la quinta resort holiday tree

49 Things to Do in December 2021

Where to view tree lighting ceremonies in Greater Palm Springs and grab a seat for the return of the Festival of Lights Parade in Palm Springs.

Amelia Rodriguez Attractions, Current Guide

la quinta resort holiday tree

La Quinta Resort & Club lights up its holiday tree Nov. 28.

It’s a staple of those cheesy, feel-good holiday films: A massive Christmas tree twinkles to life, illuminating drifting snow, charming small-town cottages, and the moment a couple share their first kiss. While certain Hallmark Channel calling cards may be hard to come by — we can’t all marry handsome B&B owners! —   the Coachella Valley’s tree lighting ceremonies still have the power to create wintertime magic for visitors
and residents.

The seasonal events celebrate the valley’s biggest Christmas trees while also incorporating family-friendly holiday activities, such as crafts, sweet treats, and visits from Santa. Some go the extra mile to encourage audience participation: At El Paseo’s event, attendees receive flashing wands to wave as the tree lights up. La Quinta Resort & Club offers guests sheets of music lyrics so they can sing along with carolers.

With so many of last year’s ceremonies cancelled, scaled back, or made virtual as a result of the pandemic, event planners and attendees alike are looking forward to reinstating the tradition. “Many [of our guests] come out year after year around this time,” explains Chris George, director of marketing at the La Quinta Resort & Club. “There’s added excitement [this year] because people can celebrate the holidays together and feel that sense of belonging.”

For those who work to make the ceremonies happen, the ahhh! that roars from the crowds at the sight of twinkle lights is a reward for their efforts. “I was born and raised in this city,” shares Jacob Garcia, who began as an intern for the city of La Quinta and worked his way up to management assistant, a role that allows him to craft community-building events. “It’s like helping my own backyard thrive and grow.”

Nov. 28

La Quinta Resort & Club,
La Quinta

Dec. 3

The Shops on El Paseo,
Palm Desert

Dec. 3

City of La Quinta,
La Quinta Civic Center Park

Dec. 3

City of Palm Springs,
Francis Stevens Park

Dec. 3

City of Rancho Mirage,
The River

Dec. 5

Palm Springs Aerial Tramway,
Palm Springs

Dec. 8

Mayor’s Tree Lighting,
Cathedral City Civic Center Plaza

WildLights/ Through Dec. 30

 The Living Desert in Palm Desert glimmers with more than 1 million holiday lights, plus a gaggle of life-size animal lanterns. Bonus: This may be the best time to spot the zoo’s nocturnal critters, like the cute bat-eared fox.


WildLights features more than 1 million lights.

Jason Fabus Trio & Natalie Mendoza: Dec. 2

Grab a Brandy Alexander and settle in for an evening of Great American Songbook tunes in a sultry style inspired by the Nat King Cole Trio. Natalie Mendoza — known for backing indie band Lord Huron on their album Long Lost — provides vocals at Agua Caliente Casino Palm Springs.


Jonathan Neal & Liane

Jonathan Neal & Liane/ Dec. 2–4 & 9–11

Neal and his partner Liane blend choreography and music with mind-boggling illusions at these shows at Marvyn’s Magic Theater in La Quinta.

Paquita la del Barrio/ Dec. 3

Hear Paquita’s feminist rancheras at Spotlight 29 Casino in Coachella. Curious to learn more about the singer before the show? Univision’s 2017 series Paquita la del Barrio traces her journey from a childhood in Veracruz, Mexico, to the international stage.

Chamber Masters Golf Tournament / Dec. 3

It’s tee time at the Westin Mission Hills Golf Resort in Palm Desert. In addition to a chance to compete on the resort’s 6,706-yard Pete Dye course, players enjoy two meals, sips from the Bloody Mary bar, and entrance to the awards ceremony.

Desert Baroque / Dec. 3

Marylin Winkle plays songs from the era of King Louis XIV on the viola da gamba while harpischordist Margaret Irwin-Brandon accompanies at the Artists Center at The Galen in Palm Desert.

The Skivvies / Dec. 3–4

Musicians Lauren Molina and Nick Cearley bring their big voices — but very little clothing — to the Purple Room in Palm Springs. The pair add a seasonal spin to their usual show, playing Christmas ditties on the cello, glockenspiel, ukulele, and melodica while clad only in undies.

Gunhild Carling / Dec. 3–4

Swedish jazz musician Gunhild Carling honed her talents for trombone — and singing, and dancing, and more than 10 other instruments — with no formal training. The phenom showcases her skills at Oscar’s in Palm Springs.

Festival of Lights Parade / Dec. 4

Big balloons, marching bands, and twinkling floats make their way down Palm Canyon Drive in Palm Springs for this annual holiday parade. Keep an eye out for Santa and Mrs. Claus on their shimmering, tricked-out sleigh.

