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Our Hoppin' Guide to Holiday Events in Southern California

by Mommy Frog on November 24, 2020 San Diego

Southern California has a Regional Stay-at-Home Order in effect. Croak! That means many of the following Southern California holiday events are temporarily paused or canceled at this time. Hop over to our post on COVID-19 information for the latest status for theme parks, zoo and aquariums. Some of the events you can experience from your car are still open, so be sure to check the status on their sites before visiting. 

Our Hoppin' Guide to Holiday Events in Southern California-Toddler in mask in front of LEGOLAND Christmas TreeDo COVID-19, travel restrictions and theme park closures have you down? Then you need a pick-me-up this holiday season. Here are some toadally awesome holiday outings across Southern California that will get you and your tadpoles into the holiday spirit in a safe and physically distant way. Whether you are having a staycation this year or find yourself in Southern California looking for safe holiday fun, we've compiled a Frog Family holiday wish list of fun family activities. From holiday drive-through experiences to events in aquariums and theme parks (without rides but with all the holiday cheer and flavors you crave), here’s our hoppin' guide to Southern California holiday events to put the Ho-ho-ho back in your holiday season!

Our Hoppin' Guide to Southern California Holiday Events

Let’s start in San Diego County and work our way up the coast through Orange County and Los Angeles County. (Psst … there’s even a virtual event you can attend from home!) We've covered the big and some small events and ones where you do not have to leave your house or car. So grab your holiday masks and ugly Christmas sweaters or holiday ears and hop to it! We bring you our hoppin' guide to Southern California holiday events.

San Diego County Holiday Events

SeaWorld’s Christmas Celebration — San Diego

Our Hoppin' Guide to Holiday Events in Southern California-Sea Lion flipping in showDo the dolphins know it's Christmas? They must, as they have a Dolphin Island Christmas Presentation that they’d love to show you. The sea lions are in full holiday spirit at Clyde and Seamore's Christmas Special. Ring in the holiday season at SeaWorld San Diego’s Christmas celebration. The park is merry and bright. You’ll have plenty of opportunities for photo-ops, especially in the music-activated Tunnel of Light. Meet characters and Santa from a safe distance, enjoy holiday treats and beverages and watch special holiday shows with sea lions.

Here’s what else you can expect:

  • Santa Presents Christmas Animals Around the World at Nautilus Amphitheater.
  • Rudolph’s Movie Experience on an outdoor screen
  • Photos with Rudolph and friends
  • Christmas Treasure Hunt
  • Sesame Street Christmas Village
  • Animal Presentations with a Holiday Twist
  • Purchased events such as Stocking Stuffer Trail (on weekends) or Cookies and Photos with Santa
  • A 25-foot sea-themed Christmas tree
  • Hanukkah Celebration menorah lighting Dec. 10-18
  • Kwanzaa Festivities Dec. 26 to Jan. 1

SeaWorld San Diego Dated Tickets are on sale now! You can save $20 on single day tickets from your favorite froggy friends! The Dine and Drink Bundle from Undercover Tourist will help you save on all the holiday drinks, foods and treats. You’ll receive a tasting voucher with up to 6 selections of seasonal food and beverages for adults (4 for kids). Don't froget to purchase discounted SeaWorld parking at the same time to save both money and time! After buying tickets, be sure to make a reservation, because SeaWorld limits capacity. Tadpoles 2 and under do not need a ticket or a reservation.

If you have a SeaWorld San Diego annual pass or Fun Card, you get free admission to SeaWorld! But you still need to make a reservation. You can save money by purchasing Fun Cards and the SeaWorld San Diego Silver Pass from UndercoverTourist. The event runs Nov. 13 through Jan. 4.

Jungle Bells at San Diego Zoo — San Diego

Guide to Southern California holiday Events - Polar Bears at Northern FrontierThe Jungle Bells celebration is ringing in the holidays by lighting up the zoo with seasonal cheer. At the The Celebration of Lights Experience, the toog tree comes to life with thousands of lights that dance to music. Keep an eye out for the Elf-Mobile to catch one of their fun performances. A rock radio DJ and The Tinseltones a cappella group will have you swaying to holiday tunes. Hop by the Northern Frontier's Holiday Forest to see lit trees surrounding polar bears, arctic foxes, reindeer and more. Your tadpoles will be hoppy to act like an animal with Dr. Zoolittle at locations around the zoo.

You can get your San Diego Zoo tickets from your favorite froggy friends. Jungle Bells is held select days: Dec. 4-6, 11-23, 25-31 and Jan. 1-3. The zoo is open later than usual (until 8 p.m.) for Jungle Bells. Capacity is limited to allow for physical distancing. Hop over to our San Diego Zoo reopening post for the latest information and tips for visiting in this time.

