Not everyone spends Christmas Day opening presents and singing Christmas carols. If Christmas at your house feels much like any other day but without as much to do—or if your family are just really fast unwrappers—Mommy Poppins has you covered with everything from whales to festivals, and someplace to eat at the end of the day. Ready for 15 suggestions of things to do and places to go on Christmas Day that have (mostly) nothing to do with chestnuts or open fire?
1. Pacific Park
Everyone knows that Disneyland is open and stuffed to the gills on Christmas Day, but don't the rollercoaster and bumper cars on Santa Monica Pier sound more appealing?
2. Ice skating
Sometimes doing is more satisfying than watching; the Southland's seasonal outdoor ice rinks are open for holiday business.
3. CHILL at the Queen Mary
The temperature in Long Beach always seems colder at this time of year, when the Queen Mary is surrounded by ice and winter scenes. Christmas Day seems like the perfect day to enjoy the holiday village full of ice tubing, ice skating, and plenty of Christmas cheer.
4. 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. Seen the ones in LA? Then check out the lights of Orange County.
5. Winter Fest at OC Fairgrounds
The holiday season brings a white-out to Orange County; Costa Mesa's OC Fair and Event Center drops the mercury with ice tubing, ice skating, snowfall, reindeer encounters, and live entertainment daily throughout the holiday season, including Christmas Day.
CHILL is open and full of sparkle.
6. Christmas Double Feature at the Beverly Cinema
What a great day to introduce your kids to something good old-fashioned silly, like a double feature matching the Marx Brothers with W. C. Fields and Charlie McCarthy.
7. 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?
8. 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.
9. Ride a Bike
Did someone get a new bike from Santa? There's no finer tradition than the Christmas day test drive!
10. The Bunny Museum
As on most holidays, the doors are open at that kitsch, only-in-Pasedena home museum that pays hyperbolic tribute to bunnyness. We're not really sure we understand, but it's there and it's open.
11. 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.
Photo via Bigstock
12. 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.
13. Star Wars: The Last Jedi El Capitan
If photos with Santa are no longer your kids' thing, there are selfies with stormtroopers. El Cap also offers a light saber laser show before every screening of The Last Jedi, plus the usual cool stuff from set and other treats unique to Disney's vintage movie house. And Christmas Day on Hollywood Blvd. is super sparkly.
14. San Diego Zoo Safari Park
Just north of San Diego, and so that little bit closer to LA, the Safari Park is a different experience than the main zoo. Animals wander freely in a faux Africa, and guests can observe them on foot, from a train, in a safari truck, or even on a zipline. It's a bit of a drive, but on Christmas Day it'll go quickly.
15. Universal or Disneyland
Don't expect them to be empty or anything, but compared to the rest of winter break, Christmas is a pretty good day to hit one of the big parks. They're open, and they have special Christmas features: Grinchmas and the holiday lights over Hogwarts at Universal, and the Christmas parade, light show, and Small World revamp at Disneyland.
16. BONUS! As of December 21, the Santa Barbara Zoo is open again (after a forced evacuation to keep animals safe from the Thomas Fire earlier in the week). This means the zoo can keep up its annual tradition of being a great family outing (until 3pm) on both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.
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