Although it’s famed for its balmy climate and sunny skies, experiencing winter in Los Angeles shows off an unexpected side of this Southern California city. As the days become chillier and wetter, LA moves into holiday mode, with unique activities popping up around the city. From skiing & snowboarding nearby at Snow Valley Mountain Resort or gliding on skates at the Holiday Ice Rink in downtown, plan the perfect LA winter getaway with this complete guide, including weather and fun activities!
Weather in Los Angeles in winter
Winter in Los Angeles lasts from December through February. Average daytime temperatures range from the upper 60s°F to lower 70s°F (17°C to 21°C ) with cooler overnight lows in the upper 40s°F and lower 50s°F (8°C to 12°C).
The cooler winter weather offers a departure from the city’s usual sunny and warm climate. Winter is the rainy season in Los Angeles, with December and January being the wettest months. During this time, the city sees an average of three to four inches (7.6 to 10.2 cm) of rainfall. Although this may not seem like much compared to other parts of the country, it’s a significant change for LA weather, so prepare for occasional rainy days.
One of the great things about winter in LA is that you can still enjoy outdoor activities. Hiking in the local mountains, exploring the beaches, and visiting cultural attractions are all possible during this season. It’s also a perfect time to enjoy local cuisine at great restaurants in the city’s diverse neighborhoods.
Must-do winter activities in Los Angeles
See the L.A. Zoo Lights spectacle at the Los Angeles Zoo
If you’re looking for a magical way to celebrate the winter season in Los Angeles, the LA Zoo Lights spectacle at the Los Angeles Zoo is an experience you won’t want to miss. It’s a fantastic way to get into the holiday spirit!
The Los Angeles Zoo transforms into a dazzling wonderland of lights that’s a sight to behold. Stroll through various themed light displays that take you on a magical journey. Look out for giant illuminated animals, enchanting tunnels of lights, and mesmerizing light sculptures that create a truly immersive experience.
Apart from the captivating light displays, you’ll find plenty of activities for all ages. The Holiday Happy Hour is a favorite – grab a drink and take in the illuminated beauty of the zoo. There’s also a 90-foot light tunnel, perfect for those Instagram-worthy photos. Don’t miss the Reindeer Romp with real reindeer and Santa Claus, who is usually around for pictures with the kids.
Experience Christmas at Hogwarts Castle at Universal Studios Hollywood
Step into the world of Harry Potter and enjoy Christmas at Hogwarts Castle at Universal Studios Hollywood. This magical experience with dazzling lights, special treats, and a festive atmosphere promises fun for the whole family.
Hogwarts Castle becomes a dazzling canvas of holiday-themed magic with a breathtaking projection show. The Christmas in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter brings iconic scenes from the books and movies to life, making it feel like you’ve stepped right into the wizarding world.
Explore the snow-covered village of Hogsmeade, covered with a light dusting of snow and adorned with festive décor. The quaint, cobblestone streets of Hogsmeade create a cozy and lively atmosphere. Sip on some warm Butterbeer as you stroll around. Head to Honeydukes for sweet treats like holiday-themed candies, pastries, and other delectable wizarding world delights.
If you have an interactive wand from Ollivanders, this is the perfect time to use it. Many storefronts and locations throughout Hogsmeade have interactive elements that come to life when you cast spells with a wave of your wand.
Go hiking and catch a sunset at Griffith Park
The cooler winter weather is ideal for hiking. Head to Griffith Park in the Loz Feliz neighborhood to enjoy a hike and watch the sunset. Nestled at the eastern end of the Santa Monica Mountains, Griffith Park is an urban oasis with diverse activities, spectacular views, and several hiking trails.
Griffith Park offers a range of hiking trails suitable for all levels. If you’re looking for a relatively easy trek with great city views, try the Griffith Observatory Trail. The Ferndell Trail takes you through a tranquil, shaded canyon with a babbling brook. Seasoned hikers might want to tackle the Mt. Hollywood Trail for a rewarding challenge.
As you explore Griffith Park, you’ll discover several fascinating attractions. The Griffith Observatory is a must-visit, offering incredible views of the city and the iconic Hollywood Sign. Movie buffs will enjoy the Bronson Caves, often featured in films. Hop on the Griffith Park Merry-Go-Round, a beloved piece of history, for a dose of nostalgia.
