Los Angeles Date Day, Christmas 2017 Edition
October 10, 2017 4:09 PM   Subscribe

Hi there! My wife and I are headed down to LA this year to visit my family for the holidays. Los Angeles is still a pretty new city for her, and my tradition is to take her out for a big secret date day each time we visit. Help me pick our next best memories!

Previous date day highlights have included an art deco architecture tour of downtown, the Getty Villa, Star Wars at the Chinese Theatre, Santa Monica and Venice, Olvera Street, and Canter's. We like history, exploring, eating, and architecture. We don't prefer crazy crowds or clubbing, but we love music, charming bars, and dress-up opportunities. Christmas and Chanukah kitsch are both good things!

We are staying in North Hollywood and have a car, and I have a pretty good general knowledge of the city. I would prefer to stay within a 45 minute drive, one way, or even take the metro.

Last thing for super bonus points! Our candidate days for date day are Friday December 22nd and Saturday December 23rd. I would love to introduce her to a unique experience that we can't have at another time of year, like the Magical Christmas Caroling Bus (which we are already planning on chasing). Do you have secrets to share with us?

Thank you so much for your ideas and suggestions as I keep introducing my favorite person to one of my favorite cities!
posted by skookumsaurus rex to Travel & Transportation around Los Angeles, CA (10 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I grew up in Los Angeles and my favorite thing as a kid was to go for a drive to areas known for Christmas Lights. Particularly Rodeo Drive and Griffith Park. It's probably the most LA thing ever, being in the car, listening to christmas music and then driving through the glitzy displays.

I found this link and I can heartily second the Beverly Hills recommendation; it sounds like the old DWP Griffith Park lights are no more (so sad!) but frankly, if you're not an Angeleno it probably would have just been boring and weird to sit in your car and wind through a park with old lights displays. The Venice Canals are really an interesting place, but I've never seen them at Christmas.

Their number one recommendation is in Altadena, which makes me wonder if you're interested in checking out the oft-overlooked Pasadena area. I haven't seen the lights there, but maybe someone here has and can recommend or warn you off. You could check out the Huntington Library & Gardens and then head over to the xmas lights at Altadena, I bet that would be a uniquely LA experience that you haven't had yet.
posted by pazazygeek at 4:37 PM on October 10, 2017

Best answer: In North Hollywood itself is the Brady Bunch House, which is good for a pop-culture drive by on the way to somewhere else (not too slow and creepy, though, people live there.)

In Hollywood/Los Feliz you could take an afternoon to tour Frank Lloyd Wright's Hollyhock House and visit the nearby Luz de Jesus gallery. (This is actually a pretty straight shot via the Metro from Universal City.) By car, Wright's Ennis House is also not far from there (you can actually see it from the top of Hollyhock House) and though it's back in private hands now, I thought I remembered reading that one of the conditions of the sale was that it be open for tours at select times throughout the year. Information seems to be sparse though; might be worth inquiring with the e-mail at the bottom of the linked page. It's an unforgettable place to tour. They're not open to the public but Lloyd Wright's Sowden House and Samuel Navarro House are also in Los Feliz.

In Downtown L.A. you could visit the Bradbury Building, check out the Angel's Flight funicular railway, and eat at Clifton's.

In Pasadena there's The Gamble House. Frank Lloyd Wright's Millard House is not open to the public, but it's right around the corner, and there's all kinds of stunningly beautiful Arts and Crafts architecture in the area. Pasadena in general is just lovely, and Old Town is a nice place to poke around.

If you're willing to travel a little bit longer and are up for something completely different, you could drive out to Ventura and spend the day wandering around a nice seaside town. I only went there twice when I lived in Los Angeles, but I remember those visits fondly.

If you can swing it, a visit to the Magic Castle is unforgettable (and a great excuse to dress up.)
posted by Funeral march of an old jawbone at 6:25 PM on October 10, 2017

Best answer: Twenty years of visits in, my #1 suggestion for a weird and wonderful half day in LA remains the Museum of Jurassic Technology.

Griffith Park Observatory is pretty indelible too.

We've also done both Gettys, Disneyland (and California Adventure), Norton Simon, LACMA, the La Brea Tar Pits (with LACMA), Venice Beach (yawn), Universal Studios, Olvera Street, and a non-tourguide-but-local-bro guided day in Hollywood.

