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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

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 drive-in screenings and frantic shopping trips, take the time to check out these twinkling neighborhoods. 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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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 (open now through January 7). 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)

WonderLAnd
Photograph: Time Out/Michael Juliano

WonderLAnd

Things to do

For a few weeks this winter, Woodland Hills is turning into the North Pole. The crafty team behind the sold-out Haunt’Oween has now brought us WonderLAnd, a drive-thru with a half-dozen light tunnels as well as house facades decorated for the holidays, blasts of fake snow, flashing trees and just the right amount of tacky lawn decorations.

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The Elf on the Shelf’s Magical Holiday Journey
Photograph: Time Out/Michael Juliano

The Elf on the Shelf’s Magical Holiday Journey

Things to do

Through January 3, you’ll be able to drive through an elf-sized quest in Pomona to fix Santa’s sleigh, with easy-to-follow narration and music available via a smartphone app. We doubt you’ll find another light-up experience with as much of an emphasis on live actors (which might explain the price). You’ll see delightfully-committed elves measuring your car’s Christmas spirit, juggling pins or balancing on a tightrope of oversized lights—and even one who’ll accept your letter to Santa.

South Coast Botanic Garden’s GLOW
Photograph: Time Out/Michael Juliano

South Coast Botanic Garden’s GLOW

Things to do

Take a twinkly walk through South Coast Botanic Garden during this illuminated, after-hours installation, which kicks off just before Thanksgiving and runs until after New Year’s. You’ll find multicolored uplights all over the Palos Verdes Peninsula garden, all set to a genre-spanning mix of music. Nothing is overtly Christmasy; instead, the lighting sets up an alternative, illuminated perspective of the botanical residents (we thought the banyan grove, desert collection and succulent-filled living wall were particularly beautiful).

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Festival of Lights at the Mission Inn
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Chris Jepsen

Festival of Lights at the Mission Inn

Things to do

Riverside’s stunningly beautiful Mission Inn is bathed in 4.5 million twinkly lights during the annual Festival of Lights. The free six-week-long holiday tradition begins the day after Thanksgiving and typically features more than 400 animated figures.

For the 2020 edition, there won’t be a “switch on” ceremony and visitors (aside from hotel guests and restaurant patrons) will not be allowed to stroll the main walkway.

Dodgers Holiday Festival
Courtesy Dodgers

Dodgers Holiday Festival

Things to do

Who knows when we’ll be able to properly celebrate the Dodgers’ World Series championship. But until then, this light-up drive-thru should be a festive consolation. From November 27 through December 24, you can cruise through Lot 10 at Chavez Ravine to find a light show, LED video displays, fake snow and all sorts of other decor that honors the Dodgers.

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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, 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). Starting December 11, the city will place additional trash bins and “no stopping” signs across the area.

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

Christmas lights in Los Angeles: Wilshire Boulevard in 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 plans take a very BH approach: Visions of Holiday Glamour will put 10 champagne, copper and bronze mannequins along Rodeo Drive, with spotlights and red lights that mimic a runway. 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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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. Though the canals’ long-running and gleefully irreverent boat parade has been called off, we still expect some houses (and bridges) to decorate, at the very least.

Dell Ave (Venice)

Hikari
Photograph: Courtesy Tanaka Farms

Hikari: A Festival of Lights at Tanaka Farms

Things to do

Tanaka Farms is opening up its Irvine fields to vehicles for this after-dark drive-thru. Hikari—which means “light” or “shine” in Japanese—has set up a mile-long trail of lights, plus some festive theming that’s overtaken the farm’s scarecrows, tractors and trees. Time slots are available every 15 minutes, and they’ll cost you can extra $10 on weekends since Santa will be there, too (though the trail should only take about a half hour, Tanaka Farms says to budget about an hour and half from check-in to exit on busier weekends). 

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Six Flags Magic Mountain Holiday in the Park Drive-Thru Experience
Photograph: Courtesy Six Flags

Six Flags Magic Mountain Holiday in the Park Drive-Thru Experience

Things to do

Some spots have flipped their parking lots into drive-thrus or drive-ins. But in the case of Six Flags, they’re converting the actual Valencia theme park into one. This year, Magic Mountain’s annual after-hours event Holiday in the Park will allow guests to drive their cars along the park’s pathways and past illuminated displays. Expect dancing lights set to holiday tunes, 30-foot-tall ornaments, fake snow, appearances from Santa and Mrs. Claus, and a car show from West Coast Customs.

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 that’s across eight blocks in Woodland Hills—centered around Lubao Avenue and Oxnard Street—and has blanketed the neighborhood in lights for 60 years. So far, residents have still been putting up decorations and switching on their lights this year—but of course it varies from house to house.

The second is in El Segundo, East Acacia Avenue—right near the start of the 105—and for the first time in seven decades, it’s been canceled (or, at least, the city won’t be issuing a permit to shut down the streets; whether homeowners still decorate is up to them).

Lubao Ave and Oxnard St (Woodland Hills)

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Christmas lights in Los Angeles: 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. After a lighting in early December (slated this year for December 12 through January 2, nightly from 6 to 10pm), you can cruise around the twinkling foothill community until the new year.

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

Holiday Road
Photograph: Courtesy Holiday Road

Holiday Road

Things to do

Cruise across the grounds of King Gillette Ranch as the Santa Monica Mountains hideaway is illuminated during Holiday Road, a drive-thru that includes a treetop canopy of icicle lights, a small Christmas village, freestanding oversized decorations and archways of lights. The event comes from the same team behind Nights of the Jack, for which visitors reported some significant vehicle backups in October; here’s hoping Holiday Road has sorted some of those issues out (we’d say early evening time slots on a weekday are always a safer bet for drive-thru events).

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Santa’s Speedway
Photograph: Courtesy Santa’s Speedway

Santa’s Speedway

Things to do

Drive along an actual NASCAR track during this illuminated display at Irwindale Speedway. The two-mile route includes Santa’s village set up on a drag strip, installations themed like boats or oversized sweets, and a 100-foot-tall tree constructed out of strings of lights. Timed tickets are available every 15 minutes, starting at 5pm.

Holidays in Your Car
Photograph: Courtesy Holidays in Your Car

Holidays In Your Car

Things to do Festivals

It’s hosted drive-in movies and concerts, and now the Ventura County Fairgrounds is adding another car-friendly series to its lineup: Christmas lights. Starting November 22, Holidays In Your Car will, well, do exactly that and bring some seasonal festivities into a drive-thru setting. The mile-and-a-half-long trail includes millions of LEDs, laser light shows and projections all set to holiday tunes.

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Night Lights of OC
Photograph: Courtesy Winter Fest OC

Night of Lights OC

Things to do

This mile-long route at the OC Fair & Event Center features light shows and tunnels set to music (you can tune in with your car radio or smartphone), plus a bit of assorted holiday scenery. Even Santa will be there, though only through December 23—he’s busy after that, obvs. 

Looking for more Christmas cheer?

Loews Santa Monica Beach Hotel holidays Miracle on Ocean Ave
Photograph: Courtesy Loews Santa Monica Beach Hotel/Charlie Chipman

Christmas events in Los Angeles

Things to do

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

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