If you’re looking for a different experience this year, you’re not alone. We found a few holiday celebrations that are a little different, a little quirky–a holiday happening that’s a bit off the beaten path, maybe even off the rails.
That’s why we compiled the list below of some lesser-known seasonal events around Southern California. They may not have all the elements of the holiday spectacles so many of us are used to, but their seasonal spirit is sure to bring a smile to your face.
The 71st Annual Mother Goose Parade dusts off its feathers Sunday, November 19, in downtown El Cajon, starting at 1 p.m. The largest parade of its kind west of the Mississippi, it attracts about 250,000 onlookers annually–and growing. Rich in history, character, and entertainment, the event heralds the beginning of the holiday season. The parade is presented by a nonprofit organization that raises funds for scholarships, arts and cultural groups, schools, and community enhancements. The family-friendly parade features stunning floats, giant balloons, colorful clowns, marching bands, marching and/or heritage dancing of different ethnic groups, and special units.
Bates Nut Farm is a 100-acre reminder of simpler times and childhood farm memories. Farm antiques and tools line the walls of the 5,000-square-foot Bates retail store, which stocks, among other things, nuts from all over the world. Various holiday events begin right after Thanksgiving, including the Christmas Arts, Crafts & Vintage Market November 23-26, featuring more than 80 artisans selling a variety of American handmade crafts and fine art. Live bands perform daily on the Bates Stage, and free hayrides with Santa are on Friday and Saturday from noon to 2 p.m. Admission and parking are free.
Perhaps the brightest place in town November 19-26 will be Global Winter Wonderland at SDCCU Stadium. It’s a spectacular holiday festival and multicultural celebration featuring awe-inspiring illuminated landscapes celebrating holidays around the world; entertainment by Global Winter Wonderland’s own Circus of Light; a full carnival with family and thrill rides; delicious international cuisine; photos with Santa; holiday shopping; and fun crafts and activities for all ages. Admission $19 to $49.
At the Sawdust Art Festival Winter Wonderland, 175 artists create, display and sell original creations over five weekends beginning November 18. Art media includes jewelry, clothing, fused and blown glass, ceramics, woodwork, forged metals, painting, photography, sculpture, clothing, and textiles. With amazing art gifts, thousands of holiday decorations, and picture-perfect moments, Winter Wonderland is a great place to enjoy the season. Admission $4 to $8.
Once a year, more than 1,000 luminaries light the pathways at Heritage Hill Historical Park. From December 8 to 10, strolling carolers and musicians will fill the air with music. Four fully restored and furnished historic buildings representing early California history comprise the park, where storytellers spin tales and kids can visit with Santa. $5 per person, free age 3 and under.
Known as the twisted sister of the Rose Parade, the “Doo Dah Parade Serves Up Kicks On Route 66.” On Doo Dah Day, November 19, dozens of inventive, if zany, art cars and floats accompany a legion of revelers past the mom-n-pop shops along East Pasadena’s tree-lined streets, with a memorable cast of local eccentrics, disruptors, pundits, mutant art cars, lone wolves, steampunks, makers, and merrymakers. Entries are open to everyone, and this year’s lineup includes the Nut Camp, Bildge Rat, Code Blue DeFibs, The Addams Family, Flying Baby Homerun Border Crossing, Nordic Men, Radioactive Chickenheads, Toaster Car, Motorized Furniture, and Zucchini Patrol, to name a few. And, its organizers say, not a rose will be harmed in the making of this parade!
La Cañada Flintridge
Enchanted: Forest of Light is an interactive nighttime experience unlike anything else in Los Angeles, featuring a one-mile walk through unique lighting displays in some of the most beloved areas of Descanso Gardens. The gardens are an urban retreat of year-round natural beauty, internationally renowned botanical collections, and spectacular seasonal horticultural displays. Admission $28, under age 2 free. Enchanted is a rain-or-shine event, November 19 to January 7. Tickets have timed entry and must be purchased in advance.
Main Street in downtown Ventura will be lined with vendors and live entertainment from noon to 8 p.m. December 2 for the Ventura Wine Walk & Holiday Street Fair. In Santa’s VIP Holiday Lounge for ages 21 and up, champagne, craft beer, and great food will be served and catered by chef Jason Collis from Plated Events. At 4 p.m., the Wine Walk gets underway, showcasing world-class wineries and breweries at favorite downtown businesses. Each guest receives a tasting cup and a map of the participating tasting sites. Admission $55 to $80.
Handmade arts and crafts from 85 California artisans, food, face painting, and Santa Claus will be on hand November 25 for the Holiday Arts & Crafts Faire at Carpinteria Valley Museum of History. It’s a great place to enjoy the holidays a few blocks from the Central California coast, and Santa Claus Lane is just a few minutes away.