The holiday season is the perfect time of year to visit Southern California. Not only is it warmer than most of the country, but there are plenty of exciting events and holiday happenings worth checking out.
The most wonderful time of the year is especially magical in Orange County. From the first breakfast with Santa Claus to the final New Year’s Eve countdown, you’ll find all kinds of exciting ways to celebrate the season here. And when you let Super Cheap handle your Orange County car rental reservations, you know you’ll end up in a reliable vehicle that will help you experience it all.
Spend as much time as possible as you can soaking up the sunshine (we’ve got some great Orange County long-term car rental terms) so you can check out plenty of the holiday festivities. These are a few of our favorites.
Breakfast with Santa, Children’s Museum at La Habra
If you’ll be bringing little ones on your Orange County vacation, this is one event you won’t want to miss. From 8:30 – 11:30 AM, you can bring your children to the museum for a continental breakfast, a colorful craft for each child, a classic photo with Santa, and best of all, free admission to the museum. Call 562-383-4240 to make reservations (they’re required). This is a fundraising event, with all proceeds going to the Children’s Museum at La Habra.
Irvine Park Railroad Christmas Train to Santa
From December 1-23, you can take a beautiful night ride through the historic Irvine Regional Park in Orange to meet Santa Claus himself. The train departs from the twinkling train station, dropping the kids off at the North Pole. The cost is just $15 per person, with 2-year-olds (and younger) riding free.
Irvine Regional Park is always a beautiful place to visit for people of all ages, with pony rides, paddle boat rentals and the Orange County Zoo.
The Christmas Boat Parade, Newport Beach
The annual Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade and Ring of Lights is an amazing experience, and this year’s event will be the 109th. Over a million viewers gather to watch the decorated yachts, boats, kayaks and canoes sail along the harbor. The dates for this spectacular event are December 13-17.
You can view the parade from anywhere on the shore free of charge. However, for comfort’s sake, many people prefer to view it from one of the local restaurants or from a rented boat. Click here for a list of restaurants that offer views of the boats.
Cruise of Lights, Huntington Beach
Huntington Beach’s Cruise of Lights is also an incredible event. This year’s dates for the festivities are December 15-18 and December 21-23, so if you’re in the area, you can see this illuminated parade as well as the Newport Beach display. Park in the Huntington Harbor Mall lot and hop on a designated bus that will take you to the boat launch areas to view.
Tickets start at $19 ($12 for children). Call 714-840-7542 to get yours as soon as possible.
Breakfast with Santa at Downtown Disney
Join Santa and his elves at Catal Restaurant in Downtown Disney for a fun family-friendly event that includes breakfast, children’s activities, carolers, elves, ice skating, and of course, Santa Claus. Dates for this year’s Breakfast with Santa are December 9, 10, 16, 17, 21, 22 and 23 from 8-11 AM.
Knott’s Merry Farm
Knott’s Berry Farm goes all out for the holiday season. From now until January 7, Knott’s Merry Farm celebrates this merry time of year with special attractions, live entertainment, a Christmas crafts fair, holiday decor, festive food, and even a nightly “snow” in Ghost Town.
Admission is as little as $49, with special ticket packages being offered on their website.
Nutcracker Christmas Tree Lighting and Holiday Village, Downtown Anaheim
If you’ll be in the Anaheim area on December 2, skip Disneyland that morning (really!) and head to the downtown area by 10 Am for the tree lighting. You’ll also see a performance of the Nutcracker, a “snow” play area, an international food frenzy, pictures with Santa and more. Best of all, everything (except the food and souvenirs) is free.
Dana Point Winter Festival and Tree Lighting
This gorgeous tree lighting also takes place on December 2, with festivities from noon until 5 PM. Aside from the lighting of the spectacular tree, you can decorate cookies, shop for crafts, check out a petting zoo, visit Santa, and so much more. Everything takes place at La Plaza in Dana Point, and almost everything is free.
Sawdust Art Festival’s Annual Winter Fantasy, Laguna Beach
Every weekend from now through December 17, the Laguna Beach Sawdust festival grounds transform into a winter wonderland with a whopping 175 artists selling their original creations. The Winter Fantasy offers the most original holiday shopping in Southern California, so if you’re looking for unique gifts, you won’t want to miss it. You may want to bring an extra carry-on for the plane just for your new creations.
Laguna Niguel Holiday Parade, Crown Valley Parkway
On December 9 at 10 AM, the Laguna Niguel Holiday Parade will once again dance down the streets of Laguna Niguel. This is a time-honored tradition with more than 3,000 parade participants and too many guests to count, so you’ll want to arrive early to get a good view.