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The U.S.S. Enterprise; the Santa Monica Pier; the Petersen Automotive Museum; and the Venice Electric Light Parade.
(Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times, from left, Aiisha / stock.adobe.com, the Petersen Automotive Museum, and Christina House / Los Angeles Times)

Your house is full of holiday guests? Here are 15 activities to keep the adults happy

You’re the host for this holiday season, and it’s great because last year’s Zoom gathering was pretty bleak. If your out-of-town guests are adults of all ages, conversation might run a little thin, especially if they’re relations you love but with whom you don’t necessarily share the same outlook on the world.

So how to avoid tension and abject boredom? Embrace the season and the region: Get out and have an L.A. adventure!

Of course, you can visit the theme parks — Universal Studios Hollywood, Disneyland, Legoland, Knott’s Berry Farm; just check in advance regarding advance ticket purchase and COVID-related policies. You could dazzle your guests with visits to holiday light shows or venture to our region’s incredible feast of botanic gardens. (Many of the botanic gardens have their own holiday light shows — providing you with a yuletide twofer.)

In California, winter is not just about holiday lights and snow in the mountains. Here are our top 40 picks for wintertime adventures statewide.

We’ve also found other things to do that should entertain the snarkiest of adult guests, especially if they’re looking for some unique L.A. glitz without too much expense. The goal is for everyone to come home at least a little energized and maybe, just maybe, imbued with some holiday cheer.

One note of caution: The pandemic is still upon us, which means opening times and hours may be fluid. Note also that many venues are now requiring proof of full COVID vaccinations for people 12 and older or a negative COVID test within the prior 72 hours. So double-check the latest policies before you go.

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Ruby slippers worn by Judy Garland from the "The Wizard of Oz"
(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

Academy Museum of Motion Pictures

Miracle Mile Museum
L.A’s newest and most highly anticipated (and debated) museum is a deep dive to everything cinematic. If any of your guests want a closer look at Hollywood (the industry, not the neighborhood), this is the place to come, especially because it’s open on Christmas and New Year’s Day when other venues are typically closed. Just the Renzo Piano design of the museum is worth a look, but you can get lost in all the behind-the-scenes exhibits such as “The Art of Moviemaking,” which breaks down all the pieces required to make MGM’s 1939 classic “The Wizard of Oz,” from interoffice memos to Dorothy’s ruby slippers. You can find all kinds of artifacts, including Gregory Peck’s script for “To Kill a Mockingbird” covered with his handwritten notes, the blue typewriter Joseph Stefano used to write the script for Alfred Hitchcock’s 1960 horror classic “Psycho,” Okoye’s costume from “Black Panther,” “Star Wars’” R2-D2 and C-3PO, and the original E.T. You can also get face to face with the toothy Xenomorph monster from “Alien” without (too much) fear of being devoured. (Check out The Times’ museum coverage plus museum staff favorites of other exhibition pieces.)

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.”

Open daily

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.
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Empanadas on a plate
(Sarah Meade)

Blitzen's/Arts District Downtown L.A.

Downtown L.A. Shopping
You and your guests can easily spend the day roaming the Arts District in Downtown L.A., sampling plenty including great coffee at places like the all-organic Groundwork (811 Traction Ave.) or Blue Bottle Coffee (582 Mateo St.) and baked goods (don’t miss Bread Lounge, 700 S. Santa Fe Avenue, for breads, cakes, coffees and sandwiches). There are also art galleries such as Hauser & Wirth (901 E. 3rd St.) with its garden and chickens that supply its sunny, art-filled restaurant, Manuela, as well as uptown game arcades for the 21-plus crowd, such as Two Bit Circus (634 Mateo St.) and EightyTwo (707 E. 4th Place). You can find the little-bit-of-everything-hip in shopping, dining and play at ROW DTLA (777 S. Alameda St.).

