie can be found on TV all month long, but the ideal way to view the holiday classic—and the incomparable Jimmy Stewart at his best—is on the big screen at a handful of showings across L.A. Bring the family and get in the feel-good Christmas spirit.

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Until Thursday December 25 2014

Holiday Sing-Along

Strike the harp and join the chorus with LA Philharmonic's Holiday Sing-Along at Walt Disney Hall. Hosted by David Prather and conducted by John Sutton, the seasonal program offers two performances, with a special guest to-be-named taking the stage to recite holiday poems. A festive sing-along of holiday classics by the Angeles Chorale will include provided lyric sheets—just in case you forget how many fa-la-la-la's are in Deck the Halls.  

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Walt Disney Concert Hall, Downtown Saturday December 20 2014

Heavy Midnites: Home Alone

Critics' pick

Because nothing says "Merry Christmas" like child neglect and terrorizing young'uns. Home Alone is an odd sort of holiday classic, but you can't help but love it. Plus, it's genuinely funny—it was written by John Hughes, fresh off of finishing Ferris Bueller. Add a particularly cute Macaulay Culkin, a John Candy cameo and Chris Columbus' direction, and you get a reliable '90s blockbuster. Catch Cinefamily's special late-night screening just in time for Christmas.

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Saturday December 20 2014

Stevie Wonder

Critics' pick

For the 19th year running, R&B legend Stevie Wonder will host his Christmastime House Full of Toys Benefit Concert. He'll be performing his Grammy-winning 1976 double album Songs in the Key of Life in its entirety, from "Sir Duke" to "Isn't She Lovely." Get into the giving mood and bring along an unwrapped toy to be given to a child in need.

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Saturday December 20 2014

Elf screening

Critics' pick

Even those who don't wax poetic on the genius of Anchorman would be hard-pressed to find a bad word to say about Will Ferrell's lovable performance as the yellow-tights-clad Buddy, Elf's man-child protagonist. The Jon Favreau flick also features a top-notch supporting cast of Bob Newhart, James Caan, Mary Steenburgen and Zooey Deschanel. 11 years young, Elf stands out as one of the rare modern holiday flicks to join the roster of perennial classics. See it on the big screen at the Aero Theatre.  

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Saturday December 20 2014

Downtown on Ice

LA doesn't typically seem like much of a winter wonderland, until, that is, you create an ice skating rink right in the midst of Downtown skyscrapers and LA icons. Come glide and pretend there's snow on the ground at Pershing Square's outdoor holiday skating rink—one of the biggest in the city. Throughout the season, the square will play host to a plethora of free events, including a Snoopy skating showcase, a singles skate and a polar bear event, to name a few. RECOMMENDED: The best places to go ice skating in Los Angeles

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Until Monday January 19 2015

Holidays at the Getty

Look out upon the twinkling lights of LA from the festively decorated Getty Center as it keeps its doors open late (until 9pm) on Saturday nights. Sip on complimentary apple cider and scope out the museums current exhibits: the monumental tapestries in Spectacular Rubens: The Triumph of the Eucharist and the photos in Josef Koudelka: Nationality Doubtful.

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Getty Center, Brentwood Until Saturday January 3 2015 Free

ICE at Santa Monica

Located just minutes from the Pacific Ocean, ICE in downtown Santa Monica (1324 5th St at Arizona) is a full-service 8,000-square-foot outdoor rink. Watch broomball games, take up skating lessons (there are even LA Kings hockey clinics for kids), or host a party at the rink and get your own private cabana. For $15, rent skates and strut your stuff on the ice alongside children and adults. No need to pack snacks, there's a concession stand on site, serving hot cocoa and kid-friendly bites. For the little ones, visit the Tot Spot, an enclosed rink for 6 and under. The rink is open from early November through Martin Luther King Day. Check the website for operating hours at other times. RECOMMENDED: The best places to go ice skating in Los Angeles

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Until Monday January 19 2015

Irvine Spectrum Center's Holiday on Ice

If you're in the OC and dreaming of a white Christmas, Holiday on Ice at the Irvine Spectrum Center is your answer. Located in Giant Wheel Court by Nordstrom and Macy's, this tented rink offers the perfect time out from shopping. When renting skates, be sure to request a free helmet—recommended for adults and children alike. Following each 75min skating session, the rink is closed for resurfacing, so you'll never have to skate on slush. Head to the adjacent ferris wheel during the 15 minutes the rink is closed for nonstop fun. Check the website for the full schedule and details. RECOMMENDED: The best places to go ice skating in Los Angeles

