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.
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.
Blitzen's/Arts District Downtown L.A.
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.
'Bond in Motion' exhibition at the Petersen Automotive Museum
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.
Christmas Tree Lane in Oxnard
Dates: Dec. 12 to 26
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.
Highland Park Bowl
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.
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.
GLOW at South Coast Botanic Garden
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.
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.
The Mission Inn
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.
Obama Portraits Tour/Black American Portraits at LACMA
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.
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 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.
'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.
Storrier Stearns Japanese Gardens
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.
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.