If you’re hiking to the Griffith Observatory, try to time your visit with the sunset. The view of the city lights coming to life is simply breathtaking.
Take a whale-watching tour from Marina del Rey
Witness nature’s wonders up close on a whale-watching tour from Marina del Rey. Seeing these magnificent creatures in their natural habitat is a truly memorable experience, and it’s a perfect way to spend a winter day in Los Angeles.
Winter is the prime time for whale-watching in this region, with the annual gray whale migration being a highlight. These gentle giants make their way along the Southern California coast during winter, creating a spectacle like no other. Common sightings include gray whales, humpback whales, and sometimes even blue whales.
The whale-watching tours from Marina del Rey offer more than just glimpses of these magnificent creatures. You’ll have the chance to learn about their behaviors and the marine ecosystem from knowledgeable guides.
During your journey, you might also encounter other marine life, like dolphins, seals, and various sea birds. Don’t forget your camera to capture those unforgettable moments!
Go ice skating at the Holiday Ice Rink Pershing Square
Lace up your skates and glide through the festive season at the Holiday Ice Rink at Pershing Square in Downtown Los Angeles. The ice rink is beautifully adorned with holiday decorations, and skating under the sparkling lights with the city skyline as your backdrop is an enchanting experience.
Enjoy an array of activities to keep the festive spirit alive. There are often live performances, special events, and even visits from Santa Claus. The nearby Biltmore Hotel also sets up a lovely holiday lounge where you can take a break from the ice and enjoy warmth and refreshments.
The Holiday Ice Rink at Pershing Square typically opens in November and operates through January. If you prefer a more peaceful skating experience, consider going on weekdays. Weekends tend to be busier, especially in the evenings.
If you find yourself on the west side of LA, don’t miss the ICE rink in downtown Santa Monica. It’s another fantastic ice skating experience by the beach. The ocean view and the holiday decorations create a unique and picturesque setting for skating.
Catch an ice hockey or basketball game at Crypto.com Arena
Catch an electrifying ice hockey or basketball game at Crypto.com Arena. The arena is home to three iconic sports teams.
The Los Angeles Kings, the city’s NHL hockey team, bring the ice to life with their fast-paced games, dazzling plays, and exciting atmosphere. Two NBA basketball teams, the Los Angeles Lakers and the Los Angeles Clippers, light up the arena with their skills and competitive spirit.
At the Crypto.com Arena, you can enjoy various activities, from pre-game entertainment to interactive fan zones. There are also plenty of food and drink options, from classic stadium snacks to gourmet offerings.
The NBA and NHL seasons typically run from October through April and sometimes into May for the playoffs. These games are popular, and tickets can sell quickly, especially for big matchups. Buying your tickets well in advance is a smart move.
Go skiing or snowboarding at Snow Valley Mountain Resort
Hit the slopes for a skiing and snowboarding adventure at Snow Valley Mountain Resort. This winter wonderland boasts a range of runs and terrain parks for all skill levels and breathtaking alpine scenery.
Snow Valley Mountain Resort offers a range of ski and snowboard slopes suitable for all levels. Whether a newbie or an experienced rider, you’ll find the perfect terrain for your skills. Practice your jumps and tricks at two terrain parks.
If you’re not looking to hit the slopes, Snow Valley Mountain Resort offers a snow play area for sledding and tubing, which the kids will love! If you’re new to skiing or snowboarding, head to the Snow Valley’s Snow Sports School for a few lessons with their expert instructors.
If you’re looking for another nearby option, check out Mountain High Resort. It’s just a short drive from Los Angeles and offers fantastic skiing and snowboarding opportunities, as well as night skiing on some days.
For a day trip or weekend getaway, you can venture to Bear Mountain in Big Bear, about a two-hour drive from Los Angeles. It’s renowned for its terrain parks and offers a variety of trails for all skill levels.
Savor a hot bowl of ramen in Little Tokyo
Warm up with a steaming bowl of ramen in Los Angeles’ vibrant Little Tokyo neighborhood. This bustling district offers a delightful blend of Japanese culture, history, and contemporary cuisine.
