Your Ultimate Guide To December: 20 Cool Events Happening In Los Angeles

2018 is racing toward a close, and the holiday season is upon us. We found a number of happenings in December that are perfect for family excursions, gift shopping or just getting away from it all for a few hours. Read on for all our event picks and details.

Through Jan. 6, 2018

MOONLIGHT FOREST (Lights)

Your Ultimate Guide To December: 20 Cool Events Happening In Los Angeles
Image credit: Los Angeles County Arboretum & Botanic Garden via Facebook

The Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Garden presents Moonlight Forest, a light experience that transforms the Arboretum into a nighttime wonderland. There’s lantern art that depicts animals, flowers, pandas, dragons and more. Performers stroll through the grounds, and the forest features acrobats and dancers. Timed entry at 5:30, 7:00 and 8:00 p.m. (closes at 10:00 p.m.). Tickets: $20-$28.

Dec. 4-Mar. 10, 2019

SARA BERMAN’S CLOSET (Art)

Your Ultimate Guide To December: 20 Cool Events Happening In Los Angeles
Image credit: Maira Kalman: Sara and Her Boyfriend Yacov

The Skirball Cultural Center opens Sara Berman’s Closet—an exhibition that’s a family affair. The installation by illustrator-author Maira Kalman and curator-artist Alex Kalman is inspired by the life of Maira’s mother and Alex’s grandmother, Sara Berman (1920–2004). “An exploration of independence, feminism, identity, family, and memory, the unique display recreates Sara’s modest, meticulously organized closet in which she kept her all-white apparel and accessories after reinventing herself in her sixties.” The installation is complemented by a dozen new paintings by Maira Kalman. Exhibition is included with admission ($7-$12).

Dec. 4

BLACK PANTHER (Film screening)
The Museum of Modern Art’s (MoMA) Contenders series screens influential, innovative films from the past 12 months. The Los Angeles screenings take place at the Hammer Museum from Dec. 3-18, but on Tuesday, Dec. 4 at 7:30 p.m., there’s a screening of Black Panther followed by Q&A with Lupita Nyong’o and Angela Bassett. Tickets: $20.

Dec. 5-9

29ROOMS: REFINERY29’S FESTIVAL OF STYLE, CULTURE (Installations)
Refinery29 brings back its 29Rooms tour to The Reef in DTLA from Dec. 5-9 with 29 original interactive spaces created in collaboration with artists, entertainment, social causes, brands and tech partners. 29Rooms Party After Dark takes place on select nights for those 21 and older. The special tickets allow guests to explore 29Rooms with a smaller group, receive two drink tickets, enjoy pop-up performances, DJs and dancing, live art-making and more surprises. Tickets: $39.99-$69.99.

Dec. 7-8

LA SANTA CECILIA (Music)

The Mexican-American band La Santa Cecilia combines cumbia, bossa nova and bolero—all led by the glorious voice of Marisol “La Marisoul” Hernandez. The band plays two nights on Friday and Saturday, Dec. 7 and 8 at The Concert Lounge in Riverside. The shows start at 8:00 p.m. on both nights. Tickets: $15-$20.

Dec. 8

MARINA DEL REY BOAT PARADE (Holiday)
Marina del Rey’s 56th annual Boat Parade takes place on Dec. 8, kicking off at 5:55 p.m. with a fireworks show, followed by the decked-out boats parading around in the Marina from 6:00-8:00 p.m. There are family activities before the parade from 12:00-6:00 p.m. at Burton Chace Park. The event features real snow, sledding, arts and crafts, face painting and DJs spinning tunes. Food trucks will be onsite to feed the masses. Free.

Dec. 8

SMORGASBURG LA’S HOLIDAY POPUP ON THE PIER (Music)

Your Ultimate Guide To December: 20 Cool Events Happening In Los Angeles
Image: Smorgasburg Pop-up at the Santa Monica Pier / Anne Huffman (Brooklyn Flea )

Downtown LA’s eats extravaganza, Smorgasburg, holds its first Holiday Popup on the Pier on Saturday, Dec. 8 from 11:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Westsiders won’t have to travel too far to taste more than 70 food vendors, including Goa Taco, Katsu Sando, Lobsterdamus, Ponchos Tlayudas and Burger Supreme. There’s also gift shopping, a beer garden for those 21+, DJs spinning tunes and great views.

