Best Things to Do in December in Los Angeles

December Holiday Fun in Los Angeles in 2019

While winter never truly comes to Los Angeles and Southern California, that doesn't stop Angelenos from celebrating the holiday season just the same. So whether it is 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. Just don't expect any real snow! Los Angeles is famous for its New Year's extravaganza, as the 130th Tournament of Roses Parade will be televised all over the United States. Visiting SoCal for the holidays means you can go 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 shopping adventure on Rodeo Drive as Beverly Hills BOLD takes over that famous destination.


Santa's North Pole Village at Wisdome LA
Photo courtesy of Santa's North Pole Village at Wisdome LA, by Hugo Barth

Santa's North Pole Village at Wisdome LA is the newest holiday attraction in Southern California, a winter fantasyland housed in geodesic domes that are found in Downtown Los Angeles. Opening on the weekend of November 30, 2019 and continuing every most days (except Tuesday and Wednesday) through December 30, Santa's North Pole Village features everything from a giant Grinch chair (great for photo ops) to the holiday village complete with elves' homes. There's a 4D Snow Show, the Snowflake Adventure Ride, a crafts room where kids can get hands on to make their own cookie and much more. For an extra fee, families can also go ice skating, make a gingerbread house or ornament and get a photo taken with Santa.

Recommended for Things to Do in December because: A new fantasyland for families is a cause for holiday celebration in SoCal!

Jenny's expert tip: Parking on the street nearby is free, or use the lots nearby for $10-$18.

Read more about Santa's North Pole Village at Wisdome LA →

Hollywood Christmas Parade
Photo courtesy of Hollywood Christmas Parade

The Hollywood Christmas Parade marks its 88th year in 2019 and (as usual) it's quite the extravaganza. Happening on December 1 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 live music begins in front of Hollywood & Highland at 5 p.m., with the parade following from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Mario Lopez and his family serve as this year's grand marshals, along with numerous celebrities also appearing throughout the parade, along with 13 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 13.

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 →

The Queen Mary Christmas
Photo courtesy of The Queen Mary

The Queen Mary Christmas is an all-new for 2019 celebration in Long Beach harbor, aboard that famous ocean liner. The 25 days of fun includes ice skating onboard the Queen Mary's uppermost deck, nightly tree lighting ceremonies on the ship's bow, gingerbread and stocking decoration pop-ups, live entertainment, a chance to sit on Santa's lap and more. Open daily from November 29, 2019, through January 1, 2020, you can also join Mrs. Claus for Storytime with Mrs. C; wander through the Christmas Village that's filled with elves and end up in the Queen Mary's 4D Theatre, to enjoy watching "The Polar Express" on the big screen. There's a carousel, a giant rocking chair and even more surprises on this legendary ship as she celebrates the holiday season. Grab VIP tickets for an expanded experience for $65 for adults, $59 for children.

Recommended for Things to Do in December because: This annual extravaganza takes on a whole new look and feel for 2019, with events to please both young and old.

Jenny's expert tip: Note that there is no parking anywhere except the Queen Mary parking lot, which costs $8 for three hours.

Read more about The Queen Mary Christmas →

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

The 131st Tournament of Roses Rose Parade kicks off on January 1, 2020, 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 "The Power of Hope," there will be around 40 floats, as well as numerous marching bands, horse-drawn carriages and more. Rita Moreno, Gina Torres and Laurie Hernandez are this year's Tournament of Roses Parade Grand Marshals. 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 →

Beverly Hills BOLD Holidays
Photo courtesy of Beverly Hills BOLD Holidays

The Beverly Hills BOLD Holidays celebrations are happening all season long, on the 200, 300 and 400 blocks of Rodeo Drive, as well as throughout the city. All the streets in that famous city come alive throughout November and December 2019, with beautiful lights, holiday cheer, special events and more. Visitors will find later shopping hours (especially on the weekends) as well as pop-up holiday moments that include Santa Claus coming to PaleyLand at the Paley Center for Media Arts. Santa will be there from 11 a.m to 5 p.m. throughout the month of December (check the website for exact days). Discover carolers on Two Rodeo Drive, enjoy events at Greystone Mansion and The Doheny Estate, and ride The Jolly Trolley around Beverly Hills with Mrs. Santa. Every day there's something new, so plan to go more than once to this luxurious celebration of the season.

