‘Tis the Season for Boat Parades, Light Shows and a Winter Wonderlands!
Everything is ho, ho, ho and lights aglow in Orange County this holiday season! We may be biased, but there’s nothing better than a California Christmas. From oceanfront ice-skating to dazzling light displays and fully decked-out yachts, it’s impossible not to feel the contagious cheer in OC this year. Create an Advent calendar of activities with merry and bright events all month long using this guide to a holly jolly holiday in Orange County!
What: The Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel Holiday Festivities
When: Various dates throughout December
Where: The Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel
Festive celebrations galore! The Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel is home to iconic holiday activities all season long. Nothing screams California Christmas more than palm trees and ocean views! From Nov. 20 through Dec. 31, their annual Surfboard Auction benefiting Surfers Healing will be on display and available for purchase in the resort lobby. And starting Nov. 20 through Jan. 2, you can witness the Sandsational Extravaganza of one-of-a-kind, festive and beachy large-scale sand sculptures. There’s something for the whole family to enjoy at The Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel during the month of December—Santa story time, holiday tea, teddy bear tea and a gingerbread workshop. Not to mention, the resort is hosting a traditional and decadent Christmas dinner (at each on-site restaurant), making it a dazzling Christmas to remember.
Let It Snow!
What: Bella Terra Holiday Happenings
When: Various dates depending on event
Where: Bella Terra, Huntington Beach
Only the merriment of the season can bring snowfall to Orange County! Catch the flurries at Bella Terra’s holiday happenings in Huntington Beach, complete with falling “snow,” on Saturdays, meet-and-greets with Santa throughout December, ballet classes led by Ms. Claus on Dec. 7 and 14 and a makers market on Dec. 10! Finish your holiday shopping and get a festive fix all in one day! While you’re checking items off your little one’s wishlist, they can enjoy the holiday festivities at Bella Terra’s Kids Club.
The Most Merry Mission
What: Inn at the Mission San Juan Capistrano
When: Tree Lighting Ceremony on Nov. 30, Holiday Market on Dec. 18, Holiday Menus at Ysidora Nov. 24, Dec. 25 and 31
Where: Inn at the Mission, San Juan Capistrano
The historic charm of the Inn at the Mission gives all the classic Christmas feels! Bask in merriment at their Tree Lighting Ceremony or Holiday Night Market when the halls are decked with garland, and experience the flavors of the season with Spanish flare at exclusive holiday dinners hosted by Ysidora Restaurant and Lounge. Heavenly holiday menus are curated by Ysidora chefs to bring you elegant evenings on Christmas Day and New Years Eve! As a Christmas gift, the Inn is offering special room rates, so stay a while and enjoy the jolly happenings taking place next door at the Mission.
All Aboard the Christmas Cruise
What: 114th Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade
When: Dec. 14-18, 6:30 p.m.
Where: Newport Harbor, Newport Beach
The Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade has been bringing festive wonder to Orange County for over 100 years. Starting at Lido Isle and cruising along all 14 miles of Newport Harbor, it’s the only place to see pirate ships, Santas on vacation and full on nativity scenes—all on water! The limited amount of electrical sockets onboard doesn’t stop the Newport sailors from decking out (pun intended), so grab yourself a cup of peppermint hot cocoa and head down to the harbor this holiday!
Local Insight: The boat parade passes many waterfront restaurants, so call your favorite ASAP to make a reservation for dinner and a show!
On the First Night of the Boat Parade, My True Love Gave To Me….
What: Holiday Pop-Up Market
When: Dec. 14, 4-8 p.m.
Where: Marina Park, Newport Beach
Lights and fireworks are all aglow at opening night of the Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade! Snag a seat at Marina Park on the Balboa Peninsula while fireworks light up the sky at 6:15 p.m. and yachts light up the water at 6:30 p.m. The Creative Communal Artisan Pop-Up Market will set up shop at the park with goods from dozens of local makers so you can find one-of-a-kind holiday gifts! Entertainment, photo ops and food make this event jolly-good fun for everyone.
‘Tis the Season to Surf
What: Dana Point Harbor Boat Parade of Lights
When: Dec. 9 at 7 p.m., Dec. 10-11 at 6 p.m.
Where: Dana Point Harbor, Dana Point
Santa will trade in his sleigh for a surfboard this year at Dana Point Harbor’s 47th Annual Boat Parade! Nothing screams California Christmas like a surfing Santa. Head to the harbor early (you’ll know you’re close when you see candy cane palm trees) because good viewing spots fill up fast. Plus, arriving early gives you time to wander through the 700,000 LED light display. Just make sure you get your seat in time to predict this year’s parade winners.
