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Christmas Tree Lane
Photograph: Michael Juliano

Find out where to see Christmas lights in L.A. this year

Simplify your search for Christmas lights in Los Angeles with these must-see neighborhoods and landmarks

Michael Juliano
Written by
Michael Juliano
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You’ve probably had to fend off this tired question before from out-of-town friends: How can we get in the holiday spirit here on the West Coast when it’s warm in December? Well, first of all, it’s cold—by L.A. standards, at least. But second, there’s also plenty of holiday cheer if you know where to see Christmas lights in Los Angeles. In between a deluge of Christmas events, festive movie screenings and frantic shopping trips, take the time to check out these twinkling neighborhoods and ticketed events. Just make sure to bring along an extra sweatshirt and some patience: Not even Christmas lights can escape L.A. traffic.

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17 places to see Christmas lights in Los Angeles

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  • La Cañada

Descanso Gardens’ light-up experience ditches the kitsch aesthetic typical at other venues in favor of a whimsical, wondrous, curiosity-driven display that’s among L.A.’s most stunning and, more importantly, most fun. The interactive, nighttime program sets up illuminated installations around the botanical garden grounds, from luminescent forests to free-standing hands-on art pieces.

Christmas Tree Lane
Photograph: Michael Juliano

Christmas Tree Lane

While L.A. might lure in visitors with breezy palm trees, the region is no slouch when it comes to conifers. Case in point: This grand, mile-long driveway of cedars in Altadena becomes blanketed in lights each holiday as it transforms into Christmas Tree Lane. Take a majestic cruise down the hill after it lights up (the lighting ceremony is set for December 11). Just a heads up: While you may feel inclined to drive through with your headlights off, that’s full-blown illegal.

Santa Rosa Ave, between Woodbury Ave and Altadena Dr (Altadena)

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  • Marina del Rey

Feel as though you’ve escaped to a small-town fishing village during the Marina Del Rey Boat Parade—well, you know, minus the massive crowds. Bring a blanket and gather around Fisherman’s Village or Burton Chace Park to watch as 70 boats glide through the marina with holiday lights and decorations in competition. Categories include Best Theme, Best Animation, Best Band, Best Lights and more. The festivities on December 14 begin at 5:55pm with fireworks, and the boat parade starts at 6pm, rain or shine.

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  • Rancho Palos Verdes/Rolling Hills Estates

Take a twinkly walk through South Coast Botanic Garden during the return of this illuminated, after-hours installation, which runs from just before Thanksgiving until after New Year’s. During last year’s debut, we found multicolored uplights all over the Palos Verdes Peninsula garden, all set to a genre-spanning mix of music (the banyan grove, desert collection and succulent-filled living wall were particularly beautiful). This year adds some new lit-up areas, including the lavender garden, koi pond, fuschia garden and lower meadow.

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  • Griffith Park

The on-foot successor to the old DWP Holiday Lights, many of the displays here are inspired by the L.A. Zoo’s wild residents: think elephant statues with whimsical projections, mosaic-like multicolor giraffes and twinkling butterflies. In recent years, its quirky, kitsch qualities have made way for a more polished experience thanks to the addition of a twinkly tunnel of lights, Chinese lanterns and a shimmering wall of lights.

Sleepy Hollow Christmas Lights Extravaganza
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Jerry Kirkhart

Sleepy Hollow Christmas Lights Extravaganza

Sometimes you simply want to see as many lights as possible, and Torrance’s Seaside neighborhood (sometimes referred to as Sleepy Hollow) surely delivers. Follow the stream of brake lights overflowing from Robert Road for a trek through this visual overload. Starting in early December (this year’s info is still to come), seemingly every tree, house and lawn becomes blanketed in an electric bill-dizzying degree. The displays typically run every night from 6 to 10pm, up until New Year’s Day, and you can walk the few blocks if you’d prefer (park on the PCH, Calle Mayor or Prospect Avenue).

Robert Rd, off of the Pacific Coast Hwy, and surrounding streets (Torrance)

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Venice Canals
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/alaindemour

Venice Canals

Free of the boardwalk’s grunge and Abbot Kinney’s pretense, the Venice Canals are an idyllic slice of L.A. living made all the more charming by the Christmas lights that line its bridges each year. Leave your car a few blocks away to avoid the narrow, one-way Dell Avenue, and take a stroll through the shimmering neighborhood. The long-running and gleefully irreverent boat parade typical floats along the first Saturday of December.

