Visiting HGTV’S Santa HQ at the Los Cerritos Center

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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!

The Magic of Grinchmas at Universal Studios Hollywood

When we visited Universal Studios Hollywood this month, we were super excited to experience everything Christmas that Universal had to offer. Most of all, we were excited to go to GRINCHMAS! It has been a couple years since we had visited GRINCHMAS and wanted to get a dose of Holiday Whobilation before the end of the year.

What to Expect at Grinchmas

What we love about GRINCHMAS is that you feel like you are transferred into Whoville. There are lots of Whos walking around and they are more than happy to visit, play and take photos with you. You can visit the Grinch himself, although the line gets pretty long. I recommend heading there as soon as you enter the park to try and beat the lines.

Visiting the GRINCH is a hilarious experience and so so good. He is 100% THE GRINCH and tells jokes and take photos and just makes the whole experience magical.

You can even meet the GRINCH’s faithful dog Max….oh so cute!

Plus, there are so many more Who-ville Whos to meet. Make sure to take a photo by the all-new state-of-the-art, topsy-turvey “Grinchmas” tree, twisting and turning over 55 feet in height. And then head back at the end of the day for the nightly “Grinchmas” tree lighting ceremony accompanied by a snowfall flurry.

Check out all these photos I took of our time at GRINCHMAS. The best part was dressing Dani up as Cindy Lou Who and getting the most adorable photos ever. It truly made our experience extra special.

We really loved the new tree and the tree lighting ceremony!

The Universal Studios Hollywood Studio Tour is Great for all Ages

After enjoying GRINCHMAS, everyone wanted to go on the Studio Tour. The great thing about this ride is that everyone of all ages can go on it. We like that it changes a little bit each time you go depending on which studio sets are being used, so you get a new experience every time. Plus you get to go on the favorite parts such as Fast and Furious and King Kong Skull Island. And it’s always fun to get attacked by Jaws! We could go on the Studio Tour over and over, and it’s a great ride to go on when you need to rest your feet a little bit.

I have to tell you this, so that you can be prepared…as we were not and it affected our trip.

Be Prepared for the Cold at Universal Studios Hollywood

It’s been cold in Southern California this month! But we were not prepared for how cold it got at Universal Studios Hollywood during our visit. We felt like this snowman photo.

We thought a sweatshirt would be enough to keep us warm at night. We were wrong. As soon as the sun set, which was extra early, the chill was more than we cold bear (I don’t know why, but it was colder at Universal, than it was outside the park). And it was not only cold, it also rained. We got wet on top of being cold, and everyone was miserable. We had to buy jackets, gloves and hats….and we were still cold. BTW…they sell these great GRINCH gloves for a really good price!

So make sure to bring lots of warm clothes, gloves and hats if it is even a little bit cold that day. You can keep everything in your car and get them if you need them. The parking structure is close and easy to access. I would hate for you to get in the predicament that we did! We ended up leaving early which was a bummer, because we love Universal Studios so much!

Despite the cold, we managed to fit a few more experiences into our visit before the cold took us over. A few of us rode the new Jurassic World ride (crazy kids!) and then we stopped by the Raptor Encounter and saw a baby raptor.

Then we took a few fun holiday photo opts. and then checked out some of the Christmas lights throughout the park.

We couldn’t come to Universal Studios Hollywood and not visit the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. It’s all dressed up for the holidays you know! You can even see and a cappella Frog Choir where Hogwarts students entertain guests with their harmonized holiday themed songs. And if you are looking for Holiday-themed fare and hot butterbeer, then head over to “The Three Broomsticks”

Finally, we checked out “The Magic of Christmas at Hogwarts Castle” dazzling light show. We love this show, and managed to get to the first showing. luckily, it plays multiple times each night, and since it takes place up on the castle, you don’t have to worry about finding a good place to view it.

Wow, what a day! We had sooooo much fun. Just an overall nice day….even despite the cold getting the best of us. Universal Studios Hollywood has so much to offer and has top notch shows and rides. “Christmas in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter” and “Grinchmas,” runs daily from Thursday, November 28 through Sunday, December 29, so get there before the end of the year. It’s a great choice to take out of town guests and a great place to go if you want a dose of Holiday Cheer!

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!