For more than two decades, the first weekend in December has been synonymous with a brilliant Palm Springs Valley holiday affair—the Festival of Lights Parade in downtown Palm Springs. Marching bands and other live entertainment, the Budweiser Clydesdales, Mickey and Minnie Mouse, and Snoopy and the gang…they’ve all made appearances since this magical evening began in 1992. This year—the 23rd Annual—the only thing we’re sure of is that Santa and Mrs. Claus will be strolling down Palm Canyon Drive among the cavalcade of illuminated floats and oversized helium balloons on Saturday, December 6, starting at 5:45 p.m. As for who will join them, well, that remains a surprise for now.

I’ll be among the 80,000 plus expected spectators who arrive early that day with lawn chairs, snacks, and blankets to make sure they keep warm and comfortable as they witness the procession, which kicks off at Ramon Road and culminates at Tamarisk Road. Years ago, I had the distinct privilege of actually being in the parade—I was helping to fly one of those immense holiday-themed helium balloons alongside friends who were members of the Palm Springs Neighborhood Association group. Seeing the multitude of smiling faces and warmhearted waves as we marched was quite something. I haven’t repeated that feat, but I still rise the morning of like a kid on Christmas Day, carefully choosing my outfit for that evening’s spectacular. It really is a who’s who of the Palm Springs Valley that attends to see the convoy of fire trucks, school busses, and snow plows—among other vehicles—each emblazoned with tens of thousands of multicolored light bulbs.

If you’ve yet to sample this extraordinary desert tradition—which will keep you warm not just with the energy of those twinkling lights but with the glow of communal good cheer emanating from everyone involved—do yourself a favor and go nab your spot for a night to remember. There is simply no better way to ring in the festive holiday season. www.psfestivaloflights.com

Festival of Lights