Things to do in Orange County

Christmas Lights in Orange County

Santa Claus is coming to Orange County, and he's loading the sleigh with some dazzling light displays.

No matter when you visit, there are plenty of things to do in Orange County, from hiking in Crystal Cove State Park to riding Big Thunder Mountain Railroad at Disneyland. OC is also known for its high-end boutiques and world-class entertainment venues, making it the perfect place to spend the holiday season.

While you’re in town, be sure to take in at least one light display. Twinkle lights, dancing snowflakes, and giant candy canes—you'll find them all here. Grab a Santa hat, pour yourself a cup of hot cocoa, and get ready to do your best Bing Crosby impersonation. It’s time to see Christmas lights in Orange County.

Buena Park

If this is your first time in California, head to Buena Park for easy access to several popular attractions. It’s home to Knott’s Berry Farm and Medieval Times. During the holiday season, Buena Park has balmy temperatures and plenty of sunshine, making it the ideal place for a yuletide getaway.

Before you check out the Christmas lights, spend the afternoon at Ralph B. Clark Regional Park. Located at the base of the Coyote Hills, the park offers stunning views of sandstone cliffs, grassy knolls, and mature trees.

Visit the on-site Interpretive Center between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. (Wednesday through Saturday) to see a fascinating collection of fossils.

1. Knott’s Merry Farm

From late November through early January, Knott’s Merry Farm delights visitors with an elaborate holiday display.

Thousands of twinkle lights transform the theme park into a winter wonderland, complete with festive music, artificial snow, and sparkling garlands. Don’t miss the Snow and Glow experience, which features lights that flicker to the beat of your favorite holiday tunes.

Knott’s Merry Farm also has several family-friendly entertainment options. The holiday ice show features a group of awe-inspiring skaters and everyone’s favorite cartoon beagle—Snoopy. After you watch them twirl around the rink, head over to Home for the Holidays, an old-fashioned musical revue.

Speaking of twirling, don’t miss out on our spectacular shows in Orange County. Our talented performers use acrobatics, costumes, music, and scenery to capture the beauty of the human spirit.

Photographer: weiscisnbabs

2. Annual Christmas Tree Lighting

Get into the holiday spirit with the annual Christmas tree lighting event at Buena Park City Hall. Kids delight in riding the Santa train and taking photos with the big man himself and Mrs. Claus while adults line up for delectable desserts and hot beverages.

The highlight of the event is the tree-lighting ceremony, which bathes attendees in a soft glow as they contemplate the meaning of the season.

Corona del Mar

Nestled in the Newport Beach area, Corona del Mar is one of Orange County’s hidden gems. In fact, its name means “crown of the sea.” Many of the village’s homes sit on the Pacific Coast Highway, making the area one of the most scenic in the region. It’s even more beautiful when locals decorate for the holidays.

Since the December weather is so mild, you can spend the day outdoors without worrying about bundling up. Corona del Mar is home to Sherman Library & Gardens, Little Corona Beach, Roger’s Gardens, and multiple walking trails.

Before taking in the local light displays, stop at the Rose Bakery Café for one of its famous donuts.

3. Nights of 1,000 Lights at the Sherman Library & Gardens

Sherman Library & Gardens hosts Nights of 1,000 Lights every year, delighting members and nonmembers alike. Thousands of colorful lights greet you as you enter a dreamy world of wonder. If you have kids in tow, don’t miss Santa’s workshop or the all-important Wishing Tree.

The Garden Shop remains open during the event, making it easier to find last-minute gifts. If you have extra time, come early in the day to experience the joy of walking around the grounds in the sunshine.

Sherman Library & Gardens has 20 areas to explore, from a koi fish pond to a Mediterranean climate garden. You can even get up close and personal with an extraordinary collection of orchids.

Costa Mesa

Located a mile from the Pacific coastline, Costa Mesa is one of the most talked-about cities in the region. Shopping enthusiasts love spending time at South Coast Plaza, one of the country's largest shopping centers, which happens to be located in Costa Mesa. If you can’t find the perfect Christmas gift there, try the SoCo Collection, a curated selection of shops and restaurants.

