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Where to see holiday lights in the L.A. area

Holiday lights blinking on and off
This year, expect a different type of viewing experience with just as much sparkle.
(Ross May / Los Angeles Times; Getty Images)

Holiday lights displays are different this year. Neighborhood favorites have been scaled back, and annual festivals at Descanso Gardens, the L.A. Zoo and the Los Angeles County Arboretum have been canceled because of COVID-19. Expect fewer crowded events but just as much sparkle, with more drive-through shows and socially distanced outdoor strolls.

Be safe: During drive-through lights shows, remain inside the car with the windows closed. When driving through neighborhoods, drive slowly and attentively and keep your lights on. When viewing lights outdoors, wear a mask, maintain a safe distance and follow CDC guidelines. Neighborhood displays with limited walking space, such as the Venice Canals and Naples Island, have been excluded because of difficulties with social distancing.

Drive-through shows

Woodland Hills

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Your car turns into Santa’s sleigh at the WonderLAnd drive-through holiday lights experience. For one mile over 30 minutes, you’ll soar through a snowflake tunnel and gaze at a 60-foot storybook and a tree illuminated with 8,000 bulbs. Lights are synchronized to music and enhanced by a dozen performers. Each car gets a gift-stuffed stocking.

Info: WonderLAnd. 5 to 11 p.m. through Dec. 23, Dec. 26-30. Ticketed time slots are every 15 minutes. Reserve ahead; same-day availability isn’t guaranteed. $70 per car.

Irwindale

The NASCAR race track at Irwindale Speedway is now a landscape of toy-making elves, holiday-themed boats and RVs, oversize sweets, reindeer and other surprises. See it all from your car during the 35- to 45-minute Santa’s Speedway drive-through lights show, put on by the company responsible for lighting at the Grove and Universal Studios. Ticketed time slots are every 15 minutes. Reserve ahead; same-day availability isn’t guaranteed.

Info: Santa’s Speedway. 5 to 10:45 p.m. daily through Jan. 10. $75 per car.

Ventura

The team behind the Concerts in Your Car series presents Holidays in Your Car, a drive-through display of more than 1 million lights, lasers, holograms and projections at the Ventura County Fairgrounds. Hardworking elves have set the animations to 25 minutes of holiday tunes. For those who want more, there’s a live “Santa Saves Christmas” drive-in show on Dec. 19-20.

Info: Holidays in Your Car. Ticketed time slots begin at the top of each hour and must be reserved online in advance. 5 to 9 p.m. weekdays, 5 to 10 p.m. weekends. Select days through Jan. 2. $49 for cars with up to four passengers, $64 for five and more.

Neighborhood walks and drives

Reseda

The 7300 block of Yolanda Avenue continues its twinkly tradition. In lieu of a home-decorating contest, residents work together to build a tunnel of lights along the sidewalk, the ideal path for admiring the neighborhood’s sparkling trees and yards.
Info: Yolanda Lights. Through Jan. 8. Free.

Rolling Hills Estates

The 23rd annual Palos Verdes Peninsula Holiday Parade of Lights is adapting to 2020. Santa and a shimmering crew of community members will be stationed at festively lighted Ernie Howlett Park, which spectators can drive through to admire the evening glow.

Info: Rolling Hills Estates. 6 to 10 p.m. Dec. 5. Free. You must reserve a ticket online so organizers can prepare for the traffic.

Palos Verdes Peninsula

Explore the South Coast Botanic Garden on foot during GLOW, or Garden Lights and Ocean Waters. The ocean-themed lights installation is set to original music that spans genres, including surf and classical. Reservations are required for the mile-long trail, which is wheelchair-accessible and accommodates up to 50 guests per 15-minute time slot.

Info: South Coast Botanic Garden. Time slots from 5:30 to 9 p.m. daily Nov. 21-Jan. 10, except Dec. 24 and 25. $25 for members, $35 for nonmembers, free for children 4 and younger.

