Things to Do While Everyone's Out of Town for the Holidays

OK, this might be taking it too far.
OK, this might be taking it too far.
Photo by Jesse Glucksman

It's been confirmed: Everybody's leaving town for the holidays. If you're reading this, chances are you're among the proud few who are sticking around L.A. this Christmas while so many other transplants and travelers flee for places where they're bound to encounter inclement weather, inclement interactions with family members or both. Since the city will be decidedly less population-dense over the holidays, L.A. Weekly staffers have suggested some things to do that on a typical day would test the patience of even the most zen Angeleno. 

Hit the beach in Santa Monica
In postcards and movies, Santa Monica might be a stand-in for all the surf, sand and sun that L.A. has to offer, but truth is that most of us who live here would rather avoid the throngs of first-time tourists and splash in waves somewhere else. On Christmas Day, with the city's would-be winter visitors celebrating the holiday in their own homes and the boardwalk clear of insufferable rollerbladers, it's time to reclaim Santa Monica's iconic beach as our own. Your drive will be a breeze, parking will be free because of the national holiday and maybe the Santa Monica coastline will feel like the locals-only beach it once was (surfable waves not guaranteed). —Sarah Bennett

Climb Mount Wilson
It might not feel like it all the time, but Los Angeles is surrounded by lots of nature and it's always a nice escape to hike to the top of one of the mountains and pretend that the city isn't a splayed-out sparkling mess of human superiority somewhere beneath you. Unfortunately, trail access to L.A.'s tallest peaks is available only via small parking lots — like the one at Chantry Flats (found by driving up the end of Santa Anita Road) — which, most days, are packed before 7 a.m. Christmas Day is the best time to avoid the families and cooler-toters trying to “rough it” by walking a mile or so in to the Sturtevant Falls from Chantry Flats — take the whole eight miles to the top of Mount Wilson, where the observatory will be closed but the solitude (and 180-degree views of the San Gabriel Valley) will be well worth the hustle. —Sarah Bennett 

Mount Wilson is your oyster.EXPAND
Mount Wilson is your oyster.
Photo by Jerry Oldenettle/Flickr

Hike the Hollywood Sign trail
Have you ever tried to get a parking spot in the parking lot for the Hollyridge hiking trail in Griffith Park? It's a slow, torturous wind to the top of the hill, then an eternity of circling and waiting for families or school buses to be done at the Observatory so you can do battle with all the other cars full of people trying to get away from the chaos of the city for a while. The Observatory will be closed on Christmas, but the park is still open, meaning you'll get a quick spot and, with any luck, be a lone ranger on this usually crowded 3.5-mile trail, which takes you up the hill and along the ridge with views of the city and the Hollywood Sign. —Sarah Bennett

Drive down the 405
From 7:30 am to 9:30 a.m., a glorious thing has been known to happen on Christmas Day on the 405 between Sunset and Ventura boulevards: A chunk of weekday living hell is transformed into a dreamland of openness, with nothing but bare, alluring roadway rising from the Valley floor to the top of Sepulveda Pass, giving way to a vast empty ribbon through Westwood that looks like a giant's bowling alley. There's only one way to experience this Great Emptiness, and that's in a convertible — preferably vintage, so that if a car pulls alongside, the story of your coolness will be retold by strangers. Wear jaunty scarves, but not long enough to catch under the tire. And as you zoom by the Getty and the Galleria without being forced to witness a single jackass commuter stuck in her or his horrid little square footage, everyone cries out, "Wheee!" —Jill Stewart

The Queen Mary just might be as peaceful as it looks.EXPAND
The Queen Mary just might be as peaceful as it looks.
Photo by Jason Mrachina/Flickr

Visit the Queen Mary when it's not a total mob scene
If you want to pretend you're celebrating Christmas in the 1930s (minus the Great Depression bread lines), head to the port of Long Beach, where retired ocean liner the Queen Mary provides a floating time capsule. You can dine like the swells in a Fitzgerald novel on a prix fixe menu at Sir Winston's, the ship's wood-paneled fine-dining restaurant and lounge, or savor a classic cocktail in the art deco–themed Observation Bar. Much of the ship, which was once part of the Cunard Line and first launched in 1936, is decked out in period holiday decor and open to explore. Be sure to make reservations if you plan to stay for dinner. 1126 Queens Hwy., Long Beach; (877) 342-0738, queenmary.com. —Andy Hermann

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