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

Take a ride on the iconic funicular railcar! Photo courtesy of @60x80 on Instagram
Take a ride on the iconic funicular railcar! Photo courtesy of @60x80 on Instagram

The presents were opened hours ago. Dinner is hours away. The kids are already starting to bicker and everyone is crashing from too much candy. You gotta get out of the house. But what is open on Christmas Day in Los Angeles?

Those who don't celebrate the holiday have asked that question for years, and the traditional answer is Chinese food and a movie. But there are actually loads of places open on Christmas Day. From venues and stores open on Christmas to sledding on the sand or snow, here are over 25 fun things to do and places to go on Christmas!

You can find even more seasonal activities in our Guide to Holiday and Christmas Events in Los Angeles or on our Calendar of Events.

Be sure to check with the venue for its COVID guidelines and requirements before heading out . Many places in LA now require guests to show either proof of vaccination or a negative test; some events are getting canceled or postponed at the last minute due to the latest COVID surge.

Santa Monica Pier 
Spend the day on the pier. Photo courtesy of pacpark.com

1. Santa Monica Pier

Everyone knows that Disneyland is open and stuffed to the gills on Christmas Day, but don't the roller-coaster and bumper cars on Santa Monica Pier sound more appealing?

2. Angels Flight

It's on everyone's "to do" list, and it's scheduled to be open on Christmas Day! Why not take advantage of a day when it's easy to find parking downtown and ride the iconic funicular railcar?

3. Visit the Tar Pits

This is one of our favorite only-in-LA spots, and it’s a great little park to walk around while you work up an appetite for Christmas dinner. Don't forget to say “hi” to the prehistoric sloths and the mammoths stuck in the Lake Pit!

West Side Story 
See West Side Story at the El Capitan, photo courtesy of 20th Century Studios

4. West Side Story at El Capitan

Seeing a movie on Christmas is an annual tradition for many families, so why not see one of the biggest crowd-pleasers of the season at the best theater in town?

5. Ice skating

One of the best opportunities for a good SoCal gloat is putting on T-shirts and taking family photos gliding across the ice at one of our many seasonal outdoor ice rinks—just to show your friends back East that we have winter, too.

6. Rather see a show on ice? 

Disney on Ice is back on Christmas Day in Ontario with figure skating versions of Moana and Maui, Miguel from Coco, and those famous princesses who were never bothered by the cold anyway. (Plus all your other Disney favorites!)

Holiday lights at Candy Cane Lane 
Don't miss the decorations on Candy Cane Lane before they come down for the year. Photo courtesy of Trip Advisor

7. 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.

RELATED: Best Christmas Lights and Awesomely Decorated Homes around LA

8. Free public light displays, in DTLA and at Riverside's Mission Inn

Both DTLA and Riverside have impressive, walkable, and free public light displays to brag about: Millions of lights twinkle at the Bloc downtown, and the Mission Inn dazzles in its annual display.

9. How about a Christmas drive-thru? Head to OC 

There are two great light displays in OC this Christmas! Night of Lights in Costa Mesa is a one-mile drive with over one million lights, themed holiday scenery and vignettes, animated light shows, snow flurries and tunnels synchronized to music, special effects, and more. Magic of Lights at Angel Stadium is a drive-thru light display that brings to life holiday scenes and characters using LED technology and digital animations.

10. Celebrate Christmas with Elf on the Shelf or at Santa’s Speedway

Enjoy carols, elves, skating, hot chocolate, a trolley ride, and an audience with Santa Claus himself at Elf on the Shelf's Magical Holiday Journey at Fairplex in Pomona. Or drive down a pathway of color-changing palm trees onto the NASCAR racetrack decked out as Santa’s Village at Santa’s Speedway in Irwindale.

11. Pirates Take Christmas

Pirates Dinner Adventure in Buena Park is open for business on the holiday with a special Christmas dinner show. Will the pirate crew steal Christmas? There's only one way to find out!

12. Take a Hike

Stay close or take a drive—we're spoiled for choice when choosing hiking trails in SoCal. We’ve got beautiful stroller-friendly hikes, if you’re taking the wee-ones, too.

The Grove
See dazzling holiday decor—plus snowfall—at The Grove. Photo courtesy of BFA

13. See snow at The Grove

The Grove is open on Christmas, and there is snow in the forecast: two snowfalls are scheduled for 7pm and 8 pm. The movie theater is open, if you need a family viewing of Spider-Man: No Way Home, Sing 2, or The Matrix Resurrections, and you can even skip making Christmas dinner and dine out at La Piazza—which has an amazing view of The Grove's holiday decor.

Sand sledding! 
Go sand sledding at the beach.

14. 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.

15. 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.

16. Hit the Slopes!

There are fewer people to bump into 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!

17. Chinatown

When's the last time you had a wander and a bite in Chinatown? Many of the shops and most of the restaurants in Chinatown are open 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

18. 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.

19. Santa Barbara Zoo 

The kid-pleasing little zoo to the north is open on the holiday, an annual tradition and a great family outing (until 3pm) on both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

The New Beverly Cinema 
See an old school movie at an old school theater. Photo courtesy of the New Beverly Cinema viaFacebook

20. Christmas Double Feature at the New Beverly Cinema

What a great day to introduce your kids to some good old-fashioned silly fun, like a double feature from the Marx Brothers at the New Beverly Cinema.

21. Christmas at the Beach

It may be a little chilly this year, but toss on a sweater and enjoy getting a patch of primo sand all to yourself (or close to it). 

Hogwarts at Universal Studios Hollywood 
See the Holiday Lights over Hogwarts. Photo courtesy of Universal Studios

22. 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 and holiday fireworks spectacular return to Disneyland Park, as does the holiday version of Haunted Mansion.

23. Medieval Times

You've fought off the bah humbugs of the season, battled Black Friday panic, and defeated your holiday card list. Go ahead and root for your knight in shining armor while you tear into a chunk of grilled chicken with your bare hands (vegetarian options are available, too). 

24. 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!).

25. Madame Tussauds Hollywood

We have to admit that after mocking this museum as a tourist trap for ages, we actually brought visiting family once and it was loads of fun. There’s a little something for everyone here, from seeing the life-sized Avengers for the kids to meeting Marilyn Monroe for visiting grandparents. And it’s open on Christmas until 8pm.

Ripley's Hollywood 
Looking for some oddities? We know where to find them! Photo courtesy of Ripley's Hollywood

26. Ripley’s Hollywood

More of a fan of oddities than celebrities? Ripley’s Hollywood has over 300 bizarre and unusual exhibits including a genuine shrunken head to an original Vampire Killing Kit from the 19th century and loads more. It’s open until midnight on Christmas!

26. 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?

Sunset Ranch 
Take a ride under the Hollywood sign. Photo courtesy of Sunset Ranch

27. Sunset Ranch

Sunset Ranch is open and booking horseback rides under the Hollywood Sign on Christmas Day.

28. San Diego Zoo Safari Park

Just north of San Diego, the Safari Park is a different experience than other zoos. 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.

Originally published December 21, 2011

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