PICTURED: See Holidays in Your Car at the Ventura County Fairgrounds through Jan. 2, 2021. Photo courtesy of CBF Productions


by Nancy D. Lackey Shaffer


While many holiday traditions have been curtailed this year, there are a few fabulous experiences lighting up the season.

Fairgrounds light up for the holidays

Holidays in Your Car is being offered at the Ventura County Fairgrounds through Jan. 2. This drive-through light show takes participants on a journey that winds through a winter wonderland of colorful lasers, sparkling displays, holograms and more. All told, there are more than a million lights for the whole family to enjoy from the safety of the car. There’s a holiday soundtrack to accompany the light displays as well — just tune in to the provided FM radio station (attendants will tell you) when the drive begins.

The experience is brought to the fairgrounds by CBF Productions, also responsible for the popular Concerts in Your Car music series. 

UPDATE AS OF DEC. 9, 12:50 p.m.

The stage at the fairgrounds sustained considerable damage from severe winds on Dec. 7-8. Concerts in Your Car organizers have decided to strike it for the season, canceling the Ventura County Ballet’s production of The Nutcracker (originally scheduled to take place Dec. 12) and the stage show Santa Saves Christmas (Dec. 19). Holidays in Your Car does continue, however, and tickets are available at www.holidaysinyourcar.com/venturaholidayprograming.

In addition, the fairgrounds will host other seasonal entertainment this month, including Ventura County Ballet’s annual production of The Nutcracker (Dec. 12), the stage show Santa Saves Christmas (Dec. 19) and several holiday movies. Check out the full lineup and find tickets at .

Holiday programming at Hillcrest Center for the Arts

Thousand Oaks-based Hillcrest Center for the Arts kicks off the season Dec. 11-13 with a series of events designed to put everyone in the holiday spirit.

On Friday, Dec. 11, it will host a Wheels and Reels drive-in film screening of the Disney animated feature Frozen at 6:30 p.m. Dec. 12 will feature a holiday edition of Stand-Up Comedy on the Hill with host Jason Love and comedians Danny Jolles, Charlene Mae, Nick Cobb and Tommy Savitt. It can be enjoyed in person from your car or streamed live via Zoom and YouTube Live. The show begins at 8 p.m. and is recommended for audience members ages 18 and up. 

The Holidays with Hillcrest drive-in concert and stage show has four friends sharing family traditions from different cultures through music. The show is rated PG and takes pace on Sunday, Dec. 13, at 6:30 p.m.

All drive-in events take place at the Conejo Valley Unified School District parking lot at 1300 Janss Road. For tickets and more information, visit hillcrestarts.com.

Parades of Lights canceled

There will be no Parade of Lights at either Channel Islands Harbor or Ventura Harbor this year: Both have been canceled for 2020 due to concerns related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The boat parades, in which vessels bedecked in lights and other holiday decorations cruise the harbors on separate weekends, have been popular attractions for Ventura County residents and visitors for several years. Due to the crowds that the shows bring in, however, it was deemed unsafe to continue as planned.

“Our team and boating community were very hopeful that the holiday boat parade could take place,” said Mark Sandoval, Oxnard Harbor department director, via press release. The 2020 Channel Islands Parade of Lights was originally planned for Dec. 12. “This event has always been very well attended along the harbor shores, and as a result the responsible decision for the health and safety of our community was to cancel this event.”

Organizers hope both parades will take place once again in December 2021.

SEAsonal experience at Ventura Harbor Village

The Santa Paddle hits the Ventura Harbor on Saturday, Dec. 12, at 11 a.m. Photo courtesy of Ventura Harbor Village

In the meantime, Ventura Harbor Village is keeping things merry with ocean-inspired lights and decorations, seasonal photo opportunities and a Holiday Shopping Passport to support its stores and restaurants. Ask for a passport at one of the participating shops, collect six different stamps while shopping and dining at harbor businesses by Dec. 20, and enter the passport to win a holiday prize pack. Prize packs include winter whale watching tickets, sweatshirts, gift certificates and more. Two winners will be selected at random on Dec. 21. 

The annual Santa Paddle is still a go, taking place this year on Dec. 12 at 11 a.m. Everyone is invited to participate in the free one-hour paddle around the harbor by kayak, stand-up paddle board or other personal vessel. Holiday attire is encouraged.

Finally, Ventura Boat Rentals is offering private boat tours of the gorgeously decorated houses along the Ventura Keys Dec. 11-31. It’s $375 to book a tour for up to 10 guests, with one-hour trips at 6 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Cookies are included; a cash bar will be available onboard.

For more details on all the holiday happenings at Ventura Harbor, visit venturaharborvillage.com.

Elf About Town

The folks at Visit Ventura are staying jolly this holiday season as well. One tradition that continues into its fifth year is the Elf Giveaway. Just leave a comment on Visit Ventura’s Instagram post at @VisitVentura to enter to win one of the many prizes that will be given away every day through Christmas Eve, Dec. 24. Enter as many time as you like; winners are selected at random the following day. There’s a new prize every day, donated from local businesses. Shortly before Christmas Day, there will be a chance to win some “grand prizes,” including a trip to the Channel Islands from Island Packers, a hotel stay for two at Ventura Beach Marriott, a longboard hand-shaped by Walden Surfboards and more. 

“With the coming of COVID, so many businesses are struggling for survival,” says Visit Ventura President/CEO Marlyss Auster via press release. “For five years now, our Ventura Elf has been supporting local Ventura businesses and sharing their stories. But this year’s Elf is our most important ever, a chance to add some dollars — and just as important — some smiles into Ventura’s holiday season.” visitventura.com

Angels, music at The Lakes

In lieu of choral concerts, symphony orchestras, and the ever-popular stage production of  A Christmas Carol, the Bank of America Performing Arts Center has created two drive-in events to take place in the parking lot of The Lakes in Thousand Oaks. 

The Pacific Festival Ballet is ditching The Nutcracker this year to present a wholly original production. A decorative angel placed on a fireplace mantle comes to life and takes a group of children on a magical adventure around the world in this beautiful dance spectacle. Catch this new ballet on Saturday, Dec. 12, at 6 p.m. 

The following evening, Sunday, Dec. 13, also at 6 p.m., you can see performers from 5-Star Theatricals perform a series of favorite holiday songs.  

Find tickets and more information about this weekend of seasonal celebration at bapacthousandoaks.com.