Top Christmas Light Displays in Southern California

Christmas_Snowman_LightsChristmas, Christmas, Christmas! I love  the whole experience of the holidays starting with Thanksgiving (where I eat ’til I drop) and rolling right through Christmas. What really gets me cheerful are holiday lights…lots and lots of them.

Spaceman likes them too. I think it is because in Finland the whole holiday lights thing is very, very simple. Luckily the American over-the-top approach has spilled into Christmas light displays…hallelujah!

I wanted to share with you my choices for Top Christmas Light Displays in Southern California:

The Balboa Island Christmas Boat Parade (Newport Beach, CA)

                                  (photo courtesy of

I grew up vacationing on Balboa Island. My parents would rent a house on either the big or small island for a week or two during summer. It was a child’s paradise. Those were the days when kids had the freedom to roam the island unchaperoned, travel across the ferry to the “fun zone” to win some loot and head back home (via the frozen banana stand) for my family’s late afternoon cruise around the island in my dad’s boat. Even then, rumors would start about what that year’s theme would be for the Christmas Boat Parade. This was (and is) definitely an opportunity to bring out the “keeping up with the Joneses” ambition with both boats and homes. To my delight, this frenzy has grown over the years — the lights, the excitement and the creativity, I love it! This year’s parade will run from December 16th through December 20th with the closing night including a firework show off the Balboa pier.

The Naples Christmas Lights Display (Long Beach, CA)

Christmas lights

                                (photo courtesy of Russ Roca)

Naples is a little enclave next to Long Beach, CA, that is styled after the canals of Venice, Italy. Here they jump on board the “if one strand of holiday lights is good, a thousand is better” train with abandon (amen). They also have a boat parade, but it is a one night only event. However, the lights of the canal homes stay lit for the season.  Here you can stroll the canals bundled up for the cold and explore the magical light displays. Spaceman and I made a date of it last year with dinner before in Belmont Shore and then dessert from one of the industrious youngsters selling cookies and hot chocolate in their front (or canal side) yard. Although coats are recommended, snuggling up with Spaceman was my gift (you will have to provide your own snuggler, Spaceman is taken!).

Hastings Ranch Neighborhood Christmas Lights (Pasadena, CA)

Christmas_Angel_LightsHastings Ranch is usually a quiet suburb of Los Angeles. It is in the foothills of the San Gabriel mountains with a Baskin Robbins as its neighbor (must have ice cream close at all times). Here, during the holidays, the residents transform their homes with colorful lights and displays, creating a wonderland for cars and foot pedestrians to enjoy. The entrance is off Michillinda Ave. Spaceman and I recently cruised the themed streets and can attest to it being another good show of lights this year.

The Riverside Mission Inn Christmas Lights (Riverside, CA)

Riv_ArchSpaceman and I got a tip about this and decided to check it out a couple of years back on a drive home from a weekend in Palm Springs…wow! This one is incredible. The Riverside Inn is a great place to visit any time of year, but Christmas time is magical. The whole property is covered (and I mean covered) in lights. I was giddy at the sight of it. I really could not stop smiling! The lights are way over-the-top and the atmosphere is so festive. They have an ice skating rink and all sorts of Christmas fun (cotton candy, hot chocolate, apple cider) available at the walking street that butts up to one side of the Inn. This one may be my favorite place for Christmas lights.

What is your favorite place to go and look at Christmas lights?

2 thoughts on “Top Christmas Light Displays in Southern California

  1. I love this! A guide for Christmas light gawking – one of my favorite yearly activities. Now to find a snuggler…

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