Free Family Fun
We might not have snowballs or roaring fireplaces in Orange County, but there are a sleigh-load of family-friendly activities sure to help you survive the holiday break. OC is rich with light shows, carols, the telling of classic Christmas tales, crafts, multicultural celebrations and more. If that doesn’t jingle your bells, they’re free! Here are our faves.
Nursery School – Best Neighborhoods for Car Seat Light Displays
Whether you’re trying to unwind them after a family party with their wild cousins, bring them down from a sugar cookie high or just want a festive detour home, the littlest elves can get in the holiday mood from the comfort from their car seat.
Brea’s Birch Street, Fountain Valley’s Christmas tract near Brookhurst Street and Heil Avenue, Lake Forest’s Belquest Drive and Rancho Santa Margarita’s Candy Cane Lane (officially El Corzo Street), are all wonderful places to take in the holiday lights.
Preschool – Irvine Spectrum’s Holiday Light Show
Preschoolers will have a blast taking in the holiday spirit at the Irvine Spectrum, which unveiled a mesmerizing new light show this year.
Until December 24, the outdoor mall will house a 50-foot LED Christmas tree with animated lights that “dance” to holiday music. A choreographed light show will run every 30 minutes at Edwards Court between 5 and 11 p.m.
Before crowding around the tree, kids can swing by Santa’s House to take free selfies with the jolly old fellow. Saint Nick will be at his Carousel Court surf shack until Christmas Eve and, as a special treat, will share cookies and milk with visitors every Saturday from 2 to 4 p.m.
Kindergarten – Kids Club Frozen Christmas, Huntington Beach
There may not be snow, but there will be flurries of excitement at the Bella Terra mall December 19. That’s when Elsa, Anna, and other characters from Disney’s Frozen will stop by the outdoor shopping center to deliver some holiday cheer to little fans.
There will be stories, songs, dances and photos with the Frozen stars. Kids are encouraged to dress in character. The free event, best suited for toddlers through age six, runs from 10:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.
Elementary – Holiday Readings at Once Upon A Storybook, Tustin
Milk and cookies aren’t just for Santa. Little ones will have a chance to indulge in the classic wintertime snacks during Once Upon A Storybook’s holiday-themed story time, December 21.
The fun will begin at 7 p.m. and is best suited for kids aged three to eight. Though sweet snacks will be provided, children are encouraged to bring their own food if they have sensitivities or allergies.
It’s one of several Christmas-themed story times the store will host during the week of December 19. Itty Bitty story times (for children two and younger) are planned for December 19 at 10 a.m., 10:30 a.m. and 11 a.m. Preschool story times are scheduled for December 20 and 23 at 11 a.m.
Middle School – The Muckenthaler’s Holiday Festival, Fullerton
This family-friendly event boasts a mix of entertainment for the ages. While there are plenty of activities to engage little ones – including a children’s play area and an appearance by Santa – there’s plenty to hold the interest of older kids, too.
For example, the Muckenthaler will offer free home and gallery tours, which will give visitors a fascinating glimpse into the cultural center’s extraordinary exhibitions. There will also be live music, food vendors, an arts and craft fair and craft beer selections for mom and dad. The December 18 event runs from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m.
Junior High – Carols ‘Round The Lake, Rancho Santa Margarita
It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas at the Rancho Santa Margarita Lake. This year it will sound the part, too, thanks to SAMLARC’s Carols ‘Round the Lake event. Tweens-to-teens can enjoy an evening of dance, music and special performances by local artists.
Organizers of the family-friendly event, which runs from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m., encourage participants to dress warmly and to “be ready to walk around the lake like never before”. While they’re bopping along to the music, attendees can also take in the lake’s spectacular, 32-foot Christmas tree.
High School – First Night Fullerton
If it’s good enough for Madonna and Bono, it’s good enough for anybody. First Night Fullerton is a New Year’s Eve celebration so fun, you won’t want 2016 to end. There will be hot air balloon rides, games, and food trucks. Tribute bands playing U2 and The Beatles tunes provide the musical backdrop, while celebrity impersonators (including Madonna and Elvis) mingle with the crowd.
At the Museum Center (offering free admission from 7 p.m. to 11:30 p.m.), visitors can view a photography display of the 59 national parks, as well as a collection of art guitars from the Fender Custom Shop.
By Michelle Thompson