We might not have the traditional winter landscape depicted on holiday cards, but here in the land of Hollywood, we can fake it with the best of them. Add our fab climate and our unique cultural blend and you’ve got 12 reasons why Southern California is the real winter wonderland:
skate under the summerlike sunshine: Baby, it’s warm outside. That’s
perfect ice skating weather at SoCal’s seasonal outdoor skating rinks.
Ice skate amid high-rises in Pershing Square in Downtown Los Angeles. $9
through Jan. 19. Also downtown is L.A. Kings Holiday Ice at L.A. Live,
where you can have visions of Rockefeller Center as you skate under the
glow of a giant Christmas tree and flashing LED screens. $8-$15 through
Dec. 31. In Long Beach, the Queen Mary has Chill, an attraction complete
with ice skating and tubing, through Jan. 11. $29.99-$39.99. And
there’s plenty of other rinks in surrounding areas as well.
Awards season: In Hollywood, winter is synonymous with “Awards Season.”
Celebrate it by getting a close-up look at what the stars wore onscreen
when FIDM Museum & Galleries at the Fashion Institute of Design
& Merchandising presents the 23rd annual Art of Motion Picture
Costume Design Exhibition, Feb. 10 through April 25. On display will be
wardrobe from Academy Award-nominated films in addition to pieces worn
in “The Great Gatsby,” designed by Catherine Martin, the previous year’s
costume design winner. Admission is free. Things will really crank up
after Oscar nominations are announced in the wee hours of Jan. 15,
culminating with the official end of Awards Season — the Oscars
broadcast, with host Neil Patrick Harris, on Feb. 22.
Whale watching: In winter, the California coastline turns into a
freeway for about 22,000 gray whales migrating south to Mexico’s Baja
Peninsula. Most travel within about a couple miles of the shore, making
them fairly easy to spot from land, but whale watching tours are the
best way to get an up close look. Several tour companies leave daily
from Long Beach and the South Bay. Try Harbor Breeze, Cabrillo Marine
Aquarium or Spirit Cruises.
4 Up close with Rose floats: Watching
Rose Parade floats on TV is for Midwesterners. Southern Californians
can get up close to the amazing floral engineering masterpieces. It
takes hundreds of volunteers to build those beauties the week before the
parade. Volunteer at paradisoparadefloats.com or through the Tournament
of Roses website. Or, spend a couple of hours viewing the floats after
the parade when they are parked along Sierra Madre and Washington
boulevards in Pasadena. Hours are from 1 to 5 p.m. Jan. 1; and from 7
a.m. to 9 a.m. Jan. 2-3 for seniors and disabled visitors, 9 a.m. to 5
p.m. for general admission. Tickets are $10. Children 5 and under are
free. For more information, call 626-795-4171.
‘Deck the hulls’: Holiday lights sail by, literally, at the region’s
many boat parades at harbors up and down the coast. The first launches
in Dana Point at 6 p.m. Dec. 5-6 and Dec. 12-13, then it’s on to L.A.
Harbor, 6 p.m. Dec. 6; Long Beach, 5:30 p.m. Dec. 13; Naples, 6 p.m.
Dec. 13; Marina del Rey, 6 p.m. Dec. 13; Redondo Beach, 5:30 p.m. Dec.
13; and Newport Beach, 6:30 p.m. Dec. 17-21.
6 Ski and surf in
the same day: It really is possible to ski and surf in the same day if
you’re willing to invest in a little drive time. In fact, it’s possible
to see the beach from the slopes. The closest resort, Wrightwood’s
Mountain High, is about a two-hour drive from Los Angeles. Catalina, a
quarter-mile run that’s off the beaten path at the top of the East
Resort, is one of the most scenic runs in Southern California, according
to resort spokesman John McColly. “You can see the Pacific Ocean and
Catalina to the west, the backside of Mount Baldy and Mount Baden-Powell
to the north and south, and the Mojave Desert stretching out to the
east.” If you start early, you’ll have time for a late lunch before
paddling out from one of the South Bay beaches that also offer a view of
Catalina Island, 22 miles across the sea.