Altadena

Altadena’s Christmas Tree Lane won’t be able to hold its annual lighting ceremony with dignitaries and street food. Nevertheless, masked volunteers are hard at work stringing multicolored lights through deodar trees in celebration of Christmas Tree Lane’s 100th anniversary. Organizers welcome visitors to admire the lights from their cars and to download the new Christmas Tree Lane app, which includes stories and original music.

Info: Christmas Tree Lane. Santa Rosa Avenue. Open 5:30 p.m.-midnight daily through Jan. 7. Free.

Pasadena

According to community custom, each block of Upper Hastings Ranch has its own decorating theme. That’s why you’ll see penguins on Riviera Drive, giant candles on Rexford Avenue and drummer boys on Daveric Drive. The UHR Assn. says not to expect carolers or bands as in past years but assures that lights and sets will be just as over-the-top.

Info: Upper Hastings Ranch. Dec. 12-Jan. 2. Free. Locals suggest starting on Riviera Drive at Sierra Madre Boulevard and proceeding north and south along the adjacent blocks.

Parks and shopping centers

Manhattan Beach

A stroll through downtown Manhattan Beach is illuminated from street to sea. Leave a note about what home means to you at Metlox plaza, where local artist Sue Kneisley created an interactive installation of glowing paper houses titled “Home for the Holidays.” Continue down Manhattan Beach Boulevard, where bright snowflakes lead to a pier outfitted like a holiday tree.

Info: Downtown Manhattan Beach. . Through Jan. 4. Free.

Commerce

The Citadel Outlets holiday tree is fresh from Mt. Shasta, 100 feet tall and festooned with thousands of lights and ornaments. An enormous red bow sprinkled with half a ton of glitter marks the mall entrance, and snow falls each evening during a light show choreographed to holiday pop songs.

Info: Citadel Outlets. Snowfall at the top of each hour from 5 to 8 p.m. through Dec. 31. Free.

Los Angeles, Glendale and Pacific Palisades

The Grove, Americana at Brand and Palisades Village shopping centers are adorned for the season. Expect to see trees and lights daily, Santa waving from his trolley nightly (Grove and Americana at Brand only) and roving entertainers on the weekends.

Info: The Grove, Americana at Brand and Palisades Village. Santa sightings (at the Grove and Americana at Brand) and snowfall (Grove only) are daily through Dec. 24. Roving entertainers on weekends only, Nov. 27-Dec. 24. Free.

Beverly Hills

Bundle up for a flashy walk or drive through Beverly Hills. Photo ops include Santa’s sleigh flying over Wilshire Boulevard, sparkling snowflakes along Santa Monica Boulevard and a walk-through tree in the Beverly Cañon Gardens. Finish fashionably on Rodeo Drive, where outdoor mannequins flaunt festive metallic gowns on a glittering red carpet.

Info: Rodeo Drive. Through Jan. 3. Free.

Santa Monica

Gift shopping at the Third Street Promenade is an illuminated affair during Winterlit. Wander beneath a twinkling canopy, watch menorah lightings during Hanukkah and find glowing murals and window displays by local artists interpreting an unusual holiday season. Decorations can be found throughout downtown Santa Monica; look for a tree made of shopping carts and light bulbs at Edgemar and Bob Baker Marionette Theater puppets at the merry go-round on Santa Monica Pier.

Info: Downtown Santa Monica. Through Jan. 3. Free.

Marina del Rey

Boats won’t parade in the Marina del Rey harbor this year but they will be decorated for the holidays. Find the brightest at Fisherman’s Village, Burton Chace Park and along Admiralty Way.

Info: Visit Marina del Rey. Lights Dec. 5-19. Free.

Downtown

Grand Park is trading its annual Winter Glow for a thoughtful art installation called “Ground Our Present, Dot Our Future,” featuring walkways flecked with Angelenos’ messages about hope and social connection. Read them in the glow of a lighted selfie wall, fountain and holiday tree in front of the Music Center.
Info: Grand Park. Dec. 7-Jan. 2. Free.


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