By Allison Mitchell By Allison Mitchell | November 21, 2023 | Events Calendar Lifestyle Parties Feature Eat Drink Features Culture Featured Lifestyle Feature Culture Feature Events Holiday Entertainment Apple News Guide Guides
Make the holiday season merry and bright by enjoying these Orange County events.
The 115th Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade returns Dec. 13 to 17. PHOTO COURTESY OF VISIT NEWPORT BEACH
For the 115th year, the Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade will cruise into town from Dec. 13 to 17. Watch immaculately decorated yachts, boats, kayaks and canoes light up the 14-mile harbor route as they compete for top design honors. Homes along the parade route will participate in a decorating contest during the Ring of Lights, and guests can get out on the water themselves during nightly holiday lights cruises from Dec. 1 to 31.
Book at patio reservation at A+O Restaurant | Bar at Balboa Bay Resort to view the Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade from Dec. 15 to 17. PHOTO COURTESY OF BRAND
With primo views of the Newport Harbor, this waterfront property is the ideal place to be during the holiday season. Grab a spot at A+O Restaurant | Bar’s popular fire-lit patio to sip The Grinch (made with Brandy and green creme liqueur), the Pumpkin Spice Alexander (pumpkin spice chocolate liqueur and reposado tequila) or the Santa’s Fix, a mocktail made with hibiscus tea and winter spices. Reservations are now open for A+O's patio dining during the Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade on Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights (Dec. 15 to 17). Then, eat your heart out on Dec. 24 during a festive Sunday seafood brunch from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the harborfront Lighthouse Room. Carolers will fill the air with seasonal songs while you indulge in seasonal favorites and seafood classics. Finally, make cherished memories by adding on Balboa Bay Resort's new holiday decor package to your next overnight stay. For $250, your accommodations will be decked out with coastal-chic stockings, garland, a two-foot Christmas tree, a crackling yule log fireplace streamed on the TV, a holiday playlist, picture frame and floral arrangement—all of which you can take home at the end of your stay! Five-day notice is required, and the package is available as an add-on when you create a room reservation online.
Holiday-themed brunch and dinner cruises are available in the Newport Harbor on select dates between Dec. 24 and Jan. 1, thanks to City Cruises. Don’t miss the Newport Beach Preview Night Christmas Boat Parade premiere dinner cruise on Dec. 11 and 12 and the Newport Beach Parade of Lights dinner cruise from Dec. 13 to 17.
Snap a photo under the "Merry Kiss Me" sign in Dana Point Harbor. PHOTO COURTESY OF BRAND
It’s all about the twinkling displays at Happy Harbor Days, where more than 700,000 LED lights illuminate the Dana Point Harbor. Steal a moment under the famous “Merry Kiss Me” sign and take in the illuminated whale sculptures at the harbor’s entrance through mid-January. From Dec. 8 to 10, enjoy the 48th annual Boat Parade of Lights, where dozens of boats will get decked out for this year’s Candyland theme. Santa will also stop by the harbor on Dec. 8 and 15 to snap photos in the Clock Courtyard.
Visit one of Orange County’s most popular shopping centers to enjoy photos with Santa (through Dec. 24), the nightly lighting of the 75-foot Christmas tree and an open-air ice skating rink open through Jan. 7. Stop by on Dec. 9 to skate with Santa and return Dec. 16 to dance the night away during the complimentary Silent Night Disco party.
Decorate holiday cookies at Lido House on Dec. 23. PHOTO COURTESY OF BRAND
On Dec. 23, make the season sweet by visiting Newport Beach’s Lido House for its Christmas Cookie Decorating event in the Boathouse Ballroom. Sip hot chocolate, snack on popcorn and enjoy decorating a half-dozen sugar cookies with your little ones. Lido House will also be hosting a family friendly Christmas Eve brunch buffet at The Mayor’s Table on Dec. 24, plus Christmas dinner that night and on Dec. 25. Menu highlights include venison Wellington and the Beach House Snow Man, a soft toffee sponge cake paired with pecan praline ice cream and coconut meringue snow. How sweet!
Montage Laguna Beach is all decked out for the holidays. PHOTO COURTESY OF BRAND
As Montage Laguna Beach’s stunning tree illuminates its grounds, the property will host a festive lineup of holiday fun. Decorate gingerbread houses while you enjoy Champagne, cider and treats in the Studio Garden on Dec. 3, 10 and 16, or snap a photo in front of The Loft’s life-sized gingerbread display through Dec. 22 (you’ll find complimentary hot chocolate, cider and cookies there daily between 2 and 4 p.m.). The Loft will also offer Christmas Eve dinner on Dec. 24, an elegant three-course Champagne brunch at noon on Dec. 25 and a four-course prix-fixe tasting menu for dinner that night.
