An after-dinner drive to take in one of LA's classic neighborhood holiday light displays is a treat we all can and probably should indulge in. It's an easy, cheap way to get in the Christmas spirit (or just enjoy someone else's). Of course, counting on other people to decorate their lawns is only so reliable, and may only hold kids' attention for so long. To be sure of a full evening of light and good cheer, sometimes it's worth splurging on a pay-to-play light display. Several local destinations indulge us in our desire to see grand scale holiday lights, from Zoo Lights to walks in the woods. The bigger the group you can round up, the more festive—but also the more expensive it can get. It helps to know which of LA's big public light shows are worth the ticket price.
Years spent at Nickelodeon prepared Roberta to launch Mommy Poppins' Los Angeles branch. She served as LA Editor for GoCityKids, National Editor for ParentsConnect, and Editor for NickMom. After two years as Mommy Poppins' LA Editor, Roberta became Editor-in-Chief at Mommy Poppins - which works out well for her son, who enjoys his role as Chief Guinea Pig for all things fun in LA and beyond.
You can also keep up with Roberta by following her on Google+.
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The holidays can be a particularly rough time to be in need, and this year's terrible fire season has put far more families in this position than usual. Showing our kids how the community rallies is important. We can make time to volunteer with our kids—a great holiday tradition—and kids can also experience the joy of giving by passing along some of last year's gifts, sharing the old with someone new before finding out what Santa delivers this season. When we pursue the parental thrill of buying super-cool toys, wrapping them, and making our kids' day on Christmas or Hanukkah, maybe we could add just one more for a child in need. We know of some great places to bring both kinds of toy donations—new and gently used—to spread around some of that holiday joy.
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...
If you've had your fill of Nutcrackers and Scrooges and were hoping to branch out a bit theatrically this holiday season, there's a branch well worth seeing in Beverly Hills: it's the one Robin Hood swings and leaps from in the Wallis' production of The Heart of Robin Hood. Not a traditional Christmas play by any means (in fact, the holiday is barely mentioned at all), but the adventure, exuberance, excitement, and spectacle of this retelling of the old tale make it an event worth squeezing into your busy holiday schedule. I brought a tween and a teen (no easy audience), and they were delighted—particularly by one unexpected feature.
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...
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 light, Nutcrackers 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.
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 holiday light 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.
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 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 holiday woodland light show is an experience unto itself and one to bundle up the kids and make time for.