From the surf-kissed mountains, stretching along the Pacific Coast Highway to the pulsating grit and glamour of the graffiti-lined streets of Downtown; other than snowfall, there isn’t much you can’t find in Los Angeles, California. Blessed with a Mediterranean-like climate and some of the world’s best chefs, artists, actors and entrepreneurs it’s no wonder people from around the world have resettled in the loving arms of The City of Angels.
Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) is one of the busiest international airports in the world, offering many global connections. It may be quite daunting to navigate but just remember that each airline has its own section of this huge hub and you should find your way easier.
Here’s a Pro-tip: Public transportation is limited within the sprawling 500 square miles (1,300 km) of city, so a taxi or car rental is the best mode of transportation from the airport to your accommodations and to move around the city whilst visiting. Rideshares were practically made for Los Angeles.
Just like the credits after your favourite film, the list of what to do whilst visiting Los Angeles is endless! Here are my recommendations for what to do during the festive holiday season:
- The Getty Centre in Brentwood, known for its dedication to the arts, architecture and impressive views overlooking the city. The free museum is closed on Christmas day but open normal hours on Boxing Day (26th December).
- Visit the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) to see Chris Burden’s famous installation piece “Urban Light”, made of 202 streetlamps gathered from around the city, then venture further in for more modern masterpieces.
- Stop in the Griffith Observatory, the most visited public observatory in the world since 1935.
- Hike to the Hollywood Sign to walk off Christmas Day lunch or work up an appetite. There are many available trails to take; the shortest (and steepest) option is the Wisdom Tree Trail.
- Walk the Sara Wan Trailhead at Corral Canyon in Malibu to discover firsthand where the mountains meet the ocean. The trailhead begins just off the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH).
- Christmas Markets in LA are a unique experience. Many reflect the Mexican American heritage that has greatly influenced the city. Make sure to visit Union Station Holiday Festival to find locally made crafts by artisans, Jackalope Indie Artisan Fair or Echo Park Craft Fair. Las Posadas on historic Olvera Street is where to head for an annual Mexican American festival, alongside a traditional candlelit procession and reenactment of Mary and Joseph’s journey to Bethlehem, traditional Mexican music and dance performances, food and pinatas.
- Tour one of the movie studios: Paramount, Warner Brothers, Universal or Warner studios to see where all the action happens. Do check each studio for holiday hours.
- Explore the Arts District in downtown Los Angeles to check out some of the most vibrant and exciting street art.
Whether you’re looking for a traditional meal for Christmas, a traditional Jewish American Christmas dinner (aka Chinese food!) or something a bit more eclectic, L.A. has it all. Here are three great places open for festive dining:
- Caldo Verde at the DTLA Proper is Suzanne and Caroline Styne’s hottest new Portuguese-inspired restaurant and voted Time Out’s best new restaurant. Christmas dinner here, infused with Portuguese traditions and local California ingredients is served family-style, bolstering feelings of warmth and comfort.
- Citrin, run by Michelin starred chef Josiah Citrin in Santa Monica, is offering a six course Christmas eve dinner that starts with Beluga Caviar and finishes with a Buche De Noel. This fine-dining experience will make for one of the most memorable festive dinners.
- Genghis Cohen, in the Fairfax district, is a mainstay traditional and local favourite, serving delicious Chinese American banquet food. Open Christmas Eve and Day, since 1983, this is a Christmas hotspot for LA’s Jewish community.
Here’s another Pro-tip: Los Angeles has one of the best street food and food truck scenes in the world! To sample a buffet of delicious foods that represent the variety of cultures influencing Los Angeles, a visit to Korea Town, Downtown, or Thai Town, will leave you spoilt for choice. Don’t forget to try California-favourite In & Out Burger.
There is always something to do after the sun goes down in Tinseltown. Given the city’s mild temperature and love of show-stopping theatrics, this time of year is perfect for spending the evening outdoors, delighting in the wide range of lights displays and celebrations around the city. Here are a few suggestions for what to see:
- Visit the Enchanted Forest of Light at Descano Gardens. The botanical garden’s nighttime event mixes art installations with nature, to create a whimsical experience.
- Yuletide Cinemaland is where all things Christmas collide, taking place in Heritage Square. It’s a jumble of old and new; Victorian home tours, sing a longs and lights, festive winter beverages and well-loved Christmas movies like Home Alone, When Harry Met Sally and A Christmas Carol.
- Better don your skates at the LA Kings Holiday Ice Rink in the downtown Staples Center. This festive skating rink, put together by L.A.’s ice hockey team, will have you whizzing circles around the beautifully lit Christmas tree in the middle of the outdoor rink.
- To celebrate the diversity of talent and cultures in Los Angeles head over to the A. County Holiday Celebration taking place on Christmas Eve. Watch more than twenty choirs, dance groups and music ensembles perform under the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in Downtown L.A.
Here’s another Pro-tip: It’s not just the movie stars that shine in Los Angeles, Christmas lights are on full display here and begging to be seen! To take in some of these over-the-top displays make a trip to Candy Cane Lane in El Segundo or Woodland Hills, Holiday Time at Disneyland, Dodger’s Holiday Festival, the Venice Canals, Festival of Lights at the Mission Inn, Universal Studios, LA Zoo in Griffith Park, or the Parade of Boats at Marina del Ray.
There are endless possibilities of where to stay when in La-La Land. Here are four great recommendations:
- Santa Monica is where to stay for a sunny, surf-filled California experience. The Ambrose Hotel located minutes away from downtown Santa Monica offers a relaxing and restorative experience and is one of the industry leaders in sustainability and eco-friendly accommodations.
- Downtown: This historic and diverse area of the city in undergoing gentrification as old banks and hotels are repurposed into modern apartments and high-end hotels and new restaurants and clubs have moved in. However, it remains a diverse and arts-inspired area of the city. The Ace Hotel offers guests a cool stylish room, trendy on-site restaurant and a rooftop pool to take in all the views.
- West LA is known for some of the city’s most impressive, stylish and expensive neighbourhoods and home to some of the highlights of the city like the Getty Centre. For those looking for unbridled luxury you’ll find no better than the Bel-Air Hotel. Surrounded by tropical greenery on its 12-acre premise and with a full-service spa, bar, and acclaimed chef Wolfgang Puck at the helm of its restaurant, this hotel is fit for the stars.
- Hollywood, the epicenter of where the pictures are made. For those wishing to stay close to Universal Studios, the Hollywood Walk of Fame and more, the Magic Castle Hotel is for you. With a 1970’s California vibe, spacious rooms, and complimentary high-quality snacks including a ‘popsicle hotline’ offered round the clock, this is a quirky and much-loved family favourite.
Los Angeles is a city built by the angels – and will have you feeling heavenly no matter where you are in the city. One of my favourite cities in the world, it will have you seeing stars!