Before slipping off to dreamland, watch a performance at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts. Every year, the venue hosts the Pacific Chorale’s holiday extravaganza, a family-friendly concert packed with surprises. After the show, drive through town to see some of the best Orange County Christmas lights.

4. Snoopy House Holiday Display

Whether you fancy yourself a Charlie Brown or a Peppermint Patty, everyone loves the Snoopy House holiday display.

Sponsored by the City of Costa Mesa, the event takes place over several days, giving you plenty of time to listen to carolers, take a train ride, or get a photo with Santa. After you marvel at the lights, stick around for a toe-tapping musical performance.

5. Winter Fest OC

Billed as Southern California’s “largest winter festival,” Winter Fest OC is the place to be if you want to create cherished holiday memories. Once you hit the Arctic Ice Trail, Costa Mesa’s sunshine and warm temperatures will feel like a distant memory.

Locals line up for sledding, ice tubing, and traditional winter games. Winter Fest OC even has a snow carousel for the kiddies. Come for the snow; stay for the food and entertainment. As you nibble on a sweet treat, keep an eye out for the Snow Princess. If you ask nicely, she may grant a Christmas wish.

Finish the evening with a visit to the Polar Playground, which has dozens of rides and games to keep the whole family entertained.

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Fullerton has a vibrant arts scene and plenty of green space, making it a pleasant place to spend the holidays.

As you wander through the streets, look for Spanish Colonial Revival structures decked out with Christmas decorations. In 1919, local officials resolved to use the popular architectural style for the city’s public buildings, giving Fullerton a uniform look.

If you come to town for a light display, stay long enough to enjoy a pint of ale at Bootlegger’s Brewery. Don’t miss The Muckenthaler Cultural Center, a private mansion that now serves as a public cultural center.

6. Sparkle Ball Lane

In 2002, Don Bales had an innovative idea. He took 50 clear plastic cups, joined them together, and added Christmas lights. The result was a brand-new holiday decoration. “Sparkle balls” quickly caught on, prompting Yale Loop residents to create an event to share the love. They turned their dream into reality with Sparkle Ball Lane.

If you drive down Princeton Circle or a nearby side street, you can see the results of their hard work. Participants display their sparkle balls every season, illuminating inflatable snowmen, red-nosed reindeer, and spruce wreaths. As you drive through the neighborhood, blast your favorite Christmas songs to get in the mood for holiday fun.

7. Fullerton Light Show

Every year, a local homeowner makes the season bright by choreographing a spectacular show with dazzling lights. The Fullerton Light Show uses thousands of lights, mechanical relays, and a radio transmitter to captivate visitors of all ages.

Simply drive up, tune in to FM 88.9, and get ready to ooh and ahh over some of the best Christmas lights in Orange County.

Huntington Beach

All year long, tourists flock to Huntington Beach to enjoy some of the best surfing in Orange County.

The city is also home to Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve and Old World Village. If you have a little extra time, head to nearby Dana Point Harbor for a whale-watching excursion.

Huntington Beach is also one of the best places for Orange County birthday parties. Celebrate with a cocktail at Pacific Hideaway. At the end of the evening, watch as the sun sets over the beach, creating a blaze of red and orange hues.

8. Cruise of Lights

The Huntington Harbour community comes alive with carefully curated holiday displays during the holiday season. Lights, garlands, and other decorations adorn local homes and boat launches. The Huntington Harbour Cruise of Lights takes you on a 50-minute boat tour of the harbor, giving you a bird’s-eye view of the opulent displays.

Source: Cruise of Lights

9. Magic on Main Street

For just one day each year, the Huntington Beach Downtown Business Improvement District transforms into a holiday wonderland.

Magic on Main Street has a bit of everything, including delicious food, handmade crafts, and live entertainment. Give yourself plenty of time to get through the crowd before the tree-lighting ceremony begins.


