December GoList: Best Holiday Events and Activities for LA and OC Kids

Family Events and Activities Los Angeles & Orange County November 2013

Thanksgiving is behind us, and the daily, backward-counting dose of chocolate known as Advent begins. Suddenly we have barely three weeks left to squeeze every bit of holiday fun out of this city that we possibly can—with a week left over to decide whether we should try to celebrate New Year's Eve with our kids, or elusively without them. There are amazing holiday light displays to take in; and then there are more amazing holiday light displays. There are Santa photos to snap, trees to lightNutcrackers to see, and Hanukkah looms large on the lit horizon, too. In short, no matter how hard you try to do it all, there is more epic fun stuff going on than anyone could possibly do in a month. If you had to choose, though, below are the dozen December events we would suggest you make time for.

Don't forget to check our daily calendar and our weekly newsletter, too, to stay on top of all the end-of-year fun!

The Enchanted Forest of Light. Photo courtesy of Descanso Gardens

Enchanted Forest of Light
Through January 7, 2018
You may have already heard the holiday chatter: Angelenos have a new display to feast their eyes upon this year at Descanso Gardens. The Enchanted Forest of Light is a mile-long evening walk through a rustic holiday lights display—a new annual tradition for the Southland, we hope!

Dana Point's Boat Parade of Lights
December 8-16, 2017
If there's one thing that says Christmas in LA, it's holiday boat parades. We could easily fill this month's GoList with all ten area boat parades, but that wouldn't leave enough room for all the rest of the month's fun - so we'll limit ourselves to just a couple. What makes Dana Points stand out for families is the age of the judges - who are between the ages of six and 12.

Beauty and the Beast - A Christmas Rose
December 13-24, 2017
We haven't seen this show yet, but we're huge fans of the Lythgoe Family Pantos in Pasadena that we've seen in previous years. The annual holiday production is a safe bet for a fun musical romp for all ages, with familiar faces, familiar music, and snow sure to fall at some point. The company also runs its production of Aladdin and His Winter Wish this month at Laguna Playhouse.

Marina del Rey Boat Parade
December 9, 2017
OK, one more boat parade. The Marina's boat parade celebrates offers LA's most centrally located collection of floating light displays, preceded by fireworks over the water. That means more lights to see per mile driven - and time left over to drive by some landlubber lights on the way home.

This is not your mama's Nutcracker. Photo courtesy of Debbie Allen's Hot Chocolate Nutcracker

Debbie Allen's Hot Chocolate Nutcracker
December 7-10, 2017
Go on - sing a verse; we can wait. It's hard to hear Debbie Allen's name without launching into a verse of Fame, and her Hot Chocolate Nutcracker has quickly become a classic stop on the LA holiday scene. In fact, it already feels like it's going to live forever, people will see it and cry - the whole works. There are oodles of other Nutcracker options, of course, for traditionalists.

Disney On Ice: Follow Your Heart
December 14, 2017 - January 1, 2018
Disney brings an all-age-pleasing ice extravaganzas through the Southland this time every year, and it never fails to delight. Exciting cast additions this year include Moana, Dory, and the cast of Inside Out, joining the usual crew of Disney princesses and mice on figure skates—what's not to love? Performances start at Staples Center, continue at Anaheim, and carry on into the new year at Long Beach.

Hanukkah Family Fun Day
December 10, 2017
If you're looking for one Hanukkah outing for your family, I'd call this the one. Truth be told, most Hanukkah events stick with candle lighting and dreidel spinning; only the Shalom Institute throws in nature walks in the wilderness, rock climbing to Jericho, and zip lining across the Red Sea.

Newport Beach Boat Parade
December 13-17, 2017
Indulge us in one last boat parade, if you will. The Newport Beach aquatic light display is in its 109th year, making it the oldest boat parade in the country (unless the Pilgrims were getting up to things we didn't know about).

Holly Jolly Day
December 19, 2017
If your kids fantasize about Willy Wonka's factory, or if you've ever wondered if they can actually reach their fill of sweets, bring them to the JW Marriott at LA Live for Holly Jolly Day. Ice skating on the outdoor rink pays lip service to working off the unbelievable variety of desserts and hot chocolate that will be laid out before them; Santa may need to brace himself when they sit on his knee...

LA County Holiday Celebration
December 24, 2017
This is the thing to do on Christmas Eve in this town, and it's entirely free  right down to the parking. Choirs, dance troupes, and musical ensembles from a variety of LA's neighborhoods and cultures present holiday entertainment in a three-hour family holiday extravaganza at the Music Center.

There are ways to see the floats without camping out in Pasadena. Photo courtesy of Tournament of Roses

​December 29, 2017
One of the greatest treats of the holiday season for our family is always Equestfest, the Los Angeles Equestrian Center's annual comfy peek at the Rose Parade (comfy because it doesn't involve camping out in Pasadena). Horses and riders come from all over the country to participate in the parade, and they join forces to offer an equestrian preview performance in the ring at Burbank's horse heaven.

Rose Bowl Parade, Float Decorating, & Viewing
December 29, 2017 - January 2, 2018
Speaking of bucket list items and pre-dawn trips to Pasadena, of course there's the parade itself, including float decorating beforehand and close-up viewing afterward. One of these years you really need to; why not this year?

Have fun - and if you'd like more ideas, subscribe to our weekly events newsletter, which gets you ready for the weekend each Thursday!