The Best Ways to Celebrate the Holidays in L.A. in 2020

Decorated drive-thrus, festive experiences, and more to celebrate the season
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This holiday season, we’ll be without the usual hopping between crowded parties or settling into velvet seats for a performance of The Nutcracker–many of us will even be without our families and loved ones. Celebrating apart right now is the only way we’ll have a chance to gather together again by this time next year. But that doesn’t mean we have to end this difficult year with a whimper. There are still ways to find a bit of holiday joy, while acting responsibly. Here are some of this year’s best holiday events in Los Angeles.

Under the new “limited stay-at-home” and curfew order effective November 21, non-essential businesses must close by 10 p.m. Please check with event organizers for cancellations or schedule updates. 


Drive-Thru Experiences

Elf on the Shelf’s Magical Holiday Journey

A supergroup of talent came together to craft this immersive experience. Spread out over the grounds of the Fairplex in Pomona, it’s one of the biggest and most elaborate holiday experiences going. November 11-January 3. Fairplex, 1101 E. McKinley Ave., Pomona; tickets from $24.95. 

Dodgers Holiday Festival

It may not be the World Series victory parade some would prefer, but the Dodgers are still offering fans a way to celebrate their big year with a drive-thru holiday fest. Expect baseball- and holiday-themed lights and installations. November 27-December 24. Dodger Stadium, 1000 Vin Scully Ave., Echo Park; tickets $55. 

WonderLAnd

Woodland Hills becomes a winter wonderland for this drive-thru, which features both inclosed and open-air installations for all to enjoy. The set will be kitted out with music, holograms, Santa, and more. Musician Marshmello has a custom tunnel at the Mellodees-sponsored event. November 30-December 23. 6100 Topanga Canyon Blvd., Woodland Hills; tickets $59.

Holiday Road Drive-Thru Experience

Created by the same team of entertainment industry wizards behind Halloween hit Nights of the Jack, this experience turns the King Gillette Ranch into a series of holiday environments, including an Elf Village and Gingerbread Lane. December 4-January 10. King Gillette Ranch, 26800 Mulholland Hwy, Calabasas; tickets $75.

Santa’s Speedway Christmas Lights Drive-Thru

A 110-foot tall Christmas tree (they claim it’s record-setting) is a key attraction of this family experience, which takes place on an official NASCAR racetrack. November 25-January 10. Irwindale Speedway, 500 Speedway Dr, Irwindale; tickets $60-$90.

Christmas in Color Animated Light Show

Part of a group of drive-thru light shows popping up across the country, this experience promises millions of lights, all perfectly synched to piped-in holiday tunes. December 4-January 3. Raging Waters Los Angeles, 111 Raging Waters Dr., San Dimas; tickets $35.

Subaru Presents: Holidays in Your Car

Over a million bulbs were used to construct this drive-thru experience that bills itself as one of the largest in the region. Extravagant displays reach up to 40 feet high, and a music program accompanies the animated light show. November 22-January 2. Ventura County Fairgrounds, 10 W. Harbor Blvd., Ventura; tickets $49-$64.

Hikari: A Festival of Lights

“Hikari” means “shine” in Japanese, and that’s what Tanaka Family Farms hopes to bring to your holiday season with this festive display. Cars can roll through a decorated path around the 30-acre farm; on weekends Santa stops by for a distanced visit. November 27-January 10. Tanaka Farms, 5380 University Dr., Irvine; tickets $49-$59.

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

Six Flags Magic Mountain is rolling out a totally new holiday experience to accommodate the moment, transforming the park with millions of lights. You’ll drive through eight different environments with themes including Holiday Square and Gleampunk District. Holiday drinks, snacks, and merch items available. November 20-29, December 4-6, 11-13, 18-31, January 1-3. Six Flags Magic Mountain, 26101 Magic Mountain Pkwy., Valencia; tickets from $20. 

six flags holiday in the park holiday events 2020

Photo: Courtesy Six Flags Magic Mountain


Festive Film Screenings

Multiple drive-in movie screening series in the region have scheduled special showings and programs for the holidays. Check our full drive-in guide for the most up-to-date showtimes.

elf holiday movie screening drive in

"Elf"


Streams and Broadcasts

Rufus, Martha, and Lucy Wainwright: A Not So Silent Night

Sibling musicians Rufus, Martha, and Lucy Wainwright have been performing an annual show of holiday songs since 2005, but this is the first year it will be presented “virtually together” from New York, Los Angeles, and Montreal. Presented by UCLA’s Center for the Art of Performance, December 20 at 12 p.m. Tickets $20-$25.

The Jen Kirkman Dysfunctional Xmas Show

Comedian, author, and podcaster Jen Kirkman offers up her ninth annual holiday show, this time via livestream (and available for 48 hours afterwards, if you can’t catch it live). December 4 at 6 p.m. Tickets $21-$42.

Annenberg PetSpace Pawliday Kids Party

Kiddos missing out on the holiday party fun this year can virtually participate in this animal-centric shindig, featuring puppet shows, encounters with adoptable PetSpace pets, DIY lessons, and other activities. December 12, 4 p.m. Tickets $7.

Theatricum Carol Sing-Along

Theatricum Botanicum hosts this evening of Zoom-based caroling, so you can sing along to your favorite holiday tunes. The sing-along session is free; viewers who choose to make a donation can also stick around for a radio play of Leo Tolstoy’s What Men Live By. December 20, 4 p.m. 

