Types of light displays


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Illustration of map pin with blinking holiday lights.
(Jim Cooke / Los Angeles Times)

The 26 best holiday light displays in and around Los Angeles

Here’s your chance to get dazzled this holiday season with a range of nighttime light shows that include everything from freebie walk-bys or drive-throughs to pricier extravaganzas.

Note that most of these shows are rain-or-shine events, so don’t expect a refund if it starts to drizzle on the night you bought tickets. Just remember to dress warmly, bring an umbrella and count your blessings that low temperatures in the L.A. area rarely dip below 40 degrees.

Here are our suggestions for unique gifts and other ideas for the 2021 holiday season.

Please note that many of the “freebie” light shows listed are in residential areas where an informal group of neighbors voluntarily go all out to create annual holiday displays. The start and stop dates for these events are sometimes vague. If you can, try to visit on weekday nights because traffic can get pretty congested on weekends.

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Brea Eagle Hills Christmas Lights

Brea Lights to see for free
Brea Eagle Hills Christmas Lights is a longstanding and very popular neighborhood light event, so expect tons of sloooow-moving traffic — plan at least 45 minutes for the tour — if you choose to drive. Many visitors recommend parking outside the housing tract and walking the route. Public parking and restrooms are available nearby at the Brea Sports Park, 3333 E. Birch St. Some neighbors have traditionally sold snacks and warm drinks from their yards. The city of Brea also limits parking to only one side of the street in the Eagle Hills neighborhood between 4 and 10 p.m. for emergency vehicles.

Dates: Dec. 2 to 30

Hours: Dusk to 10 p.m.

Admission: Free
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Homes decked out in lights
(Michael Robinson Chavez / Los Angeles Times)

Candy Cane Lane

Woodland Hills Lights to see for free
Candy Cane Lane is an annual neighborhood holiday decor extravaganza — the kind of 60-plus-year tradition that happens when homeowners work together and get a little competitive about who has the best light display. This is a pretty informal event, without any specific spokesperson, but the lights typically go on the second Saturday in December — Dec. 11 this year — and stay on through the end of the year. This is a slow-drive-through-the-neighborhood-and-gape event.

Dates: Dec. 11 to Jan. 2

Hours: 6-10 p.m. weeknights and 6-11 p.m. weekends until Dec. 25

Admission: Free
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The Capistrano Lights event on display
(Andrew Worthington / Mission San Juan Capistrano)

Capistrano Lights at San Juan Capistrano Mission

San Juan Capistrano Lights to stroll by
The venerable courtyard of Orange County’s only mission at San Juan Capistrano is bathed in lights and oversized holiday decor, with music by the Dickens Era Carolers, crafts for children, a huge nativity scene and photos with Santa.

Dates: Dec. 4 to 30

Hours: Tickets available for selected days only: Dec. 4, 10-12, 17-19, 21-23, 26 and 28-30. Visitors can enter as early as 9 a.m. to tour the mission, but the holiday programming of lights, music and Santa begins at 4 p.m. and ends at 6 p.m. when the mission closes.

Admission: Limited tickets are available at the door, but online purchases are recommended due to high demand, $19 ages 12-59, $17 seniors age 60+, $14 ages 5-11 and free for children 4 and younger. Tickets for members cost $5 less.
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Christmas in Color Drive-Thru Animated Light Show

San Dimas Lights to stroll by
This drive-through show features giant candy canes, snowmen, illuminated tunnels and more than a million lights synchronized to music that visitors can tune in to their own car radios. A portion of all ticket sales is donated to the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

Dates: Through Jan. 2

Hours: 5:30 to 10 p.m. nightly except Nov. 25 and Dec. 25

Admission: $40 per vehicle. VIP admission of $65 provides express lane entry, four pairs of diffraction glasses, two light-bulb necklaces, candy cane light batons and Rudolph noses plus air freshener and an in-car activity card.
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Motorists cruise Santa Rosa Avenue, better known as Christmas Tree Lane
(Calvin B. Alagot / Los Angeles Times)

Christmas Tree Lane in Altadena

Altadena Lights to see for free
Christmas Tree Lane celebrated its 100th year of elaborate neighborhood holiday decorations in 2020. It enters its second century of nearly a mile worth of lights and decor strung among the 135 massive Deodar Cedar trees lining both sides of Santa Rosa Avenue. (Please note the Dec. 1 start date is earlier than usual and was tentative at the time this story published.) The traditional lighting ceremony has been canceled this year because of COVID-19 concerns. Organizers hope to reduce congestion by giving visitors more days to view the lights, so check the website before you head out. Admiring is free, but the association accepts $35 memberships online to offset the cost of stringing lights in the century-old cedar trees and keeping them healthy. Some people choose to walk the route, said volunteer foreman Tony Ward, but organizers encourage people to drive for safety reasons. There are no sidewalks, and it’s hard to see pedestrians unless they are brightly lighted. This is a slow-drive-through-the-neighborhood-and-gape event.

