Your tree at home is probably great, but we love making a holiday season outing to view decorations. The best Christmas lights in L.A. can be found in neighborhoods that go big, shopping malls that lure us in with cute decor, and gardens and parks that offer elaborate experiences. Here are some of the best places to get your sparkle on.
Called the “Mile of Christmas Trees,” this Altadena attraction draws thousands of visitors each year to see homes decorated with elaborate displays. The neighborhood tradition dates back nearly a century, making it one of the area’s oldest holiday traditions. Also be sure to stop by the Balian House, a famous property on a hill near the neighborhood, which often sets out a life size nativity and other displays. Santa Rosa Avenue in Altadena.
Upper Hastings Ranch is not too far from Christmas Tree Lane–both can be accomplished in a good night of light-peeping–but it is an enclave unto itself, with its own holiday lights tradition. Each block of the neighborhood is given its own theme, and participating houses go all out with lights, decor, and installations. Sierra Madre Boulevard and Hastings Ranch Drive, Pasadena
Why stop at decorating houses when you can also decorate bridges? The residents of the Venice canals deck out their charming ‘hood with a variety of festive lights, best experienced by walking around on foot (if you’re able to find parking, that is; it can be extra hard to come by on December evenings). Between Venice Boulevard and Washington Boulevard, Venice
Officially, Candy Cane Lane lights up on the second Saturday in December, a bit later than some other stretches, giving residents that extra week or so to prep their showpieces. It’s worth the wait for one of the flashiest neighborhood displays in SoCal. El Segundo police have been known to block off street during prime times to create a safe, pedestrian-only viewing experience, and you may even spot Santa posing for photos with kids. East Acacia Avenue and California Street, El Segundo
This Torrance neighborhood display has been a South Bay holiday staple since 1985, with around two miles of homes that participate in setting up elaborate displays and inviting visitors, many of whom choose to park and stroll on foot, avoiding traffic snarls and lending more of a block party ambiance to the proceedings. Note: Most residents switch off the lights around 10 p.m. Pacific Coast Highway and Calle Mayor in Torrance
Going strong since 1952, the home-owners of this Woodland Hills neighborhood are known for doing it up on Christmas decor. Visitors are encouraged to drive slowly and safely through the area, but asked to stay no later than 10 p.m. on weekdays or 11 p.m. on weekend nights. Lubao Street and Oxnard Street, Woodland Hills
Shopping Malls and Main Streets
It wouldn’t be Christmas in L.A. if we didn’t tell you to stop by the Grove for the decorations. The iconic shopping center gets decked out, the Michael Bublé gets piped over the loud speakers on loop, and of course, there are those nightly “snow flurries.” 189 The Grove Dr., Beverly Grove
If you just can’t handle the Grove, Glendale’s Americana makes a fine alternative. Owned by the same company, you’ll get a similar extravagance of lights, and the same nightly snow experience at 7 p.m. and 8 p.m. 889 Americana Way, Glendale
Beverly Hills hosts BOLD Holidays, a festive program of live events and neighborhood entertainment, with many of the area’s restaurants, shops, and hotels getting in on the act with special promotions. And, of course, tons of decorations. Outdoors and in, this luxe nabe turns into twinkle light central. Rodeo Drive, Beverly Hills
Lights decorate the edges of the Manhattan Beach Pier, which will also be decorated with living, sustainable Christmas trees. On December 9, they further up the festive ante with a fireworks show. Manhattan Beach Pier, Manhattan Beach
Parks, Gardens, and More
A new attraction this year, Winter Glow bills itself as an “immersive nighttime art experience,” aka really good holiday lights. There are 12 acres to explore of lights, projections, and installations, including special fountain lights and decorated pathways. Best of all, the family-friendly event is totally free, and open from sunset to 10 p.m. every night until December 25. 200 N. Broadway, downtown.
The L.A. Zoo stays open late, bedazzled with colorful lights and installations. This year’s version includes new areas and new displays, as well as some returning favorites from prior years. Giant snowflakes, disco ball forest, animated elephants? Check, check, check. 5333 Zoo. Drive, Griffith Park. Tickets $11.95-$21.95.
An interactive nighttime immersion in lights, Enchanted launched two years ago and instantly became a must-do holiday event. The lights change as visitors move through the one-mile garden walk. If you’re making a night of it, book a reservation at on-site restaurant Maple when you buy your tickets. 1418 Descanso Drive, La Cañada Flintridge. Tickets $28.
This nighttime light experience has a Chinese motif, with installations of pandas, dragons, and flowers, and live performances by acrobats and dancers. Food stations offering boba, dumplings, and rice balls will be on hand to add to the experience. Can’t find time for a visit in your packed December schedule? This display stays up through January 6. 301 N. Baldwin Avenue, Arcadia. Tickets $23-$28.