Your Ultimate Guide To December: 20 Cool Things to do in SoCal

Dec. 2 – 17


Your Ultimate Guide To December: 20 Cool Things to do in SoCal
Parasite. 2019. South Korea. Directed by Bong Joon-ho. Courtesy NEON

The MoMA Contenders 2019 screening series returns to the Hammer Museum in Westwood, featuring recently released films that are destined to become classics. Each film is followed by a post-screening conversation. The series opens on Dec. 2 with Dolemite is My Name starring Eddie Murphy, who will be a part of a discussion following the screening. The series closes on Dec. 17, with Monos with director Alejandro Landes. All films begin at 7:30 p.m. Tickets: $20 general public, $10 for Hammer members

Dec. 6, 7, 11, 13 and 14


Your Ultimate Guide To December: 20 Cool Things to do in SoCal
La Boheme AKA “The Hipsters” plays in Highland Park. Photo by Martha Benedict.

Pacific Opera Project’s (POP) holiday tradition is its signature modern take on Puccini’s La Boheme AKA “The Hipsters.” Taking place at Highland Park Ebell Club on Dec. 6, 7, 11, 13 and 14 at 8:00 p.m., the Parisian garret becomes an LA loft apartment during a cold SoCal winter in the midst of the housing crisis. The opera is sung in Italian with projected “cleverly ironic” English titles. Tickets: $15-30; $60 – $180 for tables with wine/snacks

Dec. 6 – 25


Your Ultimate Guide To December: 20 Cool Things to do in SoCal
Courtesy of Javier Guillen for Grand Park/ The Music Center

The free public nighttime art display of light and projections takes over Grand Park and the Music Center Plaza in Downtown LA from Dec 6-25 with large-scale installations, crafted by LA-based artists and multimedia designers. It makes for perfect strolling with family and friends. Music playlists will be curated by community partners such as Dangerbird Records (Los Feliz) and filmmaker/arts organizer Joel Quizon, among others. Free

Dec. 6


The South African comedian, writer, producer, and host of Comedy Central’s The Daily Show, brings his comedy and political commentary to the Staples Center on Dec. 6 at 8:00 p.m. He’s been selling out a number of venues on his Loud and Clear Tour. Tickets: $39.50 – $125

Dec. 7 – 22


The Troubadour Theater Company continues its silver anniversary season with its 18th annual holiday offering: A Christmas Carole King. The Troubies weave together the songs of Carole King with Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. Will Ebenezer Scrooge wake up One Fine Day to Feel the Earth Move Under Your Feet? The show previews on Dec. 7, 8 and 12, and runs from Dec. 13-22 at the El Portal Theatre in North Hollywood. Tickets: $50 – $75

Dec. 7 – 15


Giant Robot presents the 15th annual Post-It Show at GR2 Gallery in Sawtelle. Yes, the gallery’s favorite artists create 3,000+ works of art on Post-It Notes. The show opens for a preview from 11:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m. on Dec. 7; then at 2 p.m., the doors open. Expect a little madness and mayhem as the line was 100 people deep at last year’s opening. A second drop of more Post-It Note art happens on Dec. 14. Free admission, all pieces of art are $25

Dec. 7 – 8


SoCal holidays aren’t complete without tasty tamales. The 28th annual festival, held in downtown Indio, showcases food and tamales from more than 250 vendors. In addition, there are six stages of live entertainment. (And the festival was named one of the Food Network’s top 10 “All-American Food Festivals” in the country.) The fun starts at 10:00 a.m. both days. Free admission

Dec. 8


Ditch the car for a day: On Sunday, Dec. 8 from 9:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m., CicLAvia takes over Sherman Way from Canoga Park through Winnetka and into Reseda for a new, 5-mile stretch of open streets. Take over the road and bike, skate, run, walk and skateboard … no cars or motorized vehicles allowed. There are three hubs along the way with activities planned for all ages. Free

Dec. 12- Jan. 5, 2019


Mickey Mouse and pals embark on a brand-new adventure that showcases skating, acrobatics, and unexpected stunts. The search party follows Captain Hook’s treasure map and looks for clues in the search for Tinker Bell in several immersive, fantastic worlds. The audience will explore the spirit realm of Coco, sail away with Moana, visit Belle, and singalong with Elsa from Frozen. Disney on Ice runs at several Southern California venues: Dec. 12-15 at the Staples Center; Dec. 19-23 at the Honda Center in Anaheim; Dec. 26-30 at Long Beach Arena in Long Beach; and Jan. 1-5, 2020, at Toyota Arena in Ontario.
Tickets start at $15.

