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12 Drive-Thru Holiday Experiences in California | Visit California

12 Drive-Thru Holiday Experiences in California

See shimmering lights, watch classic movies, and wave to Santa from the comfort of your own vehicle

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In a year when curbside pickup has become a way of life, the holiday season is offering up a festive twist: holiday entertainment you can enjoy from the comfort and safety of your own car. While families have long enjoyed driving around to see twinkling lights—and plenty of California’s holiday light displays are carrying on this year—plucky innovators are inviting guests to drive inside otherwise-closed theme parks, watch holiday movies at drive-in theaters, or even see a lineup of holiday-festooned wine barrels. Load your household (or bubble) into the car for these fun holiday memories-in-the-making, many of which continue into the new year.

Dec. 10–Jan. 10: Night of Lights, Costa Mesa

This year’s incarnation of WinterFest (affiliated with the Orange County Fair) is a mile-long drive-thru of lights in Costa Mesa, featuring tunnels and big displays. You can order ahead for your hot cocoa and treats—from tamales to cookie buckets—and have it served at your car when you arrive. Admission starts at $49 per car.

Dec. 11–13: Transcendence's Broadway Holiday at the Drive-In, Sonoma

The same theatre company that’s known for its Broadway Under the Stars summer shows is offering a holiday drive-in version. Park at the Sonoma Raceway for this from-your-car sing-along, with concessions featuring seasonal cuisine. Admission starts at $59 per car.

Dec. 13–27: Christmas Tree Lane, Oxnard

Drive along F & G Streets in the Ventura County town of Oxnard to see its annual displays—then, cruise past the Plaza Park, with its pagoda and the tallest Christmas tree in Ventura County.

Through Dec. 24: Dodgers Holiday Festival, Los Angeles

Celebrate this year’s World Series champs at their home field. This drive-thru experience at Dodger Stadium includes a light show, LED video displays, fake snow, and interactive displays honoring the team. Admission is $55 per car.

Through Dec. 26: Drive-In at the Hollywood Roosevelt, Hollywood

It’s appropriate that the site of the first Oscars ceremony, the Hollywood Roosevelt hotel, has gotten into screening movies in its parking lot: See Elf (Dec. 6), How the Grinch Stole Christmas (Dec. 13), A Christmas Story (Dec. 20), and It's a Wonderful Life (Dec. 26), all with animated shorts beforehand. Reservations required; admission starts at $45 per car.

Through Dec. 27: Holiday Lights Drive-Thru, Santa Cruz

Drive the half-mile route through the fairgrounds to see displays of Santa, reindeer, and snowmen, as well as lighted tunnels and giant twinkling Christmas trees. Admission starts at $15. Nearby, at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk Drive-In Theater, you can also see Nutcracker: The Movie, Dec. 18–20. Admission is $45 per car.

Through Dec. 30: Annual Fantasy of Lights Drive-Thru, Los Gatos

First launched in 1999, this drive-thru of holiday lights in Santa Clara County covers 1.5 miles by Vasona Lake, enhanced by a radio soundtrack of music. The lineup of 50 LED-lit animated displays and tunnels includes a 90-foot tree, Santa, penguins, dinosaurs, and even pirates. Admission is $20 per car.

Through Jan. 2: Holiday Wine Barrel Tour, St. Helena

One foolproof holiday decor strategy is to make the most of what you have—and in Napa Valley, that’s wine barrels. This map leads you on a driving route to more than 80 of barrels around St. Helena, decorated by both businesses and residents. 

Through Jan. 2: Holidays in Your Car, Ventura and San Diego

The two-location event touts itself as “Clark Griswold on amphetamines”: Cruise through the county fairgrounds in Ventura and San Diego (located in Del Mar) to see over a million LED lights, Holograms, lasers, and projection mapping. As you drive, you tune your car radio to get a soundtrack of holiday music. Admission starts at $49 per car.

Through Jan. 31: Holiday in the Park Drive-Thru Experience, Santa Clarita

L.A. County’s Six Flags Magic Mountain is currently closed in terms of rollercoasters and shows, but during the holidays you can have the novel experience of driving a circuitous path inside the Santa Clarita park. There are distinctly themed areas, featuring some of the park’s DC Comics mojo as well as appearances by Santa and the elves. Admission is $25 per person, with a minimum of two people in the car, and reserved online; park members and passholders can get in free, but also need to reserve online.

Through Jan. 3: Christmas in the Park—A Drive-Thru Holiday, San Jose

This San Jose tradition dates back to the 1950s when a holiday display was set up in front of a local mortuary and then city hall. It’s expanded over the decades and will be car-oriented this year, based in the 14-acre History Park. See creative displays and hundreds of decorated Christmas trees alongside the park’s 32 original and reproduction homes, businesses, and landmarks of Santa Clara Valley. Admission starts at $10.

Through Jan. 10: Holiday Road, Calabasas

Drive through the King Gillette Ranch in Los Angeles County’s Santa Monica Mountains—a terrain that has hosted many a movie and TV-series shoot—to see the jumbo holiday displays, countless candy canes, and oodles of Christmas lights. Admission starts at $75 per car.

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