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California’s Must-See Christmas Light Displays

Christmas light displays in California
by: Welk Resorts | December 6, 2018

Nothing can put you in a holiday mood more than Christmas light displays. However, if you’re looking to get into the festivities, there’s no need to cover your house with endless amounts of decorations like the Griswolds from the movies. Throughout the state of California, you’ll find dazzling holiday Christmas light displays. Whether you’re a local or on a California vacation, you’ll be surrounded by places that are filled with holiday spirit. Here are some of the best Christmas light viewing experiences available so you can start planning your tour route today!

Parade of Lights – San Diego

Photo by KPBS

With a bay as beautiful as San Diego, an average light parade on the street just won’t do. The San Diego Bay Parade of Lights takes their iconic displays on the water! Each year, more than 80 boats take part, each decorated with hundreds of lights. Decorations are based on the year’s chosen theme or per the unique holiday whims of its owner, ranging anywhere from tiki to Toyland. This two hour event is free for the watching, along whatever vantage point you choose! The parade passes through a number of waterfront destinations, including Seaport Village, Shelter Island, and Coronado’s Ferry Landing. These Christmas light displays are guaranteed to amaze, and set the mood for the holiday season.

Jungle Bells – San Diego

Get a taste of the wilds of nature with a bit of festive flair thrown in! Families with members young and old can enjoy the holiday Christmas light displays that line the San Diego Zoo throughout the park. Besides the extravagant decor, you’ll be mesmerized by the live entertainment, visits with Santa and his elves, and animal experiences. The highlights of the festivities also include holiday cuisine, roaming carolers, and special 4-D experiences. Make the most of the long winter nights as holiday music plays and the hundreds of light strands that line the paths and sculptures dance to the tunes. They’re sure to get you into the Christmas spirit!

Garden of Lights – San Diego

One of the best places in the San Diego area to get into the Christmas groove is at the San Diego Botanic Garden (formerly Quail Botanical Gardens in Encinitas, CA). As you walk through the venue, over 125,000 lights twinkle around the acres of property. The pinnacles of the event are the live entertainment and the delicious food. Tap your feet to the jazz band as you delight in a fresh slice of artisanal pizza and a cup of mulled wine. For an unforgettable memory with the family, consider taking a horse-drawn wagon ride through the amazing decorations.

Enchanted: Forest of Light – La Cañada

Photo by Kid 101

Close to Los Angeles, you’ll find a whimsical adventure in Descanso Gardens that isn’t your typical holiday display. Enjoy a nighttime masterpiece that includes hands-on art exhibits that allow you to interact with the lights in ways you never have before. Make displays change colors, follow winding paths, and explore the beautifully uplit forest with surrounding sound effects for an immersive experience.

Christmas Lights Extravaganza – Torrance

If you’re looking for a more informal adventure, try taking in one of the most breathtaking light displays amongst Los Angeles-area neighborhoods. In Torrance’s Sleepy Hollow neighborhood, you’ll be astounded as nearly every house, bush, tree, and yard is lined with hundreds, if not thousands, of bright, vibrant Christmas lights. You can easily walk through, enjoying an evening stroll as these displays go every night until New Years from 6–10pm.

Manning Street – Yucaipa

Photo by Frank Perez

One of the most unusual Christmas light displays is in a local Yucaipa neighborhood on Manning Street. Over a dozen houses are decorated with Christmas lights that are set to music, going off in sync with classic holiday tunes that will delight all members of the family. The end results deliver a concert for the eyes and ears. It is truly a unique and inspiring Christmas tradition that you shouldn’t miss.

Candy Cane Lane – Cathedral City

Another great residential area for Christmas light viewing is at Candy Cane Lane, just a few minutes drive from Welk Resorts Palm Springs. During the rest of the year, this area is better known as Minerva Road in Cathedral City. But during the holidays in this neighborhood, almost every home is filled with various fun displays, lights, and other festive decor. Even though there are no official hours for this display, it is a residential setting, so you should try and visit as soon as it turns dark. If you wait too long, you may miss all of the fun. Although you may be tempted to drive through, you are sure to enjoy the experience more by walking down the sidewalks.

Festival of Lights – Palm Springs

Photo by Cactus Hugs

For over two decades, one of the most anticipated holiday light events occurs in downtown Palm Springs. The Festival of Lights features bands, a parade, extremely large street balloons, floats, and tons of holiday lights. Santa and Mrs. Claus make an appearance as well. People gather for hours along the route, which begins at the intersection of Ramon Road and Palm Canyon Drive.


To enjoy some of the best Christmas light displays in California, book a stay at Welk Resorts. With locations near San Diego, Palm Springs, and Lake Tahoe, you’ll find a holiday home away from home near all the festive fun taking place for a vacation that shines bright!

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