It’s the 12 days of Christmas! Forget about the maids a-milking and the lords a-leaping. We have got the best holiday spectacles to thrill you and your family.
For the 4th year in a row, the LA Zoo will decorate for the holidays with thousands of LED lights, making Southern California’s largest light display even more exciting, it . Trip out at their Disco Ball Forest, water show, glowing “Northern Lights” featuring animal constellations, live reindeer, and an even larger “Twinkle Tunnel.” This year they will introduce an Elephant Circle, a kaleidoscopic savanna where glowing, large-scale animals roam. Through January 6, 2019, 6 – 10 p.m. Closed November 22, December 24, and December 25, 2018. Tickets Adults $14.95, Children $11.95. Prices vary for on-demand nights. TICKETS -Elise Thompson
DESCANSO GARDENS ENCHANTED FOREST
In what seems to be becoming a Los Angeles winter ritual, “Enchanted: Forest of Light” has returned to Descanso Gardens for the third consecutive year. “Enchanted” is a light exhibit, much of it interactive, with a wintertime theme. Nestled in La Cañada Flintridge and open since the ’50s, Descanso Gardens is renowned for its huge camellia collection and oak forest, amongst other horticultural charms. The “Enchanted” attraction is a mile-long evening stroll featuring light experiences and photo ops galore, including a field of over 2000 twinkling, lit-up “tulips,” a Japanese garden bestrewn with illuminated lanterns, a glowing oak grove and more. There is a new whiskey bar and Maple, the restaurant at Descanso Gardens, is offering a new dinner menu created especially for “Enchanted.” A true winter wonderland, “Enchanted” is open nightly (other than Christmas Eve and Christmas Day) 5:30 p.m. to 10 p.m., through January 6, 2019. Rain or shine. General Admission adult tickets $28.00. TICKETS. – Karin E. Baker
The Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach invites you to meet the new animals and enjoy their holiday decorations and activities. Aquarium Holidays lasts through December 23, 2018. You can enjoy snowfall in the Great Hall, and the Aquarium’s costumed characters in their holiday outfit (that honestly are kind of freaky.) On weekends the Aquarium will have a snow play area, underwater shows with Santa Diver, children’s crafts, photo opportunities with Santa and holiday characters, and Hanukkah storytelling with opportunities to play dreidel. Enjoy all of these weekend festivities plus special feedings for the animals during the Holiday Treats for the Animals festival weekend, December 8 and 9, 2018. Closed Christmas TICKETS
Ring in 2019 at the third annual New Year’s Eve Night Dive at the Aquarium, featuring live bands, DJs, a photo booth, and confetti countdown at midnight. For more information and tickets, visit the event page.– Elise Thompson
HOLIDAY LIGHTS CHRISTMAS TRAIN RIDE
The Griffith Park and Southern Railroad presents the 2018 Holiday Light Festival Train Ride. The Holiday Lights Express, a 1/3rd scale reproductions of classic American trains of the 20th Century, takes you through holiday scenes made up of tens of thousands of lights along a one-mile track that has been in the park since the 1960s. The decorations aren’t elaborate, but they are sweet in a small-town way and are sure to please families with small children. Dress warmly, and if you can’t handle loud Christmas music, bring earplugs. The first train leaves at 5 p.m. and the last train leaves at 8 p.m., Monday through Thursday. The last train leaves at 9 p.m. on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The ride will continue through December 30, 2018. The track will be closed on December 24 and 25, 2018, and the ride will not operate in the rain. The Southern Railroad is located at 4400 Crystal Springs Drive, Los Angeles, CA 90027, near Los Feliz Blvd and Riverside Drive at the South end of Griffith Park. Do not confuse it with the miniature train in Train Town that runs the Live Steamer’s Ghost Train. Tickets can be purchased at the ticket booth in advance or on the day of the ride. The ticket booth is open from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. and then from 5 p.m. until the ride closes. $5 per person, children 18 months and under ride for free. TICKETS – Elise Thompson
This year the Santa Monica Pier is celebrating the holidays in a new way. Wonderland by the Water sparkles this year with Story Time in Wonderland, photo ops with Holiday Mermaids, giveaways, and more! LA artist, Myriad Slits, has created a “Seadragons Village” in the windows of the historic Merry-Go-Round building. Events hosted by a variety of local event planners include two shows from The Bob Baker Marionettes on Thursday, December 20, 2018, 6:00 AND 7:00 p.m. and a marketplace with local vendors from Unique LA this weekend. Their directions advise, “Go west. If your shoes are wet, you’ve gone too far.” Wonderland by the Water will continue through January 6, 2019. TICKETS – Lucretia Tye Jasmine
MOONLIGHT FOREST AT THE LA ARBORETUM
The L.A. Arboretum is brightening up the season with Moonlight Forest: Magical Lantern Art Festival, open now through January 6th. The festival features over 60 gorgeous magical lantern displays depicting animals, flowers, mythical creatures and more, divided into three sections: Magical China, Children’s World and Nature’s Treasures. There are also live performances from acrobats and dancers, as well as food trucks and bars. Plus free parking! The festival is open Wednesdays through Sundays from 5:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. TICKETS. – Simone Snaith
MISSION INN FESTIVAL OF LIGHTS
The Mission Inn Hotel (and Spa) has iced the proverbial cake with five million colorful lights this year for its 36th Annual Festival of Lights. This landmark hotel and Spanish mission has elaborately decorated all sides and within of its castle-like property in a Winter Wonderland theme. On its balconies are large-scale Victorian carolers, and throughout the grounds are giant holiday ornaments, toy soldiers, nutcrackers, and more to fit the festive theme, including vividly lit California palm trees. An adjacent family carnival and music fair provides additional entertainment as well. There are several holiday dining events, like a Breakfast With Santa with a special performance by the Inland Pacific Ballet’s The Nutcracker, on Saturday 15, 2018 at 8:00 a.m. and 10:30 a.m., a Sunday Champagne Brunch With Santa, Sundays until December 23, 2018, from 9:30 a.m. – 2:00 p.m., as well as a Holiday Champagne Brunch for Christmas Day, Tuesday, December 25, 2018, 9:00 a.m – 2:30 p.m.