Holidays at LEGOLAND — Carlsbad

Our Hoppin' Guide to Holiday Events in Southern California-LEGO Santa at LEGOLANDYou can walk — or hop — through LEGOLAND California to enjoy holiday decorations, Miniland U.S.A. and distanced LEGO character meet and greets with Santa, a Toy Soldier and the Gingerbread Man. Snow falls periodically, and holiday music fills the air. Various dining locations throughout the park are open so you can taste seasonal treats such as cookies, apples, crispy treats and more. Rides remain closed, but there are fun LEGO building and craft opportunities. Go on a scavenger hunt to virtually find Santa's missing reindeer, put the clues together to solve a puzzle and collect a small surprise. Look for miniature LEGO Santa, reindeer and elves all over Miniland U.S.A. It seems that the reindeer have to keep rescuing Santa from peril. Some of them are quite funny. How many can you find?

The Legoland hotels are open and decorated for the holidays. You can also take a shopping trip into The Big Shop to check some bricks off your list.

Admission to Holidays at Legoland is $14.99 per person (less for pass holders), and parking is $5. The outdoor retail and dining experience takes place select days Nov. 20, 2020, through Jan. 10, 2021. Hours vary by date.

Orange County Holiday Events

Our Hoppin' Guide to Holiday Events in Southern California-Man in Light TunnelHappy Harbor Days — Dana Point

If you are looking for a free outdoor holiday lights display in South Orange County, hop by Dana Point Harbor. The annual display has sparkling lights, tunnels and sea creatures. You can see some from your car, but if you want to put on a mask and walk around the Harbor, you'll be in for a holiday treat. Be sure to get a look at some of the decorated boats. Just a few miles away, you can visit the San Clemente Outlets to get a look at the world's largest living Christmas tree!

Our Hoppin' Guide to Holiday Events in Southern California-Whale and holiday lights at Dana Point HarborTanaka Farms Hikari – A Festival of Lights Drive-Through Holiday Light Experience — Irvine

Hikari means “shine” in Japanese. Be dazzled by over a mile of twinkling lights as you drive through the 30-acre farm. The trees, scarecrows, tractors and even the sugarcane is decorated with lights! Plus, every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday we have a very special visit from Santa, himself!

It costs $49 per vehicle on weekdays and $59 per vehicle on weekends. There’s a limit of 8 people per vehicle. First car enters at 5:30 p.m. Last car enters at 9 p.m.

Irvine Park Railroad Christmas Train and Santa’s Village — Irvine

‘Tis the season for Irvine Park Railroad’s annual Christmas Train. Ride the “magical” train to the North Pole where Mr. and Mrs. Claus will greet passengers (from a distance). The train ride runs Nov. 27 through Dec. 23 and starts at $17 per person.  The Santa’s Village (FREE!) is open 7 days a week. There are carnival games and ice fishing for a fee.

Winter Fest OC Presents: Night of Lights OC — Costa Mesa

Don't trust the So Cal weather reports, as we've heard news of snow flurries blowing though parts of Orange County! This immersive winter wonderland of lights drive-thru is a mile long and includes over one million lights animated to music. You'll encounter snow, bubbles and the big guy himself — Santa!  The Night of Lights OC is open Dec. 10 to Jan. 10 (closed Christmas Eve). The price is per vehicle and varies per night (from $39.99 to $59.99). You can add merchandise and food to your ticket at checkout.

Downtown Disney and Buena Vista Street — Anaheim

Our Hoppin' Guide to Holiday Events in Southern California-Santa Mickey CookieDowntown Disney is decorated with lit Christmas trees and is open for shopping and dining. (Note: Shopping is open during the Regional Stay-at-Home Order, but most restaurants are closed except for a few take-out locations.) Plus, the Downtown Disney District has expanded into the closed Disney California Adventure Park's Buena Vista Street area! You'll see garland and red bows all around. The Red Car Trolley is on display in Hollywood Land. Christmas music is filling everyone with holiday spirit. The rides are closed but it still feels magical to once again step inside the theme parks gates and savor the holiday spirit.

Because capacity of Downtown Disney and Buena Vista Street is limited to allow physical distancing, you may encounter virtual waits to enter some stores or Buena Vista Street. Hop over to our Buena Vista Street post delicious details and to our tips for visiting Downtown Disney for advice on the best time to visit. Despite all the modifications, being inside Disney California Adventure struck a little Christmas joy in our hearts. We temporarily frogot about the outside world for a moment while we walked Buena Vista Street, hunted down our favorite treats and took in some much-missed views. You can purchase holiday merchandise and holiday treats. Don't froget to hop by our holiday treats at Disneyland post, so you can narrow down your must-eat treat list. This is very hard to do! We bought them all and brought them home to extend the joy.