Terry Fator / Dec. 4

Terry Fator first discovered ventriloquism at age 10 after finding a book on the art in his school library. He went on to nab first place on America’s Got Talent and take his personality-filled puppets to performances throughout the United States, including one at Fantasy Springs Resort Casino in Indio.


Celebrate the holidays at The Gardens on El Paseo.

Photos with Santa / Dec. 4

What’s on your list this year? Kids can let Santa know at this photo op at The Gardens on El Paseo in Palm Desert. After grabbing your snapshot, enjoy lawn games and bubbles in the desert’s perfect winter weather.

Super Small Business Saturday / Dec. 4

Local makers join the mix at the Twentynine Palms Farmers Market, vending soaps, jewelry, art, and more alongside fresh produce, honey, bread, and juice.

Engelbert Humperdinck / Dec. 4

English singer Arnold George Dorsey took his attention-grabbing stage name from a 19th century opera composer. The moniker — plus 1967 hits “Release Me” and “The Last Waltz” — helped launch him to fame. See him live at Agua Caliente Casino in Rancho Mirage.


Tamale Festival

Tamale Festival / Dec. 4–5 

At Miles Avenue Park in Indio, fairground rides, a parade, and talented acts provide the entertainment to go with the eats. This festival’s 300-plus vendors tuck a broad variety of flavors beneath their tamales’ corn-husk wrappers, from traditional chicken to a vegan version made with lentils.

Palm Springs Vintage Market / Dec. 5

Whether you’re seeking a striking painting for above the dining table, a vintage film camera in great condition, or the perfect pair of retro cutoffs, you just might end your search at this monthly market at the Palm Springs Cultural Center. palmspringsvintage

Ironman 70.3 / Dec. 5

Lap Lake Cahuilla, pedal toward the Indian Wells Tennis Garden, and sprint around the Indian Wells Golf Course in this intense 70.3-mile triathlon.


Ironman 70.3

Men of the Desert Fashion Show / Dec. 5

Dapper dudes sashay down the runway with cute pups in tow at the Palm Springs Air Museum. Proceeds support Animal Samaritans’ no-kill shelter and affordable veterinary services.

Desert Jam / Dec. 6

Raise funds for local nonprofit Well in the Desert while rocking out with the Jackson-Garret Band and other songsters at the Agua Caliente Casino in Rancho Mirage. Tickets include a buffet dinner. wellinthe

Barry Manilow / Dec. 7–8 & 10–12

He writes the songs that make the whole world sing — and he’s performing them at the McCallum Theatre in Palm Desert. Barry Manilow serenades audiences with his beloved tunes and some Christmas classics in four special holiday concerts.

Phat Cat Swinger / Dec. 9

Genre-bending jazz group Phat Cat Swinger takes the stage at Agua Caliente Casino in Palm Springs, playing spirited numbers by luminaries like Frank Sinatra and Elton John. You might recognize the nine-piece band from the background of Christina Aguilera’s 2009 music video for “Candyman.”

The History of Hi Jolly and the Great Camel Experiment in the Southwest / Dec. 10

At the Old Schoolhouse Museum in Twentynine Palms, Southwest Stories host Steve Brown recounts the adventures of Philip Tedro or Hi Jolly, a camel driver hired by the U.S. Army to carry cargo across America’s deserts.

Circovia / Dec. 10–11

The cast of this visually stunning circus seems to be visiting from a world where gravity is a mere suggestion. See their death-defying acrobatics at Agua Caliente Resort Casino Spa Rancho Mirage.

Paws ’n Claus / Dec. 11

Your pup has definitely been a good boy or girl this year, so take them to tell Santa. Dogs and cats get a sweet photo op with Mr. Claus at this charity event at The Gardens on El Paseo. Proceeds benefit the Bianca Rae Foundation, a nonprofit organization providing resources to youth and rescued pets.

The Latsos / Dec. 12

Piano-playing pair Giorgi Latso and Ana Fedorova-Latso bring their talents to the Coachella Valley Repertory in Cathedral City, performing songs by local composer Joe Giarrusso.


Zero Prostate Cancer Run/Walk.

Zero Prostate Cancer Run/Walk / Dec. 12

Raise funds to support patients with prostate cancer by participating in this virtual race. Runners and walkers craft their own course using the event’s app, which captures the live race experience with a real-time DJ broadcast and a chat room.


Frank Sinatra's birthday will be celebrated at Martinis & Moxie Society Social.

Martinis & Moxie Society Social / Dec. 12

The Palm Springs Cultural Center celebrates Frank Sinatra’s birthday with a classy bash featuring cocktails, hors d’oeuvres, an art exhibition, a Sinatra history lesson, and songs by Ol’ Blue Eyes. Stick around after the party to see a film starring the Sultan of Swoon.

