Christmas in Orange County is a little different than what I was used to as a kid. Growing up in Wisconsin meant cold and snowy holidays where the family would gather inside and stay warm and cozy.
At first, I thought a Southern California Christmas was kind of boring. How can I get into the Christmas spirit without SNOW?!
It turns out there are so many Christmas activities in Orange County that a California Christmas just might be the best there is. Plus, I no longer have to worry about getting all bundled up to leave the house and freeze to death. That’s the best.
And even though I don’t have kids (having kids means you are basically required to embrace the Christmas spirit, right?), I still find a way to celebrate this time of year.
For this post, I’ve rounded up some of the coolest Christmas events in Orange County that aren’t just for the kids. Check out these Christmas activities for adults to enjoy in 2020!
2020 Orange County Christmas Events for Adults
Huntington Harbour Boat Parade
Since the Newport Beach and Dana Point boat parades have been canceled, the Huntington Harbour Boat Parade is going to be the star of the year.
According to the event website, the Huntington Harbour Boat Parade will go on “Rain or Shine or Pandemic.” The boat parade starts at 515pm sharp on December 12th and 13th.
Public viewing areas are along the beaches and it is recommended that you get there early since parking is limited. The boats will travel through the entire Harbour, so wherever you can find a spot you should be able to see them. After you see the boats cruise through take a walk to check out the decorated houses!
Read more: 7 Unique Things to Do in Huntington Beach
The Ice Rink at Pasea
Brand new for 2020, Pasea Hotel & Spa built the first and only oceanfront ice skating rink in Orange County. Now, if that doesn’t get you into the Christmas spirit, I’m not sure what else would!
All you need to do is buy your tickets in advance and bring your mask (yes, it is required). Skates are included in your ticket. And nope, you don’t have to be a guest of the hotel to enjoy the ice rink.
Special bonuses for ice skaters include rink-side fire pits and a hot chocolate bar menu, complete with yummy rum and bourbon drinks and Bailey’s desserts. This is ice skating on another level.
Unfortunately, this event has been canceled and tickets will be refunded or accepted as a donation.
One of my favorite budget-friendly activities in Orange County, the Mission San Juan Capistrano is a must-see for Christmas.
Capistrano Lights at the Mission San Juan Capistrano starts on December 3rd and runs through January 3rd. Stroll the grounds to see everything all lit up, and take advantage of the many photo opportunities along the way.
I mean, the Mission is already gorgeous, but seeing it decorated with Christmas lights sounds pretty amazing.
Tickets are just $5 and available online only. General admission tickets are not available for Capistrano Lights, so make sure you buy tickets specifically for this event.
Read more: A Look Inside the Mission San Juan Capistrano
Let it Snow
Wishing for a white Christmas? Head to Bella Terra where it snows every half hour!
You can watch the snow in three different locations throughout Bella Terra: at the Christmas tree by Burlington, the fountain at HSS, and in between Century Theaters and Kabuki. It starts to snow on November 27th and stops on December 24th from 11am to 9pm daily.
For an extra little boost of Christmas spirit, stop by on the weekend to enjoy classic holiday carolers.
Hikari – A Festival of Lights
Drive through over a mile of twinkling farm-themed lights at Tanaka Farms this holiday season! You’ll pay $49 or $59 per car, not per person, to experience this holiday event in Irvine. Hikari starts November 27th and runs through January 10th, with tickets available 7 days a week.
While you’re visiting the farm, get there a little early to pick up some fresh veggies from the drive-thru produce stand!
Read more: 7 Unique Outdoor Things to Do in Irvine, California
Paint & Sip with Pinot’s
Bring out your inner artist and your inner holiday spirit, and join a painting class at Pinot’s Palette!
There are five Pinot’s locations in Orange County, and you’ll find different designs at each one. From now through the holiday season paintings will include all things winter and holidays. Plus, you can sign up for virtual classes or buy take-home paint kits!
Just don’t forget to stop at the store to pick up a bottle of wine, because that is part of the class of course. Teacher’s orders!
Christmas Market at Old World
For those of you who love to travel, you don’t have to miss out on the European Christmas Markets this year. We have a Christmas Market right here in Orange County!
Old World has some of the coolest events in Huntington Beach, and they have done it again this year. The Old World Christmas Market will have vendor booths, live entertainment, European style street food, a hot cocoa booth, imported cookies and candy, and more! Stop at the German Deli to buy imported goodies to take home.
Admission is free and the event kicks off on December 6th. Advanced tickets are not required unless you want to enter the Gingerbread House Decorating Contest or attend the Arts & Crafts Show.
Night of 1000 Lights
For just ten nights only, you can walk through the dazzling Sherman Gardens all jazzed up with holiday lights for their Night of 1000 Lights.
You’ll experience a “Disco Inferno”, a technicolor light tunnel, a wishing tree, and more surprises throughout the gardens. The event dates are December 11th to 13th and 17th to 22nd. Advanced tickets are required and will not be sold at the door.
Sawdust Art Festival
One of the coolest budget-friendly things to do in Laguna Beach is to shop at the Sawdust Art Festival!
What is normally the Winter Fantasy has been slightly transformed into an Outdoor Marketplace. You can shop around 70 different vendors that offer all kinds of goodies including hand-made jewelry, paintings, leather, glass items, and more.
This popular event only takes place twice a year – once during summer and once during winter, so don’t miss out! The Sawdust Art Festival is open on weekends through December 20th.
Read more: A Look Inside the Sawdust Art Festival
Brea Christmas Light Neighborhood
This might be one of the most popular places to see Christmas lights in Orange County. The raving Yelp reviews are telling me so!
You can drive or walk through the Brea Christmas Light Neighborhood, it just depends on what you prefer! Parking can be difficult so if you want to walk, try to get there early or prepare to be patient looking for a spot.
If you navigate to 2970 Primrose Ave, Brea, you’ll end up right where you need to be to experience this festive neighborhood.
The World’s Tallest Tree
The Outlets at San Clemente has the World’s Tallest Tree on display- I’ve seen it myself and it’s quite impressive!
What’s crazy about this tree is that they pieced it together branch by branch…it wasn’t transported as one whole tree, I’m guessing because it is just too big! Watching them piece it together was pretty cool, but you have to stop by and get a photo with the finished product. The tree will be on display through January 4th next to Guess.
Irvine Spectrum Events
There are a few Christmas activities at the Irvine Spectrum Center, so you may as well check them out while you do your holiday shopping!
Cozy up in the car for Holiday Drive-in Movie Nights, complete the Candy Cane Scavenger Hunt or see the nightly Tree Lighting which includes a choreographed light show. I know scavenger hunts are usually for kids, but I’m kinda into this one!
I’m hoping that you found at least a few Christmas events that you want to experience in Orange County, whether with or without kids! Which event are you most interested in?
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