In the evening or whenever you feel the need for some serious holiday “spirits,” stop in at Blitzen’s, the yuletide pop-up restaurant/bar created by Here and Now, one of the district’s most popular drinking holes and rated one of Esquire magazine’s 27 best bars in American in 2019. For the holiday season, Blitzen’s features a festive vibe, from decor to drink, such as “Baby It’s Cold Outside,” a frozen apple cider slushee made with bourbon, cinnamon maple syrup, cranberry bitters and cider that’s a perfect refresher for SoCal’s balmy winters, and a choice of shots called Naughty (rye whiskey, Vida mezcal and Becherovka liqueur) or Nice (Argonaut brandy, Crème de Menthe and Licor 43 liqueur). There’s also food such as a Leftover Sandwich, with turkey breast, cranberry and potato puree on sourdough bread, and Santa’s Ice Cream Sandwich, peppermint ice cream sandwiched between two snickerdoodle cookies.

Hours: Through Jan. 1. Many venues are closed on Christmas Eve and/or Christmas Day, so check online. Blitzen opens at 5 p.m. daily except Mondays and Dec. 24-25. Closes at midnight most nights except Fridays and Saturdays when it’s open until 1 a.m.

Admission: Free, but these are restaurants, bars, galleries and shops, so bring your wallet. Reservations will curtail disappointment.
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Exterior of the Petersen Automotive Museum
(Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times)

'Bond in Motion' exhibition at the Petersen Automotive Museum

Miracle Mile Exhibition
Could James Bond truly be the world’s most famous secret agent without his extraordinary vehicles? Likely not (at least that’s what Q would say), and this exhibition at the Petersen Automotive Museum is a chance to get close to many of those iconic metal steeds, including the dreamy “silver birch"-colored 1964 Aston Martin DB5 that’s appeared in five Bond movies: “GoldenEye” (1995), “Tomorrow Never Dies” (1997), “Skyfall” (2012), “Spectre” (2015) and “No Time To Die” (2021). And it’s not just his gorgeous and crazy cars (including the Aston Martin DB5 wrecked by Bond in the 2006 film “Casino Royale”), there are sea vehicles too, such as the two-person Neptune submarine from the 1981 film, “For Your Eyes Only” and the 1977 Lotus Esprit S1 a.k.a. Wet Nellie, that starts as an ordinary road vehicle (well, as ordinary as a Lotus can be) until Bond drives it off a pier in “The Spy Who Loved Me,” and the car converts into a submarine, “with surface-to-air missiles, torpedoes, a smoke screen and a mine launcher.” Oh, and louvered windows! Other swoon-worthy wheeled works of art include a couple of Batmobiles, the 1981 DMC DeLorean time machine from “Back to the Future” and exquisite classic cars such as the long, sleek 1939 Shah Type 57C “Shah” convertible. If this museum with its knockout swirling facade doesn’t inspire you to wash and wax your car, nothing will.

Hours: Open daily. 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. Closed Christmas.

Admission: General admission tickets are $17 adults, $15 seniors 62 and older, and $12 children ages 4-17. To see the “Bond in Motion” exhibition and other exquisite cars in the museum’s Vault, you’ll need to pay an additional $25. Children under 10 are not permitted in the Vault area. Tickets must be purchased in advance online.
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A manger scene outside a decorated home
(Patricia Marroquin/Moment Editorial/Getty Images)

Christmas Tree Lane in Oxnard

Oxnard Lights to see for free
You can walk or drive through Oxnard’s 70-acre district of 139 historic homes, most built before 1925, representing various architectural styles, including Mission/Spanish Revival, Bungalow, Craftsman and Colonial Revival. These homes are extraordinary to view any time, but during the holidays, the lights and decor in the Henry T. Oxnard Historic District of Oxnard make the walk all the more special.

Dates: Dec. 12 to 26

Hours: Nightly

Admission: Free
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Rose Parade float
(Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

Floatfest: A Rose Parade Showcase

Pasadena Attraction
Here’s a thrifty way to treat your guests to a SoCal tradition: Watch the Rose Parade on TV on New Year’s Day over a leisurely breakfast in your pajamas and then take them to Floatfest in Pasadena to see the floats up close. The 45 floats expected for the 2022 parade stretch for two miles, so bring good shoes for walking. If you want to avoid heavy crowds, plan to visit the day after the parade on Jan. 2, says Sindee Riboli, general manager of Sharp Seating Co., the company that has managed Rose Parade tickets and bleachers for 75 years.

