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January 2022 events calendar for Los Angeles

Plan your month with our January 2022 events calendar of the best activities, including free things to do, winter events and our favorite concerts

Michael Juliano
Written by
Michael Juliano
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With the holidays behind us, January sparks images of a long plod through gray skies and chilly temperatures—but not so here in L.A. Sure, it’s chilly, relatively speaking, but the weather is still perfect enough to tackle most of our favorite things to do outside, even with a slight uptick in precipitation. In fact, take advantage of those clear, post-rain days with one of the best hikes in L.A. Or head to one of the city’s best beaches while it’s still deserted for the season. Start the year off right with the city’s best activities and things to do in our January events calendar.

RECOMMENDED: Full events calendar for 2021 and 2022

This January’s best events

  • Things to do
  • Festivals
  • price 2 of 4
  • La Cañada

After having to cancel the 2020 edition, Enchanted: Forest of Light is back from November 21, 2021 through January 9, 2022. The botanical garden’s nighttime experience masterfully mixes hands-on art installations with atmospheric, luminescent forests, all against a background of uplit trees and shimmery sound effects. For the 2021 edition, sculptor Tom Fruin’s kaleidoscopic stained-glass–inspired house has now multiplied into an entire village of structures, including one that you can walk through, in the rose garden. HYBYCOZO’s dizzying kaleidoscopic pendants have jumped over to the main lawn alongside stationary polyhedrons, including one you can pose inside of. That does mean, however, that the serpentine Candyland-like path that used to be there is gone (the color-changing oak grove should still statisfy all of your stomping-on-lights needs, though). View this post on Instagram A post shared by Time Out Los Angeles (@timeoutla) Elsewhere, Enchanted (delightedly) looks much like it has in the past: a field of faux tulips ripples with waves of twinkling color changes while the mist-filled “Ancient Forest” still beckons visitors with its straight-out-of-E.T. setting. You can still tap the “Rainbow Sycamore” columns, and the event is just as intuitively immersive as ever. And, true to its botanical garden location, most of the installations highlight the natural beauty of Descanso’s flora—with a refinement that sets it apart from the other botanical garden

LA Zoo Lights
  • Things to do
  • price 1 of 4
  • Griffith Park

The L.A. Zoo is staying open after dark every night through January during this light-up holiday tradition, which returns for 2021 after having to take last year off. Many of the lighting displays are inspired by the zoo’s wild residents: think elephant statues with whimsical projections, mosaic-like multicolor giraffes and twinkling butterflies. When we last visited in 2019, we found that Zoo Lights had lost a bit of the handmade, kitsch quality that made it quirky in its earlier years, but we thought it’d become a more polished experience in the process (thanks to the addition of a twinkly tunnel of lights, Chinese lanterns and a shimmering wall of lights). Tip: Buy your timed tickets (available in three sessions nightly) in advance to avoid the worst of the entry lines. Also, tickets are a typically a few dollars cheaper during the first week of Zoo Lights. And wear comfortable shoes; the lights only cover about a third of the zoo grounds, but you’ll be walking slightly uphill for most of the way. RECOMMENDED: Christmas lights in Los Angeles: Where to find holiday lights This sparkly rainbow tunnel has come to L.A. Zoo Lights You can visit for only $12 during the next week. http://bit.ly/2Qm1KWc Posted by Time Out Los Angeles on Friday, November 15, 2019

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  • Things to do
  • price 2 of 4
  • Arcadia

Moonlight Forest has made way for another holiday tradition at the L.A. County Arboretum this year: Lightscape. Uplit trees line the mile-long pathway, with about 10 or so installations spaced out along the way. Expect to spend about an hour or so strolling the one-way loop and posing for photos. Though the color-bathed flora is certainly pretty, we wish there were simply more twinkly things to see as you walk during the in-between moments: A lone string-light-trimmed cactus is begging for more prickly friends. As for the installations, there are a few in particular that'll keep you fixated in place. The Winter Cathedral's peaked tunnel of lights pinches toward the end to give the effect of, well, a cathedral. The oversized lilies floating in front of the Queen Anne Cottage are serene, the main lawn's carpet of pulsating lights are energetic and the spheres full of torches in the Fire Garden will have you wishing you could roast the event's DIY s'mores skits over their open flames. There are some odd choices—a bombastic projected Walk of Fame of films shot at the Arboretum, a blacklit gazebo that's basically impossible to look at—and then some really odd choices: A jungle of disco ball-headed reflective mannequins feels like a Daft Punk fever dream that has no place in a holiday event but is absolutely memorable. As a sort-of-moody and wintry but not overly Christmassy light-up display in the San Gabriel Valley, it's hard not to compare Lightscape to Descanso Gardens' Enchant

