With the holidays quickly approaching, it is a great time for families and friends to take part in all the season has to offer. And, while Orange County might not seem like the quintessential winter wonderland, it is offering holiday events that rival that of anything in cold weather climates such as ice skating, tree lighting ceremonies and much more! Here are some of the best holiday events in Orange County that bring the magical holiday spirit to Southern California.
Holiday Tree Tree Lighting at Fashion Island
401 Newport Center Drive
Newport Beach, CA 92660
Date: Now through Jan. 4, 2015, daily at 5 p.m. for tree lighting
The Annual Fashion Island Holiday Tree Lighting ceremony is one of the most anticipated events in Orange County for the holidays. It took place this year on November 14 and 15, but you can still go and check out the tree which will be lit daily at 5pm until January 4, 2015. This year, the hosts include Mickey Mouse and Friends from the Disneyland Resort, with an exclusive performance by The Merriest Place on Earth. This year enjoy the festive Disney cheer with the holiday music and glittering lights.
Sawdust Winter Fantasy
935 Laguna Canyon Road
Laguna Beach, CA
Date: Now through Dec. 21, 2014
The festival grounds in Laguna Beach transform from their typical summer setup for the winter with a wonderland feel where more than 175 artists come to display and sell original work over the course of the festival. A great place to do holiday shopping, you’ll find options for unique gifts during the season which also helps to support local artists. The type of work available for purchase includes jewelry, clothing, blown glass, ceramics, woodwork, photography and much more. There is also live entertainment, outdoor cafes, classes, demonstrations, a petting zoo and Santa Claus for the kids. For many locals, the Sawdust Festival has become a family tradition over the years.
IlluminOcean at Dana Point
OC Dana Point Harbor
24650 Dana Point Harbor Drive
Dana Point, CA 92629
Date: Now through Jan. 4, 2015
With more than 22 larger-than-life attractions, 4,000 pounds of steel sculptures and 23 miles of glowing LED light strands, the holiday season in Dana Point dazzles and electrifies all that attend the IllumiOcean event. Ongoing for 40 nights of family fan, you can also take part in the holiday spirit as The Dana Point Harbor transforms into a festive holiday scene with hundreds of thousands of lights that are sculpted into grand sea creatures, octopus and sharks. The light tunnels are known to stretch longer than a football field and some structures are so grand that you can walk inside the belly of a glowing 40-foot blue whale. Parking is available at Pacific Coast Highway and the Dana Point Harbor Drive lot for just $2.
Related: Best Holiday Celebrations In OC
A Christmas Carol
South Coast Repertory
655 Town Center Drive
Costa Mesa, CA 92628
Dates: Nov 28, 2013 – Dec 27, 2014
Treat your family to fine arts this holiday season with a visit to the award-winning South Coast Repertory to see Charles Dickens’ classic “A Christmas Carol.” You’ll recapture the spirit of old time Christmas with this timeless classic with favorite characters like Tiny Tim and the Cratchit family, as well as the Fezziwigs and more. Recommended for ages 6 and up and the running time is around 2 hours.
Disney California Adventure
1313 Disneyland Dr
Anaheim, CA 92802
To add just another reason to visit the incredible Disneyland theme parks, from now through the first week of the New Year, the happiest place on earth will be in full winter array for the holidays. This year, visitors will be amazed by the new World of Color – Winter Dreams nighttime water show at the Disney California Adventure Park. Music, water and lights come together for a remarkable and memorable experience for the family. Also new this year is the Disney Viva Navidad Street Party, where guests can get up close and personal with Disney characters as they listen to live music and dance in the streets.
Holiday Gingerbread Lighthouse
690 Newport Center Drive
Newport Beach, CA 92660
Date: Now through Dec. 26, 2014
On November 30, pastry Chef Andy de la Cruz put the finishing touches on a life-sized gingerbread lighthouse with twinkling lights and thousands of candies. The event was held in the lobby of Island Hotel and the lighthouse will be on display until the day after Christmas. Locals and families are welcome to enjoy the lighthouse and make memories together with great holiday photos.
Downtown Disney Winter Village
Magic Way & Downtown Drive
Anaheim, CA 92802
Date: Now through Jan. 13, 2015
During the holiday season, the festive atmosphere of Downtown Disney District transforms into a majestic and magical snowy Winter Village that will amaze all that attend. While shopping for holiday gifts, locals can also enjoy ice-skating at the Olaf Frozen Ice Rink that is inspired by the Disney animated film “Frozen.” Also, the 30-foot Christmas tree is a sight to see along with the holiday cottages and Disney Carolers that perform on December 16 and 25. The spectacular decorations throughout the venue brings a magical winter experience to Southern California.
Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade
Date: Dec 17 – Dec 21, 2014
Join the holiday fun at the 106th Annual Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade. This year’s theme is “Deck the Hulls with Bows of Jolly”, so spectators can expect to see vessels replete with trees, music and lots of lights as they make their way around the Newport Harbor. Complete with lights, boats, yachts, canoes and kayaks will be sailing along the harbor for five consecutive nights, beginning Wednesday, December 17th and ending Sunday, December 21, 2014. The parade, which begins at Bay Island at 6:30pm, will finish at the same place at around 9pm each evening.
David McDonald is a freelance writer covering all things Orange County. His work can be found on Examiner.com.