Orange County Christmas Events for Exciting Holiday Fun

LAST UPDATED: November 20, 2023

Whether you’re visiting Southern California or you’re a resident, there are many Orange County Christmas events and activities to get you in the holiday spirit. It’s a beautiful, diverse area that offers a lot and is in reasonable driving distance from so much more. This guide is intended to help you plan what to see and do while you are in and around Orange County or even nearby Los Angeles for the holidays!

This post contains affiliate links. At no additional cost to you, I may earn a small commission if you book or purchase through these links. You can read my full disclosure policy here.

white see-through ornament ball hanging on a lighted tree

Orange County Christmas Events

giant Christmas tree against a blue sky in the entry area of Disneyland

Orange County is a beautiful coastal county in Southern California known for its beach communities as well as Disneyland. Due to this, the holidays may not be what automatically comes to mind when thinking about the OC. However, there are many fun activities and Orange County Christmas events to attend. Let’s get to them!


Starting with the obvious. I mean these classics are just givens…


  • Mickey Mouse holding Walt Disney's hand from the back with the Main Street Christmas tree in the background against a black nighttime sky
  • Disneyland's Cinderella's Castle lit up in blue and purple with white Christmas lights against a black nighttime sky
  • looking down Main Street at Disneyland with a giant Christmas tree and Christmas lights all around

Located in Anaheim, Disneyland is the popular choice, the famous choice, and the touristy choice. There’s a reason it’s at the forefront of these choices, right? It’s Disney!

During the holidays, the magic truly does come alive and it is (in my opinion) the best time to go. I have been to Disneyland (and Disney World to be fair) in all seasons but Christmas is my absolute favorite time.

a red and white macaron in the shape of a Santa Hat
a bread bowl full of yellow macaroni and cheese with lobster on a multi-colored paper plate at Disneyland
a beignet in the shape of Mickey Mouse ears covered in powdered sugar

I highly recommend checking out the holiday food specials. Some of my all-time favorites are the Chocolate-Mint Macaron (think white peppermint cream filling and chocolate ganache), the Lobster Mac N Cheese, and the Peppermint Mickey Mouse Beignets…just to name a few!

TIP: Purchase tickets or passes as soon as you know your dates. Disney parks still require reservations along with ticket/pass purchases. Check the reservations calendar BEFORE you purchase your ticket or pass to be sure your chosen dates are available.

Disney California Adventure

nighttime view of the lighted Festival of Holidays sign at the entry to Disney California Adventure

While you’re checking out Disneyland hop over to Disney California Adventure. Ride the rides decked out in their holiday best and marvel at the decorations.

Disney Festival of Holidays sign with all the different holidays portrayed by different color Mickey Mouse ears
  • hot chocolate with whipped cream and peppermint candy pieces in a tall clear glass cup with a handle.
  • a brown macaron with marshmallows on top sitting with the multi-colored ferris wheel in the background
  • pink milk tea drink with fruity pebbles sprinkled on top against a backdrop of greenery
  • holiday dish with cherries with the Festival of Holidays lighted sign in the background

DCA also has fantastic food and doesn’t disappoint with the holiday special edition menus. Check out the amazing foodie guide for the Festival of Holidays to not miss out on things like Boozy Peppermint Hot Chocolate, Holiday Ham Sliders, Hot Buttered Rum, Loaded Latkes, Hot Chocolate Churros, Fruity Pebbles Milk Tea, Mistletoe Mules, and more!

TIP: Selections change annually. Get the Festival of Holidays Tasting Passport that will show you what and where the current offerings are. Don’t forget to get it stamped!

Knotts Merry Farm

bright orange Hang Time roller coaster up close at Knotts Merry Farm

Disneyland and DCA aren’t the only “kids” in town when it comes to theme parks. Admittedly, Disneyland is my favorite but in nearby Buena Park, there is Knotts Merry Farm! Most of the year, the park operates under its normal name, Knotts Berry Farm.

