Southern California’s best holiday light shows for keeping spirits bright


You’ve made plans for Thanksgiving, but what are you doing the day after? Going to see holiday lights may be the ideal bridge from Turkey Day to Christmas. Here are five events guaranteed to keep your spirits bright.

Festival of Lights, Riverside

The Festival of Lights at the Mission Inn in Riverside spans an undulating block of 5 million lights and 200 animated figures that illuminate the vintage Spanish Mission-style hotel.

The display shines for six weeks starting Nov. 24, the Friday after Thanksgiving, and continues until Jan. 6.


For $299, you can stay in one of the hotel’s 239 rooms and receive a docent-led tour of the hotel and a $25 dining credit.

Info: Mission Inn & Spa, 3649 Mission Ave., Riverside; (951) 784-0300

Caroling Cruises, Ventura

Ditch your car and go holiday light-seeing on a boat through the Ventura Keys, a little marina area in the coastal town.

Take a one-hour caroling cruise (singing optional) starting at 6:30 p.m. on select December dates. $16 for adults and $10 for children 12 and younger.

Up your game with the Ventura Parade of Lights sailings on Dec. 15 and 16 that include boat parade viewing and fireworks. $35 for adults, $25 for children.

Info: Island Packers, 1691 Spinnaker Drive, Ventura; (805) 642-1393


Christmas Boat Parade, Newport Beach

Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade is one of the oldest around. The 109th event brings out canoes and kayaks as well as big yachts decked out with lights, wreaths and Santas.

Watch for free anywhere along the 14-mile course, including Balboa Island, 6:30 to 9 p.m. Dec. 13 to 17.

If you want to be in the parade, tickets for the 90-minute boat ride cost $32 to $36.

Info: Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade, (949) 675-0551

Holidays at Legoland California, Carlsbad

All hail the towering 30-foot Christmas tree made of 245,000 green Duplo bricks. The tree at Legoland California in Carlsbad is decked out with 11,000 LED lights and 400 Lego-built ornaments.

Heartlake City will have a bluegrass band playing holiday tunes, and a new Winter Holiday Market will sell holiday breads, grilled sausages and Bavarian pretzels. Season runs from Saturday to Jan. 9. Tickets start at $75 for those who buy before Dec. 11.

Info: Legoland California, (760) 918-5346

Global Winter Wonderland, San Diego

The Global Winter Wonderland comes to San Diego for the first time with a twist on holiday lights. About 100 Chinese artists arrive weeks before the event to create hand-sewn giant lanterns in the shape of world landmarks (think Eiffel Tower and Taj Mahal) and festive villages.

Cirque-style acrobatics, carnival rides, games, food and shopping also are featured. The event debuts Sunday and continues through Jan. 7. $18 for adults, $16 for children 4 to 12 years old.

Info: Global Winter Wonderland, SDCCU Stadium, 449 Friars Road, San Diego


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