12 Actually Cool Things to Do in Los Angeles Right Now

Eat, drink, and, if you can, be merry.

If you’re reading this, we’ve got good news: you’ve almost made it through 2020. The bad news is that COVID-19 has too and thus, unbelievably, we face another shutdown. Someday, in a fantasy world called the future, we can start taking advantage of everything our fine city of Los Angeles has to offer again—like touring one of our world-class museums, sitting down at some of the nation's best restaurants, or loading up on our calendar of year-round festivals and concerts. In the meantime, there are still plenty of (OK, some) things you can safely do, we swear, from virtual theater to holiday light displays to any and every kind of takeout you can fathom. We’ll let you know when this is over. 

"The Future"
"The Future" | Photo by Jeff Lorch

See The Future 

After magician Helder Guimarães’ first virtual performance The Present was a sell-out hit (and ultimately extended) earlier this year, the Geffen Playhouse is back with another magic-and-mystery-infused interactive live show you can Zoom from your couch without anyone with big hair in the row in front of you blocking your view (hopefully). This time, The Future (running through March 14) takes participants inside “the seedy underbelly of the gambling world,” giving them the ability to choose the version of events they want to see. After you buy a ticket, The Geffen will ship you a mystery package to open the night of the show. No pre-show peeking, please.

Get a Little LACMA Fix  

Like the rest of our favorite museums in our city’s increasingly impressive collection, the LACMA has been shuttered since the start of the pandemic, nearly 5,000 years ago. But the outdoor plaza is still open to the public daily, with plenty of artwork and sculptures on display and available to view while distancing, including the longstanding Urban Light, the iconic piece made up of more than 200 cast-iron antique street lamps.

Counterpart Vegan tomato carpaccio
Photo courtesy of Counterpart Vegan

Order a tasting menu to go

Plenty of our favorite restaurants launched creative at-home tasting menus, family meals, and more when things first shut down in early spring, meant to get everyone through a few tough months while helping keep restaurants afloat. With yet another sad shutdown upon us, even more chefs have gotten in on the act with takeout options once reserved for in-person dining only. After finding cult success with the weekend plant-based tasting dinners she launched at Counterpart Vegan back in October, chef Mimi Williams is now offering a four-course takeout version for two, with salads featuring her “How is this not actually feta?” feta, lasagna Bolognese, and tiramisu. Sushi Note’s always-impressive chef’s choice omakase is now available for pickup Wednesday through Sunday, with just six available each evening. Westsiders were thrilled to see the return of Santa Monica fave Tar & Roses just last month, which is now pivoting to a full take-out situation with its T&R Classics for two, which includes a starter, side, and either dry-aged ribeye or the whole-fried snapper plus the fabled strawberry crostata for dessert.

Lavish Yourself in Lights  

Yes, the holidays are different this year, but you can still see plenty of festive lights and pretend it’s 2019 from the safety and comfort of your car. To celebrate winning the World Series, the Dodgers are “hosting” (though you still have to pay per car) a drive-thru Holiday Festival at Dodger Stadium featuring a light show, LED video displays, and fake snow. The currently closed Raging Waters has launched Christmas in Color, featuring millions of lights you can drive through while listening to coordinated holiday music on the radio. And for a free fix of holiday lights, you can always cruise along Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills, Christmas Tree Lane in Altadena, or Torrance’s always-festive Seaside Ranchos neighborhood.

Blitzen's at Home cocktail
Photo courtesy of Blitzen's at Home

Do Some Holed-Up-At-Home Holiday Boozing

'Tis the season for a little extra imbibing (hey, you deserve it), and many bar programs have come up with menus of yuletide-fueled drinks for your living room-lounging enjoyment. The Arts District’s kitschy cocktail den Here and Now’s third annual holiday-themed pop-up is Blitzen’s At Home, selling branded bottles of festive drinks like the gin-and-pine liqueur Après Skitini, and a gumdrop-garnished spiced Old Fashioned (holiday glassware available for purchase, too). Conservatory West Hollywood is doing carafes of Tis the Season specials including heat-at-home tequila-spiked hot chocolate (with housemade whipped cream!) and hot toddies. And at Manhattan Beach’s Arthur J, you can pick up 32-ounce batches (even if you live alone, no judgment) of bourbon-based mulled cider and rum-infused small batch eggnog. And, of course, if you’ve got a fave local restaurant or currently closed bar you’d like to support, totally reach out, as they might very well be offering their own holiday cocktails to-go.

