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Don’t let all that sunshine and lack of snow fool you, we Southern Californians have plenty of fun, highly original ways to celebrate the holidays—and it’s all done in cool Cali style, natch. From Santas who surf and Mickey singing holiday carols to palm trees and yachts wrapped in holiday lights, there is plenty of holiday spirit on offer within the SoCal’s five trendiest destinations.

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Photo courtesy of Universal Studios Hollywood

Los Angeles

LA has lots of glitz and glamour for the holiday season with a few surprises thrown in, like real snow at Universal Studios Hollywood. Some iconic traditions include the festive Christmas tree in Grand Park, ice-skating in Pershing Square, the Griffith Park Holiday Train Ride, and the Reindeer Romp at the LA Zoo. Be sure to also check out Candy Cane Lane in the Valley, Christmas Tree Lane in Altadena, the Magic of Christmas at Hogwarts™ Castle at Universal Studios Hollywood, the holiday singalong at Walt Disney Concert Hall, the Hollywood Christmas parade, shopping merriment at The Grove, and wintery cocktails at the Polo Lounge.

Photo courtesy of Hotel del Coronado

San Diego

This sunny city just north of the Mexican border is big on celebrating the holidays with events ranging from coastal festivities to city lights. A few favorites include Gaslamp Holiday Pet Parade, Holiday Wonderland in Del Mar Village, December Nights at Balboa Park and Holiday Festival at Hotel Del Coronado. Some other free events you might want to check out are the Surfin’ Santa arrival at Seaport Village, Sea World Snowland, Old Town Holiday in the Park & Las Posadas, and North Park Toyland Parade.

Photo courtesy of Knott’s Berry Farm

Orange County

The OC knows how to celebrate in style with over-the-top decorations at five-star hotels, theme park character parties, and lots of places to do a photo op meet-and-greet with the biggest celebrity of all … Santa. Some worthwhile activities include the CHILL Ice Adventure Park at the Queen Mary (technically in LA County), Newport Beach Boat Parade, Christmas at Mission San Juan Capistrano, Winterfest at the OC Fairgrounds, Sawdust Art Festival’s Winter Fantasy, Gingerbread Village Extravaganza and Yappy Howl-iday Dog Celebration at the Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel, ice skating under the Ferris wheel at Irvine Spectrum, and Knott’s Merry Farm. If Santa is on your agenda, here are just a few places where you can meet him: Roger’s Gardens, Irvine Park, Pretend City, the Resort at Pelican Hill, Fashion Island, Disneyland, Heritage Hill Historical Park, Huntington Beach Pier, and South Coast Plaza.

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Photo courtesy of Palm Springs Festival of Lights

Palm Springs

The desert offers visitors the chance to see snow in Southern California for the holidays with just a short ride into the mountains aboard the Aerial Tram or the opportunity to just chill and enjoy festive music, food, and cacti wrapped in twinkling lights at the many luxury resorts. Some holiday-themed activities in Palm Springs include WildLights Holiday Festival at the Living Desert, Palm Springs Aerial Tramway Tree Lighting, Festival of Lights Parade in downtown, and Santa biplane landing at Palm Springs Air Museum. Resort festivities include things like carolers, roasted chestnuts, meeting Santa and Menorah lighting at resorts like the gorgeous La Quinta Resort & Club (no relation to the popular chain).

The Nutcracker Ballet is a holiday classic not to be missed in Santa Barbara.

Santa Barbara

Coastal Santa Barbara decks the halls and jingles the bells all around town with ice skating, a parade, the Nutcracker and colorful lights. A few favorites include The Miracle (lights) on East Quinientos Street, Nutcracker Ballet at the Granada Theatre, Goleta Ice Rink, Una Noche de Las Posadas and La Pastorela at El Presidio De Santa Barbara State Historic Park, La Arcada Christmas Walk, the Christmas Trolley, Santa Barbara Parade of (boat) lights, and an Olde Fashioned Christmas at Los Olivos.

Will you be spending the holiday season in sunny SoCal? We hope to see you here!

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