Photo courtesy of Santa Monica Travel & Tourism
Photo courtesy of Santa Monica Travel & Tourism

What's Open on Christmas Day in LA: A List of Fun Things To Do

Not everyone spends Christmas Day opening presents and singing Christmas carols; you may actually be looking for places to go on Christmas Day. And even in 2020, when many things are closed, there are plenty of ways to get out of the house for the holiday! Mommy Poppins scoured the city and rounded up everything from whale watching to drive-thru holiday celebrations, and even some places to score takeout at the end of the day. Ready for cool suggestions of things to do and places to go on Christmas Day?

Please note that Southern California counties have different (and changing) guidelines for what can remain open. We continue to update our articles as soon as new information becomes available but recommend calling to confirm that a location is open before visiting. Please keep your family and others safe by always wearing a mask and maintaining appropriate distance. If you arrive at an event that appears too crowded try using the see all locations in this article or “nearby” search feature on our event calendar to find something else to do. 

1. Santa Monica Pier

The rides at Pacific Park are temporarily closed, but the Santa Monica Pier is open for walking, fishing (kids under 16 don't need a fishing license), and even grabbing a snack or meal to go at one of the restaurants that are open for takeout. Check out the Bob Baker Marionettes Windows of Wonderment while you're there.

2. Make a Withdrawal at the Cupcake ATM

Beverly Hills is still a fine place to window shop on Christmas Day, with plenty of lights and eye candy; the highlight of the outing can be a stop for a sweet withdrawal at the Sprinkles Cupcake ATM. Check the website to see which other Cupcake ATMs are still open.

3. Neighborhood Light Displays

Whether or not you celebrate Christmas, taking a spin past some of the private light displays the holiday inspires makes for a great after-dark activity. If you've already seen the most epic ones in LA, then check out the lights of Orange County.

The Mission Inn Riverside Festival of Lights

Photo courtesy of The Mission Inn

4. See the Lights at Riverside's Mission Inn

Riverside's Mission Inn has a pretty light display which continues into the new year. Though with COVID-19 restrictions only guests are allowed inside the hotel, there are millions of twinkling lights and festive creatures adorning every inch of outdoor space.

5. Take a Hike

Stay close or take a drive—we're spoiled for choice when choosing hiking trails in SoCal. Even beautiful stroller-friendly hikes abound.

6. Sand Sledding

Rumor has it that in other places people get cold and wet sledding, but this is Southern California; we sled at the beach. The Venice Beach sand berms are up again for the season, and they're under attack by plastic saucers. For those not in the know, each year the city amasses giant hills of sand to protect the beach community from winter storms, and the beach community storms the hills.

Related: Best Christmas Lights and Awesomely Decorated Homes around LA

Snow tubing near Los Angeles

7. Snow Tubing & Sledding

OK, when we're done gloating about the whole sand thing, we are prepared to admit that the snow version of sledding has its allure. And though driving out of the city to slide down a hill can involve a whole lot of hurry-up-and-wait on other days of winter break, Christmas Day is a pretty good day to hit the highways and the slopes. Most of the nearby tubing parks are open, as long as it doesn't rain.

8. Hit the Slopes!

There are fewer people on the ski slopes at Mountain High, Mt. Baldy, and other nearby ski resorts on Christmas Day. You could even call this outing a Christmas present!

9. Chinatown

When's the last time you had a wander and a bite in Chinatown? Many of the shops are open for browsing at reduced capacity and most of the restaurants in Chinatown are open for takeout on Christmas Day—in fact a Chinese meal is a holiday tradition for many families.

Catalina Island hike

Christmas Day is a great day to be on an island. Photo by Jack Baldelli courtesy of Catalina Island Conservancy

10. Catalina Island

The Catalina Express runs on Christmas Day, and although many businesses on the island will be closed, the bison don't take the day off—and just taking the boat and going for a hike is a fine day's excursion.

11. Visit Movie Locations

Be a tourist in your own town and take a drive to snap silly photos at one of these 10 iconic LA spots made famous by TV and movies (yes, the Brady House is on the list!).

12. Whale Watching

Whale watching season officially begins in December, as the giant mammals start their long journey south in search of Mexican romance. Why not book a whale watching cruise and beat the (post) Christmas rush?

Birdwatching at the beach on Christmas Day

Pelicans, and seagulls, and sandpipers, oh my! Photo by Mommy Poppins

13. Christmas at the Beach

It may be a little chilly this time of year, but toss on a sweater and enjoy getting a patch of primo sand all to yourself (or close to it). Venice Beach Boardwalk is closed (unless you're picking up takeout) this year, but most other beach paths are open, and it's a spectacular time for birdwatching at the beach.

14. Drive-thru Light Shows

Gifts were opened, movies watched, and jammies are on, but no one is sleepy. Time to pack the fam in the car for a Christmas drive-thru adventure. While some drive-thru shows are closed on Christmas Day, many are open, including Elf on the Shelf’s Magical Holiday Journey, Nights of Lights OC, and Santa’s Speedway.

15. Swan Pedal Boat Rides

Board the pedal boats at Echo Park Lake for a spin in the sunshine, or wait until evening for a lit up glide around the lake. Maximum capacity is 5 people, and boats are available for rental by the hour (reservations must be made online in advance).

16. Sparkle at the BLOC

Millions of lights illuminate the night and synchronize to festive tunes, and families can end Christmas with a walk through one of LA’s largest multi-colored interactive holiday displays.

17. Downtown Disney District

Disneyland might be closed, but for kids yearning for a Mickey fix, the Downtown Disney District is open on Christmas Day and filled with that Disney magic. Shops are open at 20% capacity and restaurants are only open for takeout, but the streets are decked for the holidays and the very air is merry.

Butterbeer arrives at Universal CityWalk

There's always room for Butterbeer. Photo by Mommy Poppins

18. Universal CityWalk

Universal Studios Hollywood is also closed, but some of the magic has moved to the CityWalk. Parking is free, the giant Christmas tree is a perfect backdrop for photos, and even King Kong is looking festive. Many stores and restaurants are open (with limited capacity and for takeout only), including The Wizarding World of Harry Potter Sweets & Treats Shop, where for the first time, Butterbeer is available outside the theme park.

19. Sunset Ranch Rides

Need to burn off some of the Christmas candy? Kids 8 and up can hop on a horse at Sunset Ranch Hollywood for a one or two-hour ride through the Hollywood Hills. Be sure to book in advance for Christmas rides.

20. Drive-in Movie

One of the best things about 2020 has been the return of the drive-in movie. Christmas Day is great day to catch a family flick on the big screen, in your jammies, with a Christmas stocking full of sweets in your lap. Park the crew for holiday classics in Gardena or Irvine, or see the new Wonder Woman 1984 in Hollywood.

 

Check out what else is going on this Christmas season in our holiday fun guide and on our Daily Events Calendar.

Originally published December 21, 2011

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