During October, it becomes Knotts Scary Farm and for the holidays it’s Knotts Merry Farm! Typically running from mid-November to mid-January, Knotts Merry Farm is a winter wonderland full of lights, treats, and fun for everyone!

TIP: Parking, pick-up, and drop-off can be quite chaotic and time-consuming. From experience, it’s much better (depending on where you’re staying) to take an Uber to and from. Have them drop you off and pick you up a couple of blocks away. I can’t tell you how much time this saves!


These are common events you might find anywhere in the United States; however, Orange County does step up its game with these traditional activities.


  • multi-colored lights in all the different trees at the South Coast Botanic Garden for GLOW
  • another view of trees lit with multi-colored lights at South Botanic Garden's GLOW

If you are a botanical garden fan, South Coast Botanic Garden is where you should be during the holidays. And yes, before the protest starts, I am well aware that this location is in LA County vs Orange County. However, it is so deep into LA County that it isn’t TOO far from the Orange County line and worth it. So, I’ve included it in these Orange County Christmas events. 🤷🏻‍♀️

a huge multi-branch tree lit with green and red lights and lanterns hanging from its branches at South Coast Botanic Garden's GLOW
another view of a tree multi-light with different colors at South Coast Botanic Garden's GLOW

In previous years, SCBG has hosted GLOW which stands for “Garden Lights & Ocean Waters”. It is a beautiful wave of striking colors that move in a calming matter across the garden’s landscape. It’s a walk-through and I thoroughly enjoyed the stunning lights, themed decorations, and even interactive experiences.

This year for the 2023 holidays, the SCBG is hosting Astra Lumina which has received rave reviews from major publications and networks. While I loved GLOW and hope it returns one of these holiday seasons, Astra Lumina is super cool too!

Whichever is showing, both of these Orange County Christmas events occur at night after the sun goes to bed and are walk-through experiences for the entire family.

TIP: Whatever event is running during the holidays frequently extends into January or even February. Currently, the 2023 calendar is only showing tickets through December 31st. So, be sure to check ahead of time before assuming you’re clear into the new year! 😉

Roger’s Gardens Christmas Boutique

closeup of two santas holding lolllipops standing beside a black street lantern light

I was all excited when my friend let me in on this little secret. Roger’s Gardens in Newport Beach has its Christmas Boutique and Christmas Confections every year during the holidays. While it is THE premier nursery in Orange County, it is WAY more than a nursery.

First of all, Roger’s is gigantic! I had no idea nurseries could be this big, especially in Southern California where land is at a premium. There was room after room of highly elaborate Christmas decorations. Many gorgeously decorated Christmas trees were in every direction!

very tall christmas tree with all red and white ornaments like peppermints, red hot chocolate mugs, and red and white lollipops. a shelf of red and white candies to the right.

Additionally, I can’t tell you how many rooms of Christmas ornaments, tableware, napkins, home decor, and exterior decor they have. On top of that, there’s even a cafe to grab a bite to eat or coffee and hot chocolate!

holiday tablescape with red and tan chargers, white plate, red napkin with green holly accent and greenery with iced pine cones and red ball ornaments in the background

They have many confections you can purchase (think espresso cookies and peppermint everything) to have a bit of yummy bliss to take home with you!

TIP: This is a very local experience and not at all touristy. They have unique Christmas decor finds and I highly recommend their Christmas ornaments. If there’s something you’ve been looking for, they likely have it!

Angel Stadium Christmas Events

Angel Stadium of Anaheim is home to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (yes, it’s confusing…politics and document requirements to blame). During the holidays, it will often host different Orange County Christmas events. One of the best it hosted in recent times was the Magic of Lights in 2021.

The Magic of Lights was a drive-through light show that cost one price per carload. It was a super convenient way for families with small children to enjoy a holiday activity without getting them out of the car. Adults enjoyed it as well, especially on colder (for SoCal) nights.

For 2023, there will be a Jingle Bell Run! Fun for the whole family, think running through Angel Stadium, playing in real snow, photos with Santa, and more!

TIP: Events for Angel Stadium do rotate and there are years where there are no events. Check the calendar to plan your visit. You might even be surprised to find Christmas in June?



