Southern California might not have the snow or wintry weather, but there are places throughout the region that do a spectacular job at designing and decorating for the holiday season. Here are some of my favorite tricked-out Christmas locations, all but one of them free:
At the top of the list would have to be the Mission Inn in Riverside. This historic and beautiful Mission Style hotel pulls out all the stops both inside and out. Its massive Festival of Lights is stunning with its 4 million twinkling lights, giant nutcrackers, the world’s largest manmade mistletoe, freshly fallen snow, an ice rink and more.
The lovely Naples neighborhood of Long Beach, with houses built on waterways, puts on a wonderful holiday face as homeowners display their creativity on lighting, trees, and decorations. Take your family and wander down the waterfront pathways to delight in the magic of the lights and their reflections in the canals. You’re also likely to see gondolas gliding by, adding an element of romance to the experience.
Not surprisingly, Beverly Hills makes the most of the holiday season, with its 150,000 lights on Rodeo Drive, full size Baccarat chandeliers along the median, lighted birch and palm trees, plus vibrant poinsettias. You will also find wonderful displays at The Beverly Wilshire and The Four Seasons. But my favorite is the Santa sleigh with reindeer stretched over Wilshire Boulevard. I’m a sucker for old-fashioned Christmases, and the Beverly Hills Santa reminds me of Christmases past.
The Marina del Rey Holiday Boat Parade adds that special nautical element, allowing viewers to see the beautiful reflections of the lights in the water. The boat parade – which will be held this Saturday, Dec. 12 – is nostalgic for me because my family owned a boat, and many a family excursion was spent water skiing on the Colorado River, exploring the Puget Sound, and summering at Lake Tahoe. Since I was a child, I’ve attended the boat parade many times and I still find it magical.
This is the only one you’ll have to pay for, but the Queen Mary’s CHILL® is unique in Southern California. A giant dome there has been frozen over and transformed into a giant igloo, home to The Ice Kingdom– an awe-inspiring 13,000-square-foot walk-thru exhibit featuring larger-than-life ice creations, some towering over 2.5 stories tall and made using over two million pounds of ice. CHILL also features Ice Tubing, Ice Skating, an all new North Pole Village, Swinging Sleigh Ride, Giant Rocking Horse, Polar Paintball, live music, holiday carolers and much more.
Enjoy the holidays!