Dates: Dec. 1 to Jan. 9

Hours: 5:30 p.m. to 12 a.m. nightly

Admission: Free
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A manger scene outside a decorated home
(Patricia Marroquin/Moment Editorial/Getty Images)

Christmas Tree Lane in Oxnard

Oxnard Lights to see for free
You can walk or drive through Oxnard’s 70-acre district of 139 historic homes, most built before 1925, representing various architectural styles, including Mission/Spanish Revival, Bungalow, Craftsman and Colonial Revival. These homes are extraordinary to view any time, but during the holidays, the lights and decor in the Henry T. Oxnard Historic District of Oxnard make the walk all the more special.

Dates: Dec. 12 to 26

Hours: Nightly

Admission: Free
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The Flower Power at Descanso Gardens' Enchanted Forest of Light
(Descanso Gardens)

Descanso Gardens’ Enchanted Forest of Light

La Canada Flintridge Botanic light show
Descano’s annual holiday light show stretches a mile through the gardens, with an exhibit that includes a new “town” of stained-glass buildings in the Rose Garden created by sculptor Tom Fruin, along with favorites such as the field of glowing tulips that constantly change colors.

Dates: Through Jan. 9

Hours: Timed entry every half-hour between 5:30 and 8:30 p.m.; open until 10 p.m. daily, rain or shine, except Nov. 24, Dec. 24 and Dec. 25

Admission: Tickets are $25 to $28 for members, $32 to $35 for nonmembers.
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A rendering of a holiday event that will feature ice skating in center field
(Los Angeles Dodgers)

Dodgers Holiday Festival 2021

Echo Park Lights to stroll by
In 2020, the stadium was the spot for a drive-through holiday event. This year it’s all on foot and involves lots of lights, friendly elves and, for additional fees, ice skating in the outfield and a group photo session with Santa. Food and drink are available for purchase, and there’s live holiday-themed entertainment nightly.

Dates: Nov. 26 to Dec. 31

Hours: 5-10 p.m. weekdays and 3-10 p.m. weekends

Admission: General admission tickets are $16 and must be purchased online for entry before 7 p.m. or after 7 p.m. Additional tickets are required to skate on the ice rink ($15 for 30 minutes) and take photos with Santa ($40). General parking costs $12 if purchased online (before 2 p.m. on the day you attend) or $15 at the gate.
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Gymnasts performing at The Elf on the Shelf Magical Holiday Journey
(Jerritt Clark)

The Elf on the Shelf Magical Holiday Journey

Pomona Drive-through light show
Visitors get to walk and ride on a magic trolley where they are “shrunk” to an elf-sized world on an hour-long quest to help Santa get his fallen sleigh back in the air and save the holidays with the ingredients of Christmas spirit — faith, hope and love (probably a good recipe for fixing everything in this world). The journey includes acrobatic elves and multiple brightly lighted scenes. Also, visitors can skate for 45 minutes on an open-air ice rink for an additional fee of $13 for adults and $8 for toddlers. Skate rentals are an additional $7.

Dates: Through Jan. 2

Hours: Nightly 5-8:30 p.m.

Admission: Prices vary depending on the night, starting at $39.95 to $49.95 ages 13 and older and $34.95 to $44.95 ages 3-12.
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Nighttime art installation lit up
(Chuck Bennett)

GLOW at South Coast Botanic Garden

Rolling Hills Estates Botanic light show
South Coast Botanic Garden is meshing music, food and drink with an underwater theme to transform its gardens into a winter-wonder light show called GLOW (Garden Lights & Ocean Waters).

Dates: Through Jan. 17

Hours: Timed entry between 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. nightly except Dec. 24 and 25. Visitors can stay until gates close at 10 p.m.

Admission: Reserved tickets are required; $34.95 for nonmembers, $24.95 for members. Children 4 and under enter free. Food and drink are available for purchase.
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Colorful lights on display during the Festival of Lights at Tanaka Farms
(Emily Ganiko / Tanaka Farms)

Hikari: Festival of Lights at Tanaka Farms

Irvine Lights to stroll by
Hikari means “shine” in Japanese, and Tanaka Farms is living up to that name with a wagon ride to the “Land of a Thousand Lanterns” and a walk through the Gingerbread Forest with more lights, live music, food for purchase, arts and crafts, barnyard animals, a Christmas tree lot and a chance to take photos with Santa.