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.
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Lanes of a bowling alley
(Wonho Frank Lee)

Highland Park Bowl

Highland Park Bowling Alley
Highland Park Bowl was established in 1927 during Prohibition. “The building housed numerous doctors’ offices on the second floor, a pharmacy, music store, and recreation space,” according to its website. “At this time, patrons obtained legal doctor’s notes for medicinal whiskey upstairs, then headed downstairs to fill the prescription at the pharmacy, which allowed permissible boozing and bowling.” You don’t need a prescription for “medicinal whiskey” or any other booze today, but if you have your heart set on bowling, it’s best to make a reservation, especially on weekends. If you can’t get a lane, this is a great place to grab a drink, do some people-watching and take in the beautifully restored historic vibe. Also note: It sometimes has burlesque shows after 10 p.m.

Hours: Open daily. 5 p.m. to midnight Mondays-Wednesdays, 5 p.m. to 2 a.m. Thursdays-Fridays, 2 p.m. to 2 a.m. Saturdays and 2 p.m. to midnight Sundays.

Admission: Free to enter; two open bars with limited seating for drinks, pizza and other food. Bowling lane reservations (up to six people for one lane) range from $25 before 4 p.m. on Saturdays to $40-70 depending on the time and night. Shoe rentals are $5 a pair. Proof of full COVID-19 vaccination required for anyone 12 or older. Visitors must be 21 or older after 8 p.m.
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The view of the city from the Getty Museum
(Christopher Reynolds / Los Angeles Times)

Getty Center

Brentwood Museum
It’s young as museums go, but the Getty is the world’s wealthiest art institution, with holdings that include this 110-acre campus of bright, spare buildings and a $7.3-billion endowment. The most admired works here include Van Gogh’s “Irises,” Cézanne’s “Still Life With Apples” and David Hockney’s “Pearblossom Highway” photo-collage. Admission is free — but parking isn’t — and you must reserve a timed-entry spot.

Take the tram up the hill and head for the West Pavilion, which houses photography and Impressionists. Also check out the cactus garden that seems to float in the sky. Closed Mondays.

Pro tip: If antiquities boost your pulse, spend a day at the Getty Villa in Pacific Palisades, which specializes in ancient Greek, Roman and Etruscan art. Closed Tuesdays.
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Nighttime art installation lit up
(Chuck Bennett)

GLOW at South Coast Botanic Garden

Rolling Hills Estates Botanic light show
South Coast Botanic Garden is meshing music, food and drink with an underwater theme to transform its gardens into a winter-wonder light show called GLOW (Garden Lights & Ocean Waters).

Through Jan. 17

Hours: Timed entry between 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. nightly except Dec. 24 and 25. Visitors can stay until gates close at 10 p.m.

Admission: Reserved tickets are required; $34.95 for nonmembers, $24.95 for members. Children 4 and under enter free. Food and drink are available for purchase.
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Hikers enjoy views to the Pacific Ocean on the Mt Hollywood Trail
(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

Griffith Park, Hollywood sign and L.A. Basin views via the Charlie Turner Trailhead

Griffith Park Urban Trail
You could spend days tootling around Griffith Park’s 4,300 acres of trails and venues, including the L.A. Zoo, and barely scratch the surface. But if you get a clear day and have visitors who can manage a moderately easy three-mile hike, few spots beat the views of the Los Angeles Basin and the Hollywood sign from the Mt. Hollywood Trail, which you enter from the Charlie Turner Trailhead at the edge of the Griffith Park Observatory parking lot. The trail usually has plenty of visitors, and parking can be a challenge (many people park below near the Greek Theatre and take the Dash Observatory/Los Feliz bus up to the observatory for 50 cents, exact change required). However, if everyone has sturdy shoes, this is the kind of selfie-inducing view that even grumpy teens will appreciate. If you’re short on time, then just take in the views from the observatory roof, which are some of the finest in L.A. Want to spend an entire day at Griffith Park? Check out this Times beginner’s guide. Also, don’t forget the Holiday Light Festival train and the 1926-era merry-go-round (just $2, open from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays). Pro tip: The merry-go-round is expected to be open weekdays the week before and after Christmas as well, but call ahead to the park rangers dispatch at (323) 644-6661 to confirm dates and times.

