When summer retail shelves transformed into holiday displays this year, it was oddly reassuring.
Recently, I stopped to watch workers string up lights on trees in a Playa Vista shopping area and felt my spirits lift several octaves. Few things warm a winter soul like holiday lights. Perhaps this is why, when the pandemic first turned our world upside down, some people pulled out their Christmas decorations and adorned their houses. While there will be no sitting on Santa’s lap this year, some of our local malls and shopping centers are still working to bring us holiday cheer – from snow flurries to virtual and contactless Santas, treasure hunts and ugly sweater contests.
While in-person events are slim this year, most shopping centers, such as The Americana at Brand, have decorated so that guests can feel the holiday cheer as they shop. In addition, at The Americana at Brand, from 7 to 8 p.m. nightly, Santa has been making appearances to say hello to guests from aboard The Americana’s trolley. You can also see their iconic 80-foot white fir, hailing from Mount Shasta, towering over Glendale to light up the sky. Once the holidays are over, the branches are used for mulch and firewood and eight new white fir trees are planted in its place.
Here’s a roundup of more seasonal delights, but check your favorite shopping areas for updates.
Snow flurries and ugly sweaters
Who says it never snows in Southern California? This winter, The Point in El Segundo invites you to enjoy magical snow flurries every 30 minutes from 6-8 p.m. through Dec. 23.
The Point is also hosting a virtual ugly-sweater contest on Instagram @ThePoint_SB. So, don your best ugly holiday sweater and tag The Point to enter the contest. When you post your photo on Instagram, use #GetToThePoint to enter to win a gift basket valued at over $500 from various retailers at The Point. Full details are being announced on Instagram.
Additional COVID-safe activations will include weekend holiday pop-ups including entertainment, food and shopping. Retailers have decorated their storefront windows in hopes that shoppers will use them as backdrops for their holiday-themed photos.
Santa Monica is all aglow
Winterlit returns to Downtown Santa Monica to brighten the holiday season as Downtown Santa Monica (DTSM) transforms Third Street Promenade into an immersive one-stop holiday experience. Tens of thousands of lights will illuminate the Promenade’s festive outdoor retail and dining. Storefronts have been reimagined as art installations, and a new interactive holiday-themed augmented-reality mobile app allows guests to experience the open-air entertainment district in a whole new light through Jan. 3.
Holiday-inspired art installations appear at 11 spots throughout Third Street Promenade, featuring window displays in storefronts and murals created by local artists who were asked to interpret what the holiday season means to them. Free and open to the public, the installation is in partnership with the City of Santa Monica’s Cultural Affairs Art of Recovery initiative, a program dedicated to funding projects by local artists and highlighting the important role arts and culture play in recovery efforts as they strengthen and connect Santa Monica.
Nightly menorah lightings will celebrate the Festival of Lights this Hanukkah season from Dec. 10-18. The lightings will begin at sundown and take place on the 1300 block of Third Street Promenade (between Santa Monica Boulevard and Arizona Avenue).
At Santa Monica Place, you can get in the holiday spirit with a house DJ mixing hip beats with traditional favorites for the perfect holiday vibe. “Shop Your Way” amenities include curbside pickup, virtual queuing, in-store pickup and take-away dining options.
Santa’s helpers have placed a special mailbox on the Promenade where children can drop off their letters and have them delivered to the North Pole. If the letters include a return address, Santa will write back. At the end of the Promenade at Santa Monica Place, guests can enjoy a contactless visit with Santa at his winter home in Center Plaza from Dec. 4-24, share a wish list and take home a keepsake photo. Visit SantaMonicaPlace.com/SantaPhotos for reservations.
DTSM has also developed a holiday augmented reality experience that will allow guests to transform structures, spaces and trees along the Promenade into holiday elements and decor. When visiting the Promenade, download the free experience by scanning a QR code from a mobile device and share the fun virtually through magical photo moments with friends and family.
Treasure hunts and Santas in the South Bay
Long Beach Towne Center, an open-air lifestyle center in the heart of Long Beach, will host a center-wide holiday treasure hunt from noon to 3 p.m. Dec. 12. To begin the treasure hunt, pick up a holiday treasure hunt flyer at participating retailers or at the redemption table located between Carter’s and European Wax Center.
Participating retailers are listed on the flyer, and guests are tasked with searching for a little red elf inside each store. Once you’ve located the elf, a store employee will stamp the box next to the store’s name on the flyer. After obtaining stamps from each participating retailer, you can trade your completed flyer for a $10 retail gift card (retailers vary) at the redemption table. While this event is free and open to the public, COVID safety precautions including masks and social distancing will be strictly enforced. To learn more, visit www.lbtownecenter.com/.
At the Manhattan Village Shopping Center, holiday pickings are robust. Through Dec. 24, children can enjoy a virtual Santa experience that includes a VIP Zoom call, virtual photos (including pets) and exclusive story time. Visit createholidaymagic.com to learn more and schedule a personalized experience. Reservations are limited.
For in-person visits, Manhattan Village is offering a contactless in-person Santa experience through Dec. 24. These visits follow enhanced safety protocols such as a reservation system to avoid overcrowding, requiring guests and staff to wear face coverings, and daily temperature checks and health screenings for all staff.
While guests will not be able to sit on Santa’s lap or give him a hug this year, he will pose for distanced photos, chat with kids and listen to their wish lists. Santa and all guests ages 2 and up are required to wear face coverings. For complete details on what to expect during your visit with Santa visit www.cherryhillprograms.com/reopening. Visit www.WhereisSanta.com to view photo package details.