Recommended for Things to Do in December because: Beautiful Beverly Hills gets even more amazing with their now annual BOLD Holidays events, making it a must-see stop for the season.

Jenny's expert tip: Rodeo Drive stores stay open late during the Beverly Hills BOLD Holidays on Friday and Saturday nights.

Read more about Beverly Hills BOLD Holidays →

LA Kings Holiday Ice at L.A. Live
Photo courtesy of LA Kings Holiday Ice at L.A. Live

The LA Kings professional hockey team presents its annual outdoor ice skating rink in downtown Los Angeles for the 2019-2020 holiday season, as "LA Kings Holiday Ice" comes to L.A. Live, right next to Staples Center, where the team plays. Kids (and adults, too) can ice skate in the pop-up rink, operating from November 30 to January 12, including Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Year's Day as well. Purchase a Fast Pass online to skip the line and be the first to get to skate. The LA Kings Holiday Ice rink offers three sessions each day, from late afternoon to late night. And look for two other LA Kings popup rinks at the Westfield Valencia mall and the Westfield Topanga mall.

Recommended for Things to Do in December because: There's nothing quite like ice skating on a warm winter evening in the heart of Los Angeles.

Jenny's expert tip: Watch for the LA Kings mascot, he's often on the ice with you!

Read more about LA Kings Holiday Ice at L.A. Live →

Winterlit at the Santa Monica Third Street Promenade
Photo courtesy of Winterlit at the Santa Monica Third Street Promenade

Winterlit at the Santa Monica Third Street Promenade is an extravaganza of inclusive holiday events, including everything from Santa and Mrs. Claus lighting the City of Santa Monica Christmas tree on December 5, 2019, from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. to Menorah lightings happening every night from December 22 to 29 at sundown. The annual Ice at Santa Monica on 5th Street and Arizona went into full swing on November 1 and the skating goes on there until January 20, 2020. New this year is Ice Breakers, free concerts every Sunday at through January 19, 2020 at the Plaza Santa Monica, happening at 11 a.m., 12 p.m., 1:45 p.m. and 3:15 p.m. The North Pole Breakfast with Santa happens on December 7 at Santa Monica Place and pet photos with Santa are there on December 11 and 18, along with many other fun happenings throughout the season.

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

Jenny's expert tip: Check the Winterlit website for exact times and locations for the events happening on the Third Street Promenade and beyond.

Read more about Winterlit at the Santa Monica Third Street Promenade →

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 Flower Power, Rainbow Sycamores, Lightwave Lake and more. The forest is on display from 5:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. from November 17, 2019, to January 5, 2020, but closed on a select number of nights, so check their website. Tickets are $28 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; parking is free at the gardens and there's plenty of food and drinks available.

Read more about Descanso Gardens →

Universal Studios
Photo courtesy of Universal Studios Hollywood

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 28 to December 29, 2019. 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 Santa's nightly appearances there as well as concerts, caroling and a huge water display at the walk's dancing fountain.

Read more about Universal Studios →

Disneyland Resort
Photo courtesy of Disneyland Resort

With the traditional holiday elements all in place, Disneyland and its Disney California Adventure next-door theme park are decked out during the 2019 holiday season. This year's party features classics like Sleeping Beauty's Castle completely lit up in Christmas lights; huge Christmas trees on Main Street U.S.A. and Buena Vista Street, perfect for that family portrait; and the Haunted Mansion is once again transformed into a fabulously macabre melange of Halloween and Christmas with Jack Skellington as the star of the show. Returning this year is the "World of Color â€" Season of Light" extravaganza. That nighttime water spectacular includes lights, lasers, animation, fire and hundreds of fountains. At Disney California Adventure, kids will love the new 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. The season runs through January 6, 2020.

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 â€" and for adults, too!

Jenny's expert tip: Be certain to plan to visit both parks â€" Disneyland and Disney California Adventure â€" 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