Dates: Nov. 26 to Dec. 30

Hours: Open daily 4:30-10 p.m. except Dec. 24, 25, 31 and Jan. 1.

Admission: Holiday Wagon Ride and Gingerbread Forest $20-25 and Gingerbread Forest only $10-15 depending on the night; children 2 and under as well as military service members, retirees and veterans enter free with military ID. Parking is $10.
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The entrance to Holiday Road at King Gillette Ranch lit up
(Line 8 Photography)

Holiday Road at King Gillette Ranch

Calabasas Lights to stroll by
Walk along Holiday Road to see glowing swans, nutcrackers and polar bears, giant gingerbread folk and houses, twinkling tunnels and trees all draped in lights, along with 10-foot-tall menorahs in honor of Hanukkah, and a chance to see Santa. Hot chocolate and toddies are available for purchase.

Dates: Dec. 3 to 31

Hours: Open nightly 5-10 p.m. except Dec. 6-7, 13 and 25

Admission: Tickets are $34.99 to 44.99, depending on the night. Children 2 and younger enter free.
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Lit up frogs
(Jamie Pham / L.A. Zoo)

L.A. Zoo Lights

Griffith Park Botanic light show
The L.A. Zoo’s holiday event returns after a COVID-19 hiatus with more oversize glowing animals, a “magical disco ball forest” and the world’s largest illuminated pop-up storybook, among other displays. One wonders what the zoo’s residents think?

Dates: Through Jan. 9

Hours: Open daily, except Nov. 25, Dec. 24 and 25

Admission: Tickets have timed entries at 6, 7 and 8 p.m., and the zoo stays open until 10 p.m. Tickets are more expensive on weekends and after Dec. 16. They are $22 weekdays before Dec. 17, $24 Friday-Sunday and after Dec. 16 for ages 13 and older, $16-$17 for ages 2-12 and $15 for members (except Dec. 17-23). Children under 2 are free.
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Oversized lillies that change color are reflected in Baldwin Lake at the Los Angeles Arboretum.
(Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)

Lightscape at Los Angeles County Arboretum

Arcadia Botanic light show
Lightscape 2021 is the resumption of the arboretum’s annual nighttime holiday event, which was canceled in 2020 because of the pandemic. This year’s show is a new collection about a mile in length, including a walk-through winter cathedral of white lights and a “fire garden” along paths that are wheelchair accessible.

Dates: Through Jan. 16

Hours: Tickets must be reserved in advance, timed entry between 5:30 and 8:45 p.m., but visitors can stay until the gates close at 10 p.m.

Admission: Tickets are $32-$30 for adults and $20 or $18 for ages 3-12. Weekend dates and dates closer to the holidays are more expensive. Members save $3 per ticket, and children 2 and under enter free. Advance purchase is recommended because of high demand. VIP tickets ($70) permit flexible, priority entry on the ticketed date as well as VIP parking. Food and drink are available for purchase.
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Illuminated creatures
(The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens)

WildLights at the Living Desert Zoo and Gardens

Palm Desert Botanic light show
This is the Living Desert Zoo and Gardens’ 29th year of creating a winter wonderland of festive lights in the middle of Palm Desert, with life-size animal lanterns, a tunnel of lights with holiday music, bedecked G-scale model trains with more than 3,000 feet of track, and food and beverages available for purchase.

Dates: Through Dec. 30

Hours: 6-9 p.m. Open to members only Nov. 23; public nights Nov. 24, 26-27 and Dec. 3-4, 10-11, 17-24 and 26-30.

Admission: $16, $12 children ages 3-12; members $14
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Lighted trail
(California Botanic Garden)

Luminaria Nights at the California Botanic Garden

Claremont Botanic light show
California Botanic Garden has the state’s largest collection of California native plants, and now visitors can view them at night with special holiday luminaria, live music and food and beverages for purchase.

Dates: Dec. 10-11, 17-18

Hours: 6 to 9 p.m.

