Put down your credit card and stop shopping! It’s time to walk, drive, and cruise around Orange County beaches, neighborhoods and canals to marvel at the amazing light displays. Here are five of our favorites:
Crystal Cove Alliance Tree Lighting
Christmas tree on the sand? Yes, indeed! The Crystal Cove Historic District will be festooned with vintage decorations, carolers will be singing, there’s free hot chocolate, Santa arrives at 4 p.m. for photographs, and the big finale—lighting the tree at sunset. 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., Sat. Dec. 5. Free; parking is $5 per hour or $15 for the day. Parking at Los Trancos lot, Newport Coast. 949-376-6200 or crystalcovealliance.org
Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade
“Seas the Holiday” is the theme for the 107th annual harbor parade that includes a myriad of vessels, from multimillion dollar yachts to kayaks and canoes. The boats wend their way on a 14-mile circuit around the harbor so no matter where you are—at restaurants, public beaches—you should have a great view. The Lido Isle bridge is a good places to watch, but make sure to arrive early. Nearby businesses and homes are encouraged to decorate, too, creating the annual “ring of lights.” 6:30 to 9 p.m., Wed. Dec. 16 through Sun., Dec. 20. The parade starts and concludes at Bay Island.
Private home at 18323 Stanislaus St., Fountain Valley
It’s hard to top this display, which has more than 50,000 LED lights and was one of the first displays to be programmed to change with music. You can hear it by turning your radio to 91.3 FM. The lights run from dusk until 11 p.m. Starts Dec. 4.
Eagle Hills Neighborhood, Brea
About 100 homes are decked out here, glowing and sparkling. Enter on East Birch and South Starflower streets at one end, or at East Lambert Road and Sunflower Street on the other side. Make sure you visit Primrose Avenue. You can venture by car, but if you’re on foot it’ll be easier to take advantage of the hot chocolate stands. Tickets for the city’s official Holiday Trolley Light Tour are nearly sold out, but check with them anyway because there are occasional cancellations. Trolley ends on Dec. 17, but the neighborhood is lit up through Christmas. 714-990-7100 or breaoldandnew.com/tag/eagle-hills-christmas-lights
Cruise of Lights, Huntington Harbour
This 45-minute narrated cruise has become an important holiday tradition in part because the proceeds benefit the Philharmonic Society’s Youth Programs. There are four cruises a night from Dec. 17 to 23. Enjoy the lights on the homes and boats from the comfort of a touring/whale-watching ship that holds about 120. It has a snack bar and serves beer and wine. $12 to $19, parking at Huntington Harbour Mall, 16889 Algonquin St., and shuttles take you to the cruise. 714-840-7542 or cruiseoflights.org