Visiting HGTV’S Santa HQ at the Los Cerritos Center

This is a sponsored post.

It’s that time of year when our family gets all the Santa photos. We love visiting different Santa’s throughout SoCal. This weekend we headed over to the Los Cerritos Center to HGTV’s Santa HQ to check out their great Santa set-up. Last year we went to HGTV’s Santa HQ at the Lakewood Mall (you can read about it here) and loved it so much. It’s such fun Santa Experience…much more than just sitting on Santa’s lap.

HGTV’s Santa HQ adds a whole new dimension to the traditional family Santa Claus visit by guiding visitors through an immersive, interactive holiday extravaganza that uses of state-of- the-art digital technology. something that kids today love! There are 15 Santa’s HQ in the United States. I already mentioned the two in Southern California, the Los Cerritos Mall and the Lakewood Center Mall. They are basically the same, and equally great, but the Lakewood locations set-up is a bit bigger and has an extra room.

We started off our visit by skipping the line with your pre-scheduled reservation and headed over to the Naughty or Nice Meter. We had to see if the kids made the nice list this year. And of course they did!….and even saw their names on Santa’s interactive Christmas list. Are you on Santa’s nice list? Two of the kids only made it to the yellow zone…I wonder what that means?

Next we visited got the Elf Academy. It’s a fun photo opp where you can elf yourself. You can also create an elf I.D. card digitally and send it to yourself. Guests stand in front of the Magic Mirror video screen and, through augmented reality, transform into Santa’s Elf. The Magic Mirror allows guests to select one of four elf styles (Hazel, Ruby, Jack, and Strawberry) from which to choose outfits.

Next we headed into Santa’s Observatory which is really fun. The kids can check out the control panel. what kid doesn’t love buttons and gadgets to play with.

We got to have Elf-Ray Vision!  Either by downloading the Elf-Ray Vison app on your phone, or using the iPads located on the wall of the observatory, kids can explore Santa’s Observatory by using the app as special goggles. they got to see secret elf happenings on the walls like presents being shipped and the working gears of the observatory.

There was also this fun photo opportunity before we met Santa, which could also be chosen as part of our Santa photo package. They even have photo props available for you to use.

Make Reservations to See Santa and Skip the Lines

Did I mention that we got to skip the line to go into HGTV’s Santa HQ because we made a reservation? I tell you this again because it really saved us a ton of time and we definitely avoided toddler meltdowns in long lines. Pretty cool huh! Guests can make reservations online at Santa HQ from HGTV. You can even pre-pay for your photo package, days or even weeks in advance, and also opt-in text functionality to send reminders about your Santa photo session reservation.

Finally, we met the big guy himself….SANTA!!!! we had so much fun getting our photos with Santa. He spent one-on-one time with each of the kids, and made sure to get a good variety of photos to choose from. At the end of our visit, Santa gave each to the kids a coloring book to take home with them.

Here’s how our Santa photo turned out. Dani didn’t cry this year, but she was a bit grumpy from just waking up from napping in the car. I would say this picture was a success though.


visitors to Santa HQ will also be able to enjoy the holiday spirit of giving through HGTV’s Help Through Holiday Giving Drive. you can donate an unwrapped toys for local children in need by dropping it in one of the bins at Santa HQ. the toys benefit local organizations like Forgotten Angel Tree, Salvation Army Angel Tree, Toys for Tots, and Spark of Love Stuff a Bus.

The kids and i had such a nice evening at Santa HQ from HGTV. i wasn’t expecting our Santa visit to be so special, but with all these special holiday touches and the elves treating my children with love and care, my kids had night to remember. we will be adding HGTV’s Santa HQ to our holiday traditions each year!

In case you wanted to know just a little more about Santa HQ from HGTV…check out this fun video!

Tips for Watching the Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade

If you are looking for a great place to view some of the best Christmas Lights in Orange County and also enjoy the glimmer of twinkling lights upon the Newport Bay, then the Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade is an awesome choice! We have a tradition of going to the Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade every year.

Make sure to read till the end for an AWESOME GIVEAWAY!

Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade begins at 6:30 p.m. each night from December 18th – 22nd. It starts and ends point at Tip of Lido Isle so you can find lots of different places in Newport Harbour to view it. We always go to the Balboa Fun Zone. There is always plenty of parking over at the beach which is just a short walk to the Balboa Fun Zone. We usually find some treats and cocoa to enjoy, and then take the Ferry over to Balboa Island and walk along the island to look at the Balboa Peninsula house Christmas lights. On the nights of the Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade, you get to see the boats AND houses decorated with lights!

The Best Holiday Boat Cruises in Newport Beach.

