Starting in late November, Palm Springs offers up the holiday fun in a series of classic annual events that are sure to put a grin on your face and get you into the spirit of the season — all in the relaxing ambiance of the serene desert valley. From holiday choirs to rockin' tunes, there's a little something in Palm Springs for everyone who needs a break from the holiday hubbub of Los Angeles.
Sounds of the Holidays and annual tree-lighting ceremony on Mount San Jacinto
As night falls across the Coachella Valley on Fridays and Saturdays from late November through mid-December, the Mountain Station at the top of the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway transforms into an open-air concert hall for the annual Sounds of the Holidays concert series. These weekly choral performances from local high school and middle-school choirs (and one string quartet) regale visitors with the finest holiday classics, all rendered in the sonorous tones of youth.
Imagine: being serenaded by heartwarming holiday hits as you kick back and breathe in the cool, clear air of Mount San Jacinto, with the serene Coachella Valley vista as your backdrop. This is a decades-old desert event that's totally unique and perfectly "Christmasy" — Southern California-style.
Sounds of the Holidays show times are 5 and 7 p.m. and are free with regular Tram admission. Seating is open and no reservations are taken. Performances take place on the Pines Café Stage, with food and beverage service available from either the Pines Café or the Lookout Lounge.
On Sunday, Dec. 2, don't miss the annual holiday tree-lighting at the tram's Mountain Station. The guests of honor this year are the stars of HGTV's "Desert Flippers," Eric and Lindsey Bennett. The event begins at 5:30 p.m.
Festival of Lights Parade
Huge balloons, colorful lights and celebrity guest appearances draw tens of thousands of tourists to downtown Palm Springs for the annual Festival of Lights Parade, which is happening on December 1 this year. (The fun kicks off at 5:45 p.m.)
This unique, festive parade has a lot of local desert flavor and is considered by the City of Palm Springs to be the signature holiday event in town and is really quite the scene.
Every first Saturday evening of December for the past 26 years, the parade has descended upon Palm Canyon Drive — right in the heart of downtown — to entertain and delight the ever-growing crowds of spectators with a magical motorcade of parade floats festooned with thousands of twinkling lights and properly massive parade balloons. Marching bands, costumed characters, equestrians, classic cars, Santa and the missus, and many more special guests all make appearances among the glittering floats and mega-sized inflatables during the parade.
Rockin' '80s New Year's Eve at Spa Resort Casino
If you're feeling like putting on your (fluorescent-colored and shoulder-padded) party dress and (high-heeled boot-style) dancing shoes, then pencil in Rockin' '80s New Year's Eve on your New Year's Eve calendar this year.
The festivities begin at 8 p.m. on Monday, Dec. 31 in downtown Palm Springs at Spa Resort Casino (401 East Amado Rd.), where DJs will be warming up the crowd for Broadway's Rock of Ages Band. The group blasts out expert covers of the greatest hits of all the top glam-metal/hair-metal and arena rock bands of the '80s.
You'll also have an opportunity to snap a selfie with fully decked-out '80s lookalikes, who'll be roaming the premises of the Spa Resort Casino all evening. A midnight celebration featuring a multimedia countdown and an ooh-and-ahh-inducing fireworks display will celebrate the West Coast New Year with a bang. Food trucks and bar gardens will sell food and beverages to keep you dancing long after the clock strikes 12 and 2019 is born.
Rockin' '80s New Year's Eve is an outdoor ticketed event with VIP and general admission seating for the concert and midnight celebration. Event entry tickets start at $5. Concert tickets include event entry and cost $35 for general admission seating and $75 for the VIP seating package.