5 Places to See Christmas Lights in Los Angeles

You’ve probably had to fend off this tired question before from out-of-town friends: How can we get in the holiday spirit here on the West Coast when it’s warm in December? Well, first of all, it’s cold—by L.A. standards, at least. But second, there’s also plenty of holiday cheer if you know where to see Christmas lights in Los Angeles. In between a deluge of Christmas events, festive movie screenings and frantic shopping trips, take the time to check out these twinkling neighborhoods and ticketed events. Just make sure to bring along an extra sweatshirt and some patience: Not even Christmas lights can escape L.A. traffic.


Enchanted: Forest of Light

Descanso Gardens’ light-up experience was the first L.A.-area one to ditch the kitsch aesthetic typical at most other venues, and its whimsical, wondrous, curiosity-driven displays are still among L.A.’s most stunning and, more importantly, most fun. (It’s also quite pricey, but that’s the unfortunate reality now of every ticketed pick in our list.) The partially interactive nighttime program sets up illuminated installations around the botanical garden grounds, from luminescent forests to free-standing hands-on art pieces.


Christmas Tree Lane

While L.A. might lure in visitors with breezy palm trees, the region is no slouch when it comes to conifers. Case in point: This grand, mile-long driveway of cedars in Altadena becomes blanketed in lights each holiday as it transforms into Christmas Tree Lane. Take a majestic cruise down the hill after it lights up (the lighting ceremony takes place December 9). And we do suggest going down: Traffic can get pretty gridlocked during peak holiday season, but it moves a bit better if you start at the top and head south (or just visit later in the evening, before the lights flick off at 10pm).

Santa Rosa Ave, between Woodbury Rd and Altadena Dr (Altadena)


Marina Del Rey Boat Parade

Feel as though you’ve escaped to a small-town fishing village during the Marina Del Rey Boat Parade—well, you know, minus the massive crowds. Bring a blanket and gather around Fisherman’s Village or Burton Chace Park on December 9 to watch as 70 boats glide through the marina with holiday lights and decorations in competition. Categories include Best Theme, Best Animation, Best Band, Best Lights and more. The festivities begin at 5:55pm with fireworks, and the boat parade starts at 6pm, rain or shine.


L.A. Zoo Lights

The on-foot spiritual successor to the old nearby DWP Holiday Lights, most of the displays here are inspired by the zoo’s wild residents (elephants, parrots and otters, among them). That’s especially the case with the current “Animals Aglow” theme, which doubles down on oversized, animated animal lanterns—to delightfully charming effect.


Upper Hastings Ranch

This decades-old tradition of coordinated holiday displays among homeowners smakes the sloping grid of ranch-style homes in Upper Hastings Ranch a scenic year-end destination. Each block of the Pasadena neighborhood decorates according to a different theme; one street might be lined with light-up candy canes while another is flanked by an army of inflatable Santas (there’s also a house on Tropical Avenue that typically goes all out with a music-coordinated show, so look out for traffic backups south of Alegria Avenue). Look out for a lighting typically on the second Saturday in December; you can cruise around the twinkling foothill community nightly from 6 to 10pm until the new year.

North of Sierra Madre Blvd and east of Michilinda Ave (Pasadena)


Source: Michael Juliano | TimeOut