One of the best ways to enjoy to Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade and all the decorated Balboa Peninsula homes is by taking a Holiday Cruise from Newport Landing. You can take a Holiday Lights Cruise for only $20 which is totally worth the price to get the best view there is. You also don’t have to worry about all the crowds. The cruises take place throughout the month of December with three cruises nightly. And each holiday cruise is around 75 minutes long. 

The Newport Harbor dressed up in holiday décor will not disappoint. Holiday cruises offer 85% of what the parade offers without the huge numbers of people and parking challenges. A cruise can make a nice relaxing evening under the stars, and having all your friends come along would be such a fun evening. Weekends are more popular for holiday cruise times and reservations are mandatory.

Balboa Fun Zone During the Holidays

When you are at the Balboa Fun Zone during the holidays, there are lighted trees and often live entertainment or music playing. You can take a ride on the ferris wheel, go on a few rides or hang out in the arcade. There are plenty of place to grab a bite to eat on the go, or you can even bring a picnic dinner with you. There are tables and chairs on the boardwalk.

If you choose to walk around the homes on the Balboa Peninsula, you can take the Balboa Ferry from the Balboa Fun Zone over. It costs

Watch the Newport Beach Boat Parade at Marina Park.

If you don’t want to walk around Balboa Island, or take a cruise, then I recommend going over to the 10.5-acre Marina Park. This park offers 177 parking spaces, nautical-themed playground, picnic area and sailing center, and is also the largest public viewing area along the parade route, creating an optimal location to gather and enjoy the festivities.

Finally, dress warmly and bring friends and family. Enjoying all the Christmas lights and the Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade is especially fun when you are with the ones you love. It’s a tradition everyone will remember for years to come.

Newport Holiday Cruise Giveaway

Want to win a Holiday Light Cruise for you and three people? Then I have a FUN giveaway for you! Two lucky readers win a 4-pack of Holiday Light Cruise tickets from Newport Landing. Just enter via Rafflecopter below! Just do the entries that you want…the more you do the more chances you have to win!

Giveaway ends December 15, 2019. Open to U.S. residents only. Good luck!!! 

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Want to see the Best Christmas Lights in Orange County?!!!

Check it out here:

PLUS…..have you seen this list of 150 Christmas Events in Orange County???

Family-Friendly Christmas Events at the Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel

Last weekend, our family headed down to the Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel to attend their annual Holiday Open House and Tree Lighting. I was reminded of how beautiful the Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel is with its’ ocean views and beautiful interiors. I was also reminded that they host lots of family-friendly activities during the holiday season that are open to the entire community. You don’t even have to be a guest of the hotel. Activities including holiday storytelling, gingerbread house and cookie decorating with our pastry team, and more.

Every year, the Ritz-Carlton hosts a Holiday Open House and Tree Lighting that is so much fun. There’s holiday music performed by a live band and also carolers. here is complimentary holiday cookies and hot chocolate plus guests can bring a new, unwrapped toy for donation to Miracles for Kids or canned goods and non-perishable food items to benefit the Orange County Rescue Mission.

The Tree Lighting was fun and festive and ended with the gorgeous tree being lit up with lights, Santa arriving in an old fashioned Woody car, and falling snow. The kids had a blast running around in the falling snow and enjoyed all the beautiful lights..

Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel Amazing Gingerbread Display

One of the highlights of the evening was viewing the Ritz-Carlton’s Gingerbread Extravaganza! Each year, the resort’s talented pastry team creates a spectacular 24 ft. by 9 ft. housemade gingerbread extravaganza. Developed by Executive Pastry Chef Sylvain Haage, this year’s gingerbread extravaganza highlights the town and characters of Whoville as a tribute to Dr. Seuss’ classic, How The Grinch Stole Christmas.

Chef Haage and his team will spend more than 500 hours creating an incredible confectionary display fashioned out of an array of homemade gingerbread, colorful candy, sweet treats, baked goods, and other delectable confections. This Gingerbread Extravaganza is on public display in the lobby from until January 2, 2020!

Family Friendly Holiday Events at the Ritz-Carlton this season?

Want to Build Your Own Gingerbread House at the Ritz-Carlton? The Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel is having a special Gingerbread House and Holiday Cookie Decorating event on Sunday, December 15, 2019 from 2 to 4 p.m. Guests can gather with family and friends to decorate their very own large-scale gingerbread house and holiday cookies. Chef Haage and the pastry team will be on hand to provide tips and tricks for creating a gingerbread showpiece of the season.

Families and kids are invited to celebrate with tales of the holidays and stories of the season with Holiday Storytelling at the Ritz-Carlton. Storytelling is held in the Eco-Adventure Center on Friday and Saturday, December 6, 7, 13, and 14 from 5 to 6 p.m. and complimentary to attend. Guests are encouraged to bring a new children’s book for donation to Miracles for Kids. 

