My Journey by Donna Karan

This year has been pretty rough. We’ve had to say goodbye to a bunch of beloved celebs, got through an intense election, and now find ourselves with just a couple weeks left of 2016.

But we need our holidays to be merry and bright. So put your Santa hat on and grab an ugly sweater, because we’ve put together a list of things you can do in Orange County that are sure to help you get your holly jollys on.

Tripple Axel (ok…maybe just a gentle glide…) Your Way to the Holidays!

1. Go ice skating. Like, now. Don’t wait until the weekend of Christmas because then there will be a billion people. There’s one outdoor rink: OC Chill at Irvine Spectrum, where 20 bucks will get you an open-skate session (which is a little more than an hour) with skate rental. They have some extended sessions and late-night sessions as well; make sure you check the schedule online. Here are a couple of indoor rinks to try (usually a bit cheaper at about $11 per person with skate rental): Aliso Viejo Ice Palace, Yorba Linda ICE (public sessions), Anaheim ICE (public sessions), Westminster ICE (public sessions) and KHS Ice Arena in Anaheim.

Shop Till You Drop!

2. Shop at holiday boutiques. Sawdust Art & Craft Festival’s Annual Winter Fantasy has one more weekend to go (it ends Dec. 18). They offer so many great pieces that are all handmade by local artisans. You are pretty much guaranteed to find something you just gotta have in your life, so make sure you leave room in the budget for a little present for yourself too. The Huntington Beach Art-A-Faire is also open on weekends.

Calories Don’t Exist During the Holidays!

3. Eat peppermint-flavored treats. Or egg nog. Or pumpkin. Or whatever says “holiday” to you. This can be as simple as hitting your local Whole Foods for holiday goodies and Starbucks for a seasonal drink, or visit your local bakery for a special treat.

Light Up…with Christmas Lights!

4. Go see Christmas lights. East Lake Village in Yorba Linda is situated around a lake, which helps make it even more gorgeous to bundle up and take a walk around the neighborhood. Other great areas include: Brea neighborhood near Kraemer off Birch, Laguna Hills/Nellie Gail, Candy Cane Lane in Rancho Santa Margarita, the Snoopy house in Costa Mesa, or you can take the Mission Viejo Holiday Lights Tour.

Party On, Wayne!

5. Attend a massive holiday event. The Newport Beach Boat Parade runs from Dec. 14 through 18 this year, starting at 6:30 each night. You also still have time for the Dana Point Harbor Boat Parade of Lights, happening Dec. 16 and 17.

PJ Party > Ugly Sweater Party!

6. Host a pajama party. Everyone’s doing ugly sweaters. Go one step cozier and tell your friends to come in their comfiest jammies. Order treats to keep everyone’s bellies full, and look up some fun holiday-themed cocktail recipes, such as Candy Cane Cocktail or Gingerbread Eggnog White Russian.

You’re Never Too Old for Santa!

7. Take a picture with Santa. South Coast Plaza is so decked out in holiday decor that just walking around that place, for the sole reason of taking in the beauty, will get you in a festive mood. But they also have Santa, and Santa is not just for kids. Brea Mall also has a great Santa. There are a few spots in Disneyland where you can meet with Mr. Claus, but if you don’t have an annual pass, visit him in the Crystal Cove foyer at Paradise Pier Hotel, the Great Hall at Grand Californian, or near the Grand Ballroom in the Disneyland Hotel. (Check the app for times.)

Ballet, Baby!

8. Experience “The Nutcracker.” I’m not sure I remember such an influx of opportunities to see this ballet but this year it’s all the rage. There are performances at Segerstrom Center for the Arts through Dec. 18, Northwood Performing Arts Center in Irvine through Dec. 19, and Goldenwest College and Irvine Barclay through Dec. 24. But if that’s just not your thing, I’ve got a backup: “ELF the Musical” is at Segerstrom from Dec. 20 through Jan. 1, and it’s sure to bring a giggle or two.

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