75 Fun Things To Do in Los Angeles this Winter Break
Shhhhh. Do you hear that silence? They're gone! All those people standing in their socks at airport security, telling their kids to hurry up and knock back the juice box, they've all cleared the highways for winter break! Doesn't it make you glad to be in LA? While all those other Angelenos are away, you can do anything, anywhere, and it probably won’t 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 Christmas vacation.
LAUSD schools are closed from December 20, 2021 through January 9, 2022 for Christmas vacation. So if (when?) you need more fun things to do over the 2021-2022 winter break, check out our Weekly Picks and our daily Event Calendar.
Be sure to check with the venue for its COVID guidelines and requirements before heading out to any event. 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.
1. Pretend City
Yes, this is always a fabulous museum for the under 7 set. But one of the reasons we really recommend visiting during winter break is that the museum is fabulous at holiday programming. Whatever your family celebrates, this little hands-on museum has an event for you: from Christmas countdowns to Kwanzaa celebrations to Noon Year’s Eve and more.
See the rescued animals perform in animal shows, assisted by students at Moorpark College. If you go before Christmas, you can take part in Wild Nights and Disco Lights.
See the best reviewed movie of the year. Photo courtesy of 20th Century Studios
You could see this multi-generational toe-tapping pleaser in any number of places, but why wouldn’t you see it at the grandest movie theater in town?
Pasadena's kid heaven is a must for anyone growing up in LA. This winter vacation, kids can take part in the first annual Winter Frolic, complete with a Sock Skating Rink.
History comes to life in this Carson museum showcasing the history of printing. This lesser-known museum is one of our favorite hidden gems.
Pay a visit to the rescued sea lions at this seaside center.
Within the Enchanted Forest of Light, a glass sculpture by Tom Fruin. Photo courtesy of Descanso Gardens
Wander the woods of Descanso Gardens in the evening, and bring your camera for lots of photo opportunities.
Explore the tidepools and marine life at this gem of an aquarium.
Kids can help decorate the floats! Photo courtesy of Burbank Tournament of Roses, Facebook
10. Battleship Iowa
Tour the historic ship down on the LA Waterfront.
This new indoor go karting track just recently opened in Burbank this year and is a perfect outing for kids with a need for speed.
12. Nixon Museum
Drive down to this museum highlighting the life and work of our 37th president.
13. Reagan Museum
Drive up to Simi Valley to learn about the 40th president.
A gingerbread Hogwarts illustrates the Science of Gingerbread. Photo courtesy of Discovery Cube, Facebook
Build and learn holiday-style at the Discovery Cube. This is perhaps the greatest holiday museum exhibit in town, and we’re so thrilled it’s back this year at both the OC and LA locations.
Head north (maybe on the train?) to a great little zoo that feels like an adventure.
See some really awesome light shows and displays.
Take a drive to see amazing neighborhood Christmas lights.
Skate at LA Live. It’s not Rockefeller Plaza, but it’s not too shabby! There are more places to ice skate in the LA area, too!
Visit Little Tokyo for great food, shopping, and culture. Photo by Florent Lamoureux, Flickr
19. Little Tokyo
Spend an afternoon steeped in Japanese culture.
20. Mini golf
Tee off with the whole family in a game of golf.
Have a bite and a holiday drink, while your kids watch the planes and explore the airplane playground at the place named LA’s hottest new food hall by Food Network this year.
Visit the gardens and exhibits in this gorgeous museum. The Children’s Garden is open again, the newer additions to the Chinese Garden are spectacular, and Kehinde Wiley’s fascinating A Portrait of a Young Gentleman is on display through January 3.
Learn some real cowboy history.
Check out a great museum that kids and adults alike love. Grammy Museum photo courtesy of Mommy Poppins
24. Grammy Museum
Rock out at this unique music museum.
25. Broad Museum
While the kid-favorite exhibit, Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Mirrored Room—The Souls of Millions of Light Years Away, is currently closed, the bright colors of the Warhol, Basquiat, and Lichtenstein exhibits delight kids.
See why the swallows are so into this place.
Take a drive to this hands-on museum.
Take a longer drive up into the mountains, for Lake Arrowhead's delightful Santastic theme park.
Immerse yourself in the history of the city. Olvera Street photo courtesy of Mommy Poppins
29. Olvera Street
Enjoy some treats (Mr. Churro!) and shop on DTLA's iconic, oldest street.
30. Noah's Ark
Visit the Skirball's wonderful, endlessly entertaining play space. And while you’re here, be sure to swing by the amazing Star Trek exhibit that’s on display through February.
The peacocks at the LA Arboretum don't go on vacation. Photo by Mommy Poppins
Hang with the peacocks on over 120 acres of natural beauty.
32. Hansen Dam
The fabulous Discovery Cube LA used to be our whole reason for coming here. But while you’re visiting the Science of Gingerbread exhibit (mentioned above), don’t sleep on Hansen Dam Park’s other wonders, like the wide open spaces, bike paths, and natural beauty around the mini-lake.
Head up the coast to the giant sand hill on PCH in Point Mugu State Park.
34. Ventura Harbor
Take a Boat Sleigh ride to see the holiday lights in the harbor.
The season of the Pacific Gray Whale is just beginning, and boats are taking families on cruises.
36. Redondo Pier
When there's traffic on the 405 it sounds far away, but a drive to Redondo is an easy escape at this time of year. Stroll the pier, the beach, and get some takeout.
