There’s something uniquely alluring about the magic of Christmas lights, especially when they are festooned by the thousands across an assortment of natural wonders and historical locales. The Pasadena area has several of the most spectacular displays in the entire Los Angeles area, and each year they provide a great opportunity for families to bond and romantics to share warm memories that foster Yuletide romance.
Whether enjoying the official tree lighting at Pasadena City Hall or the splendid charms of an entire neighborhood banding together to put on a show along Altadena’s Christmas Tree Lane or Pasadena’s own Upper Hastings Ranch, there are plenty of ways to light up your spirit this holiday season.
The city of Pasadena has one of the most beautiful and historic city halls in the nation, and each year the lighting of its giant tree forms the basis for one of the most unifying events of the year. This year’s annual Holiday Tree Lighting takes place from 5 to 7 p.m. Dec. 1 at City Hall’s Centennial Square, 100 N. Garfield Avenue. Festive holiday music, light refreshments, and arts and crafts combine to provide plenty of holiday-themed family fun.
Meanwhile, the city will also light up a gorgeous tree a week later at the La Pintoresca Tree Lighting & Concert from 5 to 7 p.m. on Dec. 8. The longtime community favorite event features not only the lighting and arts and crafts for sale, but also a story time for children, a visit from Santa Claus and numerous live musical performances, all located at La Pintoresca Park, 1415 N. Raymond Ave., Pasadena. Admission is free for both events. Call (626) 345-0706 or visit cityofpasadena.net.
Christmas Tree Lane
Head slightly north to Pasadena’s neighboring burg of Altadena if you want to see a truly spectacular display running throughout several weeks of holiday joy. Approximately 135 Deodar Cedar trees are lit up each year to create the oldest large-scale outdoor Christmas display in the world.
Designated both a California State Landmark and placed on the National Register of Historic Places, Christmas Tree Lane rose to fame because of its ability to tie together two 20th-century phenomena: the modern outdoor electric light and the mobility of automobiles.
This year’s tree lighting will take place on Dec. 9, beginning with an Arts and Crafts Festival with plenty of holiday gift items for sale from 2 to 6 p.m. in the Altadena Library parking lot, located at 600 E. Mendocino St. While there will be gourmet food trucks and vendors on hand to offer a cornucopia of tasty treats, Christmas Tree Lane will provide complimentary spiced hot cider, coffee and cocoa.
Traffic will be stopped along Christmas Tree Lane — Santa Rosa Avenue from Altadena Drive to Woodbury Road — from 7 to 8 p.m. to allow pedestrians to enjoy walking freely under the impressive blanket of sparkling lights while the John Muir Alumni Drum Corps plays festive seasonal music. The road will then reopen at 8 p.m. to vehicular traffic, kicking off a bustling season that draws more than 50,000 cars to observe the spectacle annually.
Call (626) 403-1123 or visit christmastreelane.net
Upper Hastings Ranch
This year marks the 60th anniversary of the Upper Hastings Ranch neighborhood hosting some of the most inventive holiday light exhibitions in the country. The tradition started with families trying to outdo each other in good-natured competiveness as they strived to provide the flashiest displays of iconic figures including snowmen, reindeer, giant Santas and a wide assortment of Peanuts characters.
One can only imagine the electric bills of the homes in the well-heeled neighborhood by the time they have finished providing eye-catching delights across their driveways, balconies and windows for weeks on end. One thing is for certain: it’s worth the drive to see them all, along Hastings Ranch Drive and East Sierra Madre Boulevard, Pasadena. Visit upperhastingsranch.org.
One of Altadena’s most memorable homes to witness at any time of year, the Balian Mansion, takes on even more impressive significance during every holiday season. Life-sized holiday characters and nativity scenes abound throughout its extensive gardens and walkways, with the Balian family pioneering their neighborhood’s flashy displays, which soon became legendary far and wide.
Balian Mansion is at 1960 Mendocino Lane (Mendocino Lane and Glenview Terrace), Altadena.
Monrovia Holiday Parade & Tree Lighting
One last impressive recommendation is this annual event in the nearby town of Monrovia, one of the last bastions of classic American charm in the Los Angeles area. The town has maintained a Norman Rockwell-esque reputation for a reason, thanks to its annual parade, tree-lighting ceremony and home-decorating contest.
The city’s tree lighting ceremony begins at 6 p.m. Dec. 7, with a parade at 7 p.m. at Monrovia Library Park (corner of Myrtle and Lime avenues). Visit cityofmonrovia.org or call (626) 932-5550.