The L.A. Winter Bucket List: Unmissable Seasonal Experiences In Los Angeles

Ashlyn Davis Ashlyn Davis

Montecito Hot Springs

Add these activities to your must-do list this winter.

People will argue that L.A. doesn’t really have a winter, and while we may still be hanging out in short-sleeves mid-November it doesn’t mean the city hasn’t already fully embraced the (slightly) chillier months with a flurry of twinkling holiday lights, hot cocoa and winter activities. Of course, we don’t really get a natural sprinkling of snow in the main city, but nothing is stopping you from getting your fix of icy fun in the mountains or a magical holiday experience.

So whether you’re looking to make snow angels or you’re just hoping for a mix of exciting things to get you in the seasonal spirit, here’s a list of must-do experiences in and around L.A.

1. Catch The Best Festive Lights Across The City

While the weather may not signify the beginning of winter in L.A., the glittering kaleidoscope of holiday lights blanketing the city sure is. The city has no shortage of twinkling lights and illuminated installations synchronized to joyous holiday tunes. From botanical gardens and the Venice canals to historic inns and iconic neighborhoods, Angelenos are spoiled for choice when it comes to the eye-popping seasonal shows. Here are 10 of the best places to see them.

2. Hike To These Aqua Thermal Springs And Treat Yourself To A Healing Soak

Montecito Hot Springs
Credit: @hikeronatrail / Instagram

Just a few miles away from Santa Barbara, nestled amongst the lush hills, you’ll find this stunning outdoor spa. These cascading thermal pools known as the Montecito Hot Springs can be reached with an easy trek and are filled with sulphur which is known for its healing properties. Is there anything better than rewarding yourself with a free, hot soak after a long week? Find out all the details here.

3. Glide Into The Holiday Season At One Of These Ice Rinks

la kings holiday ice
Credit: LA Kings / Twitter

Yes, our favorite holiday activity is here for the winter so you get to hobble across the ice while listening to holiday hits and working up an appetite for all those festive treats. This year, L.A.’s largest and most popular ice rink is back along with one installed at the Dodger holiday festival for the first time ever. Here’s where you can find them:

4. Hop Aboard The Iconic Polar Express Train

polar express train
Credit: The Polar Express Train

The magical SoCal Polar Express Train is back this year bringing the beloved film to life with a journey filled with storytelling, dancing chefs and enchanting sights to view through your window. It’s the express route to a North Pole fairy tale accompanied by the iconic film soundtrack. Find out how you can get your golden ticket here.

5. Take A trip To This Twinkling Christmas Market And Festival At A Century-Old Lavender Farm

things to do in november
Credit: Highland Springs Ranch & Inn

Every Thursday to Sunday through January 9, you can stroll through the lavender fields and olive groves draped with 1 million twinkling lights to enjoy festive food, ride in a horse-drawn carriage, toast S’mores, browse the Xmas Village with unique handmade goods and even pose for photos with Santa. Find out more here.

6. Pay A Visit To Santa’s Magical Hood 

Credit: Skywalk Santa’s Village

Contrary to popular opinion, Santa is actually a huge fan of the sunny West Coast and him and his elves have been bringing that North Pole magic to Lake Arrowhead for years. Adventurers of all ages will find an alpine adventure with gingerbread men, candy and seasonal decorations filling this festive village. Partake in workshops, find souvenirs, take hikes and so much more at Skywalk Santa’s Village. Find out all the details here.

7. Ski Under The Stars At The Incredible Big  Bear Resort

Credit: Big Bear Cabins

Surfing in the summer to skiing in the winter, SoCal really does have it all. While you may have to venture out to partake in this exhilarating sport, but the picturesque setting of Big Bear makes it well worth it. For the active romantics, you may even consider going for an enchanting night ski down the snow-covered slopes. So make sure you keep an eye on the weather and be ready to book yourself a wonderful winter weekend away. Find out all the details here.

8. Go On A Gondola Cruise Amongst The Enchanting Lights In Long Beach

Credit: Gondola Getaways

Italy may be out of reach for some, but you can still go on a Venetian escape along the canals in Long Beach. Cruise under the romantic bridges filled with festive lights and stunning surroundings. Find out more here.

9. Celebrate The Season With A Holiday Candlelight Concert At One Of L.A.’s Most Incredible Locations

Step out of the chilly winter nights and into the most exquisite spaces to experience the most treasured holiday classics. The beloved Candlelight series is bringing talented musicians to perform at venues, illuminated with hundreds of candles this season. Wrap yourself in seasonal nostalgia with awe-inspiring renditions of classics across genres. Find all of these special Candlelight editions here.

10. Settle In For A Spectacular Holiday Show

While it might not be cold outside, it’s almost (almost) that time of year again where we partake in our favorite festive traditions; we dust off the garish knitted sweaters, eat enough food to hibernate for a month and rewatch Richard Curtis’ classic Christmas film, Love Actually. Except, this year, we get to switch our couches for a giant, 3-dimensional cinematic world with live actors belting out songs from the iconic soundtrack. The award-winning For The Record series in partnership with the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts will be bringing the glorious Love Actually Live back to audiences for a limited run this winter. Get your tickets here before they disappear with the chilly air.

11. Get Merry With Festive Cocktails, Burlesque & Delicious Holiday Puns

Credit: Here And Now

Blitzen’s, the beloved holiday pop-up, has a very shiny, tinsel-wrapped bar and even without the boozy beverages, it absolutely glows. Upon arrival at this holiday haunt in DTLA, you’ll be sprinkled with a bit of snow before you pull up next to Santa at the bar, sip on decadent drinks like Hallelujah! Holy Sh*t! before you’re served up a menu of carolers, drag queen bingo, re-gift your sh*t games, and a holiday puppy pageant. Then of course there’s a delicious fare to keep you filled up for holiday shenanigans. Find out more here.



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