Admission: $15 adults, $12 seniors age 65+, students with ID and children ages 3-12. Members pay $10 for adults and $8 for seniors, students and children 3-12. Children under 3 enter free.
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Magic of Lights at Angel Stadium

Anaheim Drive-through light show
Here’s an immersive holiday light drive-through with a very appealing price. You can basically fill up your car (safely) and even bring your dog along to experience a 200-foot light tunnel and more than 40 scenes of holiday light displays over a winding course of more than a mile. The holiday scenes include “favorite characters of the season” such as animated snowmen, elves, poinsettias, candy canes, Toy Land, a Victorian village, enchanted forest and, yes, Santa himself.

Dates: Through Dec. 26

Hours: 5 to 10 p.m. nightly

Admission: $25, $35 or $45 per vehicle depending on the dates you choose; prices increase as you get closer to Christmas.
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The main entrance to Riverside's Mission Inn is glowing in lights.
(Mission Inn)

Mission Inn Festival of Lights

Riverside Lights to see for free
Pro tip: The Mission Inn covers a full city block and is draped with lights and moving figures on all sides, but if you want to see the elaborate holiday decor inside without renting a room or buying a meal, make a reservation to tour the Mission Inn. The history is fascinating. You’ll get a peek inside this storied hotel, and if you take the last tour of the day, the outside lights will be ablaze when you emerge. The 75-minute tours are by reservation only and cost $20 for ages 12 and older, $17 for seniors, and $15 for children ages 11 and younger as well as residents of Riverside and San Bernardino counties. There’s also several stores nearby such as Mrs. Tiggy Winkles gift shop if you want to browse a little before the lights come on.

Dates: Nov. 26 to Jan. 6

Hours: Lights come on at dusk every night. There is no official lighting ceremony this year because of COVID-19 concerns and no special vendors downtown, although the city will have lights and holiday displays on the Main Street Mall near the Mission Inn.

Admission: Free to walk outside; however if you want to see the decorations inside, you’ll need to rent a hotel room (starting at $229 a night before Thanksgiving and $379 during the holiday season) or have a reservation at one of the Inn’s restaurants. (Maybe grab a drink at one of its two lounges.)
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Display of lights
(Night of Lights OC)

Night of Lights OC

Costa Mesa Drive-through light show
This one-mile, very slow drive-through event promises 1 million lights as well as music, live entertainers, characters including Snow Angels and Princess Crystal in Toyland, and special effects such as snow flurries, bubbles, strobe lighting and fog. Santa and his elves make an appearance too.

Dates: Nov. 26 to Jan. 2

Hours: Timed entries every half hour from 5 to 11 p.m.

Admission: Tickets available online only; weekday prices start at $39.99 per car (with up to five people per vehicle) for general admission; express entry “silver tickets” for $59.99. Weekend and holiday tickets range from $59.99 to $79.99, depending on the entry time, for general admission and $99.99 for “silver ticket” admission. (Note that tickets also include a $12-$20 service fee.)
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Reindeer Road

Arcadia Drive-through light show
Reindeer Road is one of five shows in Georgia, Arizona and California produced by World of Illumination this year. This slow, mile-long drive-through experience at Santa Anita Park in Arcadia promises synchronized music and millions of animated lights on a trip to the North Pole. It includes mountainous terrain, glacial peaks, ice caves, glittering forests and ultimately Santa’s Workshop, billed as the “world’s largest animated toy shop.” Expect reindeer, towering snowmen, toys and finally a glimpse of Santa himself (except on Christmas Eve, when Mrs. Claus and the elves will hold court because Santa will be otherwise occupied).

Dates: Through Jan. 2

Hours: Tickets available for entry every half-hour between 6 and 9:30 p.m.

Admission: Tickets must be purchased in advance online and are for one vehicle only (no buses, trucks or RVs permitted). General admission Mondays-Thursdays is $59 or $79 for a “Dasher Pass” for shorter wait times; tickets are $10 more Fridays-Sundays and holidays ($69 general admission) and $89 for a Dasher Pass.
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People walk past a window display
(Associated Press)

Rodeo Drive Holiday Lighting Celebration

Beverly Hills Lights to see for free
So maybe you can’t do all (or even some) of your holiday shopping on Rodeo Drive, but that shouldn’t stop you from taking a stroll along this iconic street to do some window drooling ... uh, shopping and take in the city’s lavish light display. Bonus: Beverly Hills has several nearby lots where you can park for free for one or two hours during daytime hours. After your walk on Rodeo Drive, check out the larger-than-life elf tree and light tunnel at Beverly Cañon Gardens, 241 N. Canon Drive, just a couple of blocks away. Need more? On your way in or out of town, visit the Glowing Reeds Audio and Light Show at the Lily Pond in Beverly Gardens Park, 9439 Santa Monica Blvd., through Jan. 1 with free shows at 6, 7 and 8 p.m. plus bonus shows at 9 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays.

