Illinois Tourism & Travel

Crazy About Travel

Spending Christmas in L.A.? Top travel destinations

By Rachel Schnalzer
Design and illustrations by Jade Cuevas

Good morning, fellow Escapists. The holidays are typically synonymous with travel, and this year, despite the threat of the spreading Omicron variant, is no exception. Some Angelenos are taking their first international trips since the onset of COVID-19 or swapping out their sunglasses for wool beanies on their way back to chillier hometowns.

Others are embracing the holiday season in L.A. as a time to stay still, reveling in the relative quiet of the city’s emptier streets.

Are you spending the sweet and sometimes strange days between Christmas and New Year’s Day at home in Los Angeles? Then this edition is for you. Farther down, you’ll find a few different ways to be a tourist in your own city — during the holidays and at other times.

Of course, with the Omicron variant spreading, it’s important to mask up and travel responsibly, no matter where you go.

Book a walking tour with the Los Angeles Conservancy

Despite its modern skyscrapers and many posh storefronts, walking through downtown L.A. is like visiting a living museum, with surprising historical details hiding in plain sight.

You just have to know where to look.

The Los Angeles Conservancy, formed in the 1970s as a reaction to the proposed demolition of the Central Library, offers a variety of walking tours for locals and tourists alike.

For example, the Roaring ’20s come alive on the Conservancy’s Art Deco Walking Tour, which showcases vibrantly colored architectural stunners such as the Eastern Columbia Lofts and the Wholesale Jewelry Mart.

Frequent travelers may especially gravitate toward the tour of Union Station, which the Conservancy calls “the last great railway station built during the golden age of rail travel.”

In addition to in-person tours, the Conservancy is also offering a virtual Vintage L.A. Christmas tour, which will transport viewers to L.A. County locations that have a long history of holiday decorating. Register here for the Dec. 29 event.

"Station" is spelled out in capital letters, with a stairwell underneath.

Original signage on a train platform in Los Angeles Union Station.

(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

Embrace the quiet — or even loneliness — at this West Adams garden

Seeking calm in the wake of a hectic holiday season? Although destinations such as Ojai and Joshua Tree offer a healthy dose of tranquility and New Age spirituality, there’s no need to venture so far away from Los Angeles.

Instead, spend an afternoon exploring the Peace Awareness Labyrinth & Gardens, a lush oasis tucked behind a beaux-arts mansion in the heart of historic West Adams.

Times features writer Julissa James included the gardens, created by the Movement of Spiritual Inner Awareness, in a touching story that lists 21 places and experiences that help you embrace loneliness in L.A.

“For many, the Peace Awareness Labyrinth & Gardens has a certain mystique,” James writes. “The site’s rich history can transport you.”

James recommends walking the travertine marble labyrinth, modeled after a design at the Chartres Cathedral in France. The garden also includes 16 water features, a koi pond and plenty of quiet places to meditate and take in your surroundings.

The gardens and labyrinth are open to visitors from 1 to 4 p.m. Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays. Tickets cost $5 and can be booked in advance here.

A branch of a plant trails along a Colonial-style building.

Bougainvillea grows at the Peace Awareness Labyrinth & Gardens.

(Dania Maxwell / Los Angeles Times)

See ‘The Obama Portraits Tour’ at LACMA

Normally, you’d need to visit the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C., to see the official portraits of former President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama.

The masterpieces, however, are on a five-city tour across the U.S., and right now, “The Obama Portraits Tour” can be seen at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

The portraits are appearing alongside LACMA’s exhibition “Black American Portraits,” which includes roughly 140 paintings and photos created over 200 years.

Times features writer Jeanette Marantos included “Black American Portraits” in her recent roundup of 15 activities for holiday houseguests. “The Obamas’ nearly life-size portraits are exhibited together as the sole works in one large room to provide ample space for their many admirers,” Marantos describes.

While you’re at LACMA, don’t miss fan-favorite photo spots such as “Urban Light,” the cluster of streetlights featured in countless Instagram photos, and the 25-foot-tall granite boulder that’s part of the “Levitated Mass” installation. “If you position your visitors just right on the path underneath the boulder, you can get a photo that looks like they’re holding the 340-ton rock above their heads,” Marantos writes.

The Obama portraits will be on view at LACMA through Jan. 2. Advance tickets are required and can be booked here.

An artist's rendering of a portrait of former First Lady Michelle Obama.

“The Obama Portraits Tour” is at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art through Jan. 2.

(Jess Miller / For The Times)

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Spend a day strolling Culver City

For many of us, life has felt as though it has been on hold since L.A.’s initial COVID-19 lockdown in March 2020. And yet, neighborhoods and communities have evolved over the past two years, giving L.A. travelers a plethora of new places to rediscover within the city in the new year.

For example, one could easily spend a day strolling Culver City, which Times travel writer Christopher Reynolds included in his roundup of the 40 best California destinations to visit this winter.

If you’re interested in taking a spin through Culver City, here are a few shops, restaurants and public spaces you shouldn’t miss, courtesy of Reynolds:

  • Citizen Public Market: This food hall, home to several bars and restaurants, is new to the neighborhood, having opened in late 2020.
  • Helms Bakery District: A collection of furniture and design shops is housed in a 1931 bakery complex.
  • The Ripped Bodice: The shop calls itself “the only exclusively romance bookstore on the West Coast.”
  • The Museum of Jurassic Technology: This museum is “open by appointment, perplexing by design.” (I could try describing it, but I recommend you see it for yourself.)
An aerial shot of people sitting a table eating food.

It’s lunchtime on the back patio at Citizen Public Market, Culver City’s newest food hall.

(Illustration by Jade Cuevas / Los Angeles Times; photograph by Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)

📰 What I’m reading

  • Get transported to Lake Tahoe with these photos taken by Times travel reporter Christopher Reynolds.
  • Ski resorts are ready for the season. Times contributor Brian E. Clark explains what’s new and how to hit the slopes safely.
  • The tiny coastal town of Pescadero may be the Bay Area’s best-kept secret, writes Michelle Robertson in SFGate.
  • An electric road trip from L.A. to Las Vegas is easier than you may think, reports Tim Chester in Afar.
  • Eighty percent of North Americans can’t see the Milky Way over their homes. That’s giving “dark sky” communities new tourism appeal, Bailey Berg writes in the Washington Post.
Four adults, two of them holding small children, look out at a mountain lake and a rainbow.

Sunrise over Lake Tahoe’s Emerald Bay sometimes comes with billowing clouds and rainbows. This view is from Inspiration Point.

(Christopher Reynolds / Los Angeles Times)

📸 Photo of the week

Above palm trees, a man in a red suit and white beard dangles from a parachute.

A skydiving Santa Claus drops in on Huntington Beach in 2019.

(Spencer Grant)

🎸 Road song

Song: “All That I Want” by the Weepies

Favorite lyric: “Out in the harbor, the ships come in, it’s Christmastime.”

Where to listen: Burton W. Chace Park in Marina del Rey

A couple enjoys an outing together at Burton W. Chace Park in Marina del Rey.

Ashley Dorr of Highland Park and Jeremy Frigo of Santa Monica enjoy an outing together at Burton W. Chace Park in Marina del Rey.

(Illustration by Jade Cuevas / Los Angeles Times; photograph by Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)