17 Actually Fun Things to Do in LA This Winter
New dining destinations, outdoor adventures, and more.
Winter is here, but that doesn’t mean much for us Angelenos who still enjoy sunshine, mild temperatures, and evergreen surroundings even during the darkest days of the year. As we do our best to mitigate the surge of the recent Omicron variant, we’re grateful for these small favors that allow us to comfortably take advantage of patio dining and outdoor excursions that happily break up our daily routines.
The city has responded to rising COVID numbers and hospitalizations by postponing mass crowd events like The Grammys, but there’s still plenty to do around LA and its outskirts, like trying the numerous new eateries that have opened up around town, tailgating for the 2022 Super Bowl at SoFi Stadium, ringing in the Year of the Water Tiger, and more. So grab a mask and enjoy all of the cool things you can eat, drink, and do in LA this winter:
Play in the snow
It’s winter time! Unfortunately (or fortunately, if you ask anyone forced to shovel snow regularly), that doesn’t mean much for us here in perennially sunny Southern California, but thankfully, one of the perks of living in LA is being just a short driving distance from multiple snow-capped mountains where you can snowboard, ski, sled, or just cozy up with a hot toddy at a woodsy lounge. If you want a quick day trip that’s limited to hikes and admiring fresh snowfall, head to Angeles National Forest in the San Gabriel Mountains north of Pasadena, where you can usually count on snow after a day of rain in LA. For a low-key, off-the-grid experience, visit the quirky town of Idyllwild, which doesn’t have any resorts, but does have a golden retriever for a Mayor (!) and is a great place to relax and enjoy the snow. If you’re into snow sports, Big Bear Lake is a great option that’s just two hours away. Further north, Mammoth Lakes has experienced a record amount of snowfall this winter and played host to the U.S. Snowboard and Freeski Olympic tryout event where athletes competed for spots in the 2022 U.S. Olympic Snowboard and Freeski teams—you can’t beat those conditions.
Study up for Award Season
The Grammy Awards might be postponed, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t celebrate Award Season in LA. The Grammy Museum at LA Live opens their “Songs of Conscience, Sounds of Freedom” exhibit on January 15, which examines the role of music in shaping and informing social consciousness in American history. There’s also an exhibit on the Dave Matthews Band (through February 6), Marco Antonio Solis (through spring 2022), and Nat King Cole (through winter 2022). The Academy Museum just opened in September, offering a behind-the-scenes look at how your favorite movies were made, iconic filmmakers, and film memorabilia, plus the opportunity to simulate your own Oscar acceptance speech. The museum is also home to the David Geffen and Ted Mann theaters and frequently screens Oscar-winning and nominated films. Of course, if you prefer a more distanced studying atmosphere, you can always opt for a marathon of this year’s nominees at home on your preferred streaming device.
Tailgate in style for the Super Bowl
LA is playing host to the 2022 Super Bowl at the new SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, which means an influx of tourists as well as an abundance of watch parties and Super Bowl events. Might we direct your attention to the Super Bowl Music Fest, that as of press time is going down from February 10-12, and features chart-topping artists like Halsey and Machine Gun Kelly (Thursday, February 10) Gwen Stefani and Blake Shelton with Mickey Guyton (Friday, February 11), and Miley Cyrus and Green Day (Saturday, February 12). Tickets start at $50 and go up to over $1,000 for floor seats. But that’s not all! Former Lakers player, Shaquille O'Neal is bringing Shaq’s Fun House—a hybrid carnival-festival presented by FTX—to the Shrine Auditorium on Friday, February 11, featuring artists like Diplo, Lil Wayne, and Zedd, plus an FTX Ferris Wheel, games, rides, carnival fun foods, interactive circus performers, and more. All tickets include a six-hour open bar and complimentary gourmet bites from local spots like Roscoe’s, Pink’s Hot Dogs, and Diddy Riese. Of course, there are also numerous restaurants near the stadium for fueling up before or after the game, plenty of sports bars all over town where you can scream at TVs alongside other fans, or you can always tailgate at home by ordering in.
Ring in the Lunar New Year
It’s likely that Omicron was the only thing raging at NYE 2022 so why not use the Lunar New Year on February 1 as a do-over? It’s an ideal time to gorge yourself on foods that are associated with good luck in the coming year, like dumplings and fish cakes that symbolize wealth. Go on a self-guided dumpling tour of San Gabriel Valley or head to Koreatown to celebrate Korean Lunar New Year with tteokguk (rice cake soup), galbi jjim (braised short rib), and more.
