Top Orange County Things to Do in December 2018

Celebrate the season with Crystal Cove’s 22nd Annual Tree Lighting — on the beach!

This month, Orange County brings you winter wonderlands, festive celebrations, boat parades and more. See our list of 25+ top Orange County things to do in December.

Edited by Laura Okey

22nd Annual Crystal Cove Tree Lighting 
Dec. 1. Bring the family to the all-day annual tree lighting ceremony on the beach at Crystal Cove. Discover handcrafted treasures and jewelry made by local residents and artists and take part in various free activities. Take family photos with Santa and watch the tree-lighting ceremony at dusk while enjoying complimentary hot chocolate, apple cider and home-baked goodies provided by The Beachcomber Café. 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Free; parking $5. Crystal Cove State Park, 8471 N. Coast Hwy., Laguna Beach. crystalcove.org

 

Run for a Claus
Dec. 1. Join more than 2,500 participants in a variety of fun, colorful and craz holiday-themed costumes for the 5th Annual Run for a Claus 5k and 1-Mile Kids’ Run/Walk. The event features a Holiday Expo with family-fun entertainment and free photos with Santa Claus. All runners receive a Santa hat and beard prior to the run and a medal and a mug for hot cocoa when they finish. 8:30 a.m. 1-mile Kids’ Run/Walk; 9 a.m. 5k. $10-$45. University of California, Irvine, Ring Road near Aldrich Hall and Student Center, Irvine, 949.222.0456. runforaclaus.com

 

Chicano Soul Legends
Dec. 1. Get down for some soul music at Chicano Soul Legends. Enjoy performances by Los Lonely Boys, Thee Midniters, El Chicano and more. 7:30 p.m. Tickets start at $33. Honda Center, 2695 E, Katella Ave., Anaheim, 714.704.2500. hondacenter.com

 

Huntington Beach Pier Snowflake-Lighting Ceremony + Holiday Parade
Dec. 2. Join the Light a Light of Love, a “snowflake lighting” along the iconic Huntington Beach Pier in honor of local at-risk-youth shelter Waymakers. Revel in seasonal bliss with fun festivities, carolers, performances, and more, including a special children’s parade and Surf City Santa Meet & Greet. 3:30-7 p.m. Holiday Parade 4-5:15 p.m.; Santa Meet-and-Greet 5 p.m.; Snowflake Lighting Ceremony 6 p.m. Free. Huntington Beach Pier Plaza, Main Street and Pacific Coast Hwy., Huntington Beach. waymakersoc.org

 

The Yappy Howl-iday Celebration
Dec. 2. This festive gathering gives canines and companions the opportunity to showcase their best holiday attire while gathering donations of dog food, treats, and toys to support animals in need. Food and beverage will be available for purchase, and the proceeds will entirely benefit the Canine Companions for Independence. 11 a.m.- 2 p.m. Free. The Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel, One Ritz-Carlton Drive, Dana Point, 949.240.2000. ritzcarlton.com

 

Sawdust Festival’s Winter Fantasy
Dec. 1-2, 8-9, 15-16. The Sawdust Art Festival grounds are transformed into a winter wonderland for the holiday season. Experience unique artworks by 175 artists, live holiday entertainment, outdoor cafés, art classes and demonstrations, Santa Claus and more. 10 a.m.-7 p.m. $4-$8. 935 Laguna Canyon Road, Laguna Beach, 949.494.3030. sawdustartfestival.org

 

Gem Faire
Dec. 1-2. Nearly 200 exhibitors from around the world make the Gem Faire one of the largest gem, jewelry and bead shows in the United States. Discover fine jewelry, precious and semi-precious gemstones, millions of beads, crystals, gold and silver, minerals and more. Free hourly door prizes. F noon-6 p.m.; Sa 10 a.m.-6 p.m.; Su 10 a.m-5 p.m. $7 GA; free for children 11 and under; $8 parking. OC Fair & Event Center, 88 Fair Drive, Costa Mesa, 503.252.8300.gemfaire.com

 

So You Think You Can Dance Live! 2018
Dec. 2. The top 10 finalists from the most recent season of So You Think You Can Dance hit the stage at Segerstrom Center for the Arts. They include Hannahlei Cabanilla, Jay Jay Dixonbey and Chelsea Hough. Also enjoy special appearances by Season 15 winner Jensen Arnold and all-star guests Lauren Froderman and Cyrus “Glitch” Spencer. 7 p.m. Tickets start at $39. 600 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa, 714.556.2787. scfta.org

 

