13 L.A. attractions you have to visit during the holidays

Visions of sugar plums will be dancing in your head after visiting these holiday attractions

Photograph: Michael Juliano

Just because Southern California isn’t likely to have a white Christmas doesn’t mean that Angelenos are total Grinches. These Los Angeles attractions with festive holiday decor, events and light displays prove it. Yes, this city is better known for its sandy beaches and sunny weather, but there’s actually tons of holiday razzle dazzle, too. You’ll find twinkling lights all around the Southland, from the parades at Disneyland to the Hanukkah celebration at the Skirball Center to Zoo Lights at the L.A. Zoo. Whether you’re looking for ice skating or Christmas lights in Los Angeles, there’s something for everyone on this list of holiday attractions.

Los Angeles attractions to visit this holiday season

Disneyland Resort

It’s the most wonderful time of the year at the happiest place on earth! The holiday magic is everywhere at Disneyland this time of year: the World of Color light show goes all out in red and green, “It’s a Small World” adds holiday tunes to the mix and the Haunted Mansion even puts Tim Burton-inspired Santa hats to its macabre decorations. Revelers can also catch festive parades, sample special holiday treats and visit with Santa.

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Walt Disney Concert Hall

The storied concert venue finishes out December with its Deck the Hall series of holiday performances. Seasoned carolers can buy tickets to the Holiday Sing-Along or White Christmas Sing-Along, while the rest of us leave the warbling to the experts. Both jazz singer Dianne Reeves and the 12-man Chanticleer men’s ensemble will also be performing this season.

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Skirball Cultural Center

The Skirball Cultural Center connects centuries of Jewish tradition with the local L.A. community, so it’s no surprise that this year’s Pacific Standard Time-inspired Hanukkah celebration explores the holiday through the lens of Latin American Angelenos. Learn the cumbia or salsa, create a community art installation or hear the Hanukkah story in English and Spanish at this special event.

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Queen Mary

The grand cruise ship moored in Long Beach opens its CHILL Ice Adventure Park for the holiday season. Thrillseekers can skate the outdoor rink overlooking the harbor, tube down a 140-foot-long ice slide and even go zip lining. Not into so much physical activity? Make a beeline for the freezing cold Ice Bar to sip vodka while wearing an enormous parka.

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The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios

Potter fans who have always dreamed of tasting the Christmas feast in the Great Hall are in luck. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios goes all out for the holidays, including its “Magic of Christmas at Hogwarts” light show that illuminates the castle with dancing lanterns and colorful banners. You can also spot snow on the Hogsmeade roofline, hear carols sung by the Frog Choir, dine on a roast turkey supper at the Three Broomsticks and sip surprisingly tasty hot butterbeer.

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Universal City

The Grove

L.A.’s most popular shopping destination also gets in the holiday spirit. From November 13 to Christmas Eve, shoppers can visit Santa’s Workshop, check out the sparkling Christmas tree and even experience snow falling in Southern California. OK, it’s synthetic snow, but it’s still magical.

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Fairfax District

Knott's Berry Farm

This Buena Park theme park really loves puns: At Halloween, it transforms into the spooky Knott’s Scary Farm, and at Christmas, it’s known as Knott’s Merry Farm. The park’s Ghost Town gets made over into Christmas Crafts Village, a holiday market with glass-blowing demonstrations, festive treats and nightly “snow.” Families also might want to go see Snoopy, Charlie Brown and the gang take to the ice in a whimsical skating show.

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Buena Park

Descanso Gardens

You won’t find an light-up Santas or inflatable snowmen at Descanso Garden’s Enchanted: Forest of Light. Instead of the usual kitschy Christmas decor, this winter light display includes 10 illuminated art installations, like a path that changes color as you walk and a field of rippling faux tulips. It’s designed to spark your curiosity as you explore the glowing environment.

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Until Sun Jan 7

Rodeo Drive

Of course the ritziest shopping street in Beverly Hills gets dressed up for the holidays. Visit Rodeo Drive between Thanksgiving and Christmas to spot art installations by HYBYCOZO at Beverly Canon Gardens, neon-lit palm trees and enormous gilded presents.

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Beverly Hills

L.A. Zoo Lights

Twinkly lights and wildlife combine at the L.A. Zoo’s annual holiday event. Enter the park after dark to peep the animal-themed displays as you sip hot cocoa. Though most of the zoo’s critters will be sound asleep, you can party in the reptile house and see real live reindeer.

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Until Sun Jan 7
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Looking for more festive things to do in L.A.?

Christmas events in Los Angeles

You won’t find snow-covered trees and below-zero temperatures in L.A., but there are still plenty of Christmas events to get you in the festive mood 

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By: Michael Juliano