Next week is Thanksgiving. Next week is also the start of Chanukah. Next month is when Christmas and Kwanzaa and New Year’s are happening. As if you need another reminder, we are officially entering the holiday season—and that means family is very likely coming to town. Be it a little brother in need of a getaway or your parents coming to check in on you, you need something to do with them.
So what do you do? You need destinations that you’ll enjoy visiting as much as they will, places that hint to L.A.’s folklore and are true to your experience of the city, too.
Don’t take guests to Disneyland or Universal Studios and call it a day: do things that are actually exciting, creative, and won’t cause intrafamilial strife. Naturally, we have a few suggestions. Here are ten easy, inexpensive things to do that should please everyone you’ll be spending the holidays with—and make you look wonderful in the process.
Lake Hollywood Park
It’s a fact: Your guests will want to see the Hollywood Sign—and you have to bend to this request. Instead of going to Griffith Park and staring at it from afar, drive through Beachwood Canyon to show off all the crazy hillside homes and coast into the Lake Hollywood Park, where you can gaze at the iconic attraction. There is also a great lookout point to view the city and a literal park where you can picnic and hang out there. One note: This area does get prone to tourists, and why wouldn’t it? We’re talking about the Hollywood Sign, people.
Formerly Larchmont Grill, this restaurant-within-a-home marries L.A. sophistication with small town features. The menu is comfortable and the environment is quaint. Translation: your parents will feel like they are at the fanciest restaurant in town. It’s a crowd-pleaser.
Cathedral Of Our Lady Of The Angels & First Congregational Church Of Los Angeles
Architectural landmarks, these churches inspire awe in both religious and non-religious folks alike. They are good reminders of the Christmas season and provide windows into Los Angeles’ history, old and recent. While Our Lady provides a forward-thinking look at cathedral architecture with an local slant, First Congregational is nearly 100 years of age. Both are available to tour for free.
One way to wow film-loving guests—so long as you cover the bill—is by taking them to see a movie at The Arclight. Grab a cocktail before and rub it in that you reserved your seat. They’ll feel like film royalty. You’ll earn bonus points if you take them to see a movie at the Cinerama Dome.
Like The Met in New York and The Art Institute in Chicago, you have to take family to an art museum regardless of if they care to see art or not. MOCA and LACMA and The Hammer are all equally worthy places to visit, but The Getty has spectacular views and traditional enough programming that family coming from any part of the world or country will find it interesting. Be sure to tour the gardens, too!
Open and free to the public, there are gardens and hidden areas so beautiful and ritzy here that you will feel like you were transported to Versailles. Note that the mansion and grounds are currently hosting Design House International, which could be something fun to take your family to.
West Third Street
If you are especially brave, take your visitors to The Grove. If you want to play it safe and show off the local small businesses you treasure, hop over to West Third Street. There are great, accessible dining options (Simplethings, Joan's on Third), fantastic shops (Saturday, Wittmore), and quirky lifestyle stores teeming with oddities (OK, Plastica, New Stone Age). Plus, you can easily walk to The Grove or Beverly Center for more entertainment as this retail strip is framed by both.
Whether you are looking for an affordable brunch or settling in for a quiet dinner, the Downtown French restaurant will impress any and every out-of-towner you have. Though pricier, dinner service is decidedly less crowded than brunch. If you don’t have time to enjoy a meal, take your guests macaron window shopping at least
Manhattan Beach Pier
The Santa Monica Pier comes to mind, but it does for everyone else, too. It will be swamped. Instead, head further south to the more chill and decidedly trendier Manhattan Beach Pier. There you will find the same things—the ocean, shopping, food, people to watch—but in smaller dose.
And if all else fails...
The Burbank Ikea & Burbank Empire Center
If your visitors are missing home and really not understanding Los Angeles, pump them up with a taste of where they came from—and fast. Both Burbank Ikea and Empire Center are suburban wonderlands with familiar small town stops like Olive Garden, Krispy Kreme, Macy’s, Barnes & Noble, Coach, Sears, Starbucks, and more. And admit it, it’s nice to get that small town feeling for the holidays.
Kyle Fitzpatrick is a writer, an infrequent performer, and a lover of dogs, art, shorts, champagne, and L.A. You can find his musings Fridays on CityThink. For more, check out his locally focused art, design, and culture website, Los Angeles, I'm Yours, or follow him on Twitter and Instagram.