SoCal: 5 best holiday light shows to see over Thanksgiving

The season of light has begun. Here are five of the best ways to light up your holidays.

The Mission Inn Hotel & Spa is the granddaddy of holiday light shows in Southern California. Where else can you find 4 million lights, animated figures, snow and live reindeer at a luxury hotel?

The Festival of Lights has been a tradition since 1992, a gift to the people of Riverside and anyone who comes to tour the spectacle for free through Jan. 6.

Check out the “switch on” kickoff ceremony at 5:30 p.m. Friday, which draws about 60,000 spectators each year. The city has added its own downtown decorations to the festivities and an outdoor ice-skating rink on the Main Street mall.


Those who want to experience the Mission Inn during the holidays can grab a Tis the Season package for $199 a night. It includes a $50 dining credit and free parking for stays on Sundays through Thursdays.

Info: Mission Inn Hotel & Spa, (951) 784-0300

If you need to escape the Thanksgiving table, spend the day Chill-ing out at the Queen Mary in Long Beach.

Tour the Ice Kingdom made from 2 million pounds of ice, which will feature a California Christmas theme. A 10-foot tall candy cane forest, surfing Santa, Christmas tree with gifts and a replica of the Queen Mary are all part of the dazzling display inside the igloo-like setting.

Ice skating and ice tubing down hills round out the activities at the pop-up winter theme park at the 80-year-old ship. Chill is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. today (Thursday) and 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Check out the Chill calendar for December and January dates and hours.

General admission costs $34.99 if you buy online, $39.99 at the box office. Admission for children 4 to 11 years old costs $24.99 online, $29.99 at the box office. Add $20 for parking too.

Info: Chill at Queen Mary, (866) 554-0013

Dana Point has embarked on a new holiday tradition with a light show called IlluminOcean.

The display features 22 light sculptures and half a million LED lights. The overall vibe is a maritime theme, so expect to see whales, ships and seascapes along with seasonal Santa stuff.

It all happens at the OC Dana Point Harbor where a 50-foot “GlowMotion” tree and tunnels of lights are open to the public for free.

The lights are on 5-10 p.m. Sundays-Thursdays and 5-11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays through Jan. 4.

Info: IlluminOcean, (949) 923-2255

If you like your holidays with extreme roller coasters, head to Holiday in the Park at Six Flags Magic Mountain in Valencia.

Hundreds of thousands of lights programmed to twinkle and change will be on display at the park’s DC Universe. A huge tree plus carolers and Santa Claus will be on hand to welcome theme park goers starting Friday.

And a holiday show with live music and dancers takes place at the Full Throttle stage. The theme park also breaks out the seasonal goodies like hot chocolate, fudge, cider and funnel cakes in case you didn’t eat enough over Thanksgiving.

Single-day tickets online cost $49.99 for adults and $44.99 for children. The holiday hoopla is on until Jan. 4.

Info: Six Flags Magic Mountain, Holiday in the Park

Remember the elaborate Department of Water and Park holiday lights at Griffith Park? They closed five years ago but they’re back, sort of, at the L.A. Zoo this season.

L.A. Zoo Lights is a new nighttime show that opens Friday and features some of the Los Angeles landmarks from the DWP light show -- the Hollywood sign and City Hall, for example -- along with new animated LED monkeys, a rhino and singing elephants.

Light tunnels, icicle lights and cutouts as well as real reindeer and Santa (weekends only) also will be part of the show.

Tickets cost $13 for adults and $11 for children 2 to 12 years old. The lights begin Friday and glow from 6 to 10 p.m. and continue through Jan. 4 (except Dec. 24 and 25). Parking is free.

Info: L.A. Zoo Lights