A Sun-Kissed Christmas in Los Angeles

By: Lauren Garroni

December 4, 2014

When you picture the holidays, the sun-kissed skies of Los Angeles probably don’t come to mind – although the temperate climate is awfully appealing this time of year. While it seldom snows in Los Angeles, that doesn’t mean the city is without the holiday cheer that the season brings. From glitzy Christmas parades to holiday concerts featuring Hollywood legends, Los Angeles becomes a citywide set right out of a holiday movie come December. If you find yourself in Southern California for the holiday season, here are the events and Hollywood traditions to check out this Christmas in Los Angeles.

The holiday season kicks off just after Thanksgiving, on November 30th, with the historic Hollywood Christmas Parade. Started in 1928 (then known as the Santa Claus Lane Parade), the parade now stretches 3.5 miles through the famous boulevards of Hollywood. In the past, Grand Marshalls have included everyone from Bob Hope to Arnold Schwarzenegger, this year it’s legendary musician Stevie Wonder. Grab a seat in the grandstands and take in marching bands from all over America, as well as accomplished California equestrians, and even the loveable minions from Despicable Me. Best of all, enjoying the parade is a way of giving back. The Hollywood Christmas Parade, which is celebrating its 83rd anniversary, benefits Toys For Tots.

Christmas in Los Angeles | Hollywood Christmas Parade
Santa Parade © Downtown Santa Monica, inc

Temperatures during the holiday season are far from freezing, but you can feel the chill at the many outdoor skating rinks that pop up at this time of year. Beginning November 1st and extending into the New Year, ICE at Santa Monica provides beach goers and visitors an 8,000 square foot ice rink to practice their Dorothy Hamill skills. Surrounding the rink at the Third Street Promenade you’ll find lots of great activities celebrating Christmas in Los Angeles. Break out the yuletide cheer with karaoke, kid’s crafts, and there will even be snow – but only on Thursday evenings.

Christmas in Los Angeles | ICE at Santa Monica

ICE at Santa Monica © Downtown Santa Monica, inc

For the kids, Universal Studios Grinchmas is a must. The park is immersed in decorations, characters, and special performances, all inspired by the holiday film How The Grinch Stole Christmas. It may be t-shirt weather, but you can still get into a snowball fight in the Grinchmas snow play area. Hop on the studio tram tour and be treated to performances straight from Whoville. Cap off the evening with a tree lighting ceremony that’s sure to fill you with Christmas cheer.

Looking for an alternative Christmas event? Legendary filmmaker John Waters brings his offbeat one-man show, A John Waters Christmas, to the World Famous Comedy Store on December 5th. The mind behind Pink Flamingoes and Hairspray, takes you down the rabbit hole of his obsession with the holiday and how to survive Christmas disasters. And what is Christmas without a performance of the Nutcracker? Catch Tchaikovsky’s ballet classic performed by the accomplished Los Angeles Ballet across the city in the month of December. Additionally the Moscow Ballet will perform the Great Russian Nutcracker at the historic music venue The Wiltern Theater on December 21st.

Christmas in Los Angeles | Nutcracker, Los Angeles Ballet
LAB Nutcracker, Ulrik Julia and Reed Hutchinson © Los Angeles Ballet

The Walt Disney Concert Hall provides world-class entertainment year round, so it shouldn’t be surprising that their Christmas programming is filled with once in a lifetime holiday performances. On December 20th the LA Philharmonic welcomes actor and comedian Drew Carey for a Holiday Sing-Along, featuring your favourite Christmas songs. Get your carolling fix on December 13th with the Los Angeles Master Chorale: Festival of Carols. Hear all your favourites, like Silent Night and Christmas Time Is Here sung by one of the best choirs in the world.

Christmas in Los Angeles | LA Phil Holiday Sing Along

LA Philharmonic  Holiday Sing Along © Mathew Imaging

Take a break from the holiday madness and rejoice at the Original Famer’s Market. From the 19th to Christmas Day, the Farmer’s Market is decorated with Yuletide cheer. Do a little Christmas shopping while taking in strolling carollers and Holiday variety shows. And don’t forget about the Famer’s Market Hanukkah Celebration on December 21st; celebrate the lighting of the menorah (last year it was made of LEGO), as well as enjoying music, arts and crafts.

Christmas in Los Angeles | Singers at Beverly Hills Holiday Lighting Ceremony
Singers at Beverly Hills Holiday Lighting Ceremony © Kailyn York (The Donahue Group)

Additionally, the adjacent Grove outdoor mall features picture-taking opportunities for the youngsters with Santa Claus at his Gingerbread village. As you wait for Old Saint Nick, gaze up at the spectacular hundred-foot Christmas tree, adorned with more than 15,000 lights and ornaments – it’s a great selfie opportunity. Not to be outdone, glitzy Rodeo Drive has adorned its streets with more than 150,000 lights atop its Palm and Birch trees.

Christmas in Los Angeles | Santa and Reindeers at The Grove

Santa and the reindeers at The Grove © Loren Javier/Fickr

Now that you’ve survived Christmas and New Years, it’s time to wake up early on New Year’s Day for the 126th annual Rose Parade. The parade has been a Los Angeles tradition since it began in 1890. Held in Pasadena, the parade boasts more than 40 elaborate flower adorned floats that will follow the theme “Inspiring Stories.” As well as marching bands from across the country and over twenty equestrian groups. Additionally, if you want to get up close and personal with the floats, you can purchase tickets to view the floats in the days prior to the New Year. After the parade, head to the Rose Bowl, just a few minutes away, for the 101st Rose Bowl Game.

Christmas in Los Angeles | Rose Parade Marching

Rose Parade © Pasadena Tournament of Roses®

While the temperature may never dip below sweater weather, Christmas in Los Angeles offers plenty of Yuletide cheer.


With direct flights to Los Angeles from London Heathrow it’s easy to book your Christmas in LA with Virgin Atlantic.


Have you spent Christmas in Los Angeles? Share your favourite local traditions in the comments below.


Written by Lauren Garroni


Lauren Garroni

Lauren Garroni is a freelance writer and founder of the blog TheBreathless ( Born on the East Coast and raised on the West Coast, she currently calls Laurel Canyon her home. When not participating in such Los Angeles clichés as hiking and Pilates, she can be found scouring flea markets for the perfect coffee table.

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