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Holiday Happenings

Welcome to the 2019 Holiday Season! There is so much to see and do in our area each year. From Christmas tree-lighting ceremonies to holiday parades, arts and entertainment, there is always something for the entire family to enjoy. On the next few pages, we'll share a few can't-miss options. The beauty of holiday lighting at the Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel and the Dana Point Harbor is unsurpassed in the region. Also, the Laguna Niguel Holiday Parade, a full-filled day in the heart of the City, includes celebrity guests and, of course, Mr. Claus. And you can't miss Surfing Santa and Standup Paddle Board Contest at Salt Creek. This event is followed by the Holiday Surfboard Auction. Benefiting Surfers Healing, this display of surfboard art showcases some of the most amazing art ever produced on surfboards. Finally, there is The Nutcracker. While there are some tremendous ballet companies performing this holiday classic all over the world, we encourage you to enjoy Laguna Niguel's very own fleet of young dancers at South Coast Ballet Conservatory. Under the leadership of Bolshoi Master, Enton Hoxha, they never fail to wow audiences.   

Ritz-Carlton Holiday Open House and Tree Lighting

What is a Californian Christmas without the Ritz-Carlton Holiday Open-House and Christmas tree lighting ceremony? This annual Christmas tree lighting takes place in late November every year. Festive music fills the air, and complimentary hot chocolate and cookies fill the kids!

And if the thrill of magical twinkles isn't enough, Santa’s stopover is sure to be the icing on this magical event. No one else but the Ritz could masterfully create a Christmas sensory spectacular like this. This year, the Ritz-Carlton partnered with local nonprofit organizations Miracles for Kids and the Orange County Rescue Mission.

The ambiance would not be complete without the debut of the confection masterpiece tradition the Ritz calls, Gingerbread Extravaganza. This twenty-fourp-foot-by-nine-foot edible art-piece is inspired by Dr. Seuss's How The Grinch Stole Christmas. The Ritz is sure to tickle all of your senses this year, scratch at your imagination and leave your heart bursting with holiday glee.

Fun Fact

Developed by executive pastry chef Sylvain Haage, this year's gingerbread extravaganza took more than 500 hours to create. It will be on public display in the lobby from Nov. 24 until Jan. 2.

Dana Point Harbor Boat Parade of Lights

Set your sails for the 45th Annual Dana Point Boat Parade of Lights, Fridays and Saturdays, December 6, 7, 13, and 14. Festivities begin at 4:30 p.m., and the Boat Parade starts at 7:30 p.m. Trolley service is available from 4:30-10:30 p.m.

The Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel’s Annual Surfing Santa Contest and Holiday Surfboard Auction

Surf’s up at Salt Creek Beach each year when the Ritz-Carlton hosts the annual Surfing Santa and Stand-up Paddle Board Contest to kick off their holiday season. This two-day holiday-inspired event is held in late November. Contestants dress up in their best Santa attire and compete in the waves directly below the resort. Salt Creek Beach is known as one of the best surfing destinations in California.

Following the contest each year, the resort hosts an Annual Holiday Surfboard Auction. This year’s Holiday Surfboard Auction began Nov. 23 and runs through Dec. 31. Both events benefit Surfers Healing, a nonprofit that provides children with autism the gift of surfing.

The auction features a variety of artistry surfboards donated by celebrated artists. These surfboards include works by ground-breaking artists Wyland, Juliet Gilden and Nicholas Kontaxis; musicians like DJ Steve Aoki and Red Hot Chili Peppers’ drummer Chad Smith; along with shapers such as Firewire, Ellis Surfboards and Brawner Boards. The boards are on display in the oceanfront resort’s lobby throughout the entire holiday season, and bids can be placed online at Bidding for Good through Dec. 31.  

Through Surfers Healing, thousands of children struggling with autism have benefited from the surf camp experience. Although autism now affects 1 in 59 children in the U.S., Surfers Healing doesn’t think in thousands. They think in ones, because that's where they can effect change. One child. One family. One perfect day at the beach. 

Bruce Brainerd, general manager of the Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel, developed the Surfing Santa Contest and Holiday Surfboard Auction as a way to connect and pay homage to Dana Point’s iconic surf history. In 2018, the resort raised more than $44,000 for the charity, with a total donation of $390,000 since collaborating with the nonprofit 11 years ago.

“Every year, we anticipate these special events, continuing to elevate our annual tradition by connecting with our local community in a meaningful way and raising more funds for Surfers Healing,” Bruce says. “It’s an honor to see our mission of giving back to children with autism lived out for the past 11 years with so much support from locals, artists and creatives. We could not make such an impactful difference without them.”

The Nutcracker

What’s Christmas without The Nutcracker? A classic Christmas Story, The Nutcracker is a fairytale ballet in two acts centered on a family’s Christmas Eve celebration. Set to music by Tchaikovsky, it was originally commissioned by the director of Moscow’s Imperial Theatres, Ivan Vsevolozhsky, in 1891, and premiered a week before Christmas 1892.

Since its first U.S. performance in 1944 by the San Francisco Ballet, this ballet has become the most popular to be performed around Christmas time. There are several wonderful The Nutcracker productions in Southern California each holiday season, including Laguna Niguel’s very own, produced by South Coast Ballet Conservatory.


The South Coast Ballet Conservatory’s production of The Nutcracker runs Dec. 17-19 at the Capistrano Valley High School Performing Arts Center. For tickets, visit​​​​​​

Laguna Niguel Holiday Parade

The 21st Annual Laguna Niguel Holiday Parade will be held Dec. 14 at 10 a.m. on Crown Valley Parkway, between Nueva Vista and Central Park Drive.

The Parade is thrilled to reveal Mr. John O’Hurley as the 2019 Holiday Parade Grand Marshal. John is an American actor, voice actor, singer, comedian, author and television personality. He is best known for the role of J. Peterman on the NBC sitcom Seinfeld and was also on the first season of Dancing with the Stars. O’Hurley will be playing the role of Captain Hook in the Laguna Playhouse’s holiday production of Peter Pan and Tinker Bell—A Pirate’s Christmas, a Lythgoe Family Panto Dec. 4-29.

Since its start in 1999, the Laguna Niguel Holiday Parade has ushered in the holiday season with joyful fun. This year’s theme of “Celebrating 30” is in honor of the City of Laguna Niguel’s 30th anniversary. The parade will feature beautiful equestrian units, patriotic and inspirational military tributes, spirit-filled youth groups, classic auto clubs, talented marching bands, and of course, holiday cheer. Learn more at

  • Photo: Delainey Iles
  • Photo: Theresa Geurts
  • Photo: Alexey Bever