Things to do in LA - mid- to late-December
November 30, 2011 8:32 AM   Subscribe

Dobbs and I are going to Los Angeles from Dec 15 - 23rd. Recommendations for any film, music, theatre, or gallery events that should not be missed (screenings, tributes, retrospectives, concerts, etc)? Restaurant recommendations are also welcome. I'll be staying downtown and he'll be in West Hollywood. Also, as Canadians who've never been to LA in winter, what outerwear is appropriate (rain much? how cold?)? Thanks!
posted by You Should See the Other Guy to Travel & Transportation around Los Angeles, CA (16 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
As Canadians you will find it mild on the whole, with highs around 20 C and lows around 7-9 C at night. The key is that Los Angeles sees a much wider daily temperature range in the winter than many other places -- a range of about ~12 degrees, compared to a range of about 5 degrees C for Toronto in December, for example -- and the given highs are often only for an hour or so in the afternoon, after which point the temperature will start dropping again. So even if at 2 pm it is sunny and 21 don't be deceived, because by 8 or 9 pm it's very probable that it will be 7 degrees and chilly. Sure, this isn't Toronto or Chicago-style winter weather by any means, but it also isn't Miami or Honolulu: it does and will get chilly at night.

I live in Chicago now, and when I visit family in LA in the winter I usually bring what I would consider typical fall clothing for northern climates (sweater + light jacket), taking off layers in the daytime and putting them on at night as appropriate.

In terms of rain, LA sees almost all of its (15 inches of) yearly rainfall in the winter. It's a mixed blessing. On the one hand, if it rains, it's almost always cold Pacific storms and will rain fairly intensely and sometimes for a couple of days consecutively. It is hard to know if it will rain until fairly close to that day. On the other hand, after it rains, the air is sparkling clear with the best visibility all year round as the smog and pollution are washed away by the rain.

In terms of food, what types of food are you looking for? Two random suggestions: my favorite ramen place is Orochon Ramen in Little Tokyo downtown; and if you want dim sum, I'd avoid Chinatown and hit up New Capital in the San Gabriel Valley (in general, the San Gabriel Valley has the best and densest collection of excellent Chinese cuisine in the LA area).
posted by andrewesque at 9:10 AM on November 30, 2011 [3 favorites]

Upon posting, I thought about it and it probably won't be so chilly as 7 degrees at 8 pm. Probably more like 12-13. This is what happens when you try to be friendly and go metric when your mind thinks in Fahrenheit!
posted by andrewesque at 9:17 AM on November 30, 2011

You don't mention if you'll have a car or not, as that will change recommendations pretty dramatically, but I'm going to throw out some ideas anyway. You should also think about mining some of the previous L.A. travel threads, like this one or this one.

As Canadians, you will sneer at L.A. winter. It's not tropical balmy, and you should be prepared for rain and bring a sweater, but that's about it. I'm actually arriving in L.A. the same day you are (grew up there, visit once or twice a year), and I'm a little bitter that I'll be stuck lugging around a winter coat just to get to and from the airport on the non-L.A. side.

I always feel compelled to recommend the Huntington Library and Gardens and I second andrewesque's suggestion to hit Alhambra/Monterey Park/San Gabriel for Asian food if you're so inclined. I tucked a few specific recommendations in the links, but there are literally hundreds of really excellent Asian restaurants in the San Gabriel Valley, but for more Japanese, you may want to go to Little Tokyo downtown instead. I think there are only 3 Japantowns left in the U.S., so Little Tokyo is something of a destination in and of itself. It's kinda tourist-kitschy in parts, but you can get some very decent sushi (Sushi-Gen and Sushi Go 55 are both excellent), and it's one of the only places outside of Japan you can find fresh imagawayaki (red bean-filled buns, best eaten warm).

And if you're in Downtown anyway, the Latin-flavored Olvera Street is also worth a peek. It's even cheesier than Little Tokyo, but it's also a local institution you won't really find anywhere else, especially if you're in the market for Dia de los Muertos kitsch or cheap luchador masks.

For more seasonal stuff, I haven't been to see any of it yet, but I've been hearing a lot of buzz for Pacific Standard Time, a huge art extravaganza happening all over the city in various places. It covers a very wide range, so you'll probably want to scan the mega-list of exhibitions and events to cherrypick the stuff you like.
posted by Diagonalize at 9:39 AM on November 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

I was at the Huntington last night in short sleeves, carried my jacket.

(Nthing the Huntington! I also like the Hammer Museum a lot.)
posted by jbenben at 9:42 AM on November 30, 2011

andrewesque hit the weather points very well above. I agree that the main thing to be prepared for is the big temperature swing -- it can be sunny and mild during the day (even sometimes downright warm) but then get quite chilly and damp at night. If it rains, it can rain very hard, for several days.

