Best Things to Do in December in Los Angeles

December Holiday Fun Returns Live in Los Angeles in 2021

After a pandemic year that shut down the usually sunny and warm holiday season in Los Angeles, Angelenos and visitors from around the world are really ready to celebrate in 2021. Live events are back this holiday season, so whether it's Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, New Year's, the Winter Solstice or some combination of them all that you celebrate, there's something for everyone to enjoy in the Southland. Mickey and Minnie go all out at Disneyland, Harry Potter and the Grinch transform Universal Studios into a holiday haven, parades abound and ice skating rinks pop up, too. Los Angeles is famous for its New Year's extravaganza, as the 133rd Tournament of Roses Parade will be televised all over the United States. Visiting SoCal for the holidays means you can go to the parade in person, but to get good viewing spots, you'll need to join the throngs camping out along the parade route the night before, or splurge and buy seats to watch the parade live. The annual Hollywood Christmas Parade brings out Santa and the stars, too; and you'll find the ultimate holiday adventure in Santa Monica complete with shows, shopping and Santa Claus. Just don't expect any real snow! 


Tournament of Roses Rose Bowl Parade
Photo courtesy of Tournament of Roses � Rose Bowl Parade

The 133rd Tournament of Roses Rose Parade kicks off on January 1, 2021, at 8 a.m., traveling 5.5 miles along Orange Grove Boulevard and Colorado Avenue in Pasadena. The nationally televised New Year's Day parade is famed for its extravagant floats that are constructed with thousands of flowers, roses and other beautiful blossoms. Presented by Honda, and themed "Dream. Believe. Achieve.," there will be around 40 floats, as well as numerous marching bands, horse-drawn carriages and more. LeVar Burton is this year's Tournament of Roses Parade Grand Marshal. Admission is free along the parade route, with people camping out the night before to get prime spots on the sidewalk. Tickets may be purchased for various grandstands, ranging in price from $60 to $110, depending on the spot along the route. The festivities conclude by 1 p.m. when the Rose Bowl college football game begins.

Recommended for Things to Do in December because: America's New Year's Day celebrations are traditionally anchored by this Southern California parade institution.

Jenny's expert tip: Buy parking passes along with grandstand seats and you are guaranteed a spot within a one mile walk of your seats.

Read more about Tournament of Roses Rose Bowl Parade →

Dodgers Holiday Festival
Photo courtesy of Los Angeles Dodgers

The Dodgers Holiday Festival takes over the Los Angeles Dodger Stadium for a holiday spectacular that runs from November 26 to December 31, 2021. Instead of Major League Baseball, the Dodgers have transformed their playing field for holiday fun, including an ice skating rink, huge lighting displays, nightly entertainment and, of course, a visit from Santa Claus every night, too. You'll need a separate ticket to have a photo with Santa, and a separate ticket for ice skating as well. Note that proof of COVID-19 vaccination is required for admission.

Recommended for Things to Do in December because: Dodger fans will love the chance to get up close to the bullpens, the warning track and more in the beloved stadium.

Jenny's expert tip: General parking costs $12 per vehicle; preferred parking is $20.

Read more about Dodgers Holiday Festival →

Hollywood Christmas Parade
Photo courtesy of Hollywood Christmas Parade

The Hollywood Christmas Parade marks its 89th year in 2021 and (as usual) it's quite the extravaganza. Happening on November 28 and wending its way from Hollywood Boulevard at Orange (right at the TCL Chinese Theatre) all the way to Vine, down to Sunset and west back to Orange. The parade begins in front of Hollywood & Highland from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Sheryl Underwood serves as this year's grand marshal, along with numerous celebrities also appearing throughout the parade, as well as with 11 marching bands, huge floating character balloons, floats and much more. And of course, no Christmas parade would be complete with Santa Claus! The whole extravaganza airs on the CW TV network on December 17 during prime time.

Recommended for Things to Do in December because: This longtime tradition is one of Hollywood's most exciting events, with plenty of fun for the whole family.