Naughty or Ice?
What: Paséa Hotel & Spa Ice Rink
When: Nov. 25-Dec. 31
Where: Paséa Hotel & Spa Ice Rink, Huntington Beach
Nothing like a good old-fashioned skate date, right? Put the ‘rink’ in drinks and plan for an evening of coastal comforts and cocktails. Paséa Hotel & Spa’s holiday skate is back and better than ever for an oceanfront escapade that pairs the nostalgia of a cozy Christmas tradition with the cool of a swanky hotel in the heart of Huntington Beach. After a couple laps on the ice, share some deep-fried butternut squash ravioli, a basket of yuletide fries and one of their sweet treat jars with two spoons. Warm up your mistletoes with a hot toddy of Rum, Rum Rudolph or spiked cider. Want to make it a double date? Reserve a fire pit, either rinkside or on the oceanfront, that comes with reserved seating and festive add-on packages like champagne, hot cocoa, cheese and charcuterie and more.
Local Insight: The rink is open Nov. 25-Dec. 31 and is $35 per hour. Fire pit experiences are available with a reservation; pricing varies.
Mission Bells Ring, Are Ya Listening?!
What: Capistrano Lights
When: Dec. 3-4, 10-11, 16-18, 23, 27-30
Where: Mission San Juan Capistrano, San Juan Capistrano
Chiming church bells and joyful tunes of Dickens carolers fill San Juan Mission with cheerful sounds of the holidays! Dazzling lights brighten the 30-foot tree at the stroke of 5 p.m., and the 10-foot wreath makes for the merriest holiday photo op. Tickets to the Capistrano Lights grant admission to the historical site during the day and access to all the festivities at night, including holiday shopping, crafts for kids and a life-size nativity scene.
Local Insight: If hot cocoa isn’t your thing, get yourself a glass of holiday red wine available on Saturday nights!
Holidays in Hollywood
What: Night of 1,000 Lights
When: Dec. 9-11, 15-17, 18, 20-22, from 6-9 p.m.
Where: Sherman Library and Gardens, Corona del Mar
A garden walk is good for the soul, but a walk through a glistening winter wonderland—now that’s magical! Explore 2.2 acres of festive fun on Hollywood’s holiday red carpet that guides you to a Moulin Rouge lounge, where you can jazz it up with can-can dancers and cabernet singers! Take the Christmas Express railway to Tinseltown or flirt with the naughty list at Sherman’s Shop of Horrors. Purchase tickets online ASAP because tickets aren’t available at the door.
Santa’s Jolly Workshop
What: Roger’s Gardens Holiday Boutique
When: Until Jan. 1
Where: Roger’s Gardens Holiday Boutique, Corona del Mar
Santa’s workshop isn’t just for toys. Seasons greetings are brought to you in a workshop straight out of a home-lover’s dream at Roger’s Gardens’ Bright & Beautiful Holiday Boutique. The shelves are filled with sparkling treasures! Each themed hall gives you festive home inspo, so you can easily spend hours admiring jeweled ornaments and timeless nutcrackers. Pick up something from the garden too, such as a ruby red poinsettia, or find the perfect Christmas tree in their pine tree forest!
Local Insight: Dickens characters entertain you with classic carols at on-site restaurant Farmhouse during weekend dinner hours. Fa, la, la, la, la!
Bay-by It’s Cold Outside
What: Lighting of the Bay Newport Dunes
When: Nov. 25-Jan. 1
Where: Back Bay at Newport Dunes, Newport Beach
A Christmas tree lot like no other, the back bay lights up with over 50 LED Christmas trees every night of the season! Snuggle up and stroll along the water for views of twinkling pines floating atop the bay. Newport Dunes has first-come, first-serve public fire pits, so if you want a warm seat, arrive early and bring the s’mores fixings—trading traditional Hershey’s for peppermint bark! This event is free with just a fee for parking. Lights are also visible across the bay bridge.
What: Winterfest OC
When: Nov. 25-Jan. 1
Where: OC Fairgrounds, Costa Mesa
Winterfest OC brings North Pole magic to Orange County with ice skating under the stars, tubing adventures, snowboard simulations and endless holiday decor! It’s truly a scene out of a Christmas movie! Kids race down the tubing slopes giddy with joy while parents find merriment at the holiday market. Look out for elves walking around the fairgrounds and follow them for nightly live entertainment! General admission is $30 for an adult and $25 per child.