From 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Dec. 5, Manhattan Village is hosting A Merry Little Shop & Stroll. This winter wonderland shopping experience offers guests who RSVP a jolly swag bag and passport guide with joyful discounts. To heighten the fun, every guest who shows up wearing an ugly sweater will be entered to win a grand prize. Guests will need to choose a time slot to keep the flow socially distant. Masks and temperature checks are mandatory.
And what’s Christmas without Mrs. Claus? From 11 a.m.-1 p.m. Dec. 19, Mrs. Claus travels all the way from the North Pole to your home to virtually share special stories and holiday cheer. The video will be posted on Facebook on Dec. 19. Click here for details.
A Secret Santa at Westfield
At Westfield Century City, the kids can embark on a journey to the North Pole, where Santa and his elves have been working hard to grant wishes and create magic this holiday season.
They will have private access to Santa’s Bungalow, where they can help find the missing Santa and unlock a mystery. The game includes a magic mirror and journey through a “pine tree forest” to locate Santa. In the end, the little sleuths get to talk to Santa through a secret microphone before taking photos with him, plus drop a postcard off at Santa’s post office.
This experience runs through Dec. 24. Visit Westfield’s website for more information and to make reservations.
At Westfield Valencia Town Center, you can lift your holiday spirits by giving back. Through Dec. 19, the shopping center is hosting a toy drive and holiday experience called “Santa’s Helpers,” which is coordinated by JCI Santa Clarita – a membership-based nonprofit benefiting underprivileged children (newborn to 18 years) in the Santa Clarita Valley. For more information, visit the website.
Downtown LA and Mid-City
In Downtown L.A., The Bloc is wrapping up 2020 by celebrating the holidays through January. The fun will kick off with Sparkle DTLA, where shoppers can experience a magical holiday show that boasts 18 million lights synchronized to festive tunes. This sparkly experience runs from 5-9 p.m. nightly. The Bloc is also hosting its “12 Days of Sparkle Giveaways” and offering holiday gifts with in-house purchases throughout Dec. 20.
Sparkle DTLA is free to attend and is open to all ages, including furry friends. Officials report that The Bloc is taking extraordinary measures to ensure the center is inviting and safe for all guests, thanks to its habitual disinfectant protocols and strict social distancing rules. For more information, visit www.theblocla.com.
Third and Fairfax, home to The Original Farmers Market and The Grove, is always a magical place to go for the holidays, but while retail spaces are open for shopping and curbside pickup, in-person events are on hold this year. Holiday decorations are up and Mr. Jingles Christmas Trees, a one-stop shop for anything and everything Christmas, has popped up at The Original Farmers Market. While you’re grabbing some fresh produce from the market, you can get a fresh tree as well. Mr. Jingles has six different tree types, fresh garland and wreaths.
Across the street from The Grove and Farmers Market, you’ll find a free-to-enter, pop-up experience called The Los Angeles Christmas Market. This pop-up features immersive winter wonderland decor, a photo op with Santa Claus and a themed holiday market and is open through Jan. 3.
Glamour in Beverly Hills
If it’s glam you want, look to the hills – Beverly Hills, that is. The Rodeo Drive Committee, in partnership with the City of Beverly Hills, is hosting “Visions of Holiday Glamour,” a festive holiday installation that aims to bring the great runways of Paris, Milan and New York to palm-tree-lined Rodeo Drive.
This sparkling addition to the street will be up through Jan. 3, providing holiday shoppers with a safe moment of visual escape, celebrating fashion, couture and the magic of the holidays. Nine beautifully adorned mannequins will appear to walk the length of the street’s runway. Raised in the center median, illuminated and visible from afar, they will be dressed in shimmering red, green, blue and metallic gowns made of jewel-toned faux florals, winter foliage and accents of metallic holiday ornaments. Along the thoroughfare, the palm trees will glow with snowflake-like lights while oversized shining ornaments will adorn light poles.
Glam or casual cozy, L.A. County is intent on making this holiday season as special as any other. In the end, it’s not the quantity of things we can do that makes the holiday season most meaningful. It’s the quality of our intentions that matter, whether we’re talking to Santa on Zoom, caroling inside our cars or picking up a curbside gift for someone special.
Check Your Local Shopping Center for Holiday Happenings
Northridge Fashion Center northridgefashioncenter.com
Westfield Valencia Town Center westfield.com/valencia
Baldwin Hills Crenshaw baldwinhillscrenshawplaza.com
Long Beach Towne Center longbeachtownecenter.net
Manhattan Village shopmanhattanvillage.com
Plaza El Segundo plazaelsegundo.com
The Point thepointsb.com
Westfield Century City westfield.com/centurycity
Westfield Culver City westfield.com/culvercity
Glendale Galleria glendalegalleria.com
Sherman Oaks Galleria shermanoaksgalleria.com
The Americana at Brand americanaatbrand.com
Westfield Santa Anita westfield.com/santaanita
Westfield Fashion Square Sherman Oaks westfield.com/fashionsquare
Palisades Village palisadesvillageca.com
The Commons at Calabasas shopcommons.com
The Promenade at Westlake shoppromenade.com
The Lakes at Thousand Oaks shoplakes.com
Waterside at Marina Del Rey caruso.com/our-portfolio/waterside-at-marina-del-rey
Westfield Topanga/The Village westfield.com/topanga
The Grove thegrovela.com
The Original Farmers Market farmersmarketla.com
Cassandra Lane is managing editor of L.A. Parent.