Christmas in Los Angeles. Any Suggestions?

You may know that Judy and I and our two boys take a trip over the Christmas holidays in lieu of buying presents. Now that the boys are in their mid-20s I keep expecting them to tell us they have other plans. However, they are game to keep the tradition alive for another year, which is gratifying.

The Getty Center. Photo from
The Getty Center. Photo from

This year we are going to Los Angeles for a little over a week. We’ve rented a house which turns out to be the most economical way for four people to take a vacation together.

I’ve only been to LA once before and only for a couple of days. Judy has been there several times, but always for work. So we are looking for tips on stuff to do.

We want to visit some gardens of course, though I am likely to face some harsh restrictions on the number of gardens we can visit. I am pushing for at least three. I visited the Huntington Library last September, and would like to go back.

Huntington Library gardens. Photo from
Huntington Library gardens. Photo from

We’re also interested in museums, outdoor markets, and generally places that are interesting for walking around. Movie star stuff, not so much. Though when it comes to art museums, I have a Nine Paintings and Out policy. This is based on my strongly held belief that after the ninth painting they all pretty much look the same. Judy irrationally refuses to accept the overwhelming logic of this position.

Our style of vacationing restricts us to a limited number of sights. We spend most of our time lazing around, drinking coffee, reading, cooking, having meals, playing cards or board games. I doubt we spend more than three or four hours a day seeing sights.

Photo from
Mural on Olvera Street. Photo from

So we don’t exactly burn the candle at both ends. This kind of vacation requires good places to have coffee or a glass of wine and read, either a nice patio (which our rental house is supposed to have) or nearby cafes. It also creates more pressure to research good sights, as we aren’t going to see many of them.

So, for those of you who know LA, what do you recommend?

48 Comments on “Christmas in Los Angeles. Any Suggestions?”

  1. So you guys are going to be in my neighborhood? ๐Ÿ™‚ LA is a great choice. There is so much to see really. Based on what you’ve said though, I recommend you not miss Malibu Wines which is an outdoor winery with live music on weekends. It’s a hidden GEM. Look up there website. Definitely try out a Persian restaurant in Los Angeles aka Tehrangeles. Those are the two things that come to mind immediately but I will have to think up some more cool destinations to recommend.

  2. I really enjoy going to LA; I love the Huntington gardens, but I assume you might be overruled on a return visit ๐Ÿ™‚ The view of LA from Mulholland Drive is lovely. There’s always the LA Arboretum or Mt Wilson observatory and park – there’s a fair bit to keep you occupied, once you’ve navigated the freeway and traffic jams!

  3. I don’t have a recommendation for LA but one for museums in general. Pick museums with exhibits you really want to see, then when you get to the museum, look at that exhibit first. Usually by the time you are done with the exhibit, your “art eyes” are also done, but there is satisfaction from having seen the whole of something. We went to a Rothko exhibit in Columbus OH that showed his early work; ditto the Guggenheim with a show revolving around Pollack’s early work. Both were more interesting than the usual, educational, and more satisfying than just wandering around.

    We had such a dull Thanksgiving that my family is interested in pursuing a similar approach to holidays. Our problem is the kids’ work schedules, so it might be miniature golf or cross country skiing instead of something far away.

  4. The Getty Center is great and after you’re saturated from the art indoors, spend the rest of the time enjoying the architecture outdoors. Great views of LA and some interesting garden areas too for wandering around. Also, we enjoyed seeing the space shuttle Endeavour at the California Science Center. Also, check out La Brea Tar Pits.

  5. Sorry I have no suggestions. I suspect LA has become a more interesting place since I lived in So. Cal. (San Diego area) 45 years ago. I have always wanted to see the Getty. But now that I am a birdwatcher I am probably somewhat annoying to others because I want to see birds like you want to see gardens. ๐Ÿ™‚

  6. Garden-wise, my husband who grew up in Pasadena seconds the Huntington, and adds the Arboretum and Descanso Gardens – I have heard that Descanso is a little heavy on annual beds, but have never been there. I have warm childhood memories of Olvera Street, but no idea what it’s like now. The Getty is fabulous, both inside and out. The LA County museum seems to have some good shows – worth checking to see what’s there for December (we saw an excellent mid-century design show there a couple of years ago.) Frankly I’m jealous – would love to be leaving dreary Portland for warm SoCal at the end of December!

  7. The Watts Towers brought tears to my eyes even before I knew the story behind them. Breakfast at the farmer’s market. The museum of modern art. Venice Beach. The new Frank Gehry building. I love your approach to vacationing. In LA, that should mean no more than one thing per day.

  8. Oh what a GREAT way to celebrate!!! We usually sleep in and then go skiing – your approach improves that one exponentially. Love it! I could also get completely into the half day on, half day off style of vacationing, with games and jigsaw puzzles. I have never been to LA, but I wonder if there aren’t some interesting museums surrounded by fabulous gardens? That way both you and Judy could get your wiggles out while still not truly going in different directions. What do the boys like to do?

  9. Memories are so much better than gifts. I hope you can check out the La Brea Tar Pits … it sounds nasty but it is -really- interesting. There are lots of hiking areas in and near by. Any internet search on hikes will spew out tons of info. I agree with others that the Getty Center is probably a must see, too. Have a wonderful trip!

  10. Remember the friend I told you about who retired from her job as a Boston bus driver, went back to school and became a landscape designer? Her husband – another born and bred Boston guy – raved, not about the art in the Getty, but walking around outside it.

  11. Look them up on the web. It’s a winery that makes &sells their own wine. You can go for a tasting or make an afternoon out of it. There is seating among the grape vines. You bring your own food, sit, relax, drink & eat among the trees, grapes & mountains. It’s really beautiful. It’s called Malibu Wines.

  12. How lovely that all four of you get to spend Christmas together, long may it continue, do they have girlfriends? I can imagine the fun if four became six. Hope you find some excellent places to visit that you will all enjoy….I was smiling re your art comment!!! I’m with

  13. Dear Jason:
    I know the Huntington is on everybody’s list (although I resent the fact that they do not have a reciprocal policy for members of the Chicago Botanic Garden) I really enjoy visiting the Los Angeles Arboretum. Very nice: not as manicured/managed as the Huntington. If you are a music fan, be sure to go to Amoeba Records. HUGE record store with loads of new and used CDs and vinyl. And then there is Griffith Park with the observatory, where they shot some scenes for Rebel Without a Cause. Oh yeah, and the old Getty should have reopened by now. A faux (or maybe real, knowing Getty) Italian villa filled with sculpture. Have a great time.

  14. I’m sorry that I can’t help you with advice for your trip as it has been years since I was even in California. My husband and I do the same thing and love to travel for Christmas instead of giftsโ€ฆthe memories are priceless. I hope you have a wonderful time together.

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