How to best celebrate Christmas in Southern California

Here are some ways that Biola students can kick off the holiday season in Southern California.


Photo by Hannah Dilanchyan

In local areas, check out nightly displays of Christmas lights.

Hannah Dilanchyan, Freelance Writer

Living in Southern California during December, many of us do not have the pleasure of waking up to a “white Christmas.” Instead of a Santa Claus who flies through snow and rain, he probably landed at LAX, opting to surf after a long night of gift deliveries. Regardless of the warm winter months and being away from home, Biola students can still celebrate and enjoy this Christmas season in Southern California. Here are a few ideas to get you started on your holiday fun.


  • The Mission Inn Hotel and Spa is hosting their 27th Annual Festival of Lights, which will be held from November 29 through January 6, in Downtown Riverside, California. This is a five-week event during Christmastime which is free for visitors. In 2018, USA Today named it the “Best Public Holiday Lights Display in the Nation.” This event hosts Santa Claus and over 5 million holiday lights with horse-drawn carriage rides and many other holiday activities. Parking might prove to be a challenge, so plan accordingly.
  • The Brea Eagle Hills Christmas Lights is a neighborhood in Brea which is popular in the local area for its nightly display of Christmas lights. This neighborhood tradition hosts live nativity scenes, live music and horse-drawn carriages during the weekend. You can enter the neighborhood from Birch Street and Starflower Street. However, parking is difficult in the neighborhood. Many people either opt to walk around the neighborhood or drive through the decorated streets with a car full of friends and family until the lights turn off around 10 p.m. 
  • This year, Newport Beach is hosting its 111th annual Newport Boat Parade. This classic boat parade is taking place from  Dec. 18 to 22 at approximately 6:30 p.m. The parade begins and ends at the tip of Lido Isle in Newport Beach. This event lights up the harbor with boats decked out in Christmas decorations. After finals are over, the Newport Boat Parade is an excellent way to begin celebrating Christmas break.


  • Go to an ice rink. Annually, the Irvine Spectrum hosts “Skating Under the Stars.” The ice rink is open every evening from 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. Entry is $22 per person, which includes skate rentals. Enjoy an evening on ice with your friends and loved ones, then take a ride on the Irvine Spectrum ferris wheel which overlooks the rink. You can even enjoy a cup of hot cocoa and do some last minute Christmas shopping.
  • Mt. Baldy is a great location for a fun day in the snow. Take the Sugarpine Chair Lift up to Top of the Notch, a restaurant located at 7,800 feet, where you can enjoy a burger and fries. Another great spot for alpine adventures is Snow Summit, located at the heart of the San Bernardino Mountains. Known as “SoCal’s Snow Capital,” Snow Summit’s peak elevation is 8,200 feet. This family friendly hot spot is close to the city of Big Bear, where you can rent a cabin with friends or just spend the evening in the Village.
  • December marks the beginning of Southern California’s gray whale watching season. The beautiful mammals continue their migration as they travel down to Baja California. You will most definitely see dolphins and seals on your whale watching trip. Departing from Newport Beach is your best bet so check out Davey’s Locker for the best deals for your group. Dress warm and prepare for a marine adventure this Christmastime.

On my personal California holiday bucket list, I plan on listening to the Beach Boys’ “Little Saint Nick” as I go surfing on Christmas morning. While winter in Southern California may be warm, and you may miss your family during the holiday season, there is fun and adventure to be found all over the area, especially during Christmas.

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