Good Time Jazz Band / Dec. 16

The Good Time Jazz Band hits Agua Caliente Casino Palm Springs for a holiday concert inspired by the Big Easy. The group’s New Orleans Christmas Show features your favorite carols played swing-style with a washboard accompaniment.

Tony Clark / Dec. 16–18 & 22–24

As a magic consultant, Tony Clark has lent his sleight-of-hand skills to TV programs like Monk and House and stars including Taylor Swift and Nicholas Cage. The illusionist gets tricky at Marvyn’s Magic Theater in La Quinta.

Christmas With the Crawfords / Dec. 9–26

Joan Crawford gets ready for her annual Christmas Eve radio show while fielding visits from Judy Garland, Ethel Merman, and Mae West in this quick-paced holiday show at the Desert Rose Playhouse.

The Beebo Brinker Chronicles / Dec. 10–12 & 17–19

Anne Bannon’s midcentury lesbian pulp novels provide the blueprint for this saga about the reunion of two parted lovers in pre-Stonewall New York. Watch the tale unfold at the Desert Ensemble Theatre in Palm Springs.


Diane Schuur

Diane Schuur / Dec. 17–18

Grammy winner Diane Schuur puts her personal spin on iconic numbers by legends including Miles Davis and Paul Simon in this stirring show at the Purple Room in Palm Springs.

Dionne Warwick / Dec. 17

Accompanied by a 14-piece string section, the six-time Grammy winner brings her Favorite Time of Year holiday concert to Fantasy Springs Resort Casino in Indio. The music legend performs classics like “Silent Night,” “Silver Bells,” and “Joy to the World.”

Sacha Boutros Quartet / Dec. 23

It might be time to brush up on your Duolingo lessons — musician Sacha Boutros sings jazz in 14 languages. The San Diego–born composer and her pals perform at the Agua Caliente Casino Palm Springs.

Coachella Day One 22 / Dec. 31

Ring in 2022 with performers like E-40, Getter, Saweetie, and Diesel, a DJ you might know better  by his birth name: Shaquille O’Neal. They’re on the bill at this Coachella Crossroads event at Spotlight 29 Casino.

art exhibitions
Landscapes from the Collection of Mary Ingebrand-Pohlad /Through Dec. 12

From Pomona-born Millard Sheets to Fresno native Maynard Dixon, the artists in this Palm Springs Art Museum exhibition celebrate the singular beauty of the deserts in and around the Coachella Valley. The pieces come courtesy museum trustee Mary Ingebrand-Pohlad.

Storm of Hope: Law & Disorder / Through Feb. 6

On view at the Palm Springs Art Museum, Robert Longo’s massive, hyperrealistic charcoal drawings serve as a thought-provoking portrait of our contemporary moment.

Helen Frankenthaler Late Works, 1990–2003 / Through Feb. 27

Known for a technique dubbed “soak stain,” in which she used thinned oil paint to create watercolor-like historical paintings, Helen Frankenthaler is among the most important artists of the post-World War II era. See 30 works from her later years at the Palm Springs Art Museum.


Millard Sheets

The Modern Chair  / Through April 3

The Palm Springs Art Museum Architecture and Design Center traces the history of chair design through the 20th and 21st centuries. Visitors can see more than 50 spectacular chairs by designers such as Eero Saarinen, Charles and Ray Eames, Frank Lloyd Wright, and Frank Gehry.

Maynard Dixon
In Motion: Agam at Sunnylands / Through June 2022

Sunnylands Center & Gardens’ showcase of kinetic and op art by Israeli-born Yaacov Agam features sculpture, lenticular paintings, and a serigraph series showing how combinations of basic shapes and lines can “evolve.” The artist caught the attention of the late Walter and Leonore Annenberg when he exhibited at the opening of the Palm Springs Art Museum in 1976.

theater listings
Electricity / Through Feb. 1

Terry Ray’s Electricity tracks the history of LGBTQ+ rights in America through the 50-year love story of former high school classmates Brad and Gary. See the desert’s longest-running play at Oscar’s in Palm Springs.

Hairspray / Dec. 3

You can’t stop the beat at the McCallum Theatre, where talented teen Tracy Turnblad and her friends battle for racial integration of Baltimore TV program The Corny Collins Show in this production of Hairspray.

The Sound of Music / Dec. 3–19

The Palm Canyon Theatre presents this beloved Rodgers and Hammerstein musical about the von Trapp family and their spirited governess. The show is based on the real-life story told in Maria von Trapp’s 1949 memoir.


Winter Wonderettes

Winter Wonderettes / Dec. 3–23

“Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town”…but right now, he’s missing! A ’60s girl group sings holiday favorites and saves the Harper’s Hardware Holiday Party in this family-friendly show at Desert TheatreWorks in Indio.