13 things to do with the kids this holiday season that won’t break the bank
So yay! The kids are home for the holidays. You’ve baked cookies, sung songs, watched “Elf” a billion times and hid the remote so you don’t have to hear it a billion and one times.
And the kids are still home.
It’s time to get out of the house and have a proper L.A. adventure. Of course, you can visit the theme-park standards (Universal Studios Hollywood, Disneyland, Legoland, Knott’s Berry Farm) if you have the nerve and the dough. That might be a big ask this spend-y (and germ-y) time of year. Or you can dazzle your family and guests with visits to the L.A. area’s many holiday light shows by car or on foot.
In California, winter is not just about holiday lights and snow in the mountains. Here are our top 40 picks for wintertime adventures statewide.
Don’t worry. We’ve found other things to do that don’t fit the typical holiday vacation mold — activities to entertain the whole family, whether young children, eye-rolling teens, visiting relations or patience-thinned parents. The goal here is fun without bankruptcy plus the rejuvenation of something we all sorely need: holiday cheer.
One note of caution: The pandemic is still upon us, which means opening times and hours may be fluid. Also, many venues are require proof of full COVID-19 vaccinations for people 12 and older or a negative COVID test within the prior 72 hours. So if your destination involves tickets and hours, double-check the rules and hours before you go. And have a very merry adventure!
'A Christmas Carol'
Hours: Through Jan. 1. Evening performances Tuesdays-Sundays. Matinees every Saturday (except Dec. 25) and Sunday, plus Dec. 23, 24, 26 and Dec. 30.
Admission: Tickets are $40 to $179 (subject to change, purchase online); children should be 6 or older.
Academy Museum of Motion Pictures
In the museum, there’s a cafe for dining. And if all that’s not enough, pay $15 to experience what it feels like to hear your name announced for an Oscar and walk up to the stage to accept it in “The Oscars Experience.”
Hours: Open daily from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday-Thursday and from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Friday-Saturday.
Admission: $25 for adults or $19 for seniors 62 and older; $15 for college students; and free for members and children 17 and younger. The Oscars Experience is $15 and only available with a general admission ticket.
'The Art of the Brick' exhibition at the California Science Center
Hours: Through Jan. 2. Open daily 10 a.m.-5 p.m. except Dec. 25 and Jan. 1.
Admission: Advance reservations are required. General admission to “The Art of the Brick” is $19.75 adults; $17.75 students ages 13-17 and seniors 65 and older; and $12.75 for children ages 3-12. There’s also a $3 service fee. Members pay $15.75 for adults, $14.75 for students and seniors and $1`0.75 for children. Includes admission to “The Art of the Brick” exhibition and other Science Center displays. IMAX theater tickets are separate.
Floatfest: A Rose Parade Showcase
There are a few snack vendors along the route and water stations, but if the weather is warm, it’s a good idea to bring your own water. Parking near the entrance is always in short supply, but a free shuttle makes it easy to get to the location from the large parking lots at Pasadena City College (enter off Del Mar Boulevard or Bonnie Avenue near the corner of Hill Avenue) or Lot B at the Rose Bowl Stadium.
Hours: Jan. 1 from about 1 to 5 p.m. (opens after the Rose Parade ends) and Jan. 2 open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. with special hours from 7-9 a.m. for seniors and disabled visitors only. Open rain or shine.
Admission: Tickets are $20 per person, and children 5 and under are free. Tickets can be purchased on site, but you’ll save time and trouble by purchasing them online. Pro tip: The crowds are smaller on Jan. 2.
Griffith Park, Hollywood sign and L.A. Basin views via the Charlie Turner Trailhead
Hours: Sunrise to sunset daily for the trails; the Griffith Park Observatory is open Friday-Sunday: noon to 10 p.m. on Fridays and 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday-Sunday (except it will be closed on Dec. 24-25 and 31). Griffith Park’s Holiday Light Festival train rides are nightly through Jan. 7 (closed Dec. 24-25 and 31) from 5 to 8 p.m. Mondays-Thursdays and from 5 to 9 p.m. Fridays-Sundays.
Admission: Free to walk the trails or observatory grounds, although you may have to pay for parking (typically $8). Entrance to observatory is free, but planetarium shows are $7 for people 13 and older; $5 for seniors 60 and older, students and members; and $3 for ages 5-12. Children under 5 enter planetarium shows for free but must sit on the lap of a parent or guardian. Holiday Light Festival train rides are $5 per person.
Holiday Waterfront Tour of Lights
Hours: Through Dec. 28. Nightly except Saturdays with 30-minutes rides departing from 5:15 to 9 p.m.
