What's Open on Thanksgiving in Los Angeles? 20+ Places Open for Family Fun

Run off that second helping of pie! Photo courtesy of the Los Angeles Turkey Trot via Facebook
Run off that second helping of pie! Photo courtesy of the Los Angeles Turkey Trot via Facebook

Racking your brain for family activities at places that are open on Thanksgiving Day? Filling your house with family during Thanksgiving is wonderful, but sometimes you just want everyone to get out of your house. We mean this, of course, in the nicest possible way. Knowing what's open on Thanksgiving for family fun is invaluable—both for clearing the house to prepare the meal and for walking it off afterward.

Our event calendar has all the local Thanksgiving day happenings, and our holiday guide has a few ideas, too; the suggestions below are more than 20 places open on Thanksgiving that you may not have realized welcomed visitors on the holiday. And if you need some suggestions for Thanksgiving crafts and games to keep kids busy at home, we've got loads of those, too. Happy Thanksgiving!

Reindeer at the Santa Barbara Zoo

The reindeer arrive this week! Photo courtesy of the Santa Barbara Zoo

1. The Santa Barbara Zoo

Watch elephants, gorillas, and other zoo animals eat their Thanksgiving fare. Plus, the reindeer are in town, too!

2. Aquarium of the Pacific

All the same fish are there (plus the odd shorebird and Arctic fox), but a lot fewer people. You can even eat Thanksgiving lunch at the Aquarium.

3. The Elf on the Shelf's Magical Holiday Journey

Held at the Pomona Fairplex, The Elf on the Shelf walk-through shrinks your family down to elf-size to save Christmas!

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

5. 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.

6. GLOW at South Coast Botanic Garden

GLOW, aka Garden Lights & Ocean Waters, is the South Coast Botanic Garden's seasonal event that the garden promises will be a "better and brighter" experience in 2021 for its sophomore season. And here we thought it was pretty great last year!

Open on Thanksgiving in Los Angeles: Lightscape at the Arboretum
The grounds at the Arboretum are lit for Lightscape this holiday season. Photo courtesy of the Los Angeles County Arboretum

4. Los Angeles Arboretum Lightscape

If you prefer your garden walks with oodles of peacocks, the Arboretum is for you. An evening stroll here is also a holiday treat, with the Lightscape event lighting up the night after dinner. This event hopped the pond to debut in LA this year.

RELATED: 50 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

7. Bike and Surrey Rentals at Lake Balboa

Why not rent a surrey, so the whole family can work off that big meal together?

8. Disneyland

What could be more fun than hanging out with Mickey, Minnie, and all their friends at the happiest place on earth?

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

9. Universal Studios

The kids will surely tell you all about what they're thankful for if you take them to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter—especially just in time for another season of holiday lights in the skies over the Castle. Grinchmas is back in town this year, too.

Open on Thanksgiving in Los Angeles: Knott's Merry Farm 
The holidays are here! Photo courtesy of Knott's Berry Farm

10. Knott's Berry Farm

Sure, Knott's 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.

11. Six Flags Magic Mountain

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

12. 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 Burbank Turkey Trot or the Downtown LA Trot is a great way to start the 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.

13. Go Sand Sledding!

Make a big impression on visiting relatives with the ultimate SoCal winter activity. The berms are ready for your inaugural winter runs already.

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 debut of the Electric Vehicle (EV) Test Track. 

15. Legoland Holidays

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

16. Immersive Van Gogh

The art sensation that's sweeping the nation has been extended into 2022. View some of the most important works of art by Van Gogh at the former Amoeba building to bring a little culture to your holiday.

RELATED: Holiday Volunteer Opportunities for Kids in Los Angeles

Open on Thanksgiving in Los Angeles: Academy Museum
A view of the Mother Tree installation, inspired by Totoro. Photo by Sherry Huang, Academy Museum Foundation

17. Hayao Miyazaki Films at The Academy Museum

What better time to visit Los Angeles' new The Academy Museum than Thanksgiving? While you're there, catch a screening of a couple of Hayao Miyazaki's best films, Spirited Away or Princess Mononoke.

18. California Science Center

The California Science Center is open on Thanksgiving, plus it's free! This museum features a new special fire-safety exhibit along with the always-popular Art of the Brick exhibition

19. Take a Hike

Burn a few calories so you can really indulge at dinner with a hike on one of LA's many trails. Griffith Park and Runyon Canyon are our favorite places to hike but there are so many other options like Solstice Canyon in Malibu, Elysian Park near Downtown, or Eaton Canyon in Pasadena. If your family holiday plans include wee ones, you might want to take a look at our favorite hikes for toddlers, or the best local hikes that are stroller-friendly.

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

20. Check Out the 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 what the weather. Check out our list of great tide pools in Southern California.

21. Winterlit Holiday Lights in Santa Monica

Head to the 3rd Street Promenade for Winterlit, which finds the downtown area of Santa Monica transformed into an illuminated winter wonderland. Plus, you can get some early Christmas shopping done at the stores that are open.

22. 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 perhaps to entertain kids and visiting family for a while. Disney's Encanto opens for the holiday, and it's playing at the El Capitan, which is one of the best movie theaters in town. We also like the theaters at the IPIC theaters and Universal Cinema AMC at CityWalk; the seats are extra wide and provide plenty of natural social distancing!

Finally, wishing all of our readers a wonderful holiday!

Thor: GOAT Marathon at the El Capitan
El Capitan Theatre Hollywood - 6:00 AM
Let's Learn Circuits
Zoom - Online - 9:30 AM
RAZ Summer Camp with Art for Kids
Robertson Art Zone, Beverly Hills - 9:30 AM
Textile and Fabric Arts Camp
Design Hive - 9:30 AM
Neighborhood Guides
Activity Guides