Those different and unique one-of-a-kinds you can only find in Orange County.

Christ Cathedral

nighttime shot of the exterior of Christ Cathedral with its mirrored glass

Commonly (and originally) known as Crystal Cathedral, this gorgeous landmark looks like something from a movie set. Honestly, that wouldn’t be a far stretch considering its proximity to both Disneyland and Hollywood.

Located in Orange County’s Garden Grove, Christ Cathedral is open year-round to visitors. It is a working cathedral holding mass and other regular events. Constructed in 1980, the then Crystal Cathedral began as a Protestant Church and is believed to be the first one to convert to a Catholic church.

daytime interior panoramic shot of Christ Cathedral with its glass walls, dark brown pews and Christmas decorations

The Cathedral, while stunning all of the time, is absolutely gorgeous during Christmas. I have seen it in all seasons and my all-time favorite is at Christmas. Be sure to check out the exterior and the interior. Both are nothing short of amazing. Definitely, a unique Orange County Christmas activity that should make your list!

TIP: Please be respectful of this working place of worship. Due to mass or other events, the Cathedral might not always be open to the public. Plan your visit accordingly.


a tall arched, multi-colored glass building with palm trees in front against a black, nighttime sky

The ARTIC is perhaps one of the coolest transit stations I’ve ever seen, architecturally speaking. That says a lot since I’m a huge fan of Santiago Calatrava and have seen a number of his projects all over the world. While the ARTIC is more of a modest design, it still packs an impressive punch visually.

interior night shot of the ARTIC with its multi-colored lights and white glowing staircase and escalators

ARTIC stands for Anaheim Regional Transportation Intermodal Center. Yes, it’s a mouthful, right? Not only does it pack a punch visually but it also packs a lot into its relatively small structure. ARTIC offers train, bus, and taxi services daily for all types of commuters and travelers.

looking up the giant white staircase inside ARTIC at night with its multi-colored lights on the ceiling

Admittedly, this one you can see year-round just as it looks in December. However, the first time I saw it was in the month of December and it just added to my overall Christmas feel-good spirit!

TIP: Go later at night (but be safe) when it’s lit up in multi-colored lights and very few people are there. It lights up nightly year-round and is stunning outside as a backdrop for the palm trees and inside from the top of the escalator.

Road Trips

Although not actually located in the OC, these road trips are short distances from Orange County and can all be done as day trips. I know because I had a blast doing all of them as such. Therefore, I am including them in these Orange County Christmas events!

Mission Inn Festival of Lights

nighttime shot of giant toy soldiers flanking the entrance to the Mission Inn Hotel and Spa all lit up with thousands of white Christmas lights

The Mission Inn Hotel & Spa is a national historic landmark located in Riverside County. For reference, it’s an easy hour’s drive from Anaheim. Beginning the day after Thanksgiving, the hotel hosts its Annual Festival of Lights and it is simply amazing.

It isn’t just the exterior that is decorated. Go inside to find elegant decorations along with one of the prettiest Christmas trees I have ever seen. That’s saying a lot as a traveler who is always somewhere and often multiple somewheres in the month of December!

a nighttime view looking through a wrought-iron gate with the blue pool and palm trees with white lights on their trunks
extremely tall Christmas tree with giant gold and orange ball ornaments standing on a white tile floor with black diamonds at the Mission Inn Hotel and Spa

The 30+-year-old tradition has won several accolades including “Best Public Lights Display” by USA Today. It makes the perfect Christmas outing with family, friends, or your significant other.

TIP: Give yourself plenty of time to get there and find parking. There will likely be traffic as it’s a very popular attraction. There’s no admission charge but don’t be surprised if the line is around the block. It moves quickly but you will want to dress warmly.


nighttime view of an outdoor gazebo with a sign that says Merry Christmas and a Christmas tree to the left in Solvang

Have you always wanted to travel to Europe? How about Europe at Christmastime to see the famous Christmas markets you’ve heard so much about? Now, what if I said you could largely experience Europe right here without leaving the country?

