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  • Pamela Froman

Coolest Holiday Activities

It's that time of year again – the holidays! Whether you light a menorah or a Christmas tree there are so many things to do and see throughout Los Angeles. Volunteer to help kids in need or glide with skates on ice. Grab those last minute Christmas presents while taking a photo op with Santa. Gaze in wonder at decorations that light up the night or watch a Christmas parade march down to celebrate the season. Here's our guide to these amazing holiday happenings.


The Lights of the Season

What would the holidays be without the twinkling of Christmas lights or the warm flame of a menorah? There are many amazing events out there to see these traditions in a stunning, fabulous display. Join your neighbors to get out there and celebrate!

Universal CityWalk is displaying light shows and live entertainment Saturdays from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. and Sundays from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. on the 5 Towers Stage, plus Thursday, December 25. There will also be nightly snowfall through December 25 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. on the hour, and a Santa Snow Zone for photo ops at the Fountain Court. (www.citywalkhollywood.com)

Holidays at The Commons in Calabasas is anything but common. A children’s Christmas show on December 10 at 6 p.m. will feature timeless Christmas songs and music from local musicians. After the show, the Christmas tree will delight the eyes with bright, beautiful lights. There will be other activities for your family with a children’s craft section. And of course there will be a visit from Santa where children can get their pictures taken and rattle off their Christmas lists. (www.shopcommons.com)


There’s free entertainment and activities for the whole family on Wednesday, December 3 at 6:30 p.m. when Santa lights the tree at The Sherman Oaks Galleria Annual Christmas Tree Lighting Extravaganza. The Millikan Middle School choir will be singing classic holiday tunes. Jack and Jeri, Hollywood's favorite jugglers will perform astounding feats and the Grinch will be skulking around! The Popcorn and Cotton Candy stands will have tasty goodies. Play in the Snow Cottage Bouncer and there will be free photos with Santa, arts and crafts, face painting and much more. (www.shermanoaksgalleria.com)


There will be a unique menorah lighting experience at the Lego Menorah Lighting Celebration. Celebrate on Tuesday, December 16 at 6 p.m. with Chabad of Chatsworth, Northridge and Porter Ranch at Porter Ranch Town Center. This will be a great creative experience for the kids as they get to build a menorah from scratch – with Legos! There will also be live music, yummy latkes and donuts, crafts, a raffle and tons of other entertainment. (www.chabadnorthridge.com)


Become a student at the Elf Academy: Breakfast with Santa at The Oaks Mall in Thousand Oaks. This elf-tastic event sells out every year and takes place on December 6 from 8 a.m. - 11 a.m. Santa hosts this fun event that supports the Conejo Schools Foundation. When you register for the Elf Academy you will be treated to breakfast with Santa as the Guest of Honor. Tickets are $10 per person. Mrs. Claus, and your Elf “Professor” will meet and greet you as you complete your holiday “elfi-cation.” (www.shoptheoaksmall.com) That Perfect

Christmas Picture

One of the best ways to celebrate the holidays is to capture those sweet moments. You'll be able to look back at your kids' innocence and joy as they light that candle or pose on Santa's knee. There are several photo ops around the San Fernando Valley this holiday season.


Who’s been naughty or nice? Come meet St. Nick and make the holidays special with Santa-and-me photos at the Westfield Topanga Mall through December 24. While waiting to visit Santa, check out huge walk-through ornaments and Christmas trees that feature custom digital interactive experiences like a touch screen game for the kids and a digital photo booth for holiday e-cards. (www.westfield.com/topanga)


Santa Claus is coming to town through December 24 at the Northridge Fashion Center. Capture your visit in pictures your family can cherish for years to come.

Bring your furry best friend to see Santa on Monday evenings through December 15 and let Kitty or Fido strike a pose. (www.northridgefashioncenter.com) Santa will be available for photos and visits at his winter home, located at The Oaks Mall in Thousand Oaks. Santa believes in Santa Paws and he wants to meet your furry friends on December 2 and 9 from 6 p.m. - 7:30 p.m. Cats and dogs only (no birds or lizards!) Make sure your doggie or kitty is on a leash or in a pet carrier. (www.shoptheoaksmall.com)


Skate a Figure Eight

Who doesn't love to glide (and let's face it) fall, on the ice? Skating is a great way for the kids to have fun and get out in the fresh air. During the holiday season there are many local outdoor ice spots. Rent those blades and head out onto the rink. The Holiday Ice Rink at The Lakes at Thousand Oaks becomes an amazing outdoor ice skating rink for the winter season. The rink will be open through Jan. 19. The Lakes ice rink is the only outdoor rink in Ventura County and is unique in that it transforms an existing body of water, providing a more genuine experience for your little skaters. General admission for a 60 minute session is $10 and skate rentals are $4. (ThousandOaksIceRink.com)


Skating for fun, professional skaters on display, group classes, private lessons and even birthday parties are all happening at Woodland Hills Ice. This outdoor rink is one of a kind in the San Fernando Valley. Glide and slide on more than 7,000 square feet of ice, located at the Westfield Promenade in Woodland Hills. (www.woodlandhillsice.com)


