The Valleys

18 Hanukkah Celebrations for Kids in LA and Orange County

However you spell it—Hanukkah, Hanukka, Hannukah, Chanukah, or Channuka—SoCal is a great place to be for the Festival of Lights. Home to a Jewish population larger than that of Jerusalem, Los Angeles is all about "lighting candles, wearing sandals, by the sea" (at least, that's why Tom Leher spent Hanukkah in Santa Monica). Giant menorahs light up open spaces from The OC to the Valley. Two of the season's biggest events are at the Skirball Center and the Shalom Institute, but these major festivals are just the tip of the dreidel; local events and candle lightings burn the sunset oil all week long...

Christmas Trains: All Aboard the Polar Express for Kids in LA, Ventura, & Orange County

Trains in Los Angeles are more or less novelties all year round, which means they hold onto that wonderful Thomas-the-Tank-Engine, Polar-Express mystique far longer for LA kids than for urban kids who take the A train regularly. And for anyone who loves trains, Christmas trains offer the ultimate "old world charm" rail experience. Add an appearance by Santa Claus and a few Christmas trees, and you have a recipe for a memorable holiday experience. All aboard the Santa Express!

Enchanted Forest of Light: Descanso Gardens' Christmas Walk in the Woods

If you are one of the many Angelenos whose paths rarely lead them through La Cañada-Flintridge, then perhaps you've never visited Descanso Gardens. It would be understandable; most of us need to drive a befuddling combination of highway numbers to get there. Well, 'tis the season to download Waze and get there, because Descanso's new holiday light display, Enchanted Forest of Light, is worth the drive and then some. Home holiday lights are lovely and cheery. Boat parades are delightful and so SoCal. But Descanso's new holiday woodland light show is an experience unto itself and one to bundle up the kids and make time for.

Weekday Picks: Boat Parade of Lights, Sleeping Beauty, and Cinderella, Dec. 5-9

Celebrating the holidays around here can have a uniquely Southern California vibe. Take boat parades, for instance. There are precious few other places in the country that can offer bedecked boats parading around harbors and waterways to the delight of families watching from the shore, or taking a cruise on the water for a closer view. Dana Point launches the first parade of the season this week, promptly followed by 10 more local holiday boat parades.

Another advantage we have here is the ability to see big-name stars in local theater productions. Lythgoe Family Productions opens two shows this week featuring the traditional British holiday panto style, in which classic tales are infused with slapstick comedy, song and dance, exaggerated characters, topical humor and lots of audience participation. Joely Fisher and Cozi Zuehlsdorff open in Sleeping Beauty and Her Winter Knight at Laguna Playhouse this week, and Lauren Taylor, Alex Newell, and Morgan Fairchild star in A Cinderella Christmas at Pasadena Playhouse. 

As always, there are plenty more ideas to be found on the Mommy Poppins Event Calendar, as well as our monthly picks in our December GoList. Here are some of our favorite holiday and non-holiday related events this week.

LA's Christmas Boat Parades: Newport Beach, the Marina, and 9 More

Unlike certain other parts of the country that shall remain nameless (no need to go rubbing it in the noses of cities like, say, Boston), LA is all about outdoor activities at Christmastime - and nothing says "This is why I moved to Southern California" quite like a Christmas boat parade. During the weeks leading up to Christmas, boat owners gussy up their crafts and parade them up and down waterways for applauding spectators, who line the harbors and marinas from Dana Point to Ventura. Driving around looking at holiday lights is great; letting them float by you is even better...

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

Thanksgiving is behind us, and the daily, backward-counting dose of chocolate known as Advent begins. Suddenly we have just 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.

Top 10 Kids' Birthday Party Spots in Glendale

In some ways parents on the Eastside and in the Valley have it made. Birthday party options would be one of those ways. Take Glendale, for instance: without even leaving Glendale, families have an incredible assortment of options for hosting kids’ parties, from indoor to outdoor, retro to techno, large to intimate. We've pulled together 10 great Glendale party ideas, ranging from free parks to private affaires—options to make any child’s birthday wishes come true.   

Breakfast with Santa Claus: Where LA Kids Can Share a Bagel with Father Christmas

Doing lunch might work for some LA types, but Santa Claus does breakfast. So before you take a train with Santa, light a tree with Santa, see The Nutcracker with Santa, do some holiday shopping with Santa, wave to Santa on a boat, call Santa on the phone, or take funky LA photos with Santa, first you, your kids, AND Santa all need a good breakfast. The holidays are a busy time of year after all.

Most (though not all) of the events below require reservations, and some fill up surprisingly early. It's worth making the effort, though, if for no other reason than to see how good some people's table manners can be when the man at the head of the table is wearing a red suit and wielding a list.

Weekday Picks: Zoo 50th Birthday, Battleship Grinch, & Singing Mayor, Nov. 28-Dec. 2

The Los Angeles Zoo turns 50 years old Monday, and a big party is planned. Guests can enjoy reduced admission and food prices, as well as a parade and a special birthday celebration event featuring cake and a giant card to sign. The animals get to join in on the celebration, too, with special treats and presentations. 

Elsewhere, holiday celebrations continue to dominate the calendar, including theater performances, community tree lighting events, and visits with Santa (starting Monday he'll be hitting a different street in Redondo every night). Check out our comprehensive Los Angeles Holiday Guide to find more festive activities and events. 

And for the most fun per square inch, check the Mommy Poppins Event Calendar daily, as well as our monthly picks in our November GoList. (The first week of the month means some free museum days, too.) Here are some of our favorites for this week...

Best Christmas Lights and Awesomely Decorated Homes around Los Angeles

Whether your holiday of choice is Christmas, Hanukkah, Winter Solstice, or Kwanzaa there is a timeless joy to be found in taking a spin around the holiday light displays. And while the glammy glitz of The Biltmore is always fun, there is a particular magic to those over-the-top displays created by someone's (if thankfully not your) next-door neighbor. Even better is a whole street made up of nothing but this kind of neighbor, and we know where a few of those are.

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