Entrance to the Mission Inn is free for the Festival of Lights, but there are fees for carnival rides and more. Parking is very limited and the crowds are massive, so Metrolink provides a special $7 round trip day rate to Riverside exclusively for the event, which includes a shuttle to the Mission Inn from the Riverside station. Go early as there will be some two hour plus long lines to get into the Mission Inn. Check the site for more information and dinner and brunch prices on these events within the Mission Inn and for reservations. TICKETS (Metrolink) – Monique A. LeBleu
From now until December 25, 2018, Grand Park’s 12 acres will be lit up by Winter Glow, a “large-scale immersive holiday light experience.” The new, family-friendly attraction features 19 installations by local artists meant to reflect a neighborhood twinkling with Christmas lights. Although it harkens back to traditional holidays, many of the displays will be using the latest high-tech projection technology alongside classic displays like the Grand Park pink light tree. – Elise Thompson
The Queen Mary Christmas is chock full of family fun and holiday-themed areas throughout the ship. The Promenade Deck, lined with decorated trees, and a Christmas-themed canopy of lights connects the bow and stern areas of the ship, taking you to the Gingerbread Village, the 4D Theater, and more. There’s an art-deco inspired Christmas tree that adorns the Main Hall, Santa’s Captain’s Quarters where St. Nick charts the course to the North Pole, the Starboard Lounge to gather ‘round and hear Mrs. Claus spin one of her holiday yarns and sip hot chocolate, and a True North Ice Skating Rink on the Sports Deck. Kids can decorate their own gingerbread houses in the Gingerbread Village or see The Polar Express in a 4-D Theater, and at the Ship’s Bow, an 80-foot animated lighted tree with a nightly countdown celebration at dusk to light in a synchronized display over 45,000 LED lights.
Holiday General Admission of Adults 12+ years $22.00, and Children (Ages 4-11) $16.00 includes admission to The Queen Mary, the Shipmodel Gallery & Engine Room, Santa’s Captain’s Quarters for a Meet & Greet with Santa, and more. Ice Skating and Queen Mary Tours are ticketed separately, and First Class and VIP Grand Passports packages are available, as well as a Breakfast with Santa, a three-course Holiday Dinner Show, a Ghost of Christmas Passed: A Theatrical Séance show for a haunting holiday experience, and a Dinner Detective Murder Mystery Dinner show on select nights. Visit the Queen Mary site for more information, hours and pricing. TICKETS – Monique A. LeBleu
The Original Farmers Market at 3rd and Fairfax kicks off its holiday season Saturday, December 15th with Christmas Karaoke on the West Patio. Not only is that right by the bar, you’ll also be able to enjoy a catfish sandwich and red beans and rice from the Gumbo Pot. Or a comforting chicken pot pie from Du Par’s, really, you can’t go wrong at any of the food stands. Through Monday, December 24, 2018, the spirit of Christmas will be alive at the market, with strolling carolers, the comedy antics of Santa’s Elf Mickey-O, and holiday crafts including Snow Globe Making and Pine Cone Decorating. Live bands will be playing everything from Latin Jazz to Country, as well as the amazing-sounding Einstein Brown’s Calypso Christmas. There will be a special Christmas Eve show by the Mariachi Fiesta. While you’re there you can get some Christmas shopping done and pick up supplies to make your holiday treats. – Elise Thompson
Moms and event planners Chloe Summer and Amanda Brown have channeled their creativity into a pop-up designed to bring smiles and holiday joy to families. Although cool visuals like giant teddy bears and Day-Glo Christmas tree forests make it seem like it is designed for Instagramming, Fa La Land at The Row in DTLA offers a lot of activities like hula-hooping, a ball pit, writing letters to Santa and interacting with holiday characters like Mrs. Claus. The 45-minute experience is definitely geared towards kids rather than hipsters, but parents will have fun too. Open Tuesday through Sunday (Closed Mondays) 11 a.m. – 8:30/9:30 p.m. (check schedule). Open Christmas day. Tickets must be purchased in advance and are priced at $37 each. Children under 3 are free. TICKETS
LA Kings Holiday Ice – Nokia Plaza AT L.A. LIVE is open for three sessions a day from 4 PM until midnite through January 6, 2019. You can show your ticket stub for discounts at LA Live restaurants like Katsuya and WP24. Of course, The Pantry is right there. Tickets are only sold on-site and cost $20 per adult and $15 for kids Age 6 and under, skate rental included. Parking is easy and accessible, but costs around $35, so look for a nearby lot with prices as low as $5. (602) 705-5148.
Here are some other places in town to get your Tai Babilonia on:
HOLIDAY ICE AT THE PIKE IN LONG BEACH