Jenny's expert tip: Take the Metro to Hollywood and Vine and snag a good spot; bring a backpack beach chair to be able to sit down as the parade wends past.

Read more about Hollywood Christmas Parade →

Lightscape at Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Gardens
Photo courtesy of L.A. Arboretum Rich Fury Getty Images

Lightscape comes to the Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Gardens for the 2021 holiday season from London, where it was a smash, sold-out hit. Thousands of lights blend into an immersive experience, created across a one-mile experience expressed in various unique displays. Those range from the Winter Cathedral to the Sea of Light and the Fire Garden (among others), all parts of this massive light installation designed to bring a sense of wonder and holiday cheer. Designed for visitors of all ages, Lightscape is a family friendly experience set in the midst of the 127-acre arboretum.

Recommended for Things to Do in December because: This is a once-in-a-lifetime artistic exhibition that bends the mind through light and color.

Jenny's expert tip: Park for free at the Santa Anita Park racetrack (enter Gate 6 off Colorado Boulevard) and take the free shuttle to the arboretum.

Read more about Lightscape at Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Gardens →

Six Flags Magic Mountain
Photo courtesy of Six Flags Magic Mountain

Roller-coaster lovers know that Six Flags Magic Mountain in Valencia is one of the world's best amusement parks, boasting more hair-raising rides than any other on the planet. Fearless adventurers will find record-breaking rides like the Lex Luthor: Drop of Doom, the X2, Viper, Tatsu and the Riddler's Revenge, the fastest stand-up coaster in the world. Plus, there are family and kids' rides, too; nighttime shows featuring laser lights and live music; and the Looney Tunes characters can be found throughout the park. This holiday season discover Holiday in the Park from November 20, 2021 to January 2, 2022. The celebration features light displays, seasonal treats and more. Visit Santa's Village, Polar Point, Holiday Square, Merry Lane, Snowy Nights and lots of other fun stops along the way.

Recommended for Things to Do in December because: Where else in SoCal can you ride wild coasters and meet up with Santa Claus, too?

Jenny's expert tip: Hit the Gleampunk District to experience how the holidays were celebrated back in 19th century.

Read more about Six Flags Magic Mountain →

Seaside Santa Monica Holiday Celebrations
Photo courtesy of Santa Monica Place

Seaside Santa Monica Holiday Celebrations are an extravaganza of inclusive holiday events, including Winterlit at the Santa Monica Third Street Promenade, Santa Claus greeting children at Santa Monica Place and Menorah lightings happening every night from November 28 to December 6 at sundown on the Third Street Promenade. The Santa Monica Beach Belles feature ballerina performances inside the 14-foot larger-than-life snow globe at Santa Monica Place and the Westside Ballet performs "The Nutcracker" during four select performances. There's even an annual Santa Monica holiday pub crawl, which raises funds for the Westside Food Bank, as way to give back during 2021's holiday season.

Recommended for Things to Do in December because: Sunny Santa Monica is a wonderful place to celebrate the winter holiday season, with lots of fun holiday offerings.

Jenny's expert tip: Check the Santa Monica website for exact times and locations for the events happening all around the city for the holidays.

Read more about Seaside Santa Monica Holiday Celebrations →

West Los Angeles
Los Angeles Ballet
Photo courtesy of Elizabeth Walker & LAB Ensemble

The Los Angeles Ballet was founded in 2004 by Artistic Directors Thordal Christensen and Colleen Neary, and Executive Director Julie Whittaker. The LAB is known for its superb stagings of the Balanchine repertory, as well as the mounting of stylistically meticulous classical ballets and its commitment to new works. Every holiday season, the LAB performs the classic "The Nutcracker" for audiences across Southern California. In 2021, their wonderful performances will be held in the Alex Theatre, Royce Hall, the Dolby Theatre and the Redondo Beach Performing Arts Center from December 4 to December 26. This ballet is a perfect way to introduce youngsters into the beauty of the ballet; adults will marvel at the talented dance ensemble that makes every move look completely effortless.