Guests can enjoy the timeless tradition of Afternoon Tea at RAYA. The Holiday Tea will feature an array of tea, savory canapés, and sweet bites in an elegant ocean view setting. It’s available Monday through Thursday, December 2 – December 19, 2019, with seating from 2:30 to 3:30 p.m. Reserve in advance by calling Resort Services at 949-240-2000. 

Bring your favorite pooch to the Ritz-Carlton’s Yappy Howl-iday Celebration held Sunday, December 15, 2019. This festive gathering of canines and their companions provide furry friends the opportunity to be photographed with the “big dog” himself – Santa Paws. Guests are encouraged to bring unopened canned or dry dog food, treats, or dog toys to support animals in need. The event is complimentary, with cocktails, wine, beer, and a selection of barbecue available for purchase. Proceeds benefit Canine Companions for Independence. 

Christmas Dinner at the Ritz-Carlton

Families and friends can enjoy Christmas dining at RAYA and the resort’s bountiful buffets. The Christmas Day Holiday buffet will be hosted between the hours of 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. and Celebrate with a four-course Christmas dinner at RAYA from 4 to 9 p.m. 

Take a Holiday Staycation at the Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel

For those seeking luxurious accommodations and unique experiences this holiday season, the resort is offering two overnight packages.

Perfect for a holiday getaway or for hosting out-of-town guests, the oceanfront resort’s Inspirations of the Season Package will have guests relaxing by the Pacific in celebration of the holiday. The package includes overnight accommodations, daily breakfast credit, a surf-inspired ornament, resort fee, and overnight valet parking. Available now through January 31, 2020 with rates starting at $659 per night. 

For the avid shopper, the resort has collaborated with South Coast Plaza to present an exclusive Luxury Shopping Experience. The Luxury Shopping Experience includes overnight accommodations; complimentary transportation to South Coast Plaza, admittance to ACCESS, South Coast Plaza’s VIP Hospitality Suite, a South Coast Plaza VIP Passport featuring exclusive offers from more than 100 stores and restaurants, a $100 South Coast Plaza Gift Card Voucher plus a special gift from South Coast Plaza with a $500 purchase. Available now through January 31, 2020 with rates starting at $729 per night. 

When you arrive at the Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel, you feel like you’ve arrive home in luxury and it reminds you of how special the OC is. If you can make it down this holiday season, even if just to get a glimpse of the ocean views and smell the fantastical Gingerbread display, I highly recommend it. Happy Holidays from the Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel.

The Blue Man Group is Coming to Orange County and Kids Can Go Free!

Have you heard? The BLUE MAN GROUP is coming to Orange County this January 7th through the 12th, 2020! This is a great show for all ages…the perfect outing for the entire family. And guess what? Kids can see the BLUE MAN GROUP for FREE! A special Kids Night on Broadway discount will be offered for two of the performances of the Blue Man Group. On the January 7th and 8th performances, parents can receive a second ticket FREE for children with the purchase of one full-price ticket. How awesome is that. Ticket prices start at just $26, and get this special deal, use code BLUEKID when purchasing.

We love the the Segerstrom Center for the Arts has so many kids friendly shows and also programs to make it easier for families to come see their shows. I often write about on here about how important I feel that children and teens are exposed to the arts. The more different experiences the better so that kids can maybe find something that speaks to them.

If you haven’t heard about the BLUE MAN GROUP, they are a global entertainment phenomenon. Of course they are all blue, and share their talents through music, rhythm, theatrics and movement. The group is known for its award-winning theatrical productions, iconic characters and multiple creative explorations. BLUE MAN GROUP performances are euphoric celebrations of human connection through art, music, comedy and non-verbal communication.

This performance will be under the helm of director Jenny Koons, in her first-time collaboration with BLUE MAN GROUP. The tour will feature everything audiences know and love about BLUE MAN GROUP—signature drumming, colorful moments of creativity and quirky comedy—the men are still blue, but the rest is all new! Including pulsing, original music, custom-made instruments, surprise audience interaction and hilarious absurdity, audiences join the Blue Men in a joyful experience that unites audiences of all ages.

Tips for Seeing the BLUE MAN GROUP at the Segerstrom

Make sure to dress up for the Blue Man Group…because it will make the evening feel more special, and arrive early to enjoy pre-show activities in the Segerstrom Hall lobby beginning at 6:00 p.m. Kids can enjoy coloring stations, crafts, activities, photo opportunities and more!

My children have seen the Blue Man Group a few time already, and that’s what inspired my son to want to play the drums. All of my kids absolutely have loved the shows we’ve seen and couldn’t stop talking about the different acts they saw.

I hope that you and your family will get to experience the BLUE MAN GROUP as it heads to the Segerstrom Center for the Arts. It will be a performance that they will always remember. For more information and for tickets, visit The BLUE MAN GROUP at the Segerstrom.

Hope to See you there!

