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Living in Southern California, I sometimes struggle at getting in the holiday spirit. It’s now December and most days I can still step outside in short sleeves, without fear of becoming cold. I sought out some of the more popular holiday activities in Los Angeles and surrounding areas in hopes of feeling a little more festive. The following is a list of my favorite and free ways to feel festive during Christmas in Southern California:


Robolights is definitely the most unique display of lights I have ever seen. It is also the most creative and one of my favorites. It’s located in Palm Springs, CA and was definitely worth the drive from Los Angeles. Robolights is the creation of Kenny Irwin Jr. He has been constructing robots and other giant sculptures since he was a child. Kenny spends every day throughout the year building from “junk”. Some of these items are donated, others he finds on eBay and elsewhere online.

He has been building on his four-acre residence, in a neighborhood called, Movie Colony, for years now. Almost every square inch of the property is covered in his art. He somehow continues to find space to build his creations year after year, so there’s always something new to see at Robolights. The property is full of winding pathways, leading to overwhelming displays of lights (I have seriously never seen so many lights in one place in my life), giant robots, apocalyptic-like scenes, defunct carousels, and somewhat disturbing Santa Clauses.

Robolights is a little creepy, more than a little weird, and really quite amazing. It’s definitely worth checking out. For more information check their Facebook page. You will want to make sure they are in fact open before going. The city has been trying to shut it down year after year due to complaints from the neighbors. They haven’t been successful yet, but you never know. Robolights is technically free because they are legally not allowed to charge for entry, but a donation of at least $5 is requested to help pay electricity costs and keep the display running.

1077 E Granvia Valmonte, Palm Springs, CA 92262

christmas southern california robolights palm springs

christmas southern california palm springs

A Winter Wonderland at The Grove

The Grove, a shopping mall in West Hollywood, CA, was put on the map for its holiday decor in 2002 when its Christmas Tree was named the tallest in Los Angeles. Even though it no longer holds the title, The Grove has remained an extremely popular place throughout the holiday season.

The Grove isn’t necessarily a place I would seek out for lights alone, but we all will need to do some kind of holiday shopping. No matter where you go, the crowds will be unavoidable so you might as well make it as enjoyable as possible. There really isn’t a better place to shop around this time.

There is plenty of beautiful decor to put you in the holiday spirit and ease the shopping stress. There’s artificial snowfall every night at 7 and 8 pm, a Santa for the children to visit, a reindeer and sleigh that light up the sky, lights twinkling from the trees and we can’t forget the 100 foot tall Christmas tree. Be sure to check the website’s calendar for special events.

189 The Grove Dr, Los Angeles, CA 90036

christmas in southern california the grove los angeles

Mission Inn Festival of Lights

The Mission Inn is a famous and historic hotel located in Riverside, CA. It is now in its twenty-fifth year of celebrating its annual holiday tradition, The Festival of Lights. The outside of the hotel is beautifully decorated with millions of lights, a tree, and animated figures. Unfortunately, you are no longer allowed inside the hotel though unless you secure a room there for the night or schedule a tour in advance.

Surrounding the hotel, you can find vendors selling all sorts of treats, including kettle corn and gingerbread cookies, in addition to arts and crafts. There is also a Ferris wheel, carousel, carriage rides, and photos with Santa Claus. Live entertainment is provided on two different stages. The Festival of Lights has something to offer the whole family and is a great outing if you find yourself in the area.

3649 Mission Inn Avenue, Riverside, CA 92501

christmas southern california festival of lights

Candy Cane Lane

Candy Cane Lane in Woodland Hills, CA has been a neighborhood tradition since 1952.  Year after year, the residents try to outdo each other. The homes can be found within an eight-square block, near the intersection of Lubao and Oxnard Streets. People will slowly drive down the streets with their headlights dimmed taking in all the sights. The homes all reflect the owners’ personal tastes- some are decorated very minimally and classy, others are bright, over the top, and fun.

Although it’s still quite enjoyable, Candy Cane Lane is definitely not what it once was. The decision to decorate is one of the neighborhood and not of the city. Many of the original residents have moved away or gotten older and others are just fed up with the noise and more recent vandalism that the attraction brings to the neighborhood. Many have made the decision to stop participating. If you do visit Candy Cane Lane, please show your appreciation by being respectful of the neighborhood so the tradition can continue.

5966 Lubao Ave, Woodland Hills, CA 91367

christmas in southern california candy cane lane

Other activities, although not free, that are worth checking out are ice skating at Pershing Square and Enchanted: Forest of Light at Descanso Gardens. There may not be (real) snow on the ground, but it can still feel like Christmas in Southern California. I hope you have the opportunity to visit some of these fun light displays! Happy Holidays!

If you would rather not wait in a long line to enter The Mission Inn Festival of Lights, I suggest booking a room at The Mission Inn Hotel. You’ll also be able to enjoy all the indoor decor that non-guests don’t get to see.