Tamales: The best corn husk-wrapped present of masa can be found at two
major Southern California festivals this season. The seventh annual
Oxnard Tamale Festival in downtown Oxnard’s Plaza Park is set for 9
a.m.-6:30 p.m. Dec. 6, while farther east one of the largest
celebrations of the Christmastime food will take place in the Coachella
Valley with the Indio International Tamale Festival. The festival, which
started in 1992, will showcase dozens of varieties of tamales 10 a.m.-6
p.m. Saturday and Sunday in Old Town Indio between Highway 111 and
Indio Boulevard. The desert tamale fest has earned two Guinness World
Record titles: The World’s Largest Tamale in 1999 for a tamale more than
40 feet long and more than 1 foot in diameter, and The World’s Largest
Tamale Festival with 120,000 people in attendance in 2000, according to
8 Cheeseburger week: If there is
a Southern California cuisine, it’s probably the cheeseburger — the
perfect menu item for our laid-back culture. Pasadena claims a burger
flipper in its city was the first to slap a piece of cheese on a patty
in 1924. In honor of Lionel Sternberger’s innovation, the city will hold
its annual Cheeseburger Week from Jan. 11 to 16. Burger joints across
the city will offer special creations and deals throughout the week.
See’s Candies: Holidays in Southern California bring ubiquitous
black-and-white boxes of See’s Candies. The company was founded in Los
Angeles in 1921 in a shop on Western Avenue designed to look like the
home kitchen of Mary See, the little old lady on the box top. Since
then, the headquarters moved to San Francisco and Warren Buffett bought
the company, but there are still more than 50 stores in the greater L.A.
area offering free samples and nostalgia.
Christmas trees amid the palms: Swaying palm trees and majestic Joshua
Trees dot the Southern California landscape, but so do live Christmas
trees if you know where to look.
There’s something nostalgic
about walking into a grove of trees, smelling the richness of Monterey
pines and picking one you know has California roots, literally. There
are several locations to choose from:
• Chamberlain Choose and
Cut Trees, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, 3 to 5 p.m. Monday and
Friday through Dec. 24. Free to visit. 3436 Padua Ave., Claremont,
• Nancy’s Ranch,
10 a.m. to dusk weekdays, 9 a.m. to dusk weekends through Christmas Eve.
Free to visit. 25039 W. Magic Mountain Parkway, Santa Clarita.
• Christmas Conifers, 10 a.m. to
dark Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to dark Saturday and Sunday. Free to
visit. 11445 Locust Ave., Bloomington, 909-877-6294,
• Christmas Conifers II, 9 a.m. to dark
Saturday and Sunday, 10 a.m. to dark Monday through Friday, extended
hours beginning Dec. 5. Free to visit. Intersection of Reche Canyon and
Westwood roads, Colton, 909-824-6489, www.pickyourownchristmastree.org.
Greenspot Farms, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays, 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. weekends.
Free to visit. 10133 Ward Way, Mentone. 909-794-7653,
• Frosty’s Forest, noon to 9 p.m.
weekdays, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. weekends. 25235 Orchard Village Road,
Valencia. 661-259-6450, www.pickyourownchristmastree.org.
Wickered Farm, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 10 a.m. to 9
p.m. Friday and Saturday, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday through Dec. 24. Free
to visit. 26852 Scott Road, Menifee, 951-672-3020,
11 Stargazing in the desert:
Winter nights are longer and the sky is less hazy, which makes winter
the perfect time for geeking out with a telescope. To get away from city
lights, head out to the desert. Many local astronomy groups organize
desert stargazing parties, or plan your own trip to Mojave National
Preserve or Joshua Tree National Park.
12 Flakes at the theme
parks: No snow? No problem. Local theme parks re-create the magical
effect of lightly falling snow every night for the next several weeks.
At Disneyland, a holiday lights and special effects show at Sleeping
Beauty’s Winter Castle ends in fireworks and falling snow nightly
through Jan. 6. Legoland offers Holiday Snow Days with snow tubing and
play and ice skating through Jan. 4. Knott’s Berry Farm has holiday
music and falling snow on Ghost Town’s Main Street and Snoopy’s Merriest
Tree Lighting on the Calico Stage daily through Jan. 4. No snow at
Universal Studios, but you can interact with the Whos down in Who-ville
who like Christmas a lot, as well as the Grinch, who does not, on
weekends Dec. 6-14, then daily Dec. 30-Jan. 3.