Dell Ave (Venice)

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  • Irvine

Tanaka Farms is opening up its Irvine fields to vehicles for this after-dark wagon ride and walk-through. Hikari—which means “light” or “shine” in Japanese—has set up a long trail of lanterns, plus some festive theming that’s overtaken the farm’s scarecrows, tractors and trees. You can opt for a ticket to the “gingerbread forest” only (the retail, crafts and petting zoo portion of the form), or add on the wagon ride to explore the lantern field by both tractor and foot. While you’re there, you’ll also find a curbside produce stand, a holiday market and a Christmas tree lot.

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  • Santa Monica Mountains

Stroll across the grounds of King Gillette Ranch as the Santa Monica Mountains hideaway is illuminated during Holiday Road, which this year flips from a drive-through into a 2/3-mile walking trail. The event, which comes from the same team as Nights of the Jack, includes festive decor like a treetop canopy of icicle lights, a small Christmas village, freestanding oversized decorations and archways of lights. Unlike last year’s per vehicle pricing, timed tickets are now available per person (and the price fluctuates depending on the day).

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Holiday Time at Disneyland
Photograph: Michael Juliano

Holiday Time at Disneyland

Even before the Halloween pumpkins disappear from Main Street, you’ll be able to spot signs of the holidays at Disneyland. The beloved theme park turns into the merriest place on earth for a full two months (Nov 12–Jan 9), with Christmas makeovers of popular rides and holiday-themed nighttime shows. As far as Christmas lights go, you’ll spot festive decor all over the parks, from the auto-themed Americana decorations in Cars Land to icicle lights draped atop Sleeping Beauty Castle. But the real standout is the joyous facade of “It’s a Small World.”

Beverly Hills
Photograph: Courtesy City of Beverly Hills

Beverly Hills

We’ll admit it: Los Angeles has no true holiday counterpart to the festive windows of New York’s 5th Avenue. That said, our own tony shopping district, Beverly Hills, knows how to add a bit of opulence to the holidays. This year’s decorations on Rodeo Drive light up starting November 18. Elsewhere in the area, you can usually expect to see lights swirl around the palm trees, up the steps of Via Rodeo, over the span of Wilshire Boulevard and onto the extravagent Beverly Wilshire. Beverly Drive, too, typically gets covered in white lights, along with a willow tree decked out in gold decor at Beverly Cañon Gardens. 

Rodeo Dr, between Santa Monica Blvd and Wilshire Blvd (Beverly Hills)

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  • Newport Beach

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 113th year, the Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade is doing just that as over 100 decorated yachts and ships parade around a 14-mile circuit in the Newport Harbor. You can see the parade for free during each of the five nights from any bay-facing point along the harbor, but there are also reserved seats, dining packages and cruises available for purchase.

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Candy Cane Lane
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/donielle

Candy Cane Lane

We all like showing off to our neighbors, but the homeowners behind Candy Cane Lane take it to the extreme. There are actually two neighborhoods in L.A. that go by that name: One in El Segundo, on East Acacia Avenue, the second in Woodland Hills. Here, we’re talking about that Valley neighborhood, eight blocks centered around Lubao Avenue and Oxnard Street that have been blanketed in lights for 60 years.

Lubao Ave and Oxnard St (Woodland Hills)

Upper Hastings Ranch
Photograph: Michael Juliano

Upper Hastings Ranch

We haven’t been quite as impressed with these Christmas lights in recent years, but the decades-old tradition of coordinated holiday displays among homeowners still makes the sloping grid of ranch-style homes in Upper Hastings Ranch a scenic year-end destination. Each block of the Pasadena neighborhood decorates according to a different theme; one street might be lined with light-up candy canes while another is flanked by an army of inflatable Santas. Look out for a lighting in early December; you can typically cruise around the twinkling foothill community nightly from 6 to 10pm until the new year.

North of Sierra Madre Blvd and east of Michilinda Ave (Pasadena)

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  • Arcadia

Moonlight Forest is making way for another holiday tradition at the L.A. County Arboretum this year: Lightscape. The illuminated seasonal event promises to blanket the grounds of the Arcadia garden in thousands of twinkling lights, mostly in tunnel form (one of which has a particularly photogenic cathedral-esque peak). We’re not entirely sure yet how long it’ll take to make your way through the event, but expect the trail to be about a mile long.

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