The Poor Man’s Southern California Guide to Christmas Cheer

Last week we published The Southern California Guide to Christmas Cheer, but most of the items on that list are fairly expensive. For many of us, all of our money during the month of December goes to buying presents for our loved ones. However, in all the concern for satisfying the wishlists of friends and family, don’t forget to take some time for yourself; otherwise, you’ll become a Grinch. So, here are some activities that don’t involve spiked eggnog to help your Christmas spirit grow three sizes; plus, they’re all relatively cheap because Christmas took all my money.

Downtown Disney

Downtown Disney Christmas
Photo Credit: The Walt Disney Company

The first item on last week’s guide to Christmas cheer was Disneyland, so what other way to start the poorman’s guide with the closest we can get to the real Disneyland: Downtown Disney. Downtown Disney is just as decorated as the rest of Disneyland is for the holidays, and you don’t necessarily have to spend money to spend time there. The parking is free for two hours, but if you can get it validated at a restaurant or the theater, it’s free for up to 5 hours. The best part of Downtown Disney isn’t just the decorations, though. They have some great musicians set up at various locations throughout the entire place, frequently including live carolers! Plus, you can even view the Disneyland fireworks from Downtown Disney!

Boat Parades & Light Festivals

Photo Credit: The Mission Inn

One of the more affordable activities in Southern California is checking out the various light festivals and displays in the area. Last week we mentioned Newport’s Christmas Boat Parade; however, Dana Point   also has their own Boat Parade! While you can spend some extra money for extra special viewing areas at these events, they can also be completely free. Just make sure you arrive early enough to find a good spot on the shore to watch the boats. Either boat parade would be a great option, but Dana Point also offers a shuttle service, family movie nights, plus tons of other fun activities including a free boat ride with Santa! Riverside also has a great festival called Festival of Lights, a citywide initiative to decorate all of Downtown Riverside. There are thousands of lights, in addition to some festive activities, horse drawn carriage rides, and the world’s largest manmade mistletoe. Better take someone special there!


Community Light Displays

If you don’t want to drive all the way to the beach for a boat parade or light displays, there are typically some great light displays in your local communities! You’ve just got to find them! Sometimes the best displays are the ones where an entire community of homes put forth an effort and lit up the entire street or block with lights! Part of the charm of these community displays is the fact that you know an individual family had the creativity and patience to put together that display. Some great communities I recommend are Upper Hastings Ranch in Pasadena, the Eagle Hills Community in Brea, and Thoroughbred Lane in Rancho Cucamonga. There are tons more that even I’ve never heard of, but a quick Google search can help you out. Going to one of these communities has become a tradition for my best friend’s family and I. Sometimes, the homeowners themselves are out in their driveways, enjoying the atmosphere brought on by the visitors, and in some cases, they’ll even sell you a cup of coffee or hot chocolate! Sure, the hot chocolate could be laced with roofies or some other date rape drug making me the perfect target for a kidnapping, but who would do that on Christmas?

Get Crafty

Christmas Craft Fair
Photo Credit: SWEA of Orange County

If you find that you’ve run out of money even for gifts, making your own gifts can lift your spirits and lighten the load on your pocketbook! We have a ton of DIY’s that can help you out here. If you don’t want to do it all by yourself, you can also host a craft party at home, and invite your craftiest friends to bring their own projects! Of course, if you yourself are not crafty, you can check out a local craft faire! There are plenty of these around the holidays, and though most things are handmade, they are relatively cheap! Check out the craft fairs here or here!

Community Events

Shoppes at Chino Hills
Photo Credit: The Shoppes at Chino Hills

Although most of the items thus far have been community based events, your local community will probably have its own small (or large) events as well. You’ve just got to keep your eyes and ears out for them! The Church at Green Hills In La Habra, for example, does a very different living nativity every year told with a narrator and carolers from an early 20th century London setting with free hot chocolate, cookies, and candy.  The Shoppes at Chino Hills does “magic snowfall” events every weekend with other special entertainment and performances varying every day! The Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica has “Winterlit,” a local event with tons of activities as well. Like I said, just check out your local magazine or newspaper, and see if there’s anything festive going on for free!

So, there you have it, folks! Most of the time, in fact I’d argue all of the time, it’s not money that makes Christmastime festive, but activities we can do with the right people! So find any event that suits your interest, call up some of your best friends, and do something fun for Christmas!



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Melody Kowach

Writer, Editor, and Liaison for 6NC, Melody is a jack of all nerdoms but master of none probably because she has a weird dislike for watching things she's already watched since there are so many new things to watch! Melody enjoys anime, indie games, books, and sci-fi, and when she's not at home binge watching a show or gaming, she can usually be found at Disneyland.

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