Hot Sauce and Beer Crawl
Dec. 4. Now that your Thanksgiving food coma is a distant memory, consider a bar crawl like no other, featuring brews, spicy sauces and pizza. Asylum Brewing, Bottle Logic and Hoparrazi supply the beer; Heatseeker, Mago and acclaimed Ghost Scream are the purveyors of heat. Pair both with pizza from Out of the Park. 6-10 p.m. $5-$20. Asylum Brewing, 2970 E. La Palma, Suite D, Anaheim. Tickets

 

Fountain Valley Pho Festival 
Dec. 7-9. Citywide festival celebrates the flavors of Vietnam’s most popular home-style dish, pho. Along with creative and tasty variations of the festival’s namesake dish, enjoy other traditional Vietnamese foods, cooking demonstrations, live music and carnival attractions. Unlimited carnival rides for $30. F 7-9 p.m.; Sa 11 a.m.-11 p.m.; Su 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Free admission. Parking $5. Fountain Valley Sports Park, 16400 Brookhurst St., Fountain Valley. ocphofest.com

 

Sawdust-Festival's-Winter-Fantasy-photo-by-Sawdust-Festival

Get in the holiday spirit at Sawdust Festival’s Winter Fantasy.

 

33rd Annual Candlelight Walk
Dec. 7-9. Join strolling Victorian carolers and musicians as you wander through luminous pathways at Heritage Hill Historical Park. Visit with Santa in the Arbor, enjoy crafts with Mrs. Claus and listen to winter tales via OC Libraries storytelling. Light refreshments are available for purchase. 5:30-8:30 p.m. $5 GA, free for children under 3. Heritage Hill Historical Park, 25151 Serrano Road, Lake Forest, 949.923.2230. ocparks.com

 

44th Annual Holiday Boat Parade of Lights
Dec. 7-8, 14-15. Boaters light up the harbor with decorations based on the theme “A Western Wonderland.” OC Parks host free family activities throughout Dana Point Harbor including games, crafts, photos and selfies with Santa, live entertainment and more. Festivities 4:30 p.m., boat parade 7:30 p.m. Dana Point Harbor, 34555 Golden Lantern Drive, Dana Point, 949.923.2255. danapointharbor.com

 

7th Annual Brew Ho Ho! Holiday Ale Festival
Dec. 8. The Brew Ho Ho! festival features more than 90 craft beers from the finest breweries in Southern California and beyond, including rare and limited-release holiday and winter ales. Guests can pair their craft beers with bites from food vendors such as the Viking Truck and Cousin’s Maine Lobster. 21+. Noon-4 p.m. $55 online, $65 at the door; $20 for parking at the Honda Center. Anaheim Phoenix Club, 1340 S. Sanderson Ave., Anaheim. ocbrewhoho.com

 

Nutcracker for Kids
Dec. 8. Twirling ballerinas enchant in the holiday classic The Nutcracker for Kids.They Pacific Symphony concert brings to life the world of toy soldiers, waltzing flowers and the Sugar Plum Fairy in a 45-minute version adapted for kids ages 5-11. Enjoy a musical carnival before or after the show. Musical Carnival 9 a.m. (for 10 a.m. guests) and 12:15 p.m. (for 11:30 a.m. guests). Showtimes 10 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. $45-$76. Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall, 600 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa, 714.755.5799. pacificsymphony.org

 

Brunch with Santa at Davio’s Northern Italian Steakhouse
Dec. 9. Enjoy a delectable Sunday brunch at Davio’s Northern Italian Steakhouse; bring the kids for photos with Santa! 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Davio’s, 18420 Von Karman Ave., Irvine, 949.477.4810. davios.com

 

Festival Ballet Theater’s “The Nutcracker”
Dec. 8-24. Orange County’s premier ballet company, Festival Ballet Theatre, presents the traditional full-length production of the cherished holiday classic, The Nutcracker. Children and the young at heart will enjoy its colorful scenery, magnificent costumes and sensational dancing. See website for showtimes. $45+. Irvine Barclay Theater, 4242 Campus Drive, Irvine, 949.854.4646. thebarclay.org

 

Champagne Holiday Brunch
Dec. 15. Montage’s Champagne Holiday Brunch on the Studio lawn features Veuve Clicquot champagne sipped overlooking unobstructed views of the Pacific. Enjoy live musical entertainment, chef-attended buffet stations and a raw seafood tower and oyster bar. 11 a.m.-2 p.m. $150+/pp, plus tax and gratuity, includes a bottle of bottle of Veuve Clicquot champagne for every two adult guests. Montage Laguna Beach, 30801 Coast Hwy., Laguna Beach, 949.715.6420.  montagehotels.com

 

