WEB-EXCLUSIVE: Whether you're in the mood for ice skating, to help a worthy cause or to simply visit with Santa, there is much to do this holiday season within our county lines.
Operation Santa Paws
Through Dec. 16
This countrywide event is sponsored by Haute Dogs, a Long Beach-based organization that focuses on providing for animals in need, and Justin Rudd’s nonprofit Community Action Team. Visit their website to find the nearest location where you can donate toys, food, treats, water bowls, litter boxes, and more. The organization is also hoping to attract volunteers to help with the distribution of donations on December 17 at local Seal Beach Animal Care Center (1700 Adolfo Lopez Dr., Seal Beach) and Orange County Animal Care Services (561 The City Dr., Orange).
Science of Gingerbread
Through Jan. 1, 2012 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
The Discovery Science Center is offering children the opportunity to learn all about gingerbread. Children are encouraged to assist in the kitchen with science experiments, visit with Santa, decorate (and eat!) Christmas cookies, participate in a Gingerbread Derby with cars made out of cookies, and much more. Admission is $14.95 for adults and $12.95 for children ages three to 14. Discovery Science Center, 2500 N. Main St., Santa Ana
Ice Skating at the Spectrum
Through Feb. 20, 2012; hours vary
Immerse yourself in the holiday season by partaking in a 75-minute session of outdoor ice skating in the Giant Wheel Court at Irvine Spectrum Center. If you don’t own a pair of skates, rent a pair for $2 at the rink and ask for a helmet, free of charge. Tickets for adults and children cost $12 Monday-Thursday; $14 Friday-Sunday and holidays. Season passes, booking for parties and private lessons are also available. Irvine Spectrum Center, 71 Fortune Dr., Irvine
Irvine Park Railroad
Dec. 9-11, 15-23; hours vary
Irvine Regional Park’s railroad has a special destination for its Christmas Train passengers – a visit with Santa Claus at the North Pole. Join in on this entertaining ride by either purchasing tickets online or on the day of your visit. Christmas train tickets cost $10, while children two years old and younger ride free. Santa’s Village, located adjacent to the Christmas train, offers holiday activities for children while they wait to board their train. Activities include: a Santa bounce house jumper, cookie decorating, coloring, games, and a visit with Mrs. Claus. 1 Irvine Park Rd., Orange
Laguna Niguel Holiday Parade
Dec. 10 at 10 a.m.
Magic Johnson has been chosen to serve as the 2011 Grand Marshal of the annual holiday parade that will include youth groups and organizations, marching bands, celebrities, military groups, and classic automobiles. The parade’s theme is Magical Holidays and is free of cost. Crown Valley Parkway between Nueva Vista and Crown Valley Community Park, Laguna Niguel
Dana Point Winter Festival
Dec. 10 from 12-7 p.m.
This all-day holiday event offers a fun-filled environment where families with young children can celebrate the upcoming winter season. Treat the young ones in your life to a meeting with Santa and his reindeer, face painting, arts and crafts, cookie decorating, a snow play area, pony rides, tree lighting, and a screening of The Polar Express to wrap up the evening. Live music entertainment will be provided throughout the day (including carols from the Dana Hills High School Carolers). Most activities are free. La Plaza Park, 34111, La Plaza St., Dana Point
21st Annual Winter Fantasy
Weekends through Dec. 11 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
The Sawdust Art Festival grounds have undergone a winter-themed transformation where over 170 art vendors will be displaying and selling their creations. A great place to do some holiday shopping, items for sale at the festival include: jewelry, clothing, ceramics, paintings, and sculptures. Participate in art projects or opt to take a back seat and watch an artist at work. With multiple on-site cafes, holiday entertainment and performances, this event is one for all ages. Admission is $6 for adults, $5 for seniors and $3 for children. Children ages five and younger are free. 935 Laguna Canyon Rd., Laguna Beach
Irish Holiday Festival
Dec. 11 from 12-4 p.m.
Add a pinch of Irish culture into your holiday celebrations this season by attending the Irish Holiday Festival at the Bowers Museum. Irish music, storytelling, dance, art, and food are anticipated in this one-day event. While entrance to the festival is free, there is a $15 fee for non-members who want to attend the storytelling and musical performance in the museum’s auditorium. Bowers Museum, 2002 N. Main St., Santa Ana
103rd Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade
Dec. 14-18 from 6:30-9 p.m.
The annual holiday event, hosted by the Commodores Club of the Newport Beach Chamber of Commerce, is a pet-friendly event for all ages. Yachts, kayaks, canoes, and boats will be covered in festive lights and decorations – creating holiday scenes and providing music for all lined up on the streets for this year’s Feelin’ Christmas-Sea in Newport Beach!-themed event. This boat parade is one of California’s largest and most well-established holiday boat parades. Admission is free. For more information on the parade and a map of the 14-mile route, visit their website. Bay Island/Newport Harbor
Huntington Beach Cruise of Lights
Dec. 15-23; hours vary
Take guided, narrated tours around the Huntington Harbor area and view decorated homes, docks, decks, and boats in holiday lights and adornments. Proceeds from the 49th annual Cruise of Lights will benefit the Philharmonic Society of Orange County. Tickets cost $17 for adults and $10 for children ages two to 12. 16889 Algonquin St., Huntington Beach