Parades March On

Music, floats and a great time are the essence of a parade. Watching the walkers stream down the streets is a delight for young and old alike. The holidays are the greatest time to have this celebration. They display the lights, pomp and circumstance that makes a great march. It’s that time of year again and it's time for the Granada Hills Holiday Parade on December 7. This year is the 31st Annual Parade, and the theme is “Holidays Around The World.” The parade entries will showcase the wonderful cultural differences that are the way to celebrate the holidays. Grand Marshal this year is Ken Kercheval, one of the stars of the hit TV show Dallas. (www.granadahillsholidayparade.org)


Save the date for the 83rd Hollywood Christmas Parade, benefiting Marine Toys For Tots, to be held November 30. The Hollywood Christmas Parade will be kicking off at 5 p.m. with a super-star-studded concert. Each year the parade features a Celebrity Grand Marshal as well as other celebrities from film, television and stage, award-winning bands from around the country, colorful equestrians, ornate floats, spectacular live celebrity performers, festive balloons and popular characters/novelties and, of course, Santa Claus. “Days of our Lives,” NBC’s longest running daytime drama, will be honored at this year’s parade. (www.thehollywoodchristmasparade.org)


Experience Christmas on the water at the Marina Del Rey Annual Holiday Boat Parade and Fireworks Display on Sunday, December 14, from 6 p.m. - 8 p.m. Tons of colorfully decorated boats circle the Marina – all competing for the Grand Prize. The night's festivities kick off with the spectacular fireworks show. (www.mdrboatparade.org)


Exceptional Christmas Decorations

There are Christmas lights and then there are stunning Christmas displays. All around Los Angeles you can view these amazing light shows as you celebrate the holidays they honor. Candy Cane Lane is a group of homeowners at Lubao and Oxnard Streets in Woodland Hills who collectively celebrate the holidays each year with an amazing holiday display of lights and decorations. Candy Cane Lane begins on second Saturday of December and lasts through the end of the year. It's located at the intersection of Lubao and Oxnard Streets in Woodland Hills. People drive slowly down the street with their headlights dimmed so that everyone can enjoy the lights.


The “Wild for Lights: Los Angeles Zoo” experience brings holiday dazzle and cheer back in a big way to Griffith Park. From 6 p.m. - 10 p.m., visit the zoo while the animals sleep and watch it transform into a magical winter jungle with lights, lasers, 3D projections and interactive displays. Animated LED “monkeys” lead the way through various “only in Los Angeles” displays (animals are on the freeway!) Giant floating snowflakes, weekend visits from Santa, holiday themed treats, and the only place in town to visit real reindeer make this an experience your family won’t forget. Admission is $13 for adults and $11 for children. (www.lazoolights.org)


A Vacation Styled to the Holidays

Santa is coming with his reindeer and his sled is full of presents, fun and holiday cheer. But it's not just Christmas – it's vacation time! So pamper yourself. Stay overnight (or maybe even a few) at one of these holiday-decked out hotels. They offer much more than a bed and a mint on your pillow. The Four Seasons Hotel Westlake Village has an exciting line-up of holiday activities. This year the Hotel has gone all out with new experiences for families and couples. The Hybrid Ice Skating Rink lets you glide along. Kids will love the Holiday Express Train Rides and the Breakfast with Santa. A "Let it Snow" live snowfall will bring the magic of the white stuff. And Elf Storytime and Tuck Ins will help your little ones rest easy. The best deal to experience the holidays at Four Seasons is the Winter Wonderland package. Available during the month of December with rates starting at $284/night, guests will receive access to all the fun holiday experiences the luxury Hotel has to offer this winter. (www.fourseasons.com/westlakevillage)


Thousands of twinkle lights will bring holiday cheer to Westlake Village Inn, a charming European-style inn, set on seventeen acres in Westlake Village. Christmas trees and poinsettias are scattered throughout the property, creating a winter wonderland. Take advantage of one of their winter overnight specials and catch live entertainment every Friday and Saturday evening. (www.westlakevillageinn.com)


A Few Extras

There are a few more unique activities that Los Angeles offers for the holidays. Santa's reindeer are at the LA Zoo home this holiday season. While these friends of Mr. Claus will be around everyday, you and the kids will have to come on the weekends for photos with Santa and holiday crafts. In addition, the Zoo's residents will be getting their own presents to unwrap. (www.lazoo.org)


The third annual Northridge Hospital “Festival of Trees” celebration kicks off on Friday, Nov. 30, from 10 a.m. – 8 p.m., and continues on Saturday, December 1. Bid on exquisitely decorated trees, wreaths, centerpieces and quilts along with live entertainment, activities for children, food and special photos with Santa. This year’s Winter Wonderland event will be held at the Granada Hills Town Center. (www.chatsworthcouncil.org/northridge-hospital-festival-trees)


Helping Those in Need

The holidays are all about sharing and caring and there are so many ways to do that during the season. From food banks to providing presents to needy children a great way to celebrate is to simply give. At the SOVA Community Food and Resource Program (presented by Jewish Family Services) in Van Nuys, food is what comes first. Stocked with nutritious canned and packaged foods, they provide a free five-day supply of groceries to underprivileged families. Volunteers are always needed. (www.jfsla.org/sova)