Daikokuya Little Tokyo is an iconic ramen spot in Little Tokyo, known for its rich and flavorful tonkatsu (pork bone) broth. Try their signature Daikoku Ramen with a perfectly soft-boiled egg.
Another beloved ramen joint in Little Tokyo is Shin-Sen-Gumi Hakata Ramen. They’re known for their customizable ramen bowls. You can choose the firmness of your noodles, the richness of your broth, and various toppings.
Orochon Ramen is famous for its spicy ramen challenges. If you’re feeling adventurous and love a good kick of heat, give it a try. They have various spice levels, so you can find one that suits your taste.
Little Tokyo is not only about food but also a cultural experience. Before or after your ramen feast, take a stroll around the area. Explore the Japanese Village Plaza with its charming shops, galleries, and historic architecture. Don’t miss the Japanese American National Museum, which offers a fascinating look into the history and culture of Japanese Americans.
Admire art & architecture at The Getty
When the weather isn’t playing nice, spend a day exploring LA’s rich cultural scene at some of the city’s top museums.
Start at The Getty and immerse yourself in the world of art and architecture. This world-class museum is renowned for its stunning architecture and impressive art collections. The striking travertine marble buildings and meticulous gardens make for a captivating sight.
Explore the impressive permanent collection, which spans antiquity to contemporary art and includes works by Van Gogh, Monet, and Rembrandt. Then, take in the breathtaking views of Los Angeles from the hilltop location.
Enjoy guided tours of the galleries and gardens, attend talks and lectures, and participate in hands-on art-making workshops. The Central Garden is a must-see; it’s a living masterpiece featuring a floating maze of azaleas. Take some time out to relax and take in the peaceful surroundings.
If you’re an art lover, you might also want to explore other art destinations in Los Angeles. The Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) is the largest art museum in the western United States and is known for its diverse collection. The Broad is another exciting spot, famous for its contemporary art exhibits, including works by artists like Jeff Koons and Yayoi Kusama.
Have a soak at Glen Ivy Hot Springs
Escape from the hustle and bustle of Los Angeles with a day of pampering and relaxation at Glen Ivy Hot Springs. Located just outside Los Angeles, this laid-back resort is a soothing oasis, offering revitalization and rejuvenation in a beautiful natural setting.
Glen Ivy is famous for its therapeutic mineral-rich hot springs. There are various pools to choose from, each with its own unique mineral composition. The Grotto is a special treat; it’s a mud bath that leaves your skin feeling silky smooth. The Club Mud pool lets you slather yourself in therapeutic mud before rinsing off in a warm, inviting pool.
The spa provides towels, robes, and slippers, so you don’t need to lug around a lot of gear. A swimsuit and some sunscreen should cover your essentials.
You can also join fitness classes, guided nature walks, and enjoy spa treatments and massages. The lush gardens on the property are perfect for a stroll, and the saunas and steam rooms provide ample opportunities for relaxation.
Get into the holiday spirit at Knott’s Berry Farm
Enjoy a day filled with thrilling rides, delicious food, and family-friendly entertainment at Knott’s Berry Farm. This fun and iconic theme park in Los Angeles offers a fantastic day out for visitors of all ages.
Knott’s Berry Farm is home to loads of attractions, from the famous GhostRider wooden roller coaster and the exhilarating Silver Bullet to water rides like Timber Mountain Log Ride. The iconic Calico Ghost Town offers a taste of the Old West. Catch live shows, meet beloved Peanuts characters, and explore Camp Snoopy if you have little ones.
If you visit during the holiday season, you’re in for a special treat. Knott’s Berry Farm becomes ‘Knott’s Merry Farm,’ transforming into a winter wonderland with festive decorations, twinkling lights, and special holiday-themed shows! You can meet Santa Claus, enjoy live Christmas performances, and savor holiday treats.
Wander around the Calico Christmas Crafts Village shopping for one-of-a-kind gift ideas. Enjoy a magical Snow and Glow experience to the beat of holiday music. Don’t miss Santa’s Christmas Cabin, a Christmas light show throughout Camp Snoopy, and a nightly Christmas tree lighting ceremony.