The Mission Inn
My family loves Christmas decorations, but sometimes you don’t have the space or the time to put them up so we go to the Mission Inn. It’s spectacular and luxurious, very Old World and classic. They have a clock in the courtyard with figures, animatronic characters and lights everywhere, and a carriage ride. It’s really beautiful.
At Palisades Park in Santa Monica the city lets a church build these little stations with the story of Christmas inside. They are little sheds and some have fencing across the front and inside are Mary and Joseph, all done with department store mannequins with fake hair and beards glued on. It’s kinda run down but really charming.
The Marina del Rey Boat Parade
They do this boat parade down in Marina Del Rey that’s pretty amazing. People put all kinds of tiny Christmas lights on their boats and then cruise around the harbor. It’s just filled with these boats and it’s really beautiful. I’ve been looking for a restaurant with a view of it. That would be great.
The Rose Parade
Of course we love going to the Rose Parade in Pasadena. It’s just one of the most fun things you can do as a family. We go very early in the morning and bring little folding chairs and a thermos of hot chocolate. It’s pretty quiet when you get there early—if people are staying up on New Year’s Eve to drink and party, they’re all asleep by the time we get there. We also go to the parade viewing on the corner of Sierra Madre Boulevard and Washington Boulevard afterward. I like to get up close and see the structure and how it’s all made from organic materials.
The Rodriguez House
Raul Rodriguez is the eminent designer of Rose Parade floats, he does all my favorites and he usually rides on one with his a large macaw on his shoulder. His home at 3rd and Windsor is one of the best-decorated houses in L.A. He incorporates leftover props from past floats, so you see huge bears and gingerbread men all over his yard.
3rd Street Promenade
People that come in from out of town are very curious what a California Christmas is like. The tropical experience is really a thrill for them. I take them window-shopping at 3rd Street Promenade and then we get Mexican food at Mariasol on the Santa Monica Pier. It’s a nice little place and they have a guy that comes around and takes your souvenir photo.
We all love going to Disneyland to see the fake snow. They have these machines that produce this foam. It’s like dish soap and comes out in tiny flecks. It doesn’t have any taste, it just evaporates on your hand and it’s magic! We also love the parade with the toy soldiers. There’s a hole in the mouth and they have real trumpeters inside.
The Queen Mary
The Queen Mary is so beautiful and at Christmas they have decorations and a big tree and Santa at brunch. The ocean views are great and dinner at Sir Winston’s is delicious. I love seeing photos of my favorite stars standing exactly where I am on the boat. We posed at the base of the stairs next to a big photo of Fred Astaire on the same steps. It’s like a trip back in time.
The Becker House
I always go back to the Becker house in Simi Valley, where I grew up. The animated dolls and ferris wheels and choo choo trains are very dense and very lush. Out of that sea of suburbia this house comes to life. I was fascinated with how he made the things move and it’s all done with plywood and a jigsaw and barbecue rotisserie motors. He was able to achieve a lot without a lot of technology. One year I went back and he had added characters I animated in Finding Nemo. When I saw that, I knew I had really arrived.
Photographs courtesy (in order of appearance): youarehere.com, veniceracket.com, missionin.com, lastheplace.com, raulrodriguez.com, wordpress.com, wordpress.com, mpicomputers.com, flickr.com, flickr.com, flickriver.com