This is the sixth and final installment in By The Way’s secular Christmas series. Read more about D.C., New York, Chicago, Houston and Seattle.
In the decade I’ve lived here, I’ve spent Christmas Day ice-skating, scaling sand dunes and doing nothing but disassociating in front of the television. I also make a point of eating from great restaurants that represent the city’s many diasporic communities. But a secular Christmas here can also turn into a maze of navigating closed businesses, leading some to a last resort in the drive-thru lane (this isn’t always a bad thing).
This year, if you know where to go, you can make the day special, from having dinner in the neon-lit panorama of Koreatown to a 1970s-style roller rink that keeps the music pumping.
Restaurants open in Los Angeles on Christmas Day
Genghis Cohen for Chinese American food prepared with Jewish panache
Inside a rollicking dining room full of ruby-tinged lantern light, Genghis Cohen serves dishes such as fried egg rolls stuffed with roasted barbecue pork or a “Kanton Knish” with a bean curd wrapper and a diner’s choice of filling. Seats start booking up nearly a month ahead of Dec. 25 (but look for last-minute cancellations the night before Christmas Day).
Elite Restaurant for dim sum
A trek to the San Gabriel Valley is more than warranted for some of the best Chinese food in Los Angeles. The dining room at Elite Restaurant in Monterey Park may look like a classic dim sum parlor, but the restaurant offers more modern interpretations of the form, including glossy fried shrimp balls.
In Koreatown: Oo-Kook, Park’s Barbecue or Toe Bang
When in doubt, head to Koreatown. Oo-Kook is a sprawling, bi-level Korean barbecue restaurant on West Eighth Street with tables to spare for large and small parties. The iconic Park’s Barbecue on Vermont Avenue is open on Christmas Day and takes reservations. For a more spontaneous meal, crawl the thumping Chapman Market complex, a restaurant and retail plaza home to restaurants like Korean pocha-style pub Toe Bang, which serves bubbling cauldrons of Korean army stew and crackly fried chicken wings with a stained-glass glaze.
In Little Ethiopia: Rahel or Messob
Down the way from Ghengis Cohen on Fairfax is a condensed, string-light-lit strip of East African restaurants and businesses that comprise Little Ethiopia. On Dec. 25, restaurants like Rahel Ethiopian Vegan Cuisine and Messob are all open for feather-light injera and deeply spiced stews good for dining alone or with a small group.
Where to see a movie in L.A. on Christmas Day
TCL Chinese Theatres
While the ArcLight darkened its domed doorway in 2021, TCL Chinese Theatres in Hollywood is still open for Dec. 25 in a part of town made somewhat more bearable by thinned crowds.
Landmark Nuart Theatre
For a lower-key art house experience, visit the Landmark Nuart Theatre in West Los Angeles, which changes its film choice weekly for afternoon and evening screenings.
A little further down the map, Paramount Drive-In offers a classic drive-in movie experience: cars piled into an expansive parking lot and a large screen propped against the open night sky (bring your own food to enjoy).
Where to go sightseeing in L.A. on Christmas Day
At night, skip the holiday lines at Universal Hollywood and Disneyland (both are open on Christmas Day, though, and a solid option for families) and go for an evening skate at Moonlight Rollerway in Glendale. The rink will have afternoon and nighttime all-ages skates on Christmas under kaleidoscopic strobe lights; blue raspberry or cherry slushies from the snack bar will only heighten the experience.
Academy Museum of Motion Pictures
The museum of Los Angeles movie-making stays open on Christmas. Regeneration: Black Cinema 1898–1971 is an exhibition through seven galleries that’s worth spending time with. The exhibit spotlights the resilience of Black actors and visual creators who confronted institutional racism and lack of access to resources to build a foundation for Black filmmaking as we know it now.
Head to Venice for a morning on the Westside: first hit the Venice Beach Skate Park to watch beanie-wearing locals ride the rim of the bowl. Then, take a winding beach path walk to Washington Boulevard and cut over to the Venice Canals. With its coiling sidewalks and light-strung bridges, the neighborhood is charming at any time, but best in the evening with spiked hot chocolate and friends in tow.
Pacific Coast Highway
Take advantage of the lighter traffic on the Pacific Coast Highway and drive to Point Dume for an easy, lazy beach hike along a boardwalk path that ultimately stretches to the sand dunes and rock formations bordering the ocean. For an even stronger nature hit, you can continue the drive up to Ventura (an under 60-minute trek when the traffic is right) to visit its botanical gardens (entry is free on Christmas Day and leashed dogs are welcome).
More spring travel tips
Trends: Cheaper spring break | Cool all-inclusives | Let ChatGPT plan your day | Is it safe to go to Mexico? | Book a free night in Sicily
The basics: Tip without cash | Traveling with kids | Decide where to stay | A pre-trip checklist of house chores | How to get your passport | Plan a ski trip | Eat without feeling terrible | Budget for your next trip | Plan a cheaper Disney trip
Flying: Fly like a decent human being | How to set airfare price alerts | Flying with an injury | PreCheck vs. Global Entry vs. CLEAR | Can I fly with weed? | AirTag your luggage | Airport parking 101 | Deal with airport crowds | Why Stalk airfare after booking
Driving: 9 tips for road tripping with a baby | Try the Airbnb of rental cars | Rent an EV | Do I need an international license to drive abroad? | Avoid big rental car fees
Greener travel: Bike to the airport | How environmentalists travel | How to find ‘greener’ flights | Make your travel better for the planet
Pets: How to travel with pets | Why the pet fee? | Pet flying 101 | Alternatives to flying with your pet
In case of emergency: Manage airport disasters | Your flight is canceled | How to get a human on the phone | What to do if your car gets stuck | Find your lost luggage | How to get a refund for a canceled flight | Deal with a bad hotel room | When you’re bumped off your flight | If you get rebooked without your family | What are my rebooking rights? | Recover a lost item at TSA, the airport or your flight