Are you ready for the holiday season? While we may not get to dream of a white Christmas, Orange County still manages to turn into a beautiful winter wonderland during the holiday season if you know where to go! From Christmas lights and Santa meet and greets to holiday parades, get into the spirit this holiday season by attending one of our recommended 2023 top family-friendly holiday events this year in Orange County.
Holidays at the Harbor – Dana Point
Dates: November 15, 2023 – January 1, 2023
Location: Dana Point Harbor
Kick off the holiday season with a free dazzling display of over 700,000 LED lights at Dana Point Harbor. From themed exhibits like Candy Cane Lane to the “Merry Kiss Me” arch, the harbor becomes a winter wonderland each night. The harbor’s Boat Parade of Lights, with its “Surfin’ USA” theme, promises decorated vessels competing for various awards. This event also offers great Santa photos for both your kids and pets! Proceeds from pet photos during the 10th Annual Santa Paws on December 17 & 18th support the Pet Project Foundation.
Santa’s Village at Irvine Park Railroad – Orange
Dates: November 24 – December 30, 2023. Closed on December 24th and 25th.
Location: Irvine Regional Park, Orange
Santa’s Village invites families to a festive experience with activities like Ice Fishing, Blizzard Ball, and Rudolph Racers. Decorate cookies, create Christmas ornaments, and enjoy thousands of sparkling lights. Activity tickets are $7.00 each, with a book of 15 tickets available for $90.00. Families can also take the famous Irvine Park Railroad train to the North Pole to meet Santa, but reservations are required and usually sell out the same day they are released. The park entrance fee varies by date and time, with free parking after 6:00 PM.
Hikari Festival of Lights – Irvine
Dates: November 24 – December 30, 2023
Location: Tanaka Farms
Experience a celebration of joy and light at Tanaka Farms, where over a million twinkling lights illuminate the grounds. The Hikari Festival of Lights, which means “shine” in Japanese, invites guests to cozy up on a wagon ride through the “Land of a Thousand Lanterns.” Afterward, the Festival Grounds offer a chance to meet Santa, engage in arts and crafts, enjoy food from the Tanaka Grill, and interact with barnyard animals against a backdrop of holiday lights.
Newport Dunes Fire & Ice Festival – Newport Beach
Dates: November 24, 2023 – January 1, 2024
Location: Newport Dunes Waterfront Resort
Newport Dunes ushers in the holiday season by introducing its inaugural Fire & Ice Festival, transforming the bayside into a winter wonderland complete with one of the largest outdoor ice skating rinks in the county! The festival includes fire dancers, an Igloo Bar with festive cocktails, food trucks, live music, and an Inflatable Holiday Garden for perfect photo ops. Over fifty lighted holiday decorations and Christmas trees float on the bay, creating a festive atmosphere to enjoy while ice skating after dusk.
Winter Fest OC – Costa Mesa
Dates: November 24, 2023 – January 7, 2024
Location: OC Fair & Event Center
Winter Fest OC brings the wonder of winter to Southern California with a dazzling array of over a million lights and massive holiday decor. The festival features an immersive North Pole Journey, an Ice Trail, a new Snow Play area, a 150-foot ice tubing slide, carnival activities, festive food, and a holiday market. This enchanting event is an Orange County tradition where you can create unforgettable memories with fun for the whole family.
Capistrano Lights – San Juan Capistrano
Dates: December 2 – 30, 2023
Location: San Juan Capistrano Mission
Orange County’s only Mission, Mission San Juan Capistrano, hosts Capistrano Lights: Mission in Lights. Visitors can enjoy holiday programming that includes tree lighting, Santa visits, Dickens-era carolers, a full-scale nativity, and various light features. This year, there are also new festive attractions like a lighted halo grove and butterfly orchard, along with dancing swallows. Admission includes daytime access to the Mission and an audio tour highlighting the Gospel and Christmas stories
Holidayz at the Great Park – Irvine
Dates: December 2, 2023 – January 1, 2024
Location: Orange County Great Park
The Great Park in Irvine transforms into a festive wonderland with holiday-themed art, music, and lights during the Holidayz at the Park event. Visitors can enjoy interactive displays and photo opportunities, including a larger-than-life airplane taken over by the Grinch. On December 2nd, the event features winter activities and holiday music, climaxing with the lighting of the Holiday Tree. Artisanal shopping experiences and holiday-themed classes are also available, enhancing the celebratory spirit
All is Bright Celebration & Tree Lighting – Aliso Viejo
Date: November 30, 2023
Location: Aliso Viejo Town Center Fountain & Amphitheater
The annual All is Bright Celebration & Tree Lighting event in Aliso Viejo offers a community evening filled with holiday cheer. Activities include a snowy winter wonderland, Santa visits, train rides, caroling, and ornament crafting, culminating in the lighting of a 22-foot tall Christmas tree. Guests are also encouraged to bring unwrapped toys or sports equipment in support of the Spark of Love Toy Drive, so the joy of the season can extend to those less fortunate as well.
Christmas Boat Parade & Ring of Lights – Newport Beach
Dates: December 13-17, 2023
Location: Newport Bay
Witness the grandeur of the Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade showcases beautifully decorated yachts, boats, kayaks, and canoes sailing along the harbor. The free event, held from December 13-17, 2023, features vessels adorned with festive lights and decorations, with the parade route offering several public viewing spots. If you attend on the opening or final nights of the celebration, you can also enjoy spectacular fireworks displays.