Admission is free but parking is $10. Downtown Disney is open 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. most days of the the holiday season.

Taste of Merry Farm at Knott’s — Buena Park (Canceled for the season)

Our Hoppin' Guide to Holiday Events in Southern California-Camp Snoopy is decorated with lights and gingerbreadKnott’s Merry Farm takes place every year, but with the rides of the theme parks closed, you’ll be getting a Taste of Merry Farm to fill you with holiday spirit with 60 different food and beverage items! Our Frog bellies were so full with all the holiday goodness!

Stroll through a So Cal winter wonderland of garland and thousands of twinkling lights and meet Peanuts characters. If you have holiday shopping on your to-do list, the retail shops are open along with 24 local artisan craft booths.

Our Hoppin' Guide to Holiday Events in Southern California-Linus greets guests from a distance at Merry FarmTaste of Merry Farm is included with the purchase of a Tasting Card. The date-specific Tasting Card for an adult is $40 (plus tax) and includes 5 tastes. For ages 3-11, the $29 (plus tax) Tasting Card comes with 3 tastes. The event runs on select dates from Nov. 20 through Jan 3 (buy quickly as they are selling out). Parking is free.

Los Angeles County Holiday Events

The Elf on the Shelf’s Magical Holiday Journey — Pomona

Hop in the car and head to the Fairplex in Pomona for a drive-through Christmas attraction. To begin, you’ll magically shrink yourself and vehicle to Elf size. Then drive through the themed light displays with the mischievous Elves. You can follow the narration and music with an app you can download in advance.

For more information and to purchase advance tickets (for each person in the car age 3 and up), hop here. The event runs through Jan. 3

Aquarium Holidays at Aquarium of the Pacific  — Long Beach

This splashtastic event features special holiday décor, holiday shopping, and appearances by Santa Diver and the Aquarium characters in their holiday outfits. The outdoor areas of the aquarium are open with advanced reservations.

Festival activities are FREE with general admission and take place (December 5-23 and Dec. 26.) You can get your discounted Aquarium of the Pacific tickets from Undercover Tourist.

We love that the Aquarium of the Pacific has crested some virtual Southern California holiday events that anyone can join without leaving home. The aquarium offers several FREE virtual events:

  • The Holiday Treats for the Animals Festival offers free live-streaming coverage of watching the aquarium animals eat special treats. Watch Santa Diver swim with the sharks and rays. The sea otters will savor “fishmas” treats in real snow, a penguin will take a holiday stroll and Lorikeets will enjoy cranberries. Visit this page on Dec. 5 from 10 a.m. to 1:45 p.m.
  • The Aquarium’s FREE VIRTUAL HANUKKAH SHOW will stream from this page on Saturday, December 12 at 10:00 a.m. with music, storytelling, and Pacific Pals puppets.
  • The Aquarium’s FREE VIRTUAL KWANZAA EVENT will stream from this page on Saturday, December 26 at 10:00 a.m., with opportunity to learn about the principles and practices of Kwanzaa.

Get Your Butterbeer and Chocolate Frog Fix at Universal CityWalk — Los Angeles

CityWalk is decorated for the holidays with a Christmas tree and the opportunity to get hot, cold or frozen Butterbeer for the first time outside the Wizarding World. If you are a Harry Potter fan, you know that Harry and friends look forward to their trips to Hogsmeade before the holidays to get hot Butterbeer. Since the Hogsmeade in Hollywood is closed, Universal Studios performed a little magic and opened the The Wizarding World of Harry Potter — Sweets & Treats shop daily from 12 p.m. to 8 p.m. this holiday season.

Six Flags Holiday in the Park Drive-thru Experience — Valencia

Even though the theme park cannot reopen yet, Six Flags has a holiday treat that keep giving through the end of January! The park opened the gates this season. No, you can't walk through the theme park, but you can drive through it! Pass through themed areas with performers, characters and millions of dazzling lights. Beginning at 6 p.m. on select nights, you can wave to beloved characters from afar, pass by Santa and enjoy holiday sweets and eats in your car and snow falls in Southern California.

It's $20 per person age 3 and up. You must reserve in advance for each person in the car. You may order food and other goodies (such as fudge, funnel cake, popcorn, cookies, candy) and merchandise in advance if you want to enjoy them as you pass through the decorations. No motorcycles, convertibles with the top open or bicycles. The event is held Nov. 20 through Jan. 31.

Are you planning on attending any of these Southern California holiday events hoppening this year? Feel free to share your experience — or even mention other fun Southern California holiday events you've enjoyed in the comments section below.

Related: When to Expect the California Theme Parks to Reopen ... and What to Expect When They Do

Hoppy planning!

Keep hopping, Mommy Frog!
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