On display at the Descanso Gardens’ Sturt Haaga Gallery through March 13, 2022, Full Circle: A Return to the Land, chronicles human interaction with Descanso Gardens and its surrounding lands, examining how each new culture—from Spanish and English settlers to Indigenous and Mexican communities—that arrived in Southern California impacted its existing lands and cultures. Drawing from Tongva ecological wisdom, the exhibit shares models for how to realign with nature and achieve a reciprocal relationship with the land on personal, cultural, and societal levels. Full Circle features photographs, maps, artworks, Tongva artifacts, landscape plans, and video components by artists Judith F. Baca, Jesus Barraza, Maynard Dixon, Mercedes Dorame, River Garza, Graham I. Hayes, Nancypili Hernandez, iris yirei hu, William Henry Jackson, Sandra de la Loza, Sheila Pinkel, Craig Torres, J. Michael Walker, and Carleton Watkins. Admission to the gallery is included in Descanso Gardens admission price. Be sure to save time to browse the gardens as well, which include a five-acre rose garden, a Japanese-style garden with a koi pond and teahouse, a camellia collection, an oak forest, an ancient forest, a California garden, and more.
Get your thrills in
Theme parks have been up-and-running at full speed since the state of California dropped COVID restrictions in mid-June, but we much prefer them in the off-peak months. At Disneyland, the Avengers Campus is the latest attraction, with a new Web Slingers ride that lets you play Spider-Man’s sidekick in an action-packed adventure, and the Guardians of the Galaxy’s Mission: BREAKOUT!, where you’ll join the character Rocket for a free-falling rescue mission. At Universal Studios, you can board their new Jurassic World Veloci Coaster, watch the high-intensity Bourne Stuntacular show, and join Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. For even bigger thrills, head to Magic Mountain to experience the world’s first single-track, quadruple-launch racing coaster with West Coast Racers.
Indoor axe throwing has risen in popularity since the trend first popped up in Ontario, Canada, in 2006, with multiple axe throwing facilities opening across the city in the last few years. Try it out at LA AX, an indoor/outdoor axe-throwing facility in North Hollywood with 38 lanes for perfecting your pitch. Don’t worry if it’s your first time, as your booking includes an axe coach who will supervise you throughout your visit, teaching you the proper form and running down everything you need to know about axe-throwing safety. Walk-ins are accepted, guests can bring their own food, and beer and wine are available for purchase. The facility is 21+ and closed-toed shoes are required.
Two Bit Circus is back, with a new reservation-based ticketing system to help protect guests. You can book with a date or for a group of up to eight people, and your 90-minute reservation grants you access to themed and immersive story rooms like Dr. Botcher’s Minute Medical School; a VR playground with games like Hologate, a four-player game that involves robots, zombies, dragons, and music; an arcade with classic pinball machines, retro and modern games, and air hockey; and reimagined carnival games at the Midway. Your package can also be applied towards carnival-inspired food and beverage, including a full bar. If you prefer to spend your credits on VR and other experiences, you can purchase food and drinks at an additional cost.
Tour a museum IRL
OK, so we tried to keep up with culture during this whole thing, but looking at a Van Gogh on your iPhone screen just isn’t the same. Nearly all of LA’s most impressive museums are back open, many with new and exciting exhibits—just take note that many now require that you reserve your spot in advance. Speaking of Van Gogh, the Immersive Van Gogh Exhibit is still ongoing, inviting you to immerse yourself in 500,000 cubic feet, 60,600 frames of video, and 90 million pixels of the Dutch impressionist’s most famous works, like Starry Night and Sunflowers, plus still life and portrait paintings. An Immersive Frida Kahlo exhibit that celebrates the iconic Mexican painter’s work will replace the Van Gogh experience in March.
At the California African American Museum (CAAM), Altantica: The Gilda Region, Afrofuturist artist April Bey’s first solo museum exhibition in LA, remains on view through January 17, 2022, while Sanford Biggers’ quilt-based Codeswitch exhibit can be seen through January 23, 2022, and Rights and Rituals: The Making of African American Debutante Culture is up through February 27, 2022.
The Skirball exhibition Star Trek: Exploring New Worlds is ongoing through February 20, 2022, and dives into a half-century of television series, spinoffs, and films that showcase the enduring legacy of this pop-culture phenomenon. The immersive exhibit provides insight into Star Trek’s lasting impact on culture, art, and technology with more than 100 rare artifacts, set pieces, and props, in addition to interactive, state-of-the-art photos and videos.
Finally, attend the West Coast debut of The Evolution of Dr. Jane Goodall at the Natural History Museum (NHM), an exhibition that’s presented by National Geographic in partnership with the Jane Goodall Institute. The exhibit delves into the primatologist’s lifetime of work, from her early field research in Gombe, Tanzania, to her current community-oriented work, with experiential activities that include an immersive projection of Tanzania’s Gombe Stream National Park.
Hike it out
With all of the ups and downs of the last two years, it’s comforting to know that we can almost always rely on mild temperatures that allow for us to get outside and get moving even in the midst of a COVID surge. Entertaining out-of-towners? Take them on an unforgettable hike that drops you right in front of the iconic Hollywood sign. If you’ve got your pup in tow, you’ll want to hit Runyon Canyon, of course, one of LA’s most dog-friendly hiking areas. For a more lowkey trek, try one of these less-trafficked, secret hikes around the city. For a serious sweat, trek the Westside’s Los Liones trail, a seven-mile-plus in-and-out trail that pays off with awesome ocean views up top. If you’ve got time for a ride up the coast, make your way to Sandstone Peak—the tallest peak in the Santa Monica Mountains at 3,114 feet—that offers a six-mile loop trail with equally excellent views and quad-burning potential.
