What's Open on Thanksgiving in Los Angeles? Places Open for Family Fun

Stroll through vibrant foliage and gardens. Photo courtesy of Descanso Gardens
Stroll through vibrant foliage and gardens. Photo courtesy of Descanso Gardens
11/12/23 - By Kylie Williams

Thanksgiving might be known as the holiday where you eat food and watch football all day, but there's much more to do on this holiday in Los Angeles than you might think. Sometimes, you need a change of scenery or a break from the relatives, so knowing what's open on Thanksgiving in LA for family fun is invaluable—for clearing the house to prepare the meal and for walking it off afterward.

Stuff your Thanksgiving with much more than just food. You could spend the whole holiday out and about in Los Angeles by going to one of the places below that you may not have realized welcome visitors, and by eating at one of the many restaurants in LA open on Thanksgiving

Gobble up more holiday goodness with Thanksgiving crafts, games, and activities for kids, and see where to kick off the Christmas festivities with the best neighborhood holiday lights in Los Angeles. For more holiday happenings, check out our Events Calendar and peruse our Guide to Holiday and Christmas Events for Los Angeles Families


 What's Open on Thanksgiving in Los Angeles

Open on Thanksgiving in Los Angeles: Turkey Trot 
A morning trot means you deserve extra pie. Turkey Trot photo courtesy of Mommy Poppins

1. Run in a Turkey Trot

Get moving and burn some calories before the big feast with a 5K or 10K walk/run. The whole family can participate together; either the Rose Bowl Turkey Trot or the Downtown LA Trot is a great way to start the day.

2. Aquarium of the Pacific

All the same fish are there (plus the odd shorebird and Arctic fox), and while they're chowing down on krill and voles, you can have Thanksgiving lunch at the Aquarium.

3. South Coast Botanic Garden

The gardens are open on Thanksgiving, and this new exhibition, Thomas Dambo's Trolls: Save the Humans, is on display with folklore-inspired troll sculptures made from recycled materials. Stay for the evening and enjoy Astra Lumina, a fantastic walk-through light display that will put you right in the holiday season. 

RELATED: Restaurants Open for Thanksgiving Dinner in LA

Open on Thanksgiving in Los Angeles: Santa Monica Pier
The Ferris wheel and carnival games dish up fun on the Santa Monica Pier. Photo courtesy of Pacific Park

4. Pacific Park at the Santa Monica Pier

The perfect ending to a SoCal Thanksgiving is a sunset ride on the iconic Ferris wheel at Santa Monica Pier. All the rides and games are open on Thanksgiving.

5. Playgrounds

Kiddos might have a lot of pent-up energy before they sit down for Thanksgiving dinner, and luckily, there are hundreds of playgrounds throughout Los Angeles. Get some fresh air in the afternoon and spend some time at one of the many LA playgrounds

RELATED: Thanksgiving Crafts and Activities for the Whole Family

Open on Thanksgiving in Los Angeles: Lake Balboa Surrey Rides 
Take advantage of the LA sunshine. Photo courtesy of Lake Balboa Bike Rentals

6. Bike and Surrey Rentals at Lake Balboa

Why not rent a surrey and pedal around Lake Balboa so the whole family can work off that big meal together? 

7. Disneyland

What could be more fun than hanging out with Mickey, Minnie, and all their friends at the happiest place on earth? Plus, Disneyland is famous for some pretty fantastic Thanksgiving meals. 

RELATED: Best Thanksgiving Movies for Kids and the Whole Family

Open on Thanksgiving in Los Angeles: Universal Studios
Who could resist a trip to Hogwarts? Photo courtesy of Universal Studios and Warner Brothers

8. Universal Studios Hollywood

The kids will surely tell you what they're thankful for if you take them to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter on Thanksgiving. Universal CityWalk is also open on November 23, so it's the perfect time to check out the new Toothsome Chocolate Emporium or do some pre-holiday shopping. 

