Disclaimer: Due to COVID-19 concerns, many events might be canceled, postponed, or changed into limited versions, sometimes at very short notice. Please check with event organizers directly for the latest updates (view the "External Resources" section below).
Located in the middle of the Sonoran Desert of southern California, Palm Springs can still offer loads of Christmas spirit. You can throw snowballs on top of Mount San Jacinto and relax in the sun by the pool wearing just your swimsuit in just one day. Not to mention numerous holiday events, fun activities, and shopping.
Palm Springs Aerial Tramway (December)
If you happen to be in Palm Springs during the holidays, taking the Aerial Tramway is a must. Located in Chino Canyon, this is the largest rotating aerial tramway in the world, linking the Coachella Valley and Mount San Jacinto. As there is often snow on the summit in December, don't forget to take your winter clothes and get ready for winter-time fun, like making a snowman or just rolling in the snow. During December, there is an illuminated Christmas Tree at the top of Mountain Station. The tree lighting ceremony that happens in early December includes live music, entertainment, and kids' activities.
Wild Lights at the Living Desert (November 25-December 28, 2020, tickets are sold online only)
The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens is quite amazing by itself. But it looks simply spectacular when the desert comes alive with holiday lights. The Zoo becomes a winter wonderland with themed animal encounters, light displays, and holiday music. It features more than 1 million holiday lights, illuminated life-size animals, like a giraffe or cheetahs. There is also a decorated G-scale model train with a 3,300-ft track. Stroll through glowing tunnels, sipping hot cocoa. Roast some marshmallows by the fire pit, and meet Santa on his sleigh. The Wild Lights event is open to the public from 6 to 9 pm on Fridays and Saturdays.
Light Up El Paseo (December 4, 2020)
El Paseo shopping district in Palm Desert looks beautiful during the holidays when adorned with twinkling lights and decorations. The holiday festivities start with Light Up El Paseo, featuring over a dozen holiday-themed inflatables and illuminated store window displays. The event starts at 5:30 pm with entertainment, refreshments, and lots of special offers for shoppers. The Gardens on El Paseo also offer photo opportunities with Santa Claus and holiday characters.