Laugh your ass off
We all deserve a good laugh right now and luckily, you happen to live in a city with the highest number of comedians per capita in the world (a totally made-up but potentially true stat.) Some of LA's top comedy clubs have recently reopened with shows several nights a week featuring lineups of both household names and lesser-known funny folks. The Hollywood Improv (which has announced it will only allow vaccinated comedy-seekers in) is putting on shows every Thursday-Saturday, and The Comedy Store is back to a near-nightly schedule. If you’d prefer to take your comedy outdoors, Don’t Tell Comedy, an underground series of “secret” standup shows is still offering pop-up shows at venues including parking lots and rooftops.
Blow some cash on a big fancy dinner
If your dining out game has gotten a little rusty, there’s no better way to get back at it than with a big old blowout dinner worthy of a serious celebration. Take yourself on a fine-dining tour of Hollywood’s emerging Vinyl District with the newly opened Grandmaster Recorders, a day-to-night Italian-Aussie hotspot by the same restaurant group behind EP & LP; Mother Wolf, a new destination for Roman cuisine from celebrated chef Evan Funke within the historic Citizens News building; and MAGARI, a Tokyo-Italian concept that’s slated to touch down in the district this winter.
In preparation for their late winter opening in Mid City, n/soto, a California-Japanese Izakaya from Niki Nakayama and Carole Iida-Nakayama, is hosting a temporary residency at the Japanese American Cultural & Community Center (JACCC)’s new cultural facility. The nine-course tasting menu is led by chef Yoji Tajima (Yojisan Sushi, Sushi House Unico) and offers a preview of the dishes, flavors, and concepts that will dominate n/soto’s menu. The center is directly adjacent to the James Irvine Japanese Garden, where guests enjoy an al-fresco beverage before their dinner experience. A portion of the proceeds is donated to JACCC to support the promotion of Japanese and Japanese American culture and heritage. The residency takes place Wednesdays through Fridays, with wine, sake, and some cocktails and spirits available to purchase a la carte. The final pop-up date is scheduled for Wednesday, January 19, after which service will open at n/soto’s Mid-City brick-and-mortar. Reservations can be made on TOCK.
Get back to the beach
Remember that big blue thing just west of you called the Pacific Ocean? It misses you. Head to any number of LA’s beautiful beaches and take advantage of everything our sandy stretch of coastline has to offer. True, you might be met with a marine layer and cooler winds, but you’ll also have more space to spread out now that summer crowds have thinned out and—pro-tip, those randomly warm January and February days are actually perfect for pulling up to the sand and enjoying a private beach experience. Sign up for a surf lesson, rent a standup paddleboard, pedal the bike path, take an oceanfront yoga class on the sand, get in on a beach volleyball game, or just relax and take in the views. You deserve it. And just in case you need a refresher on the best beaches, here’s everything to know before you hit the sand.
Go wine tasting
Malibu may not be an international destination for oenophiles, but it’s completely serviceable for LA peeps who want to spend the day sipping. The Sunday Funday hotspot Malibu Wines is currently closed, but has opened its sibling spot, Malibu Wines & Beer Garden, in West Hills in the meantime, serving both its wines by the tasting flight, glass, or bottle and local craft brews, plus pizza on weekends. They’re also offering wine hikes and tours if you want to break a sweat while you sip. Up for a longer day or weekend trip? Temecula Valley, Santa Barbara, and San Luis Obispo are awash in wineries and well-worth the drive.
We never knew how much we wanted to see blue-eyed black lemurs, western lowland gorillas, Nigerian dwarf goats, and southern hairy nosed wombats until we weren’t allowed to anymore. And lest you think we’re making up any of the above species, we most certainly are not and all of them—along with around 270 other species of mammals, fish, birds, reptiles, and amphibians—are currently living their best lives at the LA Zoo, which has been welcoming humans back for a few months now. Since the zoo is operating at limited capacity, you’ll need to buy a timed-entry ticket in advance.
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. Now that summer is in full swing, LA’s farmers markets are more abundant than ever, providing Angelenos with daily opportunities to stock their fridges with fresh produce, pantry items, desserts, and more. If Downtown Santa Monica’s massive market is too much to take on right away, work your way up with a visit to Culver City’s farmers market on Tuesdays from 2–7 pm, or head to The Original Farmer’s Market at 3rd and Fairfax (open daily) early to beat the rush. If you’re up early on a Saturday, the Crenshaw, East LA, and Noho farmers markets are great, less crowded options.
Do some good
Volunteering gets a lot of buzz around the holidays, but nonprofits focused on making the lives of our fellow citizens better need help all the time. So, if you’ve got a free Saturday or want to make volunteering a regular part of your life, now is the time. If you’re not sure where to start, check out helpful sites including VolunteerMatch and LAWorks, where you can find organizations that match your interests, skill sets, and the time you have to commit. Right now, you’ll also find plenty of virtual opps as well if you’re not ready for in-person stuff just yet.