Email greetings are nice and all, but nothing says I really went the extra mile during the holidays quite like sending one of those personalized photo postcards via snail mail. Seriously though, while most of us will end up posting our pics on Instagram (or on Facebook for all of the older folks back home), the common quasi-conundrum that we non-creative, non-pro photogs face is where to take decent holiday photos in LA without having to make an extra stop during our gift shopping scavenger hunt.
Whether you're looking to pose with your entire fam (including the fur babies) or with the Claus clan, or take silly sweater photos with the big red man and your S.O. (or BFF), we've rounded up the best spots in L.A. for getting your festive portraits done right. From classic posed pictures with St. Nick and a seated brunch with Santa (so very L.A., right?) to a technicolor backdrop and even a photo op-filled winter wonderland, there's something for everyone – regardless of whether you're an observer of Christmas, the Winter Solstice, Diwali, Hannukah, Kwanzaa, Festivus, or even the Pastafarian Holiday.
On that cheery note, see 'em all below, and stay tuned as we'll be updating this list when additional photogenic happenings land in our inbox. And if you're looking for events with a little more going on, check out our ongoing list of L.A.'s hottest holiday happenings.
L.A. Arboretum Lightscape (Arcadia): The internationally acclaimed Lightscape is the must-see holiday event for 2021. In association with Sony Music and Culture Creative, Lightscape has transformed the 127-acre L.A. County Arboretum and Botanic Garden into a wonder of light and sound. Guests will wander through the mile-long pathway with about a dozen installations spaced out along the way. Expect to spend about an hour strolling through the one-way loop and posing for photos among the Winter Cathedral, the breathtaking Fire Garden, the Star Tunnel, and more. Members save $3 per ticket.
When: Now through Sunday, Jan. 16 from 5:30 p.m. to 8:45 p.m. in 15-minute intervals (closes at 10 p.m.)
Where: L.A. Arboretum, 301 North Baldwin Ave., Arcadia, 91007
Cost: Tickets range from $18 to $32; buy yours here
Rodeo Drive Winter Wonderland (Beverly Hills): The glamour of Beverly Hills doesn't disappoint when it comes to luxurious holiday displays and decorations. Rodeo drive is replete with holiday cheer in the form of larger-than-life nutcrackers, string lights wrapped around the palms, garland, gold and silver baubles, ornamental wreaths, and a fully-decorated Christmas tree. Two Rodeo features a large and completely lit-up bauble with a bench inside for the perfect photo. You'll also find Holiday Helpers, mirrored elf statues, grace the medians from Santa Monica Boulevard to Wilshire Boulevard.
Where: 210 North Rodeo Dr., Beverly Hills, 90210
Westfield Topanga & The Village (Topanga): 'Tis the season for pics with Nick! Head to the Westfield Mall for the opportunity to fulfill all of your Christmas photo fantasies. Children with autism and other special needs can enjoy the time-honored tradition of a visit with Santa in a more subdued and calm environment. Sensory-friendly Santa events are free and keepsake photo packages will be available for purchase. Find him on Level 1 near Target.
When: Now through Monday, Dec. 24 from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Where: 6600 CA-27, Canoga Park, 91303
Cost: Free; reserve your spot here
Beverly Cañon Gardens (Beverly Hills): The beautiful and tranquil Beverly Cañon Gardens, located in the 200 block of North Cañon Drive, is celebrating the holidays with a beautiful installation of two bauble-decorated wreaths large enough for you to walk through and use as a frame in your photos. Situated alongside The Maybourne Beverly Hills, the 33,000 square feet of public gardens and open space features public outdoor dining areas, water fountains, and a gorgeous garden.
Where: 241 North Cañon Dr., Beverly Hills, 90210
The Mission Inn Festival of Lights (Riverside): The national historic landmark hotel The Mission Inn Hotel & Spa is inviting SoCal residents to its annual Festival of Lights. For 29 years, keepers of the Inn, Kelly & Duane Roberts, have displayed one of the nation's largest holiday light collections with 5 million holiday lights and over 400 animated figures. Voted "Best Public Lights Display" by USA Today, the event is perfect for adding a pop of color to your feed.
When: Now through Thursday, Jan. 6
Where: 3649 Mission Inn Ave., Riverside, 92501
Sparkle DTLA at The Bloc (Downtown): Indulge in a marvelous holiday show as 18 million hues of lights illuminate the night and synchronize to holiday music every hour on the hour from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. Sparkle DTLA will take you through an unforgettable nighttime journey with one of the City of Angel's largest, multi-colored, interactive holiday displays – including a twinkling 32-foot Christmas tree and a 16-foot illuminated bauble. Capture your next most-liked photo at Sparkle DTLA.
When: Now through Monday, Jan. 3 from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m.
Where: 700 West 7th St, L.A., 90017
The Elf on the Shelf's Magical Holiday Journey (Pomona): With Christmas Spirit running low, old St. Nick's magical sleigh had to make an emergency landing in Pomona. Now, Scout Elf Tiny Tinkerman and Santa's best Scout Elves need your help! Join them on a quest to build more Christmas Spirit, as you and your elf-loving crew magically shrink down to elf size and embark on a fun expedition through a dazzling outdoor winter wonderland to help repair Santa's sleigh! Snap pics in Christmas Village, among the dazzling scenery and walking paths, or while ice skating.
When: Now through Sunday, Jan. 3 from 3:30 p.m. to 10 p.m.
Where: Fairplex, 1101 West McKinley Ave., Pomona, 91768
Cost: Tickets range from $19.95 to $49.95; buy yours here
Winterland by Caruso (Glendale): Say hello to Santa this holiday season as he takes a ride on the Trolley each night, complete with flurries of snow to make your experience all the more magical. After snapping a photo with Kriss Kringle, in the snow, and among the festive decorations, take the little ones to fill out a complimentary postcard from Caruso Concierge. Drop it in Santa's mailbox and they'll send it directly to his workshop. And be sure to include your address so Santa can send a postcard back!
When: Now through Monday, Dec. 24 at 7 p.m. and 8 p.m.
Where: The Americana at Brand, 889 Americana Way, Glendale, 91210