Recommended for Things to Do in December because: "The Nutcracker" is a holiday classic and the Los Angeles Ballet brings it to life with gorgeous costumes, beautiful music and spectacular dancing.

Jenny's expert tip: Check the website for times and prices in the various venues around the Southland for "The Nutcracker." There's sure to be one near you.

Read more about Los Angeles Ballet →

La Canada Flintridge
Descanso Gardens
Photo courtesy of Descanso Gardens © Jake Fabricius

Descanso Gardens' annual holiday fantasy lights creation is known as Enchanted Forest of Light and it really does seem as if you've entered an enchanted wonderland. Normally an internationally renowned garden located to the north of downtown L.A., the gardens are known for their incredible botanical collections and spectacular seasonal horticultural displays. With 160 acres to play with, the gardens' ingenious designers always create beautiful spaces, and then outdo themselves every year with a spectacular and slightly surreal light experience that extends for one mile. There are plenty of fantastical exhibits including the newest, a complete town made of stained-glass sculptures by Tom Fruin. The forest is on display from November 21, 2021, to January 9, 2022, but closed on a select number of nights, so check their website. Tickets are $32 (and up) for non-garden members, have a timed entry and must be purchased in advance.

Recommended for Things to Do in December because: This is a magical way to see a totally different kind of Christmas light display; and the lights here are interactive, too.

Jenny's expert tip: Be sure to buy your tickets ahead of time for a timed entrance into the gardens.

Read more about Descanso Gardens →

Universal Studios
Photo courtesy of Universal Studios

With "Christmas in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter," Universal Studios Hollywood literally brings the magic to the holidays. Fans of the boy wizard will find Hogsmeade village transformed into a fantasy land of Christmas cheer and see Hogwarts Castle aglow with an unforgettable animated light-projection show. The show happens daily from November 26, 2021 to January 2, 2022. Meanwhile, the theme park's annual "Grinchmas" extravaganza returns, complete with the Grinch, his dog Max and plenty of Who-ville singers, dancers and others making merry every evening with caroling and other performances. And there will be more holiday treats in store for visitors, too, so be sure to watch for the "Despicable Me" Minions, as they spread their silly holiday cheer throughout the park.

Recommended for Things to Do in December because: One of the iconic theme parks of the world, Universal Studios Hollywood really pulls out all the stops with their annual holiday extravaganza.

Jenny's expert tip: Visit CityWalk for free and enjoy holiday concerts, caroling, a huge Christmas tree and an impressive water display at the walk's dancing fountain.

Read more about Universal Studios →

With the traditional holiday elements all in place, Disneyland and its Disney California Adventure next-door theme park are once again decked out during the 2021 holiday season. This year's party features classics like Sleeping Beauty's Castle completely lit up in Christmas lights; a huge Christmas tree on Main Street U.S.A. is perfect for that family portrait; and the venerable Christmas Fantasy Parade returns every evening. At Disney California Adventure, kids will love Mickey's Happy Holidays, a merry character celebration that's part of the Festival of Holidays. Many celebrations are highlighted, including Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and Three Kings Day. Watch for Black Santas this year, too; 2021 marks the first time Disney has added them to their diversity mix. The season runs through January 9, 2022.

Recommended for Things to Do in December because: Spending the holidays with Mickey Mouse at Disney's two SoCal theme parks is incredibly exciting for anyone with young children - and for adults, too!

Jenny's expert tip: Be certain to plan to visit both parks - Disneyland and Disney California Adventure - to see all of the special holiday events and rides on offer from Disney.

Read more about Disneyland Resort →


Meet Jenny Peters

Jenny Peters – aka Jet Set Jen – is a Los Angeles-based freelance journalist, editor and party columnist specializing in travel, entertainment, film, food, wine, fashion and the other good...  More About Jenny