Guide to the Amaze Light Festival in Southern California

This week we went to the Amaze Light Festival at SilverLakes sports park in Norco. It’s one of Southern California’s Christmas light festivals that is full of Instagrammable photo opts and millions of twinkling lights to enjoy this holiday season. We had no idea what to expect because this is the first year the Amaze Light Festival has come to Southern California. We were excited to check it out!

Be sure to read to the end for a GIVEAWAY!!!!!

What is the Amaze Light Festival?

The Amaze Light Festival features over 1,500,000 lights that decorate holiday displays…some standing at over 30ft tall! There are teddy bears, presents, ornaments, sleighs and even a 56ft light show tree. Each hour there is an immersive light show where the lights twinkle all over the place…which makes a more magical amazement for those of all ages.

You will want to dress warmly or bring a jacket and a hat. It was a bit breezy and we got a little cold. The great thing is that there are space heaters. So you can warm up at those too. You can also bring your stroller in for small kids. You will want to bring one if your little kids don’t like to walk distances.

We had a relaxed and chill night walking around with the kids and enjoying all the different areas of light displays and listening to the Christmas music. What made it really nice, is that all the kids were so good! They were happy just walking around and checking everything out. We especially liked that there were different areas to enjoy – such as writing letters to Santa, ice skating, Christmas inflatables, and shops. There are definitely lots of photos opps like this 100ft walk through light tunnel…

this life-sized light up sleigh…

and this gigantic star ornament!

You can write letters to Santa, which include this really cute printed letter paper. They also provide you with crayons. Once you are done writing the letter, they seal it with a very nice sticker and you can put it in the big red mailbox.

If you get hungry during the Amaze Light Festival or want to get a drink or treat, there are food trucks, food booths and also a bar to purchase food items and drinks at. I saw people eating yummy kettle corn and Christmas goodies.

We thought the 56 foot tree was really awesome and the boys danced to the music. The lights on all of the trees were choreographed to light up with different colors and patterns wo the music!

Of course, one of my kids favorite things to do at the Amaze Light Festival was go on the two gigantic Christmas obstacle courses. They were really cool! Each of them were a different inflatable obstacle course with different slides and Christmas blow ups. They are included with the price of admission, you just need to sign a waiver of liability. All ages can enjoy these, and the is even a smaller one for the toddlers to enjoy.

We actually visited the Christmas inflatable area twice. Once near the beginning of our visit, and once at the end. The kids were having so much fun and it was hilarious watching them run through the obstacles. It was the perfect activity to break up our time looking at lights.

You can also “ice skate” at the Amaze Light Festival, which my kids were really excited about. It’s not on real ice though. It’s a synthetic laminate rink…so it’s called synthetic ice skating. Which is not as easy as regular ice skating. Actually, it was pretty difficult.

However, the kids had fun trying! And we spent a good 20 minutes trying to figure how to skate on the synthetic rink….then they were done. I don’t know…real ice would have been a lot better.

After all that “ice skating” we checked out some more light displays and also visited Santa! You are not allowed to take your own photos with Santa, but you can purchase one for $10. The line was short, so that was a plus!

Amaze Light VIP Experience

When you purchase your tickets, you have the opportunity to upgrade to VIP. With the VIP package you can visit the VIP area to sit and relax in the comfort of a heated tent with a private bar. There are a variety of cocktails to purchase, and exclusive free-play games for your entertainment. They also have cookies, small desserts and fruit for you to eat. You get free to access all of the Amaze Light Festival attractions such as ice skating, and access to the VIP entrance line at main entrance.

We enjoyed the VIP experience, and probably would have more so if it was crowded at the Amaze Light Festival. It just happened to be a pretty chill night, so we could sit and enjoy ourselves anywhere throughout the festival. It was nice that the ice skating was included.

Is the Amaze Light Festival Worth It?

In my opinion YES! If you like Christmas lights and walking around listening to Christmas music, then you will enjoy the Amaze Light Festival. The Christmas Obstacles were a hit, and we took a lot of fun photos. It was a fun family night for us, and we enjoyed the down time. Plus, it put us in the Christmas spirit!

If you don’t like looking at Christmas lights, then the Amaze Light Festival might not be for you.

This is the first year that the Amaze Light Festival has come to Southern California. It’s located in Norco near Eastvale. Just a short drive from Orange County. It’s great for ages, and a fun experience for the whole family, a date night or a holiday party. Hope you get a chance to visit this year!

Amaze Light Festival Giveaway!

Excited for the Amaze Light Festival? I have a FUN giveaway to celebrate! One lucky reader win a 4 pack of tickets to the Amaze Light Festival. Just enter via Rafflecopter below! Giveaway ends December 1, 2019 at 11:59pm. Open to U.S. residents only. Good luck!!! 

a Rafflecopter giveaway