Admission: Purchase tickets on Groupon.com, $17 for ages 13 and older, $13 for ages 3-12, and free for children under 3. The pick-up location is at Legends Sports Bar & Restaurant.
The Immersive Nutcracker
Hours: Open daily through Dec. 31 except Mondays and Dec. 25. Hours vary depending on location, but the 45-minute shows generally open at 11 a.m. with admission every 20 minutes through at least 7 p.m. Tuesdays-Saturdays and 5 p.m. on Sundays.
Admission: Purchase tickets online or at the door, $44 to $49 (depending on the day) for ages 16 and older, $34-39 for ages 6-15. Children under 6 are not permitted and children under 13 must be accompanied by adults. There are other locations: Westfield Topanga, 6316 Topanga Canyon Blvd., Woodland Hills; Westfield Santa Anita, 400 S. Baldwin Ave., Arcadia; and Westfield Valencia Town Center, 24201 Valencia Blvd., Valencia.
La Brea Tar Pits and Museum
Hours: Open daily. The tar pits and adjoining Hancock Park are open daily; the museum is closed on Tuesdays, Dec. 25 and Jan. 1.
Admission: The tar pits are free, but the museum charges $15 for adults, $12 for seniors and students, and $7 for ages 3-12. Children 2 and under enter for free, and L.A. County residents can enter free as well between 3 and 5 p.m. Tickets can be purchased at the door, but purchasing your tickets online in advance is recommended.
Santa Monica Pier
Be sure to take your visitors to the iconic “Santa Monica * Yacht Harbor * Sport Fishing * Boating * Cafes” sign at the pier entrance at Ocean Avenue and Colorado Boulevard so they can snap some photos for their Instagram Stories. And when you’re finished at the pier, you and your guests could wander to the beach or rent a bike to ride along the boardwalk. Try to be on the beach around sunset when the lights from the pier compete with the glorious colors of the sky.
Hours: Open Thursdays to Mondays. The pier itself is open daily for walking and fishing 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. The carousel is open 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Thursdays-Mondays; closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays. There are special hours on Dec. 24 and 25 (11 a.m. to 6 p.m.) and on Jan. 1 (11 a.m. to 8 p.m.). Pacific Park, home of the colorful Ferris wheel and other rides, is open daily at 11 a.m. or noon and closes between 5 and 9 p.m. depending on the day. Heal the Bay Aquarium is open Thursday-Sunday noon to 4 p.m. but closed Dec. 24 and 25 and Jan. 1.
Admission: Walking the pier is free. Carousel rides are $3 per person, and children 3 and younger ride for free with a ticketed adult. Pacific Park tickets vary depending on if you purchase an unlimited ride wristband ($40 for ages 8 and up and $20 for children 7 and younger) or you buy tickets for individual rides, which range from $5 for smaller rides to $10 for the Ferris wheel and roller coaster. Admission to the aquarium is $10 for ages 13 and up. Children 12 and under enter for free but must be accompanied by a ticketed adult.
Second Annual Holiday Lights Tour and Contest
This year, the guild has more than 20 homes registered to compete in the categories of best lights, best theme and most whimsical. The fourth category — fan favorite — will be determined by people voting online from their cars. Last year’s first-prize winner, Robert Milligan, will be one of three judges. Milligan’s dazzling display won’t be an official entry this year “because we don’t want to discourage other people from entering,” said guild publicity chair Linda Peterson. However, you can see his handiwork at 5752 W. 76th St. in Westchester. All proceeds benefit Airport Marina Counseling Service, a private, nonprofit outpatient clinic focused on providing affordable mental healthcare in the greater LAX area.
Hours: 5-9 p.m. Dec. 12 to 26.
Admission: $10 to get the map of the 20-plus entries and a chance to vote online for your favorite.
'Star Trek: Exploring New Worlds' exhibition
Hours: Through Feb. 20 at the Skirball Cultural Center. Open noon-3 p.m. Tuesdays through Sundays and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. weekends.
Admission: Free to all on Thursdays with advanced, time-entry reservations for 90-minute visits, otherwise $18 general, $15 seniors, students and children over 12, $13 children ages 2-12, free to members and children under 2. Tickets include general admission to the entire museum and cultural center.
Stranger Things: The Official Store
Hours: Through Dec. 23. 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Mondays-Thursdays, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays, and 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sundays.
Admission: Free. Reservations required for 30-minute “priority access, skip-the-line entry.”
Venice Electric Light Bike Parade
Hours: Operates on Sundays. Gather at 4 p.m., parade begins at 5 p.m every Sunday. The parade is canceled if it’s raining.
Admission: Free, unless you want to rent a pre-lit bicycle for $99, a fee that includes a special Venice Electric Light Bike Parade hoodie or shirt.
It's a date
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