  • Things to do
  • price 2 of 4
  • Rancho Palos Verdes/Rolling Hills Estates

Take a twinkly walk through South Coast Botanic Garden during the return of this illuminated, after-hours installation, which runs from just before Thanksgiving until after New Year’s. GLOW will mark its second year with the addition of themed nights (think: ugly sweaters, neon) and some new lit-up areas, including the lavender garden, koi pond, fuschia garden and lower meadow. Tickets will go on sale to the general public on October 18, with a member presale during the two weeks prior. During last year’s debut, we found multicolored uplights all over the Palos Verdes Peninsula garden, all set to a genre-spanning mix of music. Nothing was overtly Christmasy; instead, the lighting set up an alternative, illuminated perspective of the botanical residents (we thought the banyan grove, desert collection and succulent-filled living wall were particularly beautiful). It took us about 45 minutes to leisurely walk through GLOW (at the time it was a one-way loop due to distancing requirements), including semi-frequent stops to snap the photos you see above.

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  • Art
  • Film and video
  • price 2 of 4
  • Little Tokyo

At some point, you should probably read the materials lists for each one of Pipilotti Rist’s installations. Because that’s the only way you’d know that the garments in the entrance’s 29 Palms Chandelier are specifically used underpants, or that, yes, those lampshades in the glowing strands of Pixel Forest are indeed labia-shaped. But save all that reading for after your visit, because “Pipilotti Rist: Big Heartedness, Be My Neighbor” crafts such a surreal, fully-realized world using projections and furniture that it’s best to just completely give in to its colorful, curious city and mull it all over later (as you undoubtedly will). Everything seems so purposefully fit for the Geffen Contemporary at MOCA that you might not even realize the works here span more than three decades: Rist’s retrospective has wrapped everything up in a layout that uses alleyways and house exteriors to link together psychedelically-decorated living rooms and curving hallways of curtains. Everything feels alive. There’s something waiting around every corner, whether a warehouse-wall–sized video projection or a top-down diorama of a bedroom that’s been been ripped open by the moon, and the pieces are always accompanied by sounds to pull you forward: birds chirping, water dripping, leaves rustling, a spectral cover of “Wicked Game.” The focus is on visuals, though, and the oddly hypnotic draw of a screen. Rist’s often female-form–inspired projections play out across every canvas size: tucked into books

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  • Art
  • Film and video
  • price 2 of 4
  • Miracle Mile

“Hayao Miyazaki,” which opens with the Academy Museum’s debut on September 30, features over 300 storyboards, concept images and backgrounds, many of them on display outside of Studio Ghibli’s Tokyo headquarters for the first time. It pulls from the director’s 11 feature films, with a particularly strong tilt toward My Neighbor Totoro, Princess Mononoke and Spirited Away as well as his lush, enchanted forest settings. Find out more in our full preview of the exhibit.

  • Things to do
  • Ice skating
  • price 2 of 4
  • South Park

The annual L.A. Kings ice skating rink once again returns to L.A. Live. Skate around the dazzling Christmas tree that stands in the middle of the outdoor rink, and take in an LED holiday light show on the huge screens around the plaza. RECOMMENDED: The best places to go ice skating in Los Angeles

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  • Things to do
  • price 3 of 4
  • Pomona

With its rosy cheeks and its definitely-knows-too-much eyes, the Elf on the Shelf has become a Christmastime staple in living rooms. And now, it’s become an IRL holiday event, too. The event debuted last year as a drive-through, but for 2021 it’s returning to Fairplex for a walk-through. This time around, you’ll wander through a Christmas village (with shopping and dining), glide around an ice skating rink (for an extra $20, with skate rentals), hop onto a trolley ride and venture on-foot past festive scenic displays at elf-scale (a rendering for the event shows a candy cane bridge over a river of milk and cookies, and a winding path through overstuffed mail bags of letters to Santa). The pricing and length remain the same ($25 for about 45 minutes, depending on the date), but otherwise expect a considerably different setup compared to last year’s event. Tickets go on sale September 21 at 11am. Last year’s car-based event (as pictured in all of the photos above) was the first Christmas drive-through we visited for the season (and ever, really), and we found it to have much more of an emphasis on live actors compared to other similar events (think: delightfully-committed elves measuring your car’s Christmas spirit, juggling pins or balancing on a tightrope of oversized lights—and even one who’ll accept your letter to Santa). We did wish there were more over-the-top light displays throughout, but hopefully this year’s will bump up the lighting. We also found that, since it’s a

  • Things to do
  • price 3 of 4
  • Costa Mesa

This mile-long route at the OC Fair & Event Center features light shows and tunnels set to music (you can tune in with your car radio or smartphone), plus a bit of assorted holiday scenery. Even Santa will be there, though only through December 24—he’s busy after that, obvs. 

Looking for some more things to do this month?

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