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.
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Exterior of Riverside's Mission Inn covered in Christmas decor.
(The Mission Inn)

The Mission Inn

Riverside Attraction
The Mission Inn stands in the middle of Riverside the way Garth Brooks stands on a honky-tonk stage. It dates to the 1870s and fills a city block, with 238 guest rooms, a spa, several restaurants and all manner of European architectural flourishes. Since the early 1990s, the hotel has been putting together a winter Festival of Lights.

For six weeks at Christmastime, the landmark hotel switches on about 5 million lights and invites visitors to stroll for free through the property, including a tunnel where faux snow falls. This winter’s festival runs through Jan. 6.

The crowds, traffic and parking can be a challenge, however. To skip the line, book dinner at the Mission Inn Restaurant (main dishes $21-$54) and you may land at a patio table, surrounded by domes, towers, arches and buttresses, augmented for the season by angels, gnomes and polar bears, many of which move like the animatronic President Lincoln in Disneyland. (Overnight stays start at $229.) While you’re there, raise a glass to hotel owner Duane Roberts, a local boy who made his first fortune selling frozen burritos.

Pro tip: The Cheech Marin Center for Chicano Art & Culture — the Cheech, for short — is due to open next door on May 8. The center, to be run by the Riverside Art Museum, will show off Marin’s collection of works by artists including Patssi Valdez, Sandy Rodriguez, Carlos Almaraz, Frank Romero and Gilbert “Magú” Luján.
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A woman stands before large, colorful paintings of Barack and Michelle Obama
(Carolina A. Miranda / Los Angeles Times)

Obama Portraits Tour/Black American Portraits at LACMA

Mid-Wilshire Exhibition
Here’s a rare chance to see the extraordinary portraits of former President Barack Obama by Kehinde Wiley and former First Lady Michelle Obama by Amy Sherald outside their normal digs at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C. The portraits are on a national five-city tour, and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art is hosting their visit to L.A. as part of its larger exhibition “Black American Portraits,” featuring about 140 paintings and photos created over two centuries, from around 1800 to the present day. The Obamas’ nearly life-size portraits are exhibited together as the sole works in one large room to provide ample space for their many admirers. There are plenty of other things to admire at LACMA, even if you just wander around outside, taking photos in the sea of vintage street lights known as “Urban Light” by artist Chris Burden or under the 25-foot-tall granite boulder that dominates Michael Heizer’s 2012 installation known as “Levitated Mass.” Pro tip: If you position your visitors just right on the path underneath the boulder, you can get a photo that looks like they’re holding the 340-ton rock above their heads.

Hours: Through Jan. 2. Open daily except Wednesdays, Thanksgiving and Christmas; 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays; 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Fridays; and 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturdays-Sundays.

Admission: Advance tickets are required for everyone, including members, available online or by calling (323) 857-6020 between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. daily. Tickets are free for L.A. County residents under the age of 18 and all county residents after 3 p.m. Mondays-Fridays. Otherwise, adult residents pay $20 and seniors 65 and older and students 18 and older pay $16. For non-county residents, admission is $25 for adults, $21 for seniors and students, and $10 for children ages 3-17. Children under 2 and members enter free.
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Santa Monica Pier at sunset
(Aiisha / stock.adobe.com)

Santa Monica Pier

Santa Monica Attraction
What can be more old-school L.A. than a stroll on the historic Santa Monica Pier to experience the famed 100-year-old carousel. It has a “wooden family of animals consisting of 44 horses, one rabbit, two sleighs, and one goat,” according to the city of Santa Monica’s website. The ticket prices can’t be beat. Choosing your steed is part of the fun, and the ride itself is magical, transporting riders of all ages to dreamy moments of joy. The pier itself provides food and entertainment for everyone, from anglers who just want to stare at the water and fish to thrill-seekers looking for a ride. Of course, there are plenty of stores for memento seekers as well.

