(credit: Christian Thompson/Disneyland Resort)
The holidays are a wonderful time of the year to see and experience all that Orange County has to offer. With such a wide range of activities, events and special sights to see, we have curated a list of Orange County’s best holiday events for families.
Holidays at the Disneyland Resort
1313 Disneyland Drive
Anaheim, CA 92802
Dates: November 10, 2017 – January 07, 2018
Disneyland gets in the holiday spirit throughout the months of November and December each year. The park’s beautiful decorations, including an impressively decorated 60-foot Christmas tree, sparkling castle, and themed-décor, create an incredible backdrop for family fun. Don’t miss “it’s a small world –holiday,” the “Jingle Cruise,” or “Haunted Mansion Holiday,” all revamped and updated for the holiday season. A Christmas parade, holiday-themed “World of Color” light and water show, visits with Olaf (and fun snow play at Olaf’s Snow Fest!), fabulous holiday food desserts and offerings, Viva Navidad!, a celebration of the holiday traditions of Latin America, and visits with Santa Claus himself round out the holiday-themed fun. Downtown Disney joins in the holiday fun with a themed ice-skating rink; no park admission is required.
Knott’s Merry Farm
Knott’s Berry Farm
8039 Beach Blvd.
Buena Park, CA 90620
Dates: November 17, 2017 – January 7, 2018
Knott’s Berry Farm also boasts a seasonal holiday update that families won’t want to miss. Park guests can watch Snoopy and dozens of professional ice skaters hit the ice in the brand new “Merry Christmas, Snoopy” ice show. A Christmas Crafts Village takes over Ghost Town, giving families the chance to shop for unique gifts and merchandise while on property; come back when the sun sets to watch as snow falls to the sweet sound of holiday carols. The Wilderness Dance Hall will host Santa himself. Holiday delights like Santa’s homemade cookies, eggnog, winter wine, craft beer, and hot chocolate tastings are offered to increase the festive spirit. Live shows, including Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, O. Henry’s A Gift of the Magi, and “Christmas Time is Here, Charlie Brown,” are on stage daily throughout the season.
Winter Fest 2017
88 Fair Dr.
Costa Mesa, CA 92626
Dates: December 21, 2017 – January 7, 2018
Brand new to the Orange County scene, Winter Fest at the OC Fair & Event Center brings the spirit of the winter season to Southern California this holiday season. Families can ice skate in front of a theater-sized screen playing holiday films, ice tube down a 130-foot slide, enjoy nightly snowfall, tree lighting, live entertainment, reindeer feedings, and more than 30 carnival rides and games. Paired with seasonal foods, craft cocktails, and festive holiday décor (including the world’s largest ornament!), Winter Fest aims to be one or Orange County’s premiere holiday events. Meet and greets with Santa Claus, as well as story time with Mrs. Claus, crafts, arts, and games with elves, are available at the Winter Fest’s North Pole.
Irvine Park Railroad Christmas Train
1 Irvine Park Road
Orange, CA 92869
Dates: December 1 – December 23, 2017
Irvine Park Railroad celebrates the 20th anniversary of their Christmas Train holiday event, and your family will fall in love with the old-fashioned fun offered at this Orange venue. Santa’s Village, located next to the train station, includes a story time with Mrs. Claus, Christmas cookie decorating, carnival games, ice fishing, and more. The train rides themselves, depart every 15 minutes and take guests to the “North Pole” where visitors can purchase coffee, hot chocolate, popcorn, and more while waiting to meet with Santa. The beautiful lights, including the “Tunnel of Lights” on the return trip round out a wonderful holiday evening.
Huntington Harbor Boat Parade
16889 Algonquin Street
Huntington Beach, CA 92649
Dates: December 9 & 10, 2017
For a holiday celebration you won’t soon forget Huntington Beach’s Cruise of Lights boat parade. Now in its 53rd year, the parade features boats of all sizes and types lit up in holiday lights as they cruise the harbor. It’s great family fun and will make you ooh and ah in wonderment. On hand, The Huntington Harbour Philharmonic Cruise of Lights will also be offering narrated boat tours through the waterways of Huntington Harbour in Huntington Beach, California. Locals and visitors share the beauty of thousands of lights and animated displays on brightly decorated homes, docks, decks and boats.
Holiday Boat Parades
Boat parades are a quintessential SoCal Christmas event. Kids love seeing their favorite characters light up onboard dazzling boats and watercraft in these epic evenings under the stars. Orange County features three spectacular parades including:
- Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade – December 13 – 17, 2017
- Dana Point Boat Parade of Lights – December 8, 9, 15 & 16, 2017
- Huntington Harbor Boat Parade – December 9 & 10, 2017
Outdoor Ice Skating Irvine Spectrum
71 Fortune Drive
Irvine, CA 92618
Dates: Through January 7, 2018
Located in the Giant Wheel court adjacent to Nordstrom’s and Macys, the ice skating rink is a family friendly activity that everyone will enjoy. Open nearly every day (closed holidays) until February 15th, 2016, the ice rink is the perfect opportunity to get in the holiday spirit while skating around with friends and family. Orange County might not be the coldest place to celebrate the holidays, but one step on the ice and you’ll feel like you’re in a winter wonderland
Breakfast with Santa
La Habra Children’s Museum
301 South Euclid Street
La Habra, CA 90631
Dates: December 2 & 3, 2017
What kid doesn’t want to eat breakfast with Santa Claus? For two days only, the La Habra Children’s Museum is inviting kids and their families to eat with Santa, craft Christmas ornaments, take pictures and play in the museum galleries. Breakfast with Santa will take place with different seating times. There is a small cost, but it’s worth it to see the smile on your child’s face!
Winter Solstice Festival
2002 N Main Street
Santa Ana, CA 92706
Date: December 3, 2017 from 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
To celebrate the upcoming Winter Solstice, the Bowers Museum will feature a free festival on Sunday, December 6. The Winter Solstice Festival will include Celtic music by The Ploughboys, as well as dancing by the Ceili Rua Dancers and a traditional Native American hoop dance and a blessing for the New Year by Gary Wis-Ki-Ge-Amatyuk. In addition, there will also be a Santa-themed performance by Franklin Haynes Marionettes. The event is free and open from 10am to 4pm.
Katie Bodell is the Blog Editor for Trekaroo, the largest family travel website in the U.S. She is also a freelance writer, a happy wife to her best friend, and a mom to three sweet California girls. See more on: Trekaroo | CheapOair | Google+ | Twitter.