Christmas is all about transformation. Ebeneezer Scrooge changing overnight from neighborhood miser to philanthropist. Natalie Wood’s childhood skepticism transformed into the miracle of belief in A Miracle on 34th Street. And yes, George Bailey of It’s A Wonderful Life discovering that wealth is not measured in dollars but by the love of family, friends, and community.
I know what you are thinking. Those are all movies or fictional characters. Yes they are, but these Holiday transformations take place every year all over the world and in real neighborhoods all across America. In fact, every year there are 34th street miracles of transformation taking place here in Los Angeles and Southern California. You just need to know where to find these miraculous spectacles celebrating the Holiday spirit. This is where we come in.
We found five of the best neighborhood celebrations where friends, neighbors, and communities bond together and transform their streets and their waterways through the mediums of light, design, and neighborly Holiday spirit. Here are our five best.
#5 Candy Cane Lane (Woodland Hills)
Every year, eight-square blocks of Oxnard Avenue becomes Candy Cane Lane, the epicenter of the best kind of neighborhood competition. Here on Candy Cane Lane, keeping up with the Jones’s means upstaging them with more elaborate expositions of Holiday light and design. If you want to watch neighbor square off against neighbor in a friendly competition–the suburban version of Industrial Light and Christmas Magic–Candy Cane Lane in Woodland Hills is the place to watch good old fashioned American ingenuity energized by Christmas pageantry.
#4 The Yolanda Avenue Walk of Light (Reseda)
Any architect in ancient Rome could tell you there is something triumphant about an arch. In the days of the Roman Empire, marching through these massive stone gateways could transform victorious Generals into Caesars in a matter of steps. It is no surprise then that arches continue to commemorate and mark important events and occasions across the globe, from the Arc de Triomphe in Paris to the Gateway Arch in St. Louis. While the Caesars are long gone, you can still experience the transformative properties of arches this and every Holiday in nearby Reseda. Every December, the good neighbors of Yolanda Avenues’ 7300 block band together to create their own triumphant Christmas archway. Stretching the entire block, this tunnel of lighted arches has the power to change the Scroogiest of Misers into a beacon of Holiday cheer. Want to build your own neighborhood Lighted archway? The Yolanda Avenue neighborhood website even provides a link so you can build a Christmas Arc de Triomphe in your own neighborhood.
#3 Daisy Lane Becomes Christmas Tree Lane (Long Beach)
Speaking of transformation, imagine a quiet neighborhood between Hill Street and the Pacific Coast Highway being reborn every December for over sixty years. Overnight, visions of Palm Trees, Cactus and Birds of Paradise morph into Sugar Plum visions of Christmas Card Snow, reindeer teams, and Santa’s North Pole Village (imagine the North Pole migrating 4,000 miles south for the Winter). Once a year, Daisy Lane becomes Christmas Tree Lane, a Holiday village and destination that hosts the only Christmas Parade that runs entirely through a residential community.
Oh, and after you have watched the parade and walked through the avenue of lights, check out the nearby Queen Mary Chill to experience the world’s largest snowman and the entire Nutcracker story brought to life under the canopy of a gigantic, frozen igloo.
#2 Cruise of Lights (Huntington Beach)
Neighborhoods are not always a network of homes along concrete streets and paved Cul-de-sacs. Sometimes, in places like Venice and Amsterdam, neighbors and neighborhoods are literally linked together and centered around canals, harbors, and waterways. Who wouldn’t want to experience Christmas and the Holidays along Venetian canals? While all of us may have visions of Venetian Holidays from time to time, we do not need to fly to Italy and the Netherlands to experience the same romance. That silver glitter of moonlight–those red, green, and gold holiday lights reflected over smooth screens of nighttime water. You and your family can experience all of that right here in Huntington Beach. For the last fifty years, countless Holiday revelers have taken to the waterways of the Huntington Beach Harbor, paddling and motoring their boats past brilliant, palatial harbor-side homes lit up in dazzling light displays. If you want to ditch the suburban concrete for the open water and experience the spirit of Christmas infused with the Life Aquatic, paddle your boat or charter a cruise this December to experience what AOL called one of the “10 Best Christmas Lights Destinations in the United States.”
#1 Christmas Tree Lane (Altadena)
What makes Christmas Tree Lane in Altadena “the Granddaddy of Them All” when it comes to communal celebrations of holiday light and design? There are two great reasons. 1) At 94 years, this is the oldest residential lighting event in the United States. 2) The seeds of this celebration go all the way back, literally, to 1883. The story begins when Altadena founder, John P. Woodbury, returned to California from a trip to Italy, mesmerized by some of the most beautiful trees he had ever seen. He had happened upon a brilliant stand of Deodar Cedars.
These divine evergreens, known as the Tree of God in Northern India, are native to the steep slopes of the high Himalaya. So transfixed was Mr. Woodbury by these Deodars, he decided to carry their seeds, over land and ocean, all the way back to his ranch in California. Over the years, Mr. Woodbury’s seeds grew into one of the largest stands of Deodars in North America, becoming the focal point of one of the most beautiful Christmas lighting events in the country. If you want to experience the same wonder that Woodbury felt the first time he set eyes on these magnificent Deodars over 131 years ago, head to Christmas Tree Lane in Altadena this December. You will not only see the spectacle of 150 Deodars robed in light, but you will literally drive over and under a piece of history. Yes, Altadena’s Christmas Tree Lane is both an official California Landmark and a member of the National Register of Historic Places.
So there you have it, this year’s Top Five holiday light destinations in Los Angeles. And while your neighborhood may not have made the list this year, we at Mobile Illuminations would love to expand the ongoing debate about other wonderful neighborhoods united in light and Holiday spirit. Please let us know about your personal votes for the Top Five Holiday Lighting Destinations of Los Angeles and Orange County by commenting below. Even better, if you plan to make your neighborhood or community the next great Christmas Tree or Candy Cane Lane, we would love to make those Holiday dreams become a reality this year.