Dec. 8

NUTCRACKER FOR KIDS (Ballet)
This condensed version of Tchaikovsky’s Christmas ballet is perfect for children ages 5 to 11. There are two shows on Dec. 8—at 10 and 11:30 a.m.—which end in a grand finale sing-along and a visit from a very special guest from the North Pole. The event also features an interactive Musical Carnival, where kids can test musical instruments and meet and interact with musicians from Pacific Symphony and Pacific Symphony Youth Ensembles. The activities begin at 9:00 a.m. for 10:00 a.m. concertgoers and 12:15 p.m. for 11:30 a.m. concertgoers. Tickets start at $45.

Dec. 8-9

KROQS ABSOLUT ALMOST ACOUSTIC CHRISTMAS 2018 (Music fest)

The stalwart radio station KROQ presents 29th edition of its annual two-night concert. Some of the biggest names in alternative and rock music play the Forum. The lineup on Saturday, Dec 8 features headliners Smashing Pumpkins with Thirty Seconds To Mars, Third Eye Blind, Greta Van Fleet, Bad Religion, AFI, The Interrupters, AJR and Badflower. Florence + The Machine headlines Sunday, Dec. 9 with Death Cab For Cutie, Bastille, Mike Shinoda, Billie Eilish, Young The Giant, CHVRCHES, Mike Posner and Lovelytheband. Tickets start at $40.

Dec. 8-9

RENEGADE CRAFT FAIR (Craft)
The Renegade Craft Fair takes over Los Angeles State Historic Park on Dec. 8 and 9 from 11 a.m. – 5 p.m. on both days. The outdoor shopping event features the talents and crafts of nearly 300 makers. The two-day fair also features music, food trucks and free craft workshops. It makes a great stop to do holiday shopping while supporting local artists. Free admission.

Dec. 9

STEVIE WONDER: HOUSE FULL OF TOYS (Music benefit)
On Sunday, Dec. 9 at 8:00 p.m., the 22nd annual benefit concert Stevie Wonder’s Song Party returns to the Staples Center in Downtown LA. A celebration of “life, love and music,” the event benefits children, people with disabilities and families in need. Concertgoers are asked to bring an unwrapped toy or “unwrapped gift of joy.” Tickets: $35-$179.50.

Dec. 11, 13, 15

FLEETWOOD MAC (Music)

The legendary band Fleetwood Mac plays three nights at the Forum on Dec. 11, 13 and 15 at 8:00 p.m., celebrating 50 years in the music business. While Lindsey Buckingham has left the band, audiences will still hear Mick Fleetwood, John McVie, Christine McVie, Stevie Nicks plus new members Mike Campbell (of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers) and Neil Finn (of Crowded House). Tickets start at $69.50.

Dec. 13- Jan. 6, 2019

DISNEY ON ICE: DARE TO DREAM (Skating)
Five Disney heroines inspire courage as they take to their adventures on ice. Watch performances by Moana, Anna and Elsa from Frozen, Rapunzel, Belle and Cinderella. In addition to the heroines, Mickey Mouse and friends will skate as well and delight audiences of all ages. Disney on Ice runs at several Southern California venues: Dec. 13-16 at the Staples Center; Dec. 19-23 at the Honda Center in Anaheim; Dec. 26-30 at Citizens Business Bank Arena in Ontario; Jan. 3-6, 2019 at Long Beach Arena in Long Beach. Tickets start at $25.

Dec. 15-16

UNIQUE MARKETS: SANTA MONICA (Shopping)
Unique Markets presents a Santa Monica Pier Holiday Pop-Up on Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 15 and 16. Check out and shop for holiday gifts from more than 200 indie vendors, designers and artists. Entry includes: free drinks and snacks from Luna; arts and crafts activities and a tote bag. Admission: $15.