Disney on Ice Presents Dare to Dream
Dec. 19-23. Five Disney heroines—including Moana, making her Disney-on-Ice debut—come together to share their adventures. Discover your inner hero with Disney classic characters— Rapunzel, Elsa, Mickey and friends—on ice! See website for showtimes. $25+. Honda Center, 2695 E. Katella Ave., Anaheim, 714.704.2500. hondacenter.com

 

Newport Beach Boat Parade Celebration
Dec. 19-23. Catch all the twinkling boat-parade action at the exclusive “members only” American Legion, the largest American Legion Post in the U.S., and the only post with its own Yacht Club. In addition to prime viewing for the boat parade, the Mexican-Christmas-Fiesta-themed event offers Mexican dinner buffets, family activities, carolers and other live entertainment including, on Friday, mariachis. All donations benefit troops, veterans and their families. Reservations encouraged. Doors 4 p.m.; dinner 5 p.m.; boat parade, approximately 6:45 p.m. Suggested donations: $29 Adults, $12 Children 10 and under. The American Legion on Balboa Peninsula, 215 15th St., Newport Beach, 949.554.4914. al291.com

 

BANNER-43rd-Annual-Boat-Parade-of-Lights

44th Annual Holiday Boat Parade of Lights in Dana Point Harbor

 

5th Annual California Country Christmas Concert 
Dec. 20. Head to House of Blues Anaheim for a country Christmas concert that gives back. Country-music fans will dance to an unforgettable night of ’90s tunes performed by 24 of SoCal’s top country artists, including Daniel Bonte & The Bona Fide, Alice Walace, Jake Parr and more. Benefitting Spark of Love. Doors 6:30 p.m. Free admission with unwrapped toy donation. House of Blues Anaheim, 400 Disney Way, Suite 337, Anaheim, 714.778.2583. houseofblues.com

 

Winter Fest OC
Dec. 20-Jan. 6. Festival features more than 20 wintry activities, including outdoor ice skating in SoCal’s largest outdoor ice rink, ice tubing down Snowflake Summit, a significantly upgraded snow play area with real snow, a re-imagined Festival of Lights, flying Santa, nightly fireworks and much more. New this year are Alpine Village, the Snowmazing Maze, model train exhibits and live entertainment. See website for schedule and prices. OC Fair & Event Center, 88 Fair Drive, Costa Mesa, 657.333.2520. winterfestoc.com

 

Jane Austen’s Emma: The Musical
Through Dec. 23. The captivating love story, adapted from Jane Austen’s novel “Emma,” is now a romantic-comedy musical. The story revolves around a well-meaning but disaster-prone matchmaker who ignores her own romantic feelings while setting out to find a suitor for her friend. Her efforts go awry, of course, leading to comic complications. See website for showtimes and ticket prices. Cripe Stage at Chance Theater, Bette Aitken Theater Arts Center, 5522 E. La Palma Ave., Anaheim, Tickets.

 

A Christmas Carol 
Through Dec. 24. Recapture the spirit of an old-fashioned Christmas with this timeless Dickens classic and all your favorite characters—Tiny Tim and the Cratchit family, the Fezziwigs, the ghosts of Christmas past, present and yet-to-come—and, as always, Hal Landon Jr. as Ebenezer Scrooge. See website for showtimes and ticket pricing. South Coast Repertory, 655 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa, 714.708.5555. scr.org

 

Queen Mary’s New Year’s Eve: Past & Present
Dec. 31.
 Ring in the New Year aboard the majestic Queen Mary. Voyage through the ship’s decks, ballrooms and salons for a night of multiple celebrations featuring delicious food, specialty drinks, live music performances, multiple DJs, dueling pianos and more. 21+. 8 p.m.-1 a.m. GA $115; VIP $215. 1126 Queens Hwy., Long Beach, 877.342.0738. queenmary.com

 

Queen Mary Christmas: Where Holidays Set Sail
Through Jan. 6. Enjoy the holiday spirit aboard Queen Mary as it transforms into an epic adventure-filled wonderland. Enjoy live entertainment, festive libations, vintage-dressed carolers, sweet treats, light shows, ice-skating, eclectic shopping and more. Don’t miss the meet-and-greet with Santa in the Shipyard. See website for schedule and ticket prices. Queen Mary, 1126 Queens Hwy., Long Beach, 800.437.2934. queenmary.com

 

Crystal Cove Tree Lighting Photo courtesy Crystal Cove Concervancy. Sawdust Winter Fantasy Festival photo courtesy Sawdust Art Festival. Holiday Boat Parade photo courtesy the ACE Agency.

Share.