Southern California holiday lights displays change, adapt to coronavirus restrictions

Bright holiday lights decorate the  Mission Inn in Riverside
A 2016 photo from Riverside’s Festival of Lights, which is on hiatus this year due to the pandemic.
(Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

An El Segundo holiday lights extravaganza will be scaled back this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, city officials announced.

Since 1949, residents on East Acacia Avenue have concocted elaborate holiday displays that draw large crowds from all over Southern California. The street is closed to traffic, and visitors wander through the neighborhood on foot.

For the record:

12:40 p.m. Nov. 16, 2020An earlier version of this article said Riverside’s Festival of Lights was on hiatus. The festival will be scaled back but will still include holiday lights and decorations.

This year, citing a Los Angeles County order prohibiting large gatherings, the city will not issue a permit to block the street for what is known as Candy Cane Lane.

“For many years Candy Cane Lane has brought great joy to the community, but considering the unprecedented circumstances, canceling the high-profile event to limit exposure during a pandemic is the right thing to do,” a city press release said.

The street will remain open to vehicle and pedestrian traffic, and one resident told Fox 11-TV that he still plans to proceed with his display this year.

Torrance is taking a different approach with the Seaside Ranchos neighborhood, where attention-getting holiday lights are also traditional among residents. Every December, visitors stroll through the area admiring the displays and sipping hot chocolate from sidewalk stands.


The city website notes that large gatherings are prohibited and urges visitors to social distance and wear masks. But the annual lights display, sometimes known as the Sleepy Hollow Christmas Extravaganza, is a private event staged by homeowners that is not under the city’s control, the website said.

This year, the city will position trash bins and “no stopping” signs throughout the neighborhood as usual, in anticipation of a large number of visitors.

The decades-long tradition of decorating Pasadena’s Upper Hastings Ranch neighborhood for the holidays is expected to continue this year, too. The Holiday Light Up neighborhood and parkway festival of lights is set for Dec. 12, according to the neighborhood association website.

Beverly Hills will gussy up its tony downtown for the holidays — complete with a holiday fashion show on Rodeo Drive of mannequins dressed in “festive, floral gowns while placed atop a glittering red carpet,” according to Garin Hussenjian, the city’s community outreach manager.

Some marquee holiday events around Southern California were canceled long ago, including Descanso’s Enchanted Forest of Light, the L.A. Arboretum’s Moonlight Forest Magical Lantern Art Festival and Zoolights, the evening holiday tour of the L.A. Zoo. The Rose Parade is taking the year off, and Riverside’s Festival of Lights is on hiatus, too.

Other holiday events have adapted. On the Palos Verdes Peninsula, a drive-through lights experience on Dec. 5 will replace a crowd-crushing holiday parade. The Dana Point Harbor boat parade is still set to ride in December.

Of course, if all else fails, you can have as much cocoa, gifts and lights as you want — from home.