Also, if you're staying in private homes as opposed to hotels, be forewarned that lots of houses/apartment buildings here (especially vintage ones) seem to have been built without a shred of insulation, and tend not to have central heat or radiators. So homes can get surprisingly drafty and chilly here. When I woke up this morning the temperature in our bedroom was 56 degrees (13 C) -- and it's not even really winter here yet. So bring something warm to sleep in.

I work at LACMA, and I usually don't get all booster-y about it, but we have some really strong shows that will be up while you're here that I would encourage you to see: California Design (which is part of the aforementioned Pacific Standard Time extravaganza), Monet/Lichtenstein, and Edward Kienholz: Five Card Stud.
posted by scody at 9:47 AM on November 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

Here's a relevant recent AskMe with a lot of good advice.

As for temperature--have more than a sweater. LA in winter is tricky to dress for. You'll probably find that you're often down to nothing more than a short-sleeved shirt in the middle of the day, but by evening there's a reasonable chance you'll want a jacket over a sweater if you're walking any kind of distance. Removable layers is the key: cardigans and jackets are great because they're so adjustable. You can probably get by with just an umbrella for rain purposes (wind + rain is relatively rare).

If you tell us a bit more about your specific interests, by the way we could probably give you more specific advice. What kind of food are you into, what kind of art/music/theater etc.
posted by yoink at 9:53 AM on November 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks for the advice so far.

We've both been to LA before (me once, him 3 times), and we have many friends there, which is why I was looking for things specific to those dates. (Not complaining about the non-date-specific stuff; keep 'em coming!).

For music, anything really, except hip hop. For theatre, narrative stuff, mostly 70s onward (Mamet, Pinter, La Bute, etc.).

For food, again, anything. Neither of us is vegetarian.

Our main interests are film/screenwriting and music.

We'll be on foot but the people we're staying with drive so we're open to scooting around no problem. I know last time Dobbs headed to Burbank for his favorite shoes and he'll no doubt head there again so Burbank suggestions are also welcome.
posted by You Should See the Other Guy at 10:22 AM on November 30, 2011

If you go to the Huntington Gardens (which you should) you'll be close to some quick and fun hiking at Eaton Canyon and Mt Wilson as well as the amazing Chinese food in the SGV. For instance, just parking at the Baldwin Plaza in Arcadia you have access to two Ding Tai Fungs, an amazing Taiwanese place called Simbala, a very decent bakery in JJ's, and the outstanding Chang's Garden. You'll probably want to look at Jonathan Gold's 99 Essential Restaurants list (also available in very helpful google maps form.) Oh, and while you're downtown checking out all the Japanese places in Little Tokyo you should definitely try out Spice Table.

Agree with those suggesting the PST shows, here's the list of them. Just before the timeframe covered by PST there's a pretty fun exhibition on De Chirico, Picasso, Leger, and Picabia and antiquity at the Getty Villa in Malibu.
posted by villanelles at dawn at 10:45 AM on November 30, 2011 [2 favorites]

There is an awesome two-night benefit show going on at The Troubadour the 15th and 16th. I'll be there the second night because I want to see The Mountain Goats! (If this is your kind of thing, but tickets online now as it will probably sell out)
posted by drjimmy11 at 10:51 AM on November 30, 2011

"buy" tickets even
posted by drjimmy11 at 10:53 AM on November 30, 2011

Filmwise, if you're in the mood for Christmas classics on the big screen, American Cinematheque will be screening White Christmas and It's a Wonderful Life at The Egyptian on Hollywood Blvd.
posted by scody at 11:35 AM on November 30, 2011

If you are screenwriters, check out the Margaret Herrick Library listed here at the oscars link. It's a trove of original screenplays and scripts for film. The Grand Lobby also has a free show of still composites from various films. All free.
posted by effluvia at 1:09 PM on November 30, 2011

If you've never been to the Getty, it really is the very best place to visit in the winter.

Also the Standard Hotels, either Hollywood or Downtown have rooftop parties.

And Cinespace has good things every so often.
posted by devymetal at 4:37 PM on November 30, 2011

Interest in film and screenwriting?? Then you should absolutely try to get into the Doug Loves Movies podcast taping at the UCB Theatre. On December 20th, they are doing the 12 Guests of Christmas episode, which should have some great film guests. It will be highly attended, so plan accordingly.
posted by shinynewnick at 6:14 PM on November 30, 2011

Check out Cinefamily's schedule.
posted by mandymanwasregistered at 7:06 PM on November 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks, y'all. :)
posted by You Should See the Other Guy at 8:19 PM on December 1, 2011

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