9. Griffith Park

A hike through the iconic Griffith Park might be the perfect way to burn off those Thanksgiving calories and soak in the November sunshine. Note that while Grffith Park and its trails will be open on Thanksgiving, other popular attractions in Grffith Park, like the LA Zoo, Autry Museum, and Griffith Observatory, are closed on Thanksgiving. 

10. ICE in Santa Monica

Take a twirl around the rink at Ice at Santa Monica, a spectacular rink right in the heart of Santa Monica. This rink is open from 11:30am to 9:30pm on Thanksgiving Day. The Holiday Ice Rink at Pershing Square is also open on Thanksgiving Day. 

RELATED: Thanksgiving Jokes for Kids They'll Gobble Up

Open on Thanksgiving in Los Angeles: Sand Sledding 
Everyone can go snow sledding, but sand sledding is an LA right of passage.

11. Go Sand Sledding!

Make a big impression on visiting relatives with the ultimate (and unique) SoCal activity. The berms should be ready for your inaugural sled runs by Thanksgiving. 

12. Descanso Gardens

Take a refreshing nature daytime stroll at Descanso Gardens. Note that Enchanted: A Forest of Light (Descanso's wintertime night attraction) is not open on Thanksgiving. 

13. Six Flags Magic Mountain

If you have teens, there's a good chance they'll prefer Riddler's Revenge to a boring turkey dinner.

RELATED: Holiday Volunteer Opportunities for Kids in Los Angeles

Open on Thanksgiving in Los Angeles: LA Auto Show 
See the cars of the future at the LA Auto Show. Photo courtesy of the LA Auto Show

14. LA Auto Show

If you have car enthusiasts in your family, then the LA Auto Show is the perfect complement to a turkey dinner! The show is at the LA Convention Center and includes the return of the Electric Vehicle (EV) Test Track.

15. Take a Hike

Burn a few calories so you can indulge at dinner with a hike on one of LA's many trails. Griffith Park and Runyon Canyon are our favorite places to hike. There are endless other trail options, like Solstice Canyon in Malibu, Elysian Park near DTLA, or Eaton Canyon in Pasadena. If your family holiday plans include wee ones, check out our favorite hikes for toddlers or the best stroller-friendly hikes

16. Santa Barbara Zoo

Visit elephants, gorillas, and other zoo animals. Reindeer are also in town, and the zoo has a brand-new baby giraffe. 

RELATED: Best Neighborhood Holiday Lights and Christmas Lights in Los Angeles

Open on Thanksgiving in Los Angeles: Little Corona Tidepools 
Explore the tide pools at Little Corona, Newport Beach. Photo by Ronaldo Farelli

17. Tide Pools

The beach is one of the biggest draws for LA, but it's usually a bit too cold to get into the water in November. However, tide pools are great for exploring, no matter the weather. Check out our list of great tide pools in Southern California. 

18. Go to the Movies

Sure, lots of us hit the movie theaters on Christmas Day, but Thanksgiving is another day when you need a few hours of peace and quiet and entertainment for kids and visiting family for a while. Disney's Wish opens for the holiday, and it's playing at the El Capitan, among many other LA theaters. Another popular Disney movie, Raiders of the Lost Ark, is showing at the newly reopened Vidiots on Thanksgiving evening. 

19. The Academy Museum 

What better time to visit the Academy Museum than Thanksgiving? See movie memorabilia and get a behind-the-scenes glimpse of movie-making magic. Plus, admission is always free for kids 17 and under. 

20. Holidays at Legoland

Head down to Carlsbad for a winter wonderland! Legoland gets decked out for the holiday season, and it's open on Thanksgiving for a bricktastic day. 

21. Knott's Merry Farm

Sure, Knott's Berry Farm is known for chicken, not turkey, but what difference does it make if you're grabbing a bite between roller coaster rides? Plus, Knott's Merry Farm is in full swing on Thanksgiving this year.

22. Sesame Place San Diego

Sesame Place is open on Thanksgiving and will delight your kids to no end. Even better, for the holidays, San Diego's newest theme park is transformed into a festive winter wonderland filled with holiday magic and surprises at A Very Furry Christmas.

Finally, wishing all of our readers a wonderful Thanksgiving!

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