Tour a local museum in your pajamas

Browse well-known Warhols, Jeff Koons’ Balloon Dog and more from The Broad’s current collection. On the Getty’s site, you can access multiple online exhibits including 12 Sunsets, an interactive exhibit featuring the works of photographer Ed Rushca’s collection of Sunset Boulevard pics from the 1960s. Or you can actually go inside (well kind of) the museum via Google Art and Culture, featuring 360-views of many of the permanent collections. Get a look at new acquisitions from the California African American Museum’s permanent collection in addition to temporary exhibitions like Men of Change: Power. Triumph. Truth running through winter 2021. The Autry Museum of the American West is offering a virtual tour of its When I Remember I See Red: American Indian Art and Activism in California exhibit. At Natural History Museum of LA, take a virtual tour of the venue’s famous Dino Hall. And while you usually have to pay extra for real-life access to the car-porn hub at The Vault at The Petersen Auto Museum, which is filled with some of the world’s rarest (and priciest!) cars, the museum is currently offering its hour-long tour for free. 

Do Some Good 

As bad as everything seems right now, there are a lot of people who have it worse than you do, so considering volunteering (even virtually) with some local organizations that really need your help (we’ve put a helpful list together for you here). As always, you can support Toys for Tots’ by leaving a wrapped toy or book in one of the many drop-off boxes around the city. And social services non-profit The People Concern is holding a contactless drive-thru where you can drop off cold-weather items including new or washed rain ponchos, jackets, sweaters, and more all month at Culver City’s Platform— and pro-tip, you can also support small businesses while you’re there with drive-thru shopping and takeout.

L'antica Pizzeria Da Michele
Photo courtesy of L'antica Pizzeria Da Michele

DIY a Delicious Dish 

If you want to have all the excitement of a restaurant-quality meal you can prepare at home, DIY kits are calling your name. Pizza perfectionists can start from semi-scratch with kits from Roberta’sLupa Cotta, L'antica Pizzeria Da Michele, and Pitfire. If you prefer your carbs in pasta form, Evan Funke is once again selling his famous pastas by the pound and sauces by the pint from Felix in Venice, as is Scopa down the street. In addition to its DIY emergency taco kit, DTLA’s Guerilla Tacos has rolled out a holiday-inspired tamale kit with multiple fillings (chicken, steak and sweet potato) and a couple pounds of masa that yields 30 of ‘em. And for the plant-based set, Veggie Grill locations are offering a chile cheese and mushroom mole-stuffed tamale kit that you can put together with a little help from this instructional YouTube video.

Street Food Cinema
Courtesy of Street Food Cinema

Catch a movie in your car 

Yes, those dinosaurs known as drive-in theaters have made a comeback in and around LA, with both newly created pop-ups and retro spots that have been reinvigorated. And since the chance of actually going safely back to a movie theater is about as good as, well most other things these days, the drive-ins are likely here to stay. You can catch some special holiday screenings like Christmas Vacation and Home Alone this month at Street Food Cinema’s Arcadia setup and the Electric Dusk Drive-In in Glendale.

Take in the (extra-clear) view from the top of Mt. Wilson 

Though not as smog-less as they were back in the spring, the views are still pretty stellar these days and a perfect place to take it all in is from the Mount Wilson Observatory with an elevation of 5,700 feet. You can get a live look from the Towercam atop the 150-Foot Solar Tower 24 hours a day. 

Get an up-close look at ridiculously adorable animals

We promise you won’t miss TikTok once you’ve been turned on to the LA Zoo’s absolutely mesmerizing “Bringing the Zoo to You” program. And from the first moment you catch a baby gorilla snacking on lettuce, you’ll be hooked. You can also choose from existing clips depending on what you’re in the mood for, like the “calming videos” of a lounging lion licking its paws, a koala bear casually eating a tree branch like it’s an ice cream cone, and two swimming hippos playing around in the water. The best.

Get a taste of LA’s finest farmers markets 

If you can dream it (and it’s in season) you’ll find it at the farmers market—from the tomatoes and berries of your dreams, to obscure heirloom beans, to every fresh herb known to man. While many of the markets—including Downtown Santa Monica’s majorly massive one—are still taking place, farmers market-shopping involves a lot more effort and military precision than it used to (also, RIP free samples), but you can still support local farmers and get your hands on lots of fab fruits and veggies via farm boxes. Specialty produce farmer County Line Harvest is offering CSA boxes packed with a rotating mix of fresh, seasonal veggies (the carrots are pretty gorgeous right now) that you can order online and pick up at spots like Felix and Lady & Larder on the Westside, Echo Park’s Eightfold Coffee, or Highly Likely Cafe in West Adams. In addition to a killer variety of groceries (and wine!), Kismet Goods is selling a box heavy on greens and vegetables from a Santa Ynez-based farm (with the option of creating your own) that you can order through its website for curbside pickup.

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Lizbeth Scordo is a food and lifestyle writer. Follow her on Instagram @modlizbeth and Twitter @lalizbeth.
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