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Until Monday February 16 2015

Woodland Hills Ice

Recreational skating, professional skating exhibitions, group classes, private lessons and even birthday parties are all on offer at this outdoor rink—the only one of its kind in the SFV. Glide on more than 7,000 square feet of ice, located at the Westfield Promenade in Woodland Hills (6100 Topanga Canyon Blvd). Check the website for special events, including a grand opening party on Nov 15. RECOMMENDED: The best places to go ice skating in Los Angeles

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Until Monday January 19 2015

LA Kings Holiday Ice at Nokia Plaza LA Live

Skate around the dazzling Christmas tree that stands in the middle of this outdoor rink, and take in an LED holiday light show on the huge screens around the plaza. For the perfect date-night, book the Supper and Skating deal, which includes a prix-fixe dinner at a handful of LA Live restaurants, skate rentals and skating admission for only $30 per person.  RECOMMENDED: The best places to go ice skating in Los Angeles

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Until Wednesday December 31 2014

Downtown Disney Winter Village

Disneyland's holiday celebrations spread outside the gates of the happiest place on earth with an ice skating rink around Downtown Disney's Christmas tree. Olaf's Frozen Ice Rink and its surrounding shopping chalets pay homage to the new animated movie of the same name; expect plenty of icy, Norwegian flair and a little bit of hat hair—helmets are required to skate.  RECOMMENDED: The best places to go ice skating in Los Angeles

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Disneyland Resort Until Sunday February 22 2015

SparkleBlob's Annual Holiday Puppet Show

Critics' pick

The name is a mouthful—SparkleBlob's 7th Annual Holiday Puppet Show: Jingle-Belling on the Outskirts of Greatness—but the show’s components are quite small. Puppet-sized, to be exact. Put on by the SparkleBlob performance collective, this seventh annual puppet show follows Silver Lake's Most Well-Adjusted Family as they attempt to celebrate the holidays in the strange recreational haven known as PigBear National Forest. Part social satire, part pure silliness, this show might be the perfect outing for a mixed-ages group. 

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Until Sunday December 21 2014

Yuletide Cinema

Street Food Cinema presents Yuletide Cinema, a series of screenings at the Historic Palace Theatre about the most wonderful time of the year. On December 6, see a matinee of A Christmas Story and and evening screening of Elf. Then come back on the 20 for The Princess Bride with Cary Elwes as a special guest. Aside from the films themselves, you can get in the spirit with an elf check-in station (leave with a "naughty" certificate or a "nice" report card). Sip mulled wine or eggnog and eat roasted chestnuts along with gourmet popcorn from Dakota's Pop Parlor and holiday sausages by Doghaus. Or, don your ugliest Christmas sweater or your sexiest onesie (is that a thing?) for special treats. Happy holidays!  

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Saturday December 20 2014

Moscow Ballet's Great Russian Nutcracker

This Russian ballet company has been gracing US audiences with its rendition of The Nutcracker since 1993. The annual production of the classic Christmas tale features a growing Christmas tree and falling snow, all set to Tchaikovsky's iconic score.  

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The Wiltern, Koreatown Sunday December 21 2014

Naked Comedy Toys for Tots Charity Show

Staying in Los Angeles for the holidays? Make your way to the Improv for this annual pre-Christmas charity comedy show. Josh Androsky hosts this year's show, which includes Tim Heidecker, Eddie Pepitone, Greg Proops, Guy Branum, Kate Berlant and Amber Kenny & Tamra Brown. Tickets are only $10, and half of the proceeds will go to Toys for Tots. Or, if you're short on cash but stocked with unwrapped, unopened toys, sign up for free here and bring along a donation.

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Sunday December 21 2014

LA County Holiday Celebration

While Santa may still be working with his elves to load up his sleigh, you can relax and enjoy a pre-Christmas Eve celebration at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. Gather up your friends and family and go hear LA's biggest holiday show, which includes more than 20 choirs, music ensembles and dance troupes from all over the city. The free three-hour show celebrates LA's multicultural observation of the holidays with everything from an all-female mariachi ensemble to a Korean dance troupe. Doors open at 2:30pm and guests are encouraged to come and go as they please throughout the show. Reservations and tickets are not necessary; parking at the Dorothy Chandler is also free. Those who still have last-minute holiday responsibilities to attend to can listen to a live stream of the concert on PBS SoCal.