Give a gift of a Christmas dinner at the Hope of the Valley Rescue Mission. With a host of services, such as hot meals, healthcare and even housing this is a great way to provide help to the needy in San Fernando Valley. Hot meals, clothing, medicine and hygiene kits are provided every weekday, as well as a generous breakfast on Saturdays and BBQs every other Sunday. This is a great way to fill needy children's tummies. (www.hopeofthevalley.org/services/hot-meals)


The MEND Poverty 2014 Christmas Program works as you “adopt” a needy family. Buy a sweatshirt or sweater for each family member, and for the kids, buy one new clothing item and one or two new toys ($15 or more). Your gift basket should also include enough food for a holiday meal. Donations are accepted through December 6. Or, how about helping in MEND's Santa's Workshops? Help construct their Christmas Toy Land, distribute toys, and pack Christmas food boxes. (818-896-0246 or email volunteering@mendpoverty.org)


Enjoying the fruits of the season by giving can sometimes be just as rewarding as getting presents yourself. But it's even more entertaining when you can experience a great fun-filled event while benefitting others. On Friday, December 12 at the 13th Annual “Helping Hands Holiday Jam” will take place for over 300 underserved children. These kids are part of the “No Child Left Behind” program. Northridge Hospital Foundation and the Harold and Carole Pump Foundation turn a ordinary parking lot into a place of wonder and amazement. There will be carnival games, arts and crafts, food, a visit and photo with Santa and a bag full of gifts to take home. (http://www.supportnorthridge.org)


PALS (Police Activity League) Holiday Toy Drive will take place on Saturday, December 13. This great event keeps the holidays alive for the poorest children in our community. Kids meet Santa and eat Christmas treats. The giveaway provides for approximately 1,000 children and for some is the only present they will get this year. Order a toy collection box, or volunteer at the toy giveaway. Drop off new, unwrapped toys, books or gift cards to the PAL Community Service Center in Chatsworth, at Devonshire Community Police Station, or at the Devonshire PALS Youth Center. (www.devonshire-pals.org)


Christmas wouldn't be Christmas without the magical effect of a Christmas tree. There is just something about the smell of pine needles and the lights, tinsel and ornaments that brings us all back to our childhood. The Shepard of the Hills Tree Giveaway (20800 Burbank Blvd., Woodland Hills) is on December 6, from 9 a.m. – 12 p.m. and works to provide just that sense of wonder. A free family picture ornament will be provided for each person attending. There will also be food trucks, caroling and face painting for kids. (www.facebook.com/ShepherdChurchWV)


Toys are an integral part of the holidays. Sadly there are many local children whose parents are simply unable to provide that Merry Christmas or Happy Chanukah that every child should have. That's why toy drives are so important. Giving is just as good as getting, and when you think of the smile on a child's face as they open that present it will motivate you to donate a toy right now. The men and women of the Los Angeles Fire Department are always heroes, but they are especially so during the holidays. Their “Spark of Love Toy Drive” has accumulated more than 8 million toys over the last two decades. This program amasses new, unwrapped toys and sports equipment for needy kids and teens. Bring your donation to the Stuff-A-Bus event in Canoga Park (Friday, December 12, 4:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Westfield Topanga, 6600 Topanga Canyon Blvd., Canoga Park). Or give online by going to the Spark of Love Toy Drive Fund. (www.calfund.org/sparkoflove)


Our armed forces know how to give back. Support the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots program. This program provides unwrapped gifts for unfortunate children. There are drop-off locations available at all local Toys R’ Us and Babies R’ Us stores or for more locations check out the Marine Toys for Tots website. (www.toysfortots.org)


The holiday meal is one wonderful custom that really brings the season home to the table. But sadly, many people are simply unable to provide this ongoing tradition to their families. That's where food drives come in. These amazing events create a feast worthy of the word holiday. Downtown LA’s Midnight Mission hosts its annual Christmas Day Brunch on Skid Row – as it has been doing for the last hundred years. Tons of volunteers serve brunch as Santa and his helpers grant Christmas wishes. Thousands of homeless and near-homeless children will be able to select toys of their choice and meet Santa Claus. You can help and volunteer! (www.midnightmission.org)


Living in poverty is especially hard during the holidays when there are no resources to make the holiday exceptional. One Voice's Holiday Food Program provides Christmas food baskets, toys and books to 2,500 needy families in the Los Angeles area. Each child receives books and toys presented by Santa and every family takes home a bountiful basket with all the trimmings: a turkey, rolls, carrots, squash, potatoes, yams, onions, rice, beans, bags of apples and oranges, candy, a fresh apple pie and canned goods. Over 2,000 volunteers come together at the Barker Hangar in Santa Monica to sort and package the food the week before the event, and personally give out the food with a caring hand. (http://onevoice-la.org/holiday-program)


These amazing holiday happenings are perfect for you and the kids. Have a great time with Santa and happy holidays!

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