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Things To Do

8 Fun Things To Do in L.A. That Are Way Better When It’s Winter Time

December 3, 2015 by Brian Champlin

Winter weather (such as it is in Los Angeles) may seem like it’s going to limit some of your options when it comes to things to do in the city of angels.

Bikini beach days are out (mostly). El Nino will complicate matters when going on urban walks, shopping, or simply driving in general. Plus the peak season for outdoor movies and free concerts is at least another 4-5 months away.

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But some activities are actually better suited for our cold-ish December-January weather and/or only available during the winter season, and we’ve compiled a list of some of the best them, starting (in no particular order) below.

Enjoy the list!

Griffith Observatory Hiking Trail

Credit: Brian Champlin / We Like L.A.

1. Star Gazing at Griffith Observatory

It’s tough to find a night when the Griffith Observatory isn’t packed full of guests, even on an “off-night” or during the chillier months. But the key thing to remember is how much earlier the sun sets during winter time.

Why is this important? Because the Observatory closes off the line to their telescopes promptly at 9:30pm, with all viewings ended by 9:45pm.

If you go during the summer, with the sun potentially setting after 8:00pm, that’s only a 90 minutes window to stand in line (which I assure you will be substantial). But with the sunset around 5:00pm or so during the shortest days of the year (weeks before and after Winter Solstice), that’ll give you 2-3 extra hours of available viewing time, and heavily decrease the chances of you leaving disappointed.

Just make sure if you go it’s not too cloudy that night!

[RELATED: Sunset Hikes at the Griffith Observatory]

2. Eating L.A.’s Hottest Foods

When it’s truly cold outside (which for Angelenos basically means anything less than 60 degrees) you’ll need to find ways to warm up. The I way I figure nothing heats things up faster than a good old fashioned hot meal, which I suppose you could interpret either as a) physically hot in temperature or b) really, really spicy.

With that in mind, here are two great lists to check you started when you’re looking for some ‘hot spots’ on a wintry day:

10 Places You Gotta Try in L.A. if you Love Spicy Food

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7 Spots for the Best Ramen in Los Angeles

Shin-Sen-Gumi Hakata Ramen

Shin-Sen-Gumi Ramen. Credit: Brian Champlin / We Like L.A.

3. Exploring L.A.’s Best Coffee Shops

Coffee lovers never need much of an excuse to caffeinate, but the chillier weather can be supreme motivation to go on a mission to find the best warm brews in the city.

Might I advise starting with one of these 17 spots.

4. Taking a Cooking Class

A final spin on the food front: Why not use the winter season as motivation to learn something new?

The best part is that you can take some of your new found skills and it apply it to an evening later on in the season when El Nino is raining so hard you can hear the sheets of water running down your windows like a raging river.

Cook a great meal with your newfound knowledge, Netflix, and chill.

Some ideas for classes:

Hipcooks (they have both eastside and westside locations)

Taste of Pace

Saute Academy

Foodstory

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Hipcooks Class

A Hipcooks class can be a great way to meet new folks who love food. Credit: Brian Champlin / We Like L.A.

5. Hiking After the Rain

Speaking of the rain, while we don’t generally have an epic rainfall every year (except El Nino years), the post-rain periods do present a great chance to catch our skies free of dust or smog particles, and the views can be truly spectacular.

If you’re looking for great hikes to do after the rain, I strongly suggest reading Modern Hiker’s excellent rundown of post-rain hikes to do in and around Los Angeles, which include Sandstone Peak, Kenneth Hahn Recreation Area, and Echo Mountain.

6. Spending a Day (or evening) at The LA Zoo

The LA Zoo isn’t exactly paradise when you’re walking around during the summer months, since trudging unshaded in 100 degree heat can kind of take away some of the awe and wonder of seeing the animals up close.

But you can solve that problem by hitting up the zoo in the winter months (less tourists too) or even see the zoo from a more nocturnal perspective by visiting during the after-hours LA Zoo Nights that start at the end of November and continue on till the first week of January.

LA Zoo Lights

Image via LA Zoo

7. Seeing some Pretty, Pretty Lights

Obviously you’ve got your holiday lights displays such as the LA Zoo Lights (mentioned above), holiday lights at the Getty plus a variety of tree lighting ceremonies, a boat parade, or even just amazing residential spectacles (see: Lights on in Display in Sherman Oaks).

But what’s also worth noting is how seasonality plays a part in taking landscape photos of the DTLA skyline at night.

In my limited experience, I find that since most folks are still at work around 5:00 to 6:00pm in the evening, and that’s kind of the magic hour / beginning of twilight during the winter season, the downtown Skyline tends to look exceptionally bright with the skyscrapers still all totally lit up.

Catch it at the right time, and it’s pretty spectacular…

DTLA Skyline from Griffith Observatory

The DTLA skyline at night as seen from Griffith Observatory. Credit: Brian Champlin / We Like L.A.

8. Going Free Museum Hopping

Finding free museums is a great year-round activity in L.A., but December-February can particularly fruitful.

For starters, the weekdays will be less crowded because kids are in school. That’s a win in of itself.

But did you know there’s a huge museum free-for-all day that takes place around the end of January every year where dozens of L.A. museums all offer free.

Mark your calendars people!

What are you favorite things to do in L.A. during the winter months? Let us know in the comments below! 

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