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Wednesday December 24 2014 Free

Christmas Eve at Mohawk Bend

Critics' pick

For some, Chinese food on Christmas Eve is a tradition as strong as caroling. On December 24, Mohawk Bend will offer vegan Chinese food and a classic holiday film (yet to be determined) to kick off the holiday, with a special menu available for one night only. Spicy green beans, Kung Pao tofu, lettuce cups, spring rolls and veggie fried rice replace the traditional turkey and fixin's, beginning at 4pm with a film screening at 6pm. Reservations and walk-in's welcome.

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Mohawk Bend, Silver Lake Wednesday December 24 2014

Christmas and New Year's Eve dinner at mar'sel

Spend your holiday dinners overlooking the Pacific, with multi-course meals available at Terranea's mar'sel on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Year's Eve. During Christmas, a three-course tasting menu includes poached oysters, butternut squash veloute, scallop carpaccio, prime rib and more, ending on a sweet note with pumpkin pie for dessert. On New Year's Eve, caramelized duck breast, poached pear tarts, black truffle risotto and other indulgent dishes will be on hand to ring in 2015—choose from a three-course menu ($120) or a five-course menu ($180). To make reservations for either holiday dinner, call 310-265-2836.

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Wednesday December 24 2014 - Wednesday December 31 2014

Christmas Eve at Patina

Treat yo'self this Christmas Eve by scrapping a laborious homecooked meal and dining out instead. Patina is offering guests a three-, four-, and eight-course meal, and we wouldn't judge you for choosing that last option. Among the dishes on hand are apple glazed monkfish and seared diver scallops, fluke crudo and venison saddle, sticky toffee pudding and bûche de Noël. Dinners run from $65 to $150 depending on how many courses you indulge in, and a full menu can be found here. To make your reservation, call 213-972-3331.

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Patina, Downtown Wednesday December 24 2014

Christmas Eve at Tavern

Let Suzanne Goin and Caroline Styne feed you pre-Christmas 2014, with a Christmas Eve dinner at Tavern. The three-course meal includes mouth-watering dishes like Brussels sprouts with pecorino and a soft egg, seared sea bass or braised beef shank, and a cranberry crumble tart that Santa wishes he had instead of cookies. Wine, available by the glass or bottle, will be curated by Styne. Can't make it to dinner? Tavern and The Larder will both be serving brunch that day from 10am-2:30pm.

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Tavern, Brentwood Wednesday December 24 2014

Laugh Factory's Annual Free Christmas Dinner and Toy Giveaway

'Tis the season of giving and that is exactly what Laugh Factory plans on doing, come Christmas day. The comedy club will open its doors to the underprivileged, homeless and anyone alone on the holiday for four free meals and shows, every two hours, starting at 1pm. Past performers include Arsenio Hall, Dane Cook, Dom Irrera, Kevin Nealon, Tom Arnold, Paul Mooney, Paul Rodriguez and Tom Dreesen, who have been on-hand to greet and help serve guests as well as take the stage and perform live stand-up shows following each meal. To top it all off, owner Jamie Masada has been known to give each child that walks in a toy as a Christmas gift.

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Laugh Factory, West Hollywood Thursday December 25 2014 Free

Midnight Mission's Christmas Day Brunch and Santa's Village

Downtown LA’s Midnight Mission, one of the best-run organizations of its kind, hosts its annual Christmas Day Brunch on Skid Row—and it kicks off its 100th year of service. The charity welcomes thousands of LA's neediest to a hearty holiday meal as hundreds of volunteers serve brunch at its headquarters (601 San Pedro St). In addition, Santa Claus and his helpers will be granting Christmas wishes to impoverished children as they can select toys of their choice at Santa's Village.

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Thursday December 25 2014 Free

Snow Days at Kidspace

Growing up in LA has tons of unique perks, but the one area where kids are deprived is the fun of playing in snow and having snow days off school. Luckily, the Kidspace Children's Museum does its part to fill this void with its annual Snow Days, when truckloads of real snow are delivered to Pasadena. Kids can familiarize themselves with the stuff by making snowmen, snow angels, learning about how snow is formed and making wintry crafts.  

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Friday December 26 2014 - Tuesday December 30 2014

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