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Photograph: Michael Juliano

16 things to do this winter in L.A.

No snow? No problem. We have plenty of things to do outdoors this winter in Los Angeles to keep you busy.

Michael Juliano
Edited by
Michael Juliano
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When the rest of the country starts to lament the cheerless post-Christmas freeze, we Angelenos still have plenty to look forward to in the winter. A lot of that comes down to our relationship with snow: We have the luxury of seeing it on distant mountaintops—drought years aside—while still savoring warm and sunny weather closer to home. Sure, we have our hardships: It’s cold at night in our barely insulated homes and the occasional rain shower disrupts traffic and dominates the news. But that’s nothing a warm bowl of ramen or a hot cup of coffee can’t fix. On the whole, there are plenty of terrific things to do in the winter in Los Angeles.

16 things to do in the winter in L.A.

  • Things to do

It might defy East Coast common sense, but winter is an ideal time to go to the beach. Sure, the water temperature is hypothermia-inducing, but it nearly always is, and let’s be honest: You had no plans to get wet anyway. Beach city air temperatures typically flirt with 70 degrees during the winter, which is cold enough to keep tourists away but warm enough to relax with a comfy sweatshirt—that counts as winter wear, right?

  • Things to do
  • Ice skating

Ice skating isn’t really synonymous with winter in Los Angeles; we’d instead file it under “ways to make it feel like Christmas.” But there are still a handful of outdoor rinks that stay frozen into January. Whether you’re looking to glide in a DTLA plaza or atop an ocean bluff, lace up those skates before the plentiful sunshine gets the best of the rinks.

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  • Things to do

Climb up into the hills before those sweaty summertime days—and crowds—return. And did we mention the views? The best part of the rainy season (other than, you know, not being on fire) has to be the clear skies that showers leave behind. Just make sure to keep in mind the cooler temperatures and fleeting daylight before you set out on your trek.

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  • Things to do

One of the greatest things about winters in Los Angeles? Never scraping ice off of your windshield or slipping on an icy sidewalk. But if you’re pining for snow, leave the comfortable 70s in the L.A. Basin behind and head into the mountains. If you want a glimpse of the white stuff, you don’t have to drive nearly as far as you think. Ride the ski lift at Mt. Baldy for a snowy escape within an hour of the city. Or, if you simply want to roll up a few snow balls, follow the Angeles Crest Highway for about 45 minutes—just past Newcombs Ranch—and you’ll typically find plenty of turnouts brushing up against snowy hills.

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  • Things to do

It’s easy to take L.A.’s brutally pleasant winters for granted, but let’s look at things from an outsider’s perspective: This would be the perfect vacation spot if you didn’t already live in Los Angeles. So why not take advantage of the city’s assets and check into a scenic hotel for the weekend? Plus, you won’t have to waste wintertime’s dearth of federal holidays on traveling—traffic on the 405 permitting.

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  • Things to do

Lunar New Year celebrations in L.A. last into mid-February with plenty of events and things to do, from a century-old Chinatown parade to kids activities like paper-lantern making. Need to feed your belly for an auspicious year ahead? Slurp some of the city’s best noodle dishes or check out our favorite dim sum. Whether you’re celebrating a long-running family tradition or experiencing the holiday for the first time, join the Chinese New Year festivities for a year of good luck and fortune.

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  • Things to do

Pause for a moment and give thanks that our winter colors are a vibrant, grassy green and a range of floral pastels—not brown and white. Los Angeles is a pretty amazing place; stick practically any plant in the ground and it’ll grow almost any time of year. Even though some of us can reach out our windows and pluck an avocado from a tree, a trip to one of L.A.’s many manicured gardens reveals vegetation that simply can’t be found on our city streets.

  • Things to do

Even on the coolest days, you hit up a hiking trail and reach the summit only to find you’re a sweaty mess with the return hike still to go. Well, these hikes have a natural cooldown built in. Just make sure to monitor the weather; waterfall hikes tend to be too dangerous right after it rains, so you’ll want to give it at least a day before attempting to tackle the trail.

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  • Restaurants

How do we fuel ourselves to get through those not-so-bitter cold days? Coffee. And lots of it. Whether it’s paired with a fantastic brunch or enjoyed solo, good java is a necessary winter—and, really, anytime—staple. But where can you find great coffee? And what makes a good coffee shop? To help you find the perfect cup, we’ve sipped our way through the best coffee shops in town.

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  • Things to do

Sometimes you just need to escape for a few hours, and luckily we happen to be surrounded by spectacular landscapes and beautiful beaches that are perfect for a quiet afternoon. What better time than the winter; crowds are light and, depending on your destination, you’ll probably spot some snow-capped mountains. Just make sure to bundle up if you’re headed into the desert—the average high temperature in Joshua Tree barely breaks 60.

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