Travel: Destination In Search Of Christmas Lights

Ooh, aah! Festive Of Lights Makes The Holidays Bright


‘Tis the season, but I’m usually the first person to utter “Bah, humbug,” while most people are making a fuss about holiday shopping.


I’ve never understood why buying gifts you can’t afford, for people who don’t appreciate them, captures the “spirit of the season.” And listening to the same Christmas carols over and over again, makes the Scrooge deep inside of me come bubbling to the surface.

But there is something in the Yuletide offerings that seems to soften my Grinch-like view. It’s the glow of festive Christmas displays that light up the night.

In the Los Angeles area there are a bunch of annual events around town with community Christmas tree lighting ceremonies and Hanukkah Festival of Lights celebrations.

Always a big treat is the Metrolink Holiday Toy Express. It’s a train beautifully decorated with lights that presents a very entertaining Christmas show with Santa and his friends. To find out more visit

Another moveable feast of lights is the Magical Christmas Caroling Truck. It’s a huge tractor-trailer with thousands of sparkling lights creating a Christmas village on wheels. Riding and singing along are more than a hundred carolers, plus a great group of dancers leading the way. To find out about their appearances go to

The DWP in LA presents its Holiday Light Festival in Griffith Park. It’s a walk or drive-through festival featuring thousands of lights along a one-mile section of the park. Go to

Christmas lights in the desert

In order to enjoy one of the best and most unique light displays in Southern California, you’ll have to travel to the desert around the Palm Springs area. Sure the clear desert skies let the twinkling stars create their own impressive light show. But the Wild Lights Holiday Festival at The Living Desert is also a highlight of any trip.

During the day, The Living Desert showcases its great animal habitats and the beauty of nature. But 15 years ago the good folks at the park decided to present a nighttime Wild Light Holiday Festival, and it has grown in popularity ever since.


They make the Coachella Valley desert glow with the festive light display featuring more than 350,000 twinkling lights that illuminate the park after dark. Helping to create a winter wonderland is a Super Glide “ice-less” skating rink. The festival has Santa Claus dropping by for a visit with the kids and posing for pictures. Live entertainment, food, crafts and fireplaces where you can toast marshmallows and enjoy hot chocolate with your kids and friends make the Berger Foundation’s presentation at The Living Desert a magical place for the holidays.

Cheetahs, bighorn sheep, mountain lions, snakes, penguins, and many other animals have been created out of more than 350, 000 holiday lights, forming a menagerie of luminous wildlife that give this festival its name. New this year are giant Christmas trees all lit up, adding more seasonal cheer. Go to

Also in the Southland, The Mission Inn in Riverside, California, is a historic hotel (opened in 1876) that has a magnificent display of millions of Christmas lights every year. Adding to the atmosphere, Carolers stroll around spreading good cheer. And folks can even take a horse-drawn carriage ride around the illuminated grand old resort during the holidays. Go to 

Another hidden treasure tucked away in the wine growing area of Southern California is the valley community known as Temecula. This year they are presenting an environmentally friendly holiday light show called “Temeculights” at the South Coast Winery Resort and Spa.

The lovely wine country getaway place has gone green with solar powered light displays that are spectacular. It boasts of being the “greenest” light show in California, using all energy efficient environmentally friendly LED lighting.

Visitors at the South Coast Winery Resort and Spa can view the magnificent property via tractor-pulled hayrides through nearly one mile of light displays, hundreds of thousands of dancing lights synchronized to music, a laser light show, and animated characters. In addition to wine tasting in the grand tasting room, there’s hot cider and hot chocolate to enjoy, along with holiday carolers. It all starts at dusk everyday until 9pm, throughout December, up until the first week of January 2008. For more information go to

So, with all these sparkling lights ablaze this holiday season, Ebenezer and I can look on the bright side.

Frank Barron is the former editor of The Hollywood Reporter, having served twice in that capacity. In between, he was West Coast news director for Billboard Publications, supervising their five magazines. Barron also created the western TV series “The Man From Blackhawk” for the ABC network. For more than three decades he and writer-wife Margie Barron have covered Hollywood for Production Update magazine, and they currently contribute to numerous publications. Frank started in showbiz as publicity director for the KHJ radio and television station. Before moving to California, he was a sports editor in New Jersey.