Dec. 16-17

MESSIAH SING-ALONG (Music)

Your Ultimate Guide To December: 20 Cool Events Happening In Los Angeles
Image: Messiah Sing-Along is on Dec. 17. Credit: Tao Ruspoli/Marie Noorbergen

The Los Angeles Master Chorale’s 38th Annual Messiah Sing-Along is on Monday, Dec. 17 at 7:30 p.m. at Walt Disney Concert Hall. Artistic Director Grant Gershon conducts 2,200 audience members who become the choir. Sopranos, altos, tenors and basses of all levels—plus singers with no experience are welcome to join in the fun. But if you’d rather just watch the pros of the Chorale sing Handel’s Messiah, then that performance takes place on Sunday, Dec. 16 at 7:00 p.m. Tickets start at $25 for the sing-along; $29 for the full Chorale performance.

Dec. 20-Jan. 6, 2019

WINTER FEST OC (Family Fun)
This family- and date-friendly experience brings snow and cold-weather activities to the OC Fair & Event Center in Costa Mesa. In addition to carnival rides and live entertainment, the fest includes ice-tubing down a 150-foot mountain, slide areas for adults and kids, ice skating on SoCal’s largest outdoor ice rink and an all-new Alpine Village with a light maze. Individual tickets start at $12 for children and $17 for adults.

Dec. 23-24

DIE HARD (Film)

The New Beverly Cinema, owned and programmed by Quentin Tarantino, has re-opened after a nearly year-long renovation project. On Dec. 23-24, the repertory theater screens a double-feature of Die Hard (1988) starring Bruce Willis and Alan Rickman, followed by the 1978 suspense thriller The Silent Partner starring Elliott Gould, Christopher Plummer and Susannah York. Tickets: $10 plus fees.

Dec. 24

L.A. COUNTY HOLIDAY CELEBRATION (Holiday)
The 59th Annual LA County Holiday Celebration takes place at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion at The Music Center on Christmas Eve. The free, three-hour music and dance spectacular, which runs from 3:00-6:00 p.m., features performances by ensembles, choirs and dance companies from various SoCal neighborhoods and cultures to celebrate the season. Performers include: The Daniel Ho Trio; Pacifico Dance Company; Spirit Chorale of Los Angeles; Kayamanan Ng Lahi Philippine Folk Arts and many others. Get there early because seats are on a first-come, first-served basis.Free. Can’t make it out to The Music Center? Catch it live on PBS SoCal, or streaming on our website and Facebook page!

Dec. 29-30

BANDFEST (Music)

Your Ultimate Guide To December: 20 Cool Events Happening In Los Angeles
Image: The 2018 Bandfest takes place at Pasadena City College. | Tournament of Roses – Rose Parade via Facebook

While the Rose Parade and Rose Bowl take place on Jan, 1, 2019, there are several events happening before and after the big day. Bandfest is a chance for audiences to catch the bands selected to participate in the 2019 parade. Over the two days, each band and its performers present a field show. Three Bandfest events (Dec. 29 at 1:30 p.m., Dec. 30 at 9:30 a.m. and 2:00 p.m.) take place at Robinson Stadium at Pasadena City College. Advance tickets are $15 each.

Dec. 31

NEW YEAR’S EVE WITH PINK MARTINI (Music)
Pink Martini—a big band meets orchestra outfit—plays two shows at Walt Disney Concert Hall on New Year’s Eve (7:00 and 10:30 p.m.) Led by pianist Thomas Lauderdale, the band crosses genres from jazz, classical, Brazilian samba, ’30s Cuban dance music and standards. The NYE performances feature a rare joint appearance from singers China Forbes and Storm Large. Tickets are $84-$223.

Christine N. Ziemba is a Los Angeles-based arts and culture writer who loves to tell people what to do (and where to go). Check out her events columns and other musings on PopRadarLA.com, and follow her on Twitter and Instagram.