Dates: Through Jan. 1

Hours: Every evening at dusk

Admission: Free
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A car with Christmas lights all over it
(Sal Sigala Jr.)

Santa’s Speedway Christmas Lights Drive-Thru

Irwindale Drive-through light show
Santa’s Speedway allows visitors to take a slo-mo 45-minute drive in their personal vehicles through tunnels of lights, an 110-foot-tall “tree” made of Christmas lights, giant holiday treats, Christmas under the sea, a 30-foot teddy bear, Santa’s Village and Santa himself on a 40-foot-long North Pole train. The drive includes a concession stand and restrooms for those in need.

Dates: Nov. 26 to Jan. 2

Hours: Nightly 5:30-10 p.m.

Admission: $75 on weekends, peak nights; $59 nonpeak nights per car carrying up to eight passengers
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Street with lights on the trees.
(Seaside Neighborhood Assn.)

Seaside Holiday Lights

Torrance Lights to see for free
Residents of the Seaside Ranchos neighborhood of Torrance, otherwise known as Sleepy Hollow, have been working together to create elaborate residential holiday light displays since 1984. This is an all-volunteer effort. No one is required to participate, but the displays involve about 300 houses and bring in thousands of visitors every year. The city of Torrance puts out cans to collect trash and restricts street parking to only one side of the road for emergency vehicles.

Many residents sell food and drink from their property, said Seaside Neighborhood Assn. president Tricia Blanco, but there are no public restrooms and visitors are asked to stay out of people’s yards. Walkers are welcome if they park elsewhere, but if you drive, expect long waits, especially on weekends. The website includes a map of the light displays, which are largely located on Robert Road, Doris Way, Linda Drive, Carol Drive, Reese Road and Sharynne Lane. “This used to be just a neighborhood thing, but now it’s an attraction,” Blanco said.

Dates: Nov. 26 to Jan. 1

Hours: 6 to 10 p.m. nightly

Admission: Free
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A lit up star
(CBF Productions)

Snow N Glow Holiday Festival

Ventura Lights to stroll by
Snow N Glow in Ventura offers tubing on man-made snow and promises a festive holiday walk along a trail with a million lights in the form of animated scenes, tunnels and light sculptures accompanied by music, “a winter wonderland in sunny Southern California” that repurposes some of the displays from 2020’s drive-through event at the fairgrounds. Visitors can rent an “igloo” for their party, providing entry for six people to the “Glow” light portion of the event, plus cozy seating next to their own private fire pit (about $210 with fees, plus $20 for parking; a Snow N Glow s’mores kit for four costs an additional $24.99). Santa will make nightly appearances as well, but his hours will vary.

Dates: Nov. 26 to Dec. 26

Hours: 4 to 10 p.m. Friday-Sunday through Dec. 19, then open daily Dec. 20-24 and 26. Closed Dec. 25.

Admission: Entry to the walking Light Trail only: $20 ages 15 and older, $15 ages 3-14, free entry for children 2 and younger. Tickets to go snow tubing and visit the light trail are $38. Light trail tickets only available after 5 p.m.
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Upper Hastings Ranch Holiday Light Up

Pasadena Lights to see for free
Holiday Light Up is another longstanding (since 1952) friendly neighborhood competition that benefits everyone willing to get in their cars and drive by to marvel at what ultra-creative homeowners can do to make spectacular holiday decor in their front yards. This is a slow-drive-through-the-neighborhood-and-gape event.

Dates: Dec. 11 to Jan. 2

Hours: 6 to 10 p.m. nightly

Admission: Free
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Wakefield Winter Wonderland

Santa Clarita Lights to see for free
Santa Clarita locals know this Wakefield Court neighborhood as “Candy Cane Lane,” but it’s better known on social media as the Wakefield Winter Wonderland, a double cul-de-sac street of about 41 homes all lavishly decorated, complete with a ceiling of lights strung over the streets from home to home. Exact dates for this year’s light show haven’t been announced so check the Facebook page before you go. The traffic gets pretty heavy (some reviewers on Yelp reported a line of waiting cars a mile long), so many visitors recommend parking outside of the neighborhood and walking to take in the lights. Nights get cold in Santa Clarita so dress warmly. In years past, some of the neighbors have kept things warm with outdoor fires or by selling food and warm drinks from their yards.

Dates: Dec. 1-31 (approximate)

Hours: Dusk to 10 p.m.

Admission: Free
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