A New Christmas Tradition that Doesn’t Break the Bank

IllumOcean LEDLight

Living in Orange County, California, we have endless options for holiday events and activities. I never thought I would have too many options to consider but concerts, ballets, ice shows, and even an afternoon of skating can get expensive. It’s not like we can just sharpen our skates and hop on a frozen lake. We want to create holiday traditions for our family without breaking the bank. Dana Point IlluminOcean is a free event that lights up our hearts with holiday cheers. We drove down to Dana Point Marina last night to view the light show. Minus a few dollars for gas and ice cream treats, IlluminOcean is the cheapest way to ring in the holiday season. 

Check out these stunning views of IlluminOcean courtesy of Matthew McNally. (I normally take my own photos but when it comes to holiday traditions, I focus more on enjoying the evening with my family.)

IlluminOcean Light TunnelIlluminOcean Blue Whale IlluminOcean Elf HatIlluminOcean PilgrimIlluminOcean SeaTreeIlluminOcean LightTunnel

Athena ran from display to display with a smile on her face. She danced along the boardwalk and hummed to the musical selections. She’s really getting into the holiday season and the excitement exudes from her. One of the best parts of being a parent is seeing things for the first time all over again.

***Nellie Gail Road in Laguna Hills has a spectacular Christmas light show as well. It features dancing LED lights choreographed to holiday songs and there are more than 100,000 glimmering lights that make up this festive display. If you live in the Southern California area and you’re looking for cheap options to get you in the holiday spirit, these are two of my favorites.

What is your favorite holiday event? Do you attend a holiday parade? Do you put up a tree? How do you get in the holiday mood?

40 thoughts on “A New Christmas Tradition that Doesn’t Break the Bank

    • I couldn’t agree more. We’ve been having so much fun already. We decorated the tree together, went to IlluminOcean, and next weekend we’re going to make a gingerbread house. It’s so much fun with a toddler. Now I know why my mother loves this time of the year so much. 🙂

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  1. That fourth photo is stunning. It reminds me of a dragon. My favorite holiday event is Christmas Eve church service. We always eat pizza while we decorate our tree. Egg nog is the sure fire way to get in the holiday spirit, and sugar cookies always help.

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  2. Not hard when you have 5 little ones! They’ll get you in the spirit rather quickly and it gives me great joy to see their smiles! Two live Christmas Trees go up and each year decorated differently. One is a 20′ for the great room and 12′ for the Living room. That’ll put you in the mood! Cheryl


      • Hi Lesley, not yet, this weekend. We are working on outside white lights on our 6 Palm Trees (base to fronds are lit up),Top Deck railing (basically 3-stories up). My husband’s employees are working on the lighting outside now. The front gate has white lights and huge lit wreath. Then they will hang white lights on the two live trees inside the home. It may be 75 degrees out and Ocean waves are in and out to shore but Christmas is Christmas no matter where you reside! Cheryl

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  3. What a fun light show! I have three younger children so I like to keep it simple around the holidays but this year we are packing a punch in a weekend away – Breakfast with Santa, a German Christmas market, horse and carriage ride at night to see the lights in the small town and donning our fancy clothes. I am probably crazy with a 2, 4 and 6 year old but I already know that about myself!

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  4. Oh Wow just love the pictures especially the ship one. That must have been something to see. Looks like fun especially for Athena. There is a street in a nearby town where each house tells a story as you progress along. They also pipe in music and it is always beautiful!


  5. I agree with you Lesley. Having children allows a parent to experience the wonders of the world as if it were the first time. When my kids were little we would make biscuits and shape them into hearts and stars, thred them with ribbon to hang on the trees. We’d also make popcorn garlands x


  6. Obviously a great evening. My versions of this are: 1. Christmas lights at London’s Oxford and Regent Streets; 2. Some villages such as Lower Morden in South London, or Bartley in Hampshire, vie with each other in decorating their gardens and the outsides of their houses.


  7. I love going to Lock 3, our outdoor amphitheater in downtown Akron. We just enjoyed the Holiday Lighting Ceremony, complete with choreographed ice skaters, local musicians and fireworks. The ice skating rink is fun and free, and a myriad of other activities are available — sled riding, putt putt golf, train rides, shopping, etc. It’s a fun place to get in the Holiday spirit!


  8. Have you tried Target Free Sundays on the 1st Sunday of the month it’s the OCMA and the 2nd I believe is the Bower’s Museum always have events and fun crafts for the kiddos for free! The Great Park in August would have world class bands for free parking was $10 but if you car pooled even better. We saw Pancho Sanchez for free! The Irvine Zoo has a nominal fee and its the perfect size for your little one right now. The Mission in San Juan Capistrano had mariachi bands compete I think the 3rd Saturday of the month. As for holiday adventure I would say Casa Romantica in San Clemente is beautiful all year round but especially so during the holidays. Don’t recall a heavy entrance fee. Oh and don’t forget about all those fabulous trails, bike or hike. Happy Trails!


  9. ‘I normally take my own photos but when it comes to holiday traditions, I focus more on enjoying the evening with my family’ – good for you! And good that Christmas events don’t always have to be about spending money:)


  10. My hubby and I don’t do/go to events. We avoid traffic and crowds. What fuddy-duddies, huh? Perhaps I will drag him to something this year.

    We DO put up a tree. To me that is an EVENT. It takes DAYS! Days, and days, and days. I put on HUNDREDS (yes HUNDREDS) of ornaments. For the past many years we have put our tree on a table so that The Princess could have room to sprawl beneath it. Since the tree displaced her cat tower in front of the window. So the tree has been a bit smaller. But she died this summer so I think I am going to take advantage of a Catless-Christmas and get a tree from floor to ceiling. Then I will be able to put all of my ornaments on. It might take WEEKS to decorate! 🙂 Decorating our tree is really an event for me. I love “Ooooo-ing!” and “Ahhh-ing!” over all the ornaments. I love deciding which ones are going to be in the primary spot (the ones I see the most). Ooooo! Can’t wait. Gonna get our tree this weekend. Yay!

    To get in the mood, I clean. I clean really well because it is sometimes difficult to dust and vacuum around all the decorations so I make sure it is clean to start with in case I don’t get to it while the decorations are up. I even posted on my blog about how I oiled my furniture in preparation of decorations! Yipeee!

    Ok, sorry, my comment is almost as long as your post!

    I LOVE lights. This place looks gorgeous!


  11. Living in Orange County? Geez, obviously I have to do a better job keeping up with your posts. I thought you had left California… welcome back!


  12. Like many Australian towns, Santa arrives at many local events on a fire engine. When my kids were young and we had a few bush fires during summer, they’d hear the siren and call out: “It’s Santa”. Don’t you love it?!! CHristmas certainly is very different down here in the heat. We usually spend Christmas Day in my aunty’s swimming pool. xx Rowena


  13. I think the less commercialism we see at Christmas, the happier we’ll see the people. Once everyone can just focus on the togetherness aspect of the season once again, I know I for one, will be a much happier sledder.


  14. I love the Christmas light show. The tree and the lights are my favorite part of the holidays, well the gifts too. My sons remind me of the wonder and anticipation of the holiday season and a little of how greedy I was as a child. Just a glutton of wants. Great post. Happy Holidays!


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