Dec. 13-14, 20-21


The Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden in Claremont continues its annual tradition of lighting up the garden for the holiday season. Stroll through the grounds for special holiday installations and enjoy music by Steve Rushingwind, Windsong Canyon and Mason Hensley. All guests receive hot cider, with food truck, bake sale, and bar offerings available for additional purchases. Tickets: $8 – $16

Dec. 13 – 14


She (Zooey Deschanel) & Him (M. Ward) are on a short Christmas Party tour, playing fun, holiday songs for seven nights. Two of the shows are at The Theatre at Ace Hotel in downtown LA. And as a bonus, the LA show features comedian Patton Oswalt as the opening act. Tickets: $40.50 – $100.50

Dec. 14


Marina del Rey’s Boat Parade kicks off at 5:55 p.m. on Dec. 14 with a fireworks show, followed by the decked-out boats parading around the Marina from 6:00-8:00 p.m. There are family activities before the parade starting at 12:00 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 all hungry revelers. Free

Dec. 14


Have a holiday hangout with the animals of the OC Zoo inside Irvine Regional Park on Dec. 14 from 10:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. Watch throughout the day as the zoo’s furry residents open treats and search for gifts hidden in Christmas trees. Kids of all ages can take part in holiday crafts and games or meet special guests Mr. and Mrs. Claus. All holiday festivities are free with paid zoo admission. Tickets: $2 per person, parking is $5 per vehicle

Dec. 14 – 15


Starting at 11:00 a.m. on Dec. 14 and 15, the Segerstrom Center for the Arts presents a family-friendly holiday celebration on the Julianne and George Argyros Plaza. Watch music and dance performances from international cultures, including Mexican ballet folklórico, Indian Bollywood dance, German folk dances, and a Chinese lion dance. During the festival, the center also hosts a drive for new and unused personal care items, such as shampoo, deodorant, heating packs, sunscreen and moisturizers, first aid kits, etc. Free

Dec. 14 – 29


Street Food Cinema partners with the Heritage Square Museum to present the second season of Yuletide Cinemaland, an immersive holiday experience in the museum’s historic town square and Victorian homes. Watch holiday movies outdoors and take tours of the Victorian homes. Hit up Scrooge’s Dance Hall, take part in a piano singalong in the Perry Mansion, listen to carolers, sip on hot chocolate or mulled wine and snack on foods. The series opens with a screening of Elf on Dec. 14 and wraps with Edward Scissorhands on Dec. 29.
Tickets: $20 – $30 for adults, $10 – 14 for children

Dec. 15


The Skirball Cultural Center presents a family festival of light on Dec. 15 from 11:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. on its Brentwood campus. Enjoy music and performances by Klezmer Juice, Zingarella, Dana Maman and Friends (capoeira), and take part in a special Hanukkah sing-along. Storytellers will then recount the Hanukkah story in both English and Spanish. Create an art project or make a tasty treat with Maite Gomez-Rejón (ArtBites). The festival ticket includes museum admission. Tickets: $7 – $12

Dec. 19 – Jan. 5, 2020


For 18 days, have fun in a playland of snow that features ice tubing down a 9-lane, 150-foot mountain; a play and slide area with separate areas for toddlers and kids with fresh snow blown in daily; ice skating; fireworks and Santa and his reindeer flying over the fairgrounds through Christmas Eve. For the older crowd, a new Alpine Village features a light maze, 20 carnival rides and attractions, festive entertainment, and food and snacks. Individual tickets: $13 – $25

Dec. 22


Don your best Christmas gear and watch the 1954 holiday classic at Walt Disney Concert Hall on Dec. 22 at 3:00 or 8:00 p.m. Sing along with Bing Crosby, Rosemary Clooney, Danny Kaye, and Vera-Ellen to the film’s remastered soundtrack. And if you don’t know all the words, don’t worry because the lyrics will appear on-screen. Tickets start at $36

Dec. 24


Your Ultimate Guide To December: 20 Cool Things to do in SoCal
Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles, photo by Gennia Cui

The free cultural extravaganza has been held at The Music Center’s Dorothy Chandler Pavilion since 1959 and celebrates its 60th anniversary this year. The music and dance performances by ensembles, choirs and dance companies from various Southern California neighborhoods run from 3:00 to 6:00 p.m. on the Dorothy Chandler stage. Legendary Cuban jazz trumpet player Arturo Sandoval and his band starts the party with a medley of holiday songs. Other returning acts include Hālau Keali’i o Nālani & the Daniel Ho Trio, the Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles, gospel choir Greater LA Cathedral Choir, Jung Im Lee Korean Dance Academy and folklorico troupe Pacifico Dance Company. Get there early because seats are on a first-come, first-served basis. If you can’t get to Downtown LA on Christmas Eve, the performances will be broadcast and streamed live on PBS SoCal. Free

Dec. 31


The LA Phil welcomes Tony and Emmy Award winner Kristen Chenoweth for performances at 7:00 and 10:30 p.m. on New Year’s Eve. She’s best known for her work in You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown on Broadway and for playing the original Glinda in the musical Wicked. She’s also worked on the small screen, most notably in The West Wing and Pushing Daisies. Tickets: $68 – $202

Dec. 31


The flagship West Coast New Year’s Eve celebration returns for its seventh year in the heart of Downtown LA. Presented by Grand Park and the Music Center, the gates open at 8:00 p.m. for a celebration that reflects the “intersection of sounds, ideas and community.” For 2019, the party expands to seven city blocks and the Music Center Plaza, featuring more than 40 food trucks, a 3-D Video Projection Countdown to midnight and two stages of music performances. Leimert Park’s Pan Afrikan Peoples Arkestra headlines the Countdown Stage as Cherry Poppin and Gasolina DJs spin tunes on the other stage for a dance party. This is a family-friendly event, and no alcohol will be sold or allowed into the festivities. Free admission

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, and follow her on Twitter and Instagram.