Christmas spirit
Great SoCal destinations for the season
The sun's out, the palm trees are swaying and it's 1 not likely that a lot of places in Southern California are going to enjoy a White Christmas -- with the possible exception of Big Bear, or course.

If shopping for Christmas gifts doesn't quite do it for you, there are several places in Southern California that offer up a healthy dose of Christmas spirit. In fact there are lots of holiday lights and even ice-skating rinks just like the folks in northern climates enjoy during this very special time of the year.

So come on in from the beach, gather up the kids and head for these special Christmas destinations. They're the next best thing to visiting the North Pole!

Los Angeles Zoo Lights

These are at Griffith Park in Los Angeles, a great place to visit any time of the year. This year, the zoo opens up at night during the holiday season so that you can enjoy the light sculptures and 3-D projections of various animals of all makes and models.

This all keeps going right on through January 3 and it only will cost you $16 for kids and $11 to $14 for children between 2 and 12 years old. There are also VIP nights, and a special Family New Year's Eve with a DJ dance party and crafts for the kids.

Mission Inn Festival of Lights

If you've never been to the Mission Inn in Riverside, it's worth going even if it wasn't for the Festival of Lights. This hotel is rich in history and in fact has had presidents of the United States as guests. People travel from far and wide just to see the unique Spanish architecture.

Altogether there are 4 million lights that illuminate the hotel and downtown buildings. If you're looking for Christmas spirit, this beats the shopping malls any day of the week.

Reindeer Romp

Another Los Angeles event is the Reindeer Romp at the Los Angeles Zoo & Botanical Gardens. Kids and parents will enjoy seeing the reindeer throughout the holiday period from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily through January 3.

Occasionally Santa Claus will be there as well and best of all it's all included with zoo admission, $20 for adults and $15 for children 2 to 12.

Festival of Lights Parade in Palm Springs

Over in Palm Springs, skateboard legend Tony Hawk will lead this parade that runs from 5:30 to 8 p.m. December 5. The parade features huge holiday balloons, lighted floats and, of course, Santa Claus, reindeer and, who knows, maybe some elves, too.

The parade starts at North Indian Canyon Drive and is one of the most popular events in Southern California during the holiday season.

Walk of the Inns in Palm Springs

While you're in the area, try the self-guided walking tour around neighborhoods between Ramon Road and Tahquitz Canyon Way from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. Dec. 10.

There are some pretty fancy decorations to see at the Old Ranch Inn, Calla Lily, Casa Cody and many other hotels along the route. Go to the Palm Springs Art Museum first -- they'll have a map and flashlights to help you find your way.

Mrs. Claus' Life-Sized Gingerbread House

Santa's wife has built a 1200-pound gingerbread house at JW Marriott Los Angeles L.A. Live. The decorations are all made of cookie dough, while the furnishings are made of candy.

The Gingerbread House will be open through Dec. 31, and Santa will appear for photos from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Dec. 19.
PHOTOS: Mission Inn Festival of Lights
PHOTO CREDITS: Photo courtesy Mission Inn Hotel & Spa
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