By preference, a drink at Musso and Frank is needed or the visit seems incomplete. I reccomend all the things I listed with the exception of Venice Beach, which did not strike me as an entertaining freakshow but instead a depressing and desperate place. I might have just been grouchy that day.
posted by mwhybark at 6:53 PM on October 10, 2017 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I don't know where you're from, but it's not just any time of year you can go ice skating outdoors in Los Angeles. (Note, the site's still up for last year but their Twitter feed in the sidebar confirms they will be open this year, their 20th.)

Angels Flight has re-opened (after a slightly rocky start) after reconstruction.

Chill at the Queen Mary is apparently simultaneously great, cheesy, and expensive.

Spend some time at Hogwarts and Whoville. (We just went this weekend for Harry Potter and their haunted houses, and it was jaw-droppingly expensive for combo front-of-line passes, but I wouldn't do it any other way. We had a great time and the longest line we stood in was to check out at the candy shop.)

My sentimental beloved, Yamashiro, still sticking in there despite constant rumors of its imminent doom. Get reservations (now, or asap) right at opening because the sun is going to set just before 5pm, and note on your reservation you want a window table. The food isn't the reason to go, it's fine but only fine, but the view is pretty difficult to replicate.
posted by Lyn Never at 7:18 PM on October 10, 2017 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Altadena lights: I was living very near there last Christmas and walked through frequently; it wasn't anything terribly special: I saw better pretty routinely growing up in suburban Houston. (Honestly, Christmas Tree Lane is at its best on a warm summer evening---start walking up from Woodbury a little while before sunset and you should hit Farnsworth Park in time to look out over the lights of LA.)

LA is old aerospace country, and there're some very good museums. Planes of Fame is spectacular---one of the best airplane museums in the country, with an astonishing collection of early jets. It's right next door to Yanks Air Museum, which I haven't visited but which looks very good. I'd guess these are an hour or so from North Hollywood. There's also Blackbird Airpark, which is immediately next to Joe Davis Airpark.

And if you're willing to drive a little further, Edwards Air Force Base---where it sometimes seems like every single thing of note in (American) aviation history in the second half of the 20th century happened---offers base tours (which get you access to the Air Force Flight Test Museum!). That may be a little hard to time, though.

So if your wife is into airplanes, there're all kinds of things to do.
posted by golwengaud at 7:28 PM on October 10, 2017

Best answer: We really enjoyed the The Bhagavad-gita Diorama-Museum, which is in Culver City, as is the Museum of Jurassic Technology.
posted by BibiRose at 8:09 AM on October 11, 2017

Response by poster: Great suggestions from everyone. Damn, I love LA.

We always take a lights drive, and I'm thinking Beverly Hills this time. We'll already be at Disneyland the day before, so we'll save Universal for another visit. Funeral March, that's a great architecture list for us to work through over the next few visits. Same goes for all the aviation stuff, Golwengaud!

I decided to get us tickets see The Last Jedi at the El Capitan Theatre, showtime at 8:15. We saw The Force Awakens at the Chinese Theatre, so I like the idea of making a Star Wars tradition; we're both huge dorks fans.

So! I'm thinking a vaguely space-themed day! I would love to do Clifton's for lunch and catch a planetarium show at the Observatory. What are good dinner places, preferably on the cheaper side (this all adds up!) that we can have an early-ish dinner at between the Observatory and Hollywood, for a unique experience? Yamashiro looks really fun, but after Disneyland and many other expenses, it'll be a little too expensive for us.

Thank you so much for all the incredible suggestions (Museum of Jurassic Technology is totally going to happen one of these days).
posted by skookumsaurus rex at 9:02 AM on October 11, 2017

Make sure to show up early to the El Capitan. They have a Wurlitzer organ, and it is beyond awesome. They usually play Disney medleys (Disney owns the theatre), but I bet you can expect some Star Wars music for your visit.

You can also take the Red Line from the North Hollywood station to the Hollywood/Highland station, which is right across the street from the theater.
posted by sideshow at 12:55 PM on October 11, 2017 [1 favorite]

It would probably be fun to visit one of the outposts in the Trejo's empire. Also, you might look for a food truck night (there's a bunch of regular ones in various neighborhoods, but holiday season special occasions will mean more), as we have a pretty great food truck scene.
posted by Lyn Never at 2:48 PM on October 13, 2017

Ah, you've already got event tickets, but for anybody else who might be looking for ideas: White Christmas Sing-Along at the Disney Concert Hall.

Not quite between the Griffith Observatory and Hollywood, but on the same general end of town, and too good for your theme not to suggest: Astro Family Restaurant.
posted by sigmagalator at 8:52 PM on October 15, 2017

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