Hanukkah Celebrations with the Skirball 

Skirball Cultural Center is streaming a number of Hanukkah-themed classes and celebrations throughout the month of December, including lessons on cooking traditional dishes, family craft projects, and an online version of their annual Hanukkah Festival. Various dates and times. 

“A Virtual Christmas Vacation with the Griswolds: An Evening with Chevy Chase and Beverly D’Angelo”

Fans of iconic holiday classic National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation will enjoy this live Zoom chat with the film’s stars as they reminisce about the production and swap behind-the-scenes stories. Presented by the Segerstrom Center for the Arts. November 28, 5 p.m. Tickets $25.

Lit Up: Holiday Cheer

Hosted by Sandra Tsing Loh, Lit Up: Holiday Cheer is a one-hour webinar chat with female comedians and writers from Southern California, including Annabelle Gurwitch, Bea Koch, and others, with a holiday twist. November 20, 5 p.m.

Echo Park Community Parade

This popular free parade through Echo Park will be virtual this year. Details have yet to be announced. December 12 at 11 a.m.

Karamo’s Holiday Spectacular Presented by Zelle

The Queer Eye star and L.A. native hosts a series of social media events and contests aimed at spreading cheer in this unusual holiday season, cultivating in a live show with a variety of guests.  December 17 at 4 p.m.

L.A. County Holiday Celebration

The tradition of a free holiday concert at the Music Center dates back to 1959–and a little pandemic won’t stop it. This year’s concert will be streamed online and broadcast on PBS SoCal. December 24 at 3 p.m., rebroadcasts December 25 at 12 p.m. and 8 p.m.

holiday events 2020 mask santa gay mens chorus

Photo: Gay Men's Chorus of Los Angeles / Music Center


In-Person Events

GLOW at South Coast Botanic Garden

Get outside and stroll through this large-scale light installation. There’s an original music score to accompany the experience. November 21-January 10. South Coast Botanic Garden, 26300 Crenshaw Blvd., Palos Verdes; tickets $34.95

Bob Baker Marionette Theater Peek-a-Boo Stroll-Thru

Bob Baker Marionette Theater has been presenting holiday shows in L.A. for decades. This year, they invite guests to come for a 20-minute stroll-thru (like a drive-thru, but walking). Experience an immersive puppet wonderland for yourself. November 21-January 3. Bob Baker Marionette Theater, 4949 York Blvd., Highland Park; tickets $60.

Winterlit Santa Monica

Stroll the Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica to do your holiday shopping with festive flair. The area is elaborately decorated and outfitted with an augmented reality activity. Don’t miss storefront art installations, pop-up experiences, and a chance to drop off letters to Santa. December 1-January 3. Downtown Santa Monica.

Holidays at LEGOLAND

LEGOLAND is open for socially-distanced strolling, shopping, and dining. Explore the holiday displays, wave to LEGO Santa, and hear live holiday music performances. November 28-January 3. LEGOLAND, One LEGOLAND Drive, Carlsbad. 

Festival of Lights at the Mission Inn

The historic Mission Inn in Riverside goes fabulously over the top at holiday time, and it’s absolutely worth the detour to go check it out. This year, the property will still be decorated for visitors to enjoy–but they’re skipping the formal switch-on and other events that might attract a crowd. Interior areas will be restricted to those with dining or hotel room reservations. November 27-January 6. 3649 Mission Inn Ave., Riverside. 

mission inn riverside holiday lights holiday events

Photo: The Mission Inn


Holiday Markets & Shopping 

The Los Angeles Christmas Market

Shop the festive market and book an appointment for a contactless visit and photo session with Santa Claus. November 27-January 3. 6310 W. 3rd St., Beverly Grove. Tickets $45.

#SparkleDTLA at the Bloc

Downtown shopping center the Bloc packs the month with holiday cheer. Five times per night, look around for a colorful light show with music. November 16-January 3, the Bloc, 700 Flower St., downtown.

Unique Markets Holiday Market

The biggest and best of L.A.’s indie-maker markets, Unique L.A. brings back its annual holiday shopping extravaganza, this year moving to an outdoor venue and limiting capacity with timed tickets. November 28-29. ROW DTLA, 777 Alameda St, downtown. Tickets $10-$20.

unique market

Photo: Unique Market


 

Drive-In Performances 

Santa Saves Christmas Live Stage Show

From the producers of the Concerts in Your Car live music series comes this live multi-media stage show, featuring classic holiday songs and family-friendly entertainment. December 19-20. Ventura County Fairgrounds, 10 W. Harbor Blvd., Ventura; tickets $49-$199.

Love Actually: Live

This hit stage musical based on the beloved movie has been doing the rounds in recent years–but this is the first time it will be performed for an audience in their cars. December 5. Ventura County Fairgrounds, 10 W. Harbor Blvd., Ventura; tickets $99-$269.

The Nutcracker

Cast members of the Ventura County Ballet will perform live on stage for those who just can’t get through the holidays without seeing some sugar plum fairies. December 12. Ventura County Fairgrounds, 10 W. Harbor Blvd., Ventura; tickets $99-$249.

ventura county ballet nutcracker

Photo: Ventura County Ballet


RELATED: 7 of the Best Places to Buy a Christmas Tree in L.A.


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