Get lost amid the greenery and trails during the day, and stay for the GLOW at night.
Take advantage of the non-existent traffic to drive out to these lovely lavender fields that are all lit up for the holidays.
The Cupcake ATM is always open. Photo courtesy of Mommy Poppins
Hit the ATM anytime of the day or night for a classic red velvet confection.
RELATED: Winter Activities Guide for LA Kids
Tubing at the North Pole is not so far away. Photo by the author
40. Wander to winter at a local ski slope or tubing park
Hit the slopes or go sledding or for the day.
41. Camarillo Outlets or The Citadel
Do some outlet store shopping for great deals—especially after Christmas.
Art is everywhere you look. Photo by Jackie Jones
Art is everywhere. Take pics with Wild Things and against the second most photographed wall in the world (behind the Great Wall of China!).
The frozen bananas are practically required eating on Balboa Island. Photo courtesy of Dad's Donuts, Balboa Island
43. Balboa Island
Take a walk, smell the salt air, and enjoy some food or snacks at one of the great local restaurants.
See the famous festival at Riverside's Mission Inn.
45. Local Farmers Market
Go out and get some fresh fruits and flowers and savor living in LA, while the rest of the country is shopping in the frozen food aisle.
Watch the sunset over the ocean, ride the Ferris wheel, and play a little Skeeball.
47. Tanaka Farms
See the twinkling Festival of Lights or take a tractor ride with Santa through the u-pick fields.
48. Underwood Farms
Even after Christmas on the Farm closes, the Animal Center and Pick Your Own Fields remain open.
49. Trapeze school
Your family can book a class on the Santa Monica Pier. Soon you’ll all be flying through the air, with the greatest of ease!
Kids ages 8 and up can take a one or two-hour ride in the storied hills.
Walk around the lake, bring a picnic lunch, feed the ducks, and then definitely take a pedal around the lake on the swan boats!
The Happiest Place on Earth becomes the merriest place on Earth this holiday season.
It's a winter wonderland at Hogwarts. Photo courtesy of Universal Studios
At night, Hogwarts Castle is illuminated in a dazzling display of festive lights and music. And the Who-tacular festivities are back with The Grinch, Max, and all the Who-ville denizens.
Because where else can you see Merry Christmas, Snoopy!, an ice show featuring the Peanuts Gang and a cast of world-class ice skaters?
While you’re Mid-City, check out the newest museum to open in Los Angeles: the incredible Academy Museum of Motion Pictures.
The Page Museum at the Tar Pits and a perfect little museum for kids. Photo courtesy of Mommy Poppins
57. La Brea Tar Pits
Visitors can watch paleontologists at work at the excavation site in the park, visit one of the best hills in the city for rolling down, and check out the mammoths stuck in the Lake Pit. And that’s all before you even go inside the museum!
58. Go hiking!
The Tournament of Roses Parade is back this year, and everything in LA is coming up roses.
Literally. It’s part outdoor classroom, part living-learning center, and all fun nature walk filled with giant tile animals to climb on. If kids want to see more birds (and surfers) up close, walk to Malibu Lagoon State Beach across the PCH.
Storrier Stearns Japanese Garden is a gorgeous getaway in town. Photo courtesy of japanesegardenpasadena.com
This beautiful, off-the-beaten-path spot is never crowded because guests have to register for 2 hour visit times on weekends only. But for a few, serene outdoor moments, it’s definitely worth the planning ahead a visit requires.
Take a drive to Claremont and enjoy a garden you may not have visited before.
63. Bike along the beach
If the kids got new bikes for the holidays, now is the time to test them out on over 20 miles of beach bike paths! But if they didn’t, several bike rental shops are open along the strand from Santa Monica to the South Bay.
With sweeping views of the Hollywood Sign and city skyscrapers, this peaceful lake is both a piece of LA history and a great spot to jog, teach kids to ride bicycles (no cars!), and look for wildlife, right in the heart of the city.
And stay into the evening for the Holiday Light Show.
The Dodgers Holiday Festival 2021 features Santa in the bullpen, a winter wonderland of holiday lights, and an ice rink in the outfield.
Tickets to see the Rams or Chargers can get a little pricey, but if you want to check out the state-of-the-art SoFi Stadium, you can book tickets for a tour that includes a tunnel run onto the field.
68. See a game
69. See an immersive holiday show
Yes, Van Gogh is still here, as are several other immersive shows, but for the holidays we recommend checking out the Immersive Nutcracker or The Gingerbread Man's Spectacular Holiday Light Adventure.
The Art of the Brick is at the Science Center through the end of the year. Photo courtesy of Mommy Poppins
Check out the hologram-like projection of Dr. Goodall, who shares her memories of the chimpanzees of Gombe.
Don't miss this LA classic! Photo courtesy of the Bob Baker Marionette Theater
If you haven’t ever seen this marionette show, you simply must. It’s an LA classic.
73. All aboard the Griffith Park & Southern Railroad Train
The Holiday Light Festival Train Ride is back, through Jan. 7, and you do not want to miss it!
This winter wonderland is complete with everything from the North Pole, Elf Village, Gingerbread Lane, light tunnels, and Christmas tree forests.
Zoo Lights shines at the LA Zoo until Jan. 9.
Originally published on December 21, 2012