40 Things To Do around LA When Everyone Else Goes Away for Christmas

Activities for Los Angeles and Southern California Families

Shhhhh. Do you hear that? Wait—I think.... Yep! They're gone! All those people whose families live on the east coast, in the Midwest, in the Bay Area—they're all standing in their socks at airport security, telling their kids to hurry up and knock back that juice box before they miss their plane. Doesn't it make you glad to be in LA?

The marvelous secret I never knew in my childless, travel-at-will days is that for roughly 10 blessed days in December every year the highways of Los Angeles open up—and I'm not talking the San Andreas Fault way. While all those other Angelenos are away, you can do anything, anywhere, and it need not take you more than 20 minutes to get there. Have friends you miss in Burbank? Never get to the beach? Now is the time to start checking items off our 100 Things To Do in LA Bucket List, or try a few of the far-fetched and fun outings below that won't feel nearly so far during LA's true Holy Week!

  1. Check out LA's newest science museum, the Discovery Cube LA at Hansen Dam
  2. Hang with the peacocks at the Los Angeles Arboretum
  3. Sled the giant sand hill (just past Sycamore Canyon) on PCH in Point Mugu State Park
  4. Take a Boat Sleigh ride to see the lights in Ventura Harbor
  5. See some animal shows at the Moorpark Teaching Zoo
  6. Go on a whale watching cruise
  7. Get the El Capitan treatment on Rogue One
  8. Wander the Redondo Pier
  9. Spend a day at Kidspace Children's Museum
  10. Wander through the South Coast Botanic Gardens
  11. Check out the International Printing Museum in Carson
  12. Visit the rescued sea lions at the Pacific Marine Mammal Center
  13. Pay a visit to Descanso Gardens and visit the Enchanted Forest of Light
  14. Explore the tidepools (and everything else) at the Cabrillo Marine Aquarium
  15. Attend events before, after, or during the 2017 Rose Parade
  16. Tour the Battleship Iowa, skate on the on-board ice rink, and stay for the holiday lights (Fridays only)
  17. Race Go Karts at Speedzone
  18. Bundle up and enjoy some CHILL at the Queen Mary
  19. Chill a little more at Costa Mesa's Winter Fest

    Skating downtown at LA Live

  20. Drive down to the Nixon Museum
  21. Drive up to the Reagan Museum
  22. Do some outlet store shopping at Camarillo or The Citadel
  23. Have dinner in the giant gingerbread house at OC's Great Wolf Lodge
  24. Head up to the Santa Barbara Zoo
  25. Take a drive to see over-the-top Christmas lights around LA
  26. Drive to Orange County see more over-the-top Christmas lights
  27. Explore the huge, beautiful wilderness that is Irvine Ranch
  28. Ice skate downtown at either LA Live or Pershing Square.
  29. Take a walk around Balboa Island
  30. Stroll a bird-watching haven in the Ballona Wetlands
  31. Enjoy holiday music and horse-drawn trolleys in Montrose Village
  32. Spend an afternoon in Little Tokyo
  33. Go off in search of mini-golf
  34. Visit the gardens and exhibits at the Huntington Library
  35. Learn some real cowboy history at the Autry National Center (free on New Year's Day!)
  36. Rock out at the GRAMMY Museum
  37. Finally get around to checking out DTLA's new Broad Museum
  38. See why the swallows are so into San Juan Capistrano
  39. Pay a visit to the La Habra Children's Museum
  40. See the famous Festival of Lights at Riverside's Mission Inn

Originally published on December 21, 2012
Top photo: Festival of Lights at Mission Inn, by Don Graham via flickr