Here’s Why You’ll Want to Escape to Los Angeles for the Holidays

Here’s Why You’ll Want to Escape to Los Angeles for the Holidays

'Tis the season to start making holiday plans—and while there won't be snow, you'll be surprised at how this sunny, SoCal city pulls out all the stops.

Since it’s usually 70 degrees and sunny throughout the holiday season, La La Land won’t ever be the postcard city for a traditional white Christmas. But who’s bothered, when the city goes the extra mile to get everyone into the holiday spirit throughout October, November, and December? Spending the holidays vacationing in Los Angeles gives you the full roster of tree lightings, outdoor ice skating, special shopping events and more, without actually having to suffer through the cold. Plus, there’s a few amusing only-in-LA seasonal events that take full advantage of the warm weather: A Surfing Santa contest, for instance, as well as a Santa Speedo run. Still not convinced that LA is the place to plan your holiday getaway? Let some of this year’s best happenings change your mind. 

Los Angeles Plans to Set the Record this Year for Lighting Up the World’s Tallest Live-Cut Tree.

This year, the 115-foot coniferous behemoth that will tower over the Citadel Outlets soon-to-open Center Court building stands about 40 feet taller than the tree famously lit in New York City’s Rockefeller Center. Another fun fact: the tree, sourced from the Shasta-Trinity National Forest, will stand twice as tall as the letters of the Hollywood sign. This giant pine arrives on October 23 and remains on display through the end of the year, with a lighting ceremony that corresponds with the grand opening of Center Court on November 11. Massively festive? You bet.

Santa Monica Ice Skating

Ice skating while wearing shorts and skirts?! And strolling to the beach afterward? It’s all possible at ICE in Santa Monica. Mittens optional.  Photo courtesy Santa Monica Travel and Tourism

Outdoor Ice Skating in 70 Degree Weather? It’s Totally Possible.

New technology keeps the ice below your skates cold, while you can show off your moves in a sundress or tank top, if you like. Downtown Los Angeles’ Holiday Ice Rink in Pershing Square—one of the biggest in the city— returns in November and stays icy ’til January. Staying near the beach? Check out ICE at Santa Monica, an 8,000-square-foot ice skating rink that opens November 1. This season, SaMo’s little piece of winter wonderland is open through January 15. And if you’re hanging out anywhere near Orange County, don’t miss the annual OC Chill Ice Skating at Spectrum Center which re-opens November 20 and sticks around through January 18.

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LA’s Trendiest Shopping Areas Go All-Out, Over-the-Top Festive this Time of Year.

One of the best things about all of the Los Angeles area al fresco shopping malls and pop-up outdoor holiday markets is that they make for a truly pleasant holiday shopping experience. Just think: No mittens, no runny noses, no cold toes to slow you down. And none are lacking a bit for holiday decor, either. Our pick? Head to The Grove, which decks out its entire, palm-tree filled outdoor shopping oasis with festive decorations, hosts a massive Santa house (yep, with visits with the guy himself) and a sparkly 100-foot tree. Better yet, the outdoor mall makes it snow (yes, really snow) twice a night during the holiday season, turning the whole experience of shopping for gifts into something magical. 2017 dates haven’t yet been announced, but everything usually gets fully festooned by November.

Beyond the malls, there are pop-up shops galore in Los Angeles every holiday season. But especially if you’re staying near the ocean, the Holiday Odd Market on Santa Monica’s famous pier is something special. It’s beach-casual festive shopping at its best, with 80 unique pop-up shops, live music, and food trucks starting in November, and happening every 1st Saturday from 11am to 6pm.

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Christmas decorations on Rodeo Drive, CA, USA

Famous Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills always gets fully decked out for the holidays, but this year, expect special, sculptural light installations across the city. Photo iStock

Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills gets Decked To The Nines (Yes, Even More than Usual!).

Beverly Hills doesn’t shy away from dressing up anytime of year, but the holiday season is something special. This year, B.O.L.D. Holidays (that’s Beverly Hills Open Later Days) begins in mid-November, with a massive lighting display and a kickoff holiday lighting celebration sponsored by Baccarat and GEARYS Beverly Hills (exact dates are still to be announced). Beyond famous Rodeo Drive, the whole city will brighten up with geometric and iridescent light installations along North and South Beverly Drive, and Canon Drive, along with a special installation of sculptures by HYBYCOZO at Beverly Canon Gardens. This dash of extra sparkle for the whole city is expected to stays alight ’til January 5.

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The LA Zoo always has the Most Instagrammable Light Display in Town

Plus, there’s real reindeer you can visit. But the awe-inspiring lighting display is the biggest reason to plan a holiday season visit, simply to wander, gawk, and snap away. And lest you worry, none of the lights disturb the zoo animals. LA Zoo Lights returns on November 17, and stays bright until January 7.

Surfing Santa

Ever see Santa catch a barrel wave before? An annual Surfing Santa contest is one of the Los Angeles area’s one-of-a-kind holiday traditions. Photo iStock

Want to See Santa on a Surfboard, or Perhaps Jogging by in just a Speedo? SoCal is the Place.

Other cities sponsor Santa runs where participants need the full, cuddly Santa suit for warmth, but in Southern California, Santa events are, well…often a little more stripped down. The annual Surfing Santa contest (which benefits Surfers Healing) returns to Salt Creek Beach November 18 and 19.  If you turn up to cheer, expect some truly wild holiday-themed outfits among the surfers—prizes are awarded for best costume.

And then there’s the Mr. and Mrs. Santa Speedo Run, happening on December 3, a fundraiser run for Orange County Pride. As you can likely imagine, runners take to the streets donning Speedos (and sometimes little else!), as well as all sorts of creative costumes and holiday hoopla.

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Some Cities Have Holiday Parades; Los Angeles Has Holiday Boat Parades

…though truth be told, LA has plenty of regular holiday parades too (the Hollywood Christmas Parade, held the Sunday after Thanksgiving each year, is one of LA’s longstanding traditions). But holiday boat parades? C’mon, you don’t find these just anywhere. Marina del Rey’s annual Holiday Boat Parade celebrates its 55th year on December 9, starting at 6pm. The 2017 theme is “Let’s Dance,” and beyond the light-bedecked boats circling the Marina, there’s plenty of fireworks too.

This Huge, Music-Filled Holiday Spectacular Has Been Happening in LA Since 1959

2017 marks the 58th annual three-hour Christmas Eve tradition of bands, choirs and dance companies from the many neighborhoods and cultures of LA. It all comes together at The Music Center’s Dorothy Chandler Pavilion from 3pm – 6pm on December 24 (you can tune in on PBS, too). Oh, and tickets to see the show live are completely free, though limited.

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