Where To See The Best Christmas Lights in California
It's time to get into the holiday spirit – here's where to get that festive feeling in the Golden State.
There’s something magical about a street full of twinkling Christmas lights – it’s a sight that can melt even the Grinchiest of hearts, and the perfect way to kick off your holiday celebrations. If you’re spending December on the Golden Coast, we’ve tracked down where to find the best Christmas lights in California. And of course, we’ve also found some equally enchanting Plum Guide homes for you along the way – we can’t guarantee a stay somewhere quite as sparkly as Santa’s Grotto, but we do promise the utmost luxury, and far fewer reindeer wandering through the living room. Discover our favourite homes in California.
Star-studded Los Angeles is one place that has the glitz and glamour of the festive season all year round – the bright lights of Hollywood never stop shining, after all. The city is synonymous with excess, and fittingly it hosts some of the best, brightest, and oldest displays of Christmas lights in California. Some of the most impressive include Christmas Tree Lane, a boulevard of cedars that have been adorned with twinkling lights every year since the 1920s, and Candy Cane Lane, an 8-block area of Woodlands Hills that transforms into a winter wonderland in a holiday tradition that goes back to the 1940s. There’s also the iconic Festival of Lights at the Mission Inn. It’s previously been voted the nation’s best public lights display, and it’s not hard to see why – it takes 4.5 million bulbs to create the dazzling display, and you could say that the life-size gingerbread house is the icing on the cake. (Sorry. We couldn’t resist.)
Santa Barbara County might be better known for its beaches than its baubles, but there’s no shortage of Christmas spirit here – it’s Santa by name, Santa by nature. A holiday parade kicks off the festive season with a flourish, turning on the thousands of twinkling lights adorning the downtown area. In fact, there’s so many displays that there’s a Trolley of Lights tour that takes you around the best bits. So bundle up, sit back, and pretend you’re on a sleigh full of presents as you whizz through the city’s most festive streets. It's not all big public displays in Santa Barbara – there’s a strong community feel to this town, and you’ll spot lots of residential homes with a touch of Christmas magic. One of the most iconic shows of Christmas lights in California, The Miracle on East Quinientos Street is just one private home with Christmas figurines and flashing lights all strung up by one very festive resident. (No, it’s not Santa. We’ve already checked.) Go, admire, and head back to your (slightly less shiny) Plum home filled with Christmas cheer and a newfound sympathy for his poor neighbours.
San Diego is a destination the entire family will love, with attractions like the iconic city zoo and retro-style theme park enchanting everyone from
little brats spirited darlings to grumpy doting grandparents. It’s no different come December, when every corner of the city is illuminated with some of the best Christmas lights in California. Admire the festive displays and pick up a candy cane from Kris Kringle himself at The Forward House in Bankers Hill, or venture down to the coast for some cheesy photo ops at Belmont Park’s Illuminated Winter Nights. Or you could score some serious points in the Christmas-magic department by taking the kids to Jungle Bells – this festival sees the San Diego Zoo all lit up in what has to be one of the most unique Christmas light displays we’ve ever seen. That’ll definitely get you on the Nice List.
South Lake Tahoe
It’s a bold claim, but we’d venture to say that South Lake Tahoe might just be the most festive place in all of California. It’s not hard to imagine Santa and his reindeer careening down the sides of the snow-capped mountains, and there’s nothing like huddling around a fire with an après ski hot chocolate or mulled wine to get you in the Christmas spirit. South Lake Tahoe also goes in when it comes to Christmas lights – a fir to rival the Rockefeller’s takes pride of place in the centre of the Heavenly Village, and every night as darkness falls the lights are switched on to create a bit of Christmas magic. Add that to ice-skating, visits to Santa’s grotto, and festive lights strung up as far as the eye can see around town, and we dare you not to be humming Jingle Bells by the time you head back to your cosy Plum home.