Well, it’s true! This can be done right here in Solvang, often voted the best town to visit in California for Christmas. In full disclosure, Solvang is about a three-hour drive from Anaheim so you will need a full day into the evening to make this a day trip. I’ve done it twice and it was worth it both times!

a white carton with three aebleskivers topped with powdered sugar in Solvang

While in the Danish Capital of America, browse the many Christmas stores, watch candy making, taste Danish dishes like aebleskivers, snag unique artisan crafts, and marvel at the giant windmill!

TIP: If you have the time to spend a night in Solvang, do it. However, due to its popularity during the holidays, accommodations are expensive. It isn’t a big place so you can easily do it in a day and enjoy the drive up the coast as a bonus!

Los Angeles

nighttime shot of Christmas decorations in downtown Los Angeles

In Los Angeles, you know…that “town” to the north bearing the same name as the county where it’s located, there are all kinds of holiday activities worth seeing and doing. Everything from outdoor shopping centers to drives, private clubs, and landmarks gets quite festive during the holidays.

panoramic shot of trees decorated with white lights, a fountain and a tall Christmas tree against a blue evening sky at the Glendale Galleria in Los Angeles

Some of my favorites to check out are the Glendale Galleria…

nighttime shot at The Grove in Los Angeles with giant white stars hanging overhead

The Grove and Farmers Market in the Melrose area…

daytime shot of The Citadel dressed up as gift with a giant red bow atop its roof

The Citadel (I was NOT the driver)

and other locations such as the Alpine Market in Torrance, Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica, and the Magic Castle in Hollywood. Also, don’t miss seeing The Citadel decked out as a giant gift with nighttime lights galore if you are traveling on the 5 southeast of DTLA (downtown Los Angeles).

TIP: Always be on the lookout, especially if driving around or through the downtown Los Angeles area. Many of the towering buildings will have holiday lighting and there are always displays scattered all over. It’s almost a game to see what is new for the year or what I will find next!


The following Orange County Christmas events are bonus ideas because they are either a new-to-you concept or possibly only one-off or short-time occurrences not lasting throughout the month of December.

Holiday Boat Parades

Orange County Christmas events will always include holiday boat parades. Endless choices including Huntington Beach, Newport Beach, Dana Point, and more have boat parades featuring lights, fireworks, cruises, cash prizes, and more!

TIP: These boat parades are typically on a certain day or certain weekend so check ahead of time so you don’t miss out on the one(s) you want to see!

Christmas Escape Rooms

red walls of the lobby of Exodus Escape Room in Irvine with a black leather bench, a Christmas tree, and the leaderboard

Want a new and different idea for a fun time together with friends or family? Why not an escape room? During the holidays, many companies will have Christmas-themed escape rooms. It’s a great way to get into the Christmas spirit, have fun with friends and family, and even boost communication skills and teamwork at the same time!

My favorite Christmas-themed escape room in Orange County is Santa Clause 2 at Exodus Escape Room in Irvine. There are so many I haven’t yet had a chance to do (like The Office Xmas Party and Elf-evator also from Exodus) but I love the feel of stepping into a room overflowing with Christmas and having to follow a themed storyline to get out!

TIP: With the exception of a couple of Christmas-themed rooms open year-round, most are only open during the holidays. Daytime rooms booked earlier in the week (Monday-Wednesday) are typically cheaper than weekend nights.



Pinterest graphic with the title of the article
Pinterest graphic with the title of the article
Pinterest graphic with the title of the article

So, there you have it! All of these Orange County Christmas events are absolutely worth doing and all are things I’ve done personally with the exception of the boat parades. Hopefully, this inspires visitors to check out more of Orange County (than just Disney) and residents to get out and explore more of their backyards and surrounding areas!

Have you done any of these? If not, which of these Orange County Christmas events would you want to do most? Is there anything you’ve done that I need to know about or add to the list? You know the drill…let me know below!

‘Til next time…

Trimm Travels,


Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

I accept the Privacy Policy

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.