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 daily. The pier itself is open daily for walking and fishing, 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. The carousel is open Thursdays to Mondays, from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.; closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Pacific Park, home of the iconic ferris wheel and other rides, is open daily, at 11 a.m. or noon, and closing between 5 and 9 p.m. depending on the day. Heal the Bay Aquarium is open Thursdays to Sundays, 12 to 4 p.m., Dec. 24, 25 and Jan. 1.

Admission: Walking the pier is free. Carousel rides are $3 per person, children 3 and younger ride for free with a ticketed adult. Pacific Park tickets vary depending on whether you purchase an unlimited ride wristband ($40 for ages 8 and up, $20 for children 7 and younger), or individual rides, which range from $5 to $10 each 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.
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Items at the Star Trek: Exploring New Worlds Exhibition
(Robert Wedemeyer)

'Star Trek: Exploring New Worlds' exhibition

Brentwood Exhibition
Here’s a chance for Trekkers, young and old, to really geek out with set pieces from the original “Star Trek” series, including the navigation console (“Take us out, Mr. Sulu”), spaceship filming models of the USS Enterprise, original scripts and storyboards, uniforms worn by Spock (Leonard Nimoy) and Lt. Uhura (Nichelle Nichols), a Borg costume, the alien Gorn, props such as an original series communicator and phaser, a Borg “cube” from the film “Star Trek: First Contact” and, of course, everyone’s favorite galactic creature, a tribble.

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.
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Storrier Sterns Japanese Garden
(Jeanette Marantos / Los Angeles Times)

Storrier Stearns Japanese Gardens

Pasadena Private garden
This tiny jewel of a garden was once part of a palatial Pasadena estate designed by Japanese landscaper Kinzuchi Fujii for his wealthy patrons, Charles and Ellamae Storrier Stearns. Fujii transformed two flat tennis courts into a mounded space featuring a grand “12-tatami-mat tea house” (a dozen 3-foot-by-6-foot mats signifying a house of great importance) along with a 25-foot waterfall, two ponds, four bridges and numerous plantings shaded by sprawling sycamores and oaks. It’s a restful place to wander by day but it’s even more magical at night, with just enough lighting to help you find your way along the paths.

If you’re looking for a special evening out, grab your favorite takeout and a bottle of wine and watch the day melt into night, with strings of lights reflecting off the koi pond. (Bring your own cups, bottle openers, cutlery and plates to the garden, and take it all with you when you leave.) The teahouse is lighted and open for visitors day or night. Just remember to remove your shoes.

Admission: Tickets are $12 if purchased online and $15 if purchased at the gate (and if space is available), children 12 and under enter for free.

Hours: Open 3 to 7 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 10 a.m. to 7:45 p.m. Sundays.

Food not available for purchase. Carry-in food is permitted. Dogs are not permitted in the garden.
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A group of cyclists participate in the Venice Electric Light Parade
(Christina House / Los Angeles Times)

Venice Electric Light Bike Parade

Venice Parade
If your holiday guests are looking for an exhilarating, quintessential L.A. experience, search no further than the Venice Electric Light Bike Parade, especially if you have an extra bike available for guests. You can try to outfit your own bike with lights or just get to the Venice Boardwalk early and put down $40 with Sebastian “The Light Man” Butler to get your bike wired with festive lights. You don’t have to have lights on your bike to ride; in fact, you don’t even have to have a bike — some people use roller blades, skateboards or scooters — but if you don’t want to put lights on your bike you can wear them on your body or around your head. This two-hour ride takes you along the Venice boardwalk to the Santa Monica Pier and then into Venice proper along city streets with a pack of 200 to 300 other wheeled riders, all led by event organizer Marcus Gladney, a.k.a. the Captain. Note the ride ends about a mile from where it begins, at the west end of Washington Boulevard in Marina del Rey.

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.
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