6. Tours of Downtown

There's a lot to love about downtown right now — food, drinks, art, music, fashion. But two of the best are dazzling architecture of its historic core and its walkability. Each week, the L.A. Conservancy combines those two things in a series of thematic tours. This morning's Art Deco Walking Tour is devoted to the spirit-lifting gorgeousness that is DTLA's art deco legacy. After meeting at the orange trees in Pershing Square, tour takers will cover about 12 square blocks in 2½ hours, encountering the majesty of downtown's most impressive confections, the majority constructed in the early 20th century when art deco was all the post-Parisian rage. Beginning with the Los Angeles Central Library (whose time-sensitive preservation from destruction in 1978 launched the official L.A. Conservancy charter), the tour examines the elaborately carved façades of edifices like Title Guarantee & Trust and the Oviatt Building before ending up at the terra cotta-clad, beclocked jewel that is the Eastern Columbia Lofts — home to Johnny Depp and anchor of the newest pocket of targeted urban revitalization. Tour guides are equipped with expertise on the architects and designers responsible for the greatness, as well as insider nuggets. Bring comfy shoes and a fully charged camera phone. Pershing Square, Sixth and Olive streets, dwntwn.; Sat., Dec. 28, 10 a.m.; $10. (213) 623-2489, laconservancy.org. –Shana Nys Dambrot

5. A Sunday Salon

In 1952, Jack Parsons, vanguard rocket scientist and co-founder of the Jet Propulsion Lab, was killed in a mysterious explosion in his Pasadena home. Before his untimely death at 37, Parsons conducted groundbreaking research on the development of solid rocket fuel. More interesting still, he was a practicing Thelemite — a follower of British occultist Aleister Crowley's super-secret fraternal organization, Ordo Templi Orientis. An offshoot of Freemasonry, the order's basic tenet is “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.” After Parsons' death, there was no funeral, but, in keeping with his mystical beliefs, there was a Gnostic mass. Now the public is invited to witness that same central ritual of the Ordo Templi Orientis, celebrated by Star Sapphire Lodge and based on a eucharistic liturgy written by Crowley a century ago, also called Liber XV. There also will be short presentations on the doctrines behind the order as part of the Los Angeles Visionaries Association's 31st Sunday Salon. Les Noces du Figaro, 618 S. Broadway, dwntwn.; Sun., Dec. 29, noon-2 p.m.; free. (213) 622-2116, lavatransforms.org/salon1213. 
–Tanja M. Laden

4. A Cat Festival

Presented by local impresario Bryce Wild, tonight's Meow Fest is a benefit for the Van Nuys-based Heaven on Earth Society for Animals, one of those rare shelters that takes care of disabled, feral, old or sick cats. With music by fringe rockers Bananamoose, Turbo Lightning, Gangrene Gang and Mothers of Gut, expect a bunch of yowling. You also should expect the unexpected — making attending this shindig somewhat akin to actually owning a cat. Wearing cat attire to the Meow Fest is “strongly encouraged,” Wild says — so even if that means covering yourself in a bunch of those “Hang In There, Baby!” posters, come on out to help those that otherwise could not help themselves. The Smell, 247 S. Main St., dwntwn.; Sun., Dec. 29, 9 p.m.; $5. thesmell.org. –David Cotner

3. Downtown's New Year's Eve

Still trying to figure out how to bring in the New Year with a bang? Grand Park's NYE Celebration has you covered, and then some. Squeeze a little culture into the final hours of 2013 with 3-D animated projections and art installations. Watch live performances from dublab's finest: DJ Seano & Daedelus, Fool's Gold, Myron & E, Buyepongo and the Versa-Style Dance Company, all hosted by Azul 213* Amaral and KIIS FM's Sisanie. Chow down at delicious food trucks, and grab a cocktail (or Champagne) at the cash bar located on Grand Park's performance lawn. Get (fake) tatted up by L.A. Artists on the Move, and show off your ink in a live photo booth while your snapshot is shown 100 feet above Grand Park. Have someone special on the East Coast? Celebrate together with a live feed of the Times Square ball drop at 9 p.m. Or simply wait for L.A.'s own countdown, projected on 22 stories of City Hall. Best part of all? It's free — as is transportation if you take the Metro bus or rail lines, from 9 p.m. to 2 a.m.! Grand Park, 200 N. Grand Ave., dwntwn.; Tues., Dec. 31, 6 p.m.; free. grandparkla.org. –Artemis Thomas-Hansard

2. Venice Beach Group Swim

It takes a certain disposition to plunge yourself into the waters of Venice Beach at anytime of year. The bathtub of a thousand street performers and Jim Morrison disciples is the beneficiary of a dozen points of sewage runoff and enough steel scraps to build another roller coaster. Plus the Pacific never really gets as warm as Baywatch might suggest. Nonetheless, as far as goofy American traditions go, there are far worse places than Southern California to take the plunge. (Just imagine what those polar bear die-hards endure in Coney Island!) Hence the 55th annual Venice Penguin Swim. The average water temperature is in the high 50s and afterward you can dry off with a cheap, blasphemous T-shirt featuring the cartoon character of your choice. Start the year off right. Venice Beach Breakwater, Windward Avenue and Ocean Front Walk, Venice; Wed., Jan. 1, 11 a.m.; free. –Sean J. O'Connell

1. James Franco's Latest

Cruising, William Friedkin's 1980 film starring Al Pacino as an undercover cop investigating a serial killer who preys on S&M-loving gays, galvanized the local LGBTQ community, whose members vociferously protested its screenings. Friedkin, meanwhile, was forced to cut 40 minutes of sexually explicit footage just to get an R rating from the MPAA. Now actor James Franco brings us Interior. Leather Bar., a film in which he and co-director Travis Mathews star as themselves, working on a project to re-create Cruising's deleted footage. It's an odd project but a fascinating one — and Franco asks as many questions with Interior. Leather Bar. as the audience (Cinefamily members only) undoubtedly will of the actor-director when he appears tonight. Cinefamily, 611 N. Fairfax Ave., Fairfax District; Thurs., Jan. 2, 7:45 p.m.; free. (323) 655-2510, cinefamily.org. –D.C.

LA Weekly