Irvine has gorgeous weather, top-notch schools, and dozens of beaches, making it a great place for families. On weekends, residents head to Irvine Regional Park to use the group picnic areas, rent bicycles, and hike well-maintained trails. The park also has paddleboats, baseball fields, equestrian trails, and playgrounds.

If sunbathing and splashing in the surf are two of your favorite ways to spend time, you’re in luck. Crystal Cove State Beach, Pirate’s Cove Beach, Laguna Beach, and Newport Beach are all near Irvine. Make your trip even more special by renting a convertible and looking for Christmas lights as you drive around with the top down.

10. Illuminate Irvine

In Irvine, the holiday season doesn’t truly begin until the first week of December. That’s when locals gather for Illuminate Irvine, a tree-lighting ceremony accompanied by a variety of holiday-themed events. No matter what kind of mood you’re in when you arrive, you’ll be humming your favorite holiday tunes by the time you leave.

11. Holidayz at the Park

After Illuminate Irvine, the fun continues with Holidayz at the Park, an event held at the Palm Court Arts Complex. If you need a photo for this year’s Christmas cards, the lights cast a warm glow, making them the perfect backdrop for holiday photos. Holidayz at the Park is also a great place for a romantic stroll.

Laguna Beach

Laguna Beach occupies fewer than nine sq. mi., giving it a small-town vibe you can’t get in nearby Irvine. Outdoor enthusiasts love having convenient access to beaches and hiking trails, while foodies can’t get enough of the town’s fine-dining establishments. It's also one of the best places to book a whale-watching tour or ride the waves.

If you arrive early in the day, take a little detour to McClain Cellars. The spot operates a tasting lounge with giant windows and skylights, bringing the beauty of Laguna Beach indoors. Pair your wine samples with gourmet popcorn, truffle mac and cheese bites, or a custom-made charcuterie board.

12. Sawdust Winter Fantasy

At Sawdust Winter Fantasy, community members gather to share their favorite holiday traditions. If you’re working on your shopping list, browse a selection of handmade items while watching the lights twinkle around you. The month-long event also features classes, concession stands, and live entertainment, making it fun for the whole family.

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13. Annual Light Decorating Contest

Are you in the mood for some friendly competition? Sign up for the annual light decorating contest. Sponsored by the Laguna Hills Chamber of Commerce, the contest has categories for best residential light display, best commercial light display, and best display by a home-based business.

Participants go all out, so it’s well worth the short drive from Laguna Beach.

Newport Beach

Newport Beach truly embodies the California spirit. People are busy, but there’s always time to appreciate the scenic views from Balboa Pier. If you’re traveling with kids, earn your Parent of the Year award with a trip to Balboa Fun Zone. The amusement park offers stunning views of the Pacific Ocean from the cages of its famous Ferris wheel.

If you enjoy your holiday adventure, come back in July for the annual Old Glory Boat Parade. Locals navigate their decorated boats through the harbor, vying for prizes and bragging rights. It’s one of the most popular 4th of July events in Orange County.

14. Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade

Newport Beach residents love their boats. And why shouldn’t they? The city has some of the most beautiful oceanfront properties in California. Sponsored by the Newport Beach Chamber of Commerce, the annual Christmas Boat Parade features yachts, sailboats, and other marine crafts decorated in their holiday finest.

For the best view, get to Marina Park well before the parade starts. The park has more than 10 ac. of land, so there’s plenty of room to spread out and enjoy the festivities.

15. Ring of Lights Waterfront Home Decorating Contest

Don’t miss the Ring of Lights decorating contest in Newport Beach. Instead of decorating boats, local homeowners create extravagant light displays on land. So many people participate that it looks like a ring of lights around the bay.

Get Festive With Dazzling Christmas Lights in Orange County

The region's dazzling light displays offer an ideal way to kick off the holiday season, and there's something special about sharing an incredible experience with people you’ve never met. That’s why our shows are so appealing.

Our performers bring people together with thought-provoking stories and gravity-defying acrobatics. Make this your best Christmas yet with tickets to one of our unforgettable performances.

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