Dazzling trees of strung lights will dance across the water for the 33rd annual Lighting of the Bay. Open daily through Jan. 1, this beloved display is paired with a waterfront ice rink and the inaugural Fire & Ice Festival, where fire dancers will entertain guests on Friday and Saturday evenings. Visit the Igloo Cocktail Bar to sip hot toddies or cozy up by a fire pit on the shore to roast s’mores. Kids will also love the Holiday Inflatable Garden, where seasonal movies will be shown.
Stroll through Heritage Hill Historical Park in Lake Forest during its Candlelight Walk and Holiday Lights events. PHOTO COURTESY OF BRAND
All is calm and bright at Heritage Hill Historical Park in Lake Forest. On Dec. 8 and 10, gather the family for the 37th annual Candlelight Walk. From 5 to 9 p.m., guests are invited to stroll the festive grounds, where holiday lights, decor, live music, crafts and time with Santa Claus is on the schedule. Return Dec. 15 to 17 for Holiday Lights. Furry friends on leashes no longer than six feet are welcome to join two-legged visitors for holiday-themed photo opportunities and shimmering light displays. The best part? Both events are free—with free parking, too!
A beachfront ice skating rink awaits at Paséa Hotel & Spa in Huntington Beach. PHOTO BY CECILY BREEDING FOR THE MERITAGE COLLECTION
Deck the halls at this Huntington Beach property, where holiday highlights include the Cool Yule Tree Lighting Ceremony on Dec. 7 and Breakfast with Santa on Dec. 16 in the Blue Room. From Dec. 14 to Jan. 2, Paséa invites you to enjoy its beachfront ice rink, where fire pits, seasonal cocktails and appetizers, and themed skating sessions will ignite the holiday spirit.
A peek inside the Roger's Gardens Christmas Confections Holiday Boutique in Corona del Mar; PHOTO COURTESY OF BRAND
Whether sprucing up your holiday tree or throwing a festive soiree, this stunning Corona del Mar boutique offers holiday shoppers inspiration with 21 themed trees decorated with more than 800 ornaments (all available for purchase!). Shop over 3,000 unique products handpicked by the Roger’s Gardens buyers who scour Europe each year for the most beautiful wooden nutcrackers, painted German Santas and more.
Beautiful light displays illuminate the grounds at Sherman Library & Gardens during its annual Nights of 1000 Lights. PHOTO COURTESY OF BRAND
This Corona del Mar landmark presents its annual Nights of 1000 Lights Holiday Celebration on select evenings between Dec. 9 and 22. Stroll through the gardens to experience a dazzling display of lights, carnival games and live entertainment centered around this year’s Candyland theme. Visit Santa in his workshop and find a unique gift to place under the tree at The Garden Shop.
The holidays at this Newport Beach property kick off on Nov. 30 with a cheery tree-lighting ceremony complete with themed beverages, live entertainment, and an appearance by the big man. Nov. 30 also marks the seasonal opening of VEA’s Holiday Hideout Bar. Open through December, the decorated lounge will host imbibers Thursday through Saturday from 5 p.m. to midnight for jolly cocktails, small bites and photos in a winter wonderland setting.
Celebrate the holidays with the little ones at Waldorf Astoria Monarch Beach Resort & Club. PHOTO COURTESY OF BRAND
Whether booking a staycation or stopping by for the day, this stunning Dana Point property is decked out for the holidays with a frosted snow sledding area and complimentary family photos on select dates. Stop by every Sunday in December to enjoy breakfast with Santa at the ocean-view AVEO Table + Bar, or head down to the shorefront Monarch Bay Beach Club to warm up by a flickering fire pit.
Snap a photo inside an ornament at Winter Fest OC. PHOTO COURTESY OF BRAND
Southern California’s largest winter festival is open now through Jan. 7, inviting families to navigate an outdoor skating trail, play in real snow and soar down the 150-foot-long ice tubing slide. Carnival rides, seasonal treats and beverages, VIP cabanas and igloos, plus the brand-new holiday market, make this gathering at Costa Mesa’s OC Fair & Event Center one of the season’s hottest tickets.