Lifestyle

Holiday Events in LA to Get You in the Spirit Without Any Cold or Snow

From dazzling light displays to ice skating, holiday flicks, bar crawls, and more.

Photo courtesy of Nights of the Jack
Photo courtesy of Nights of the Jack
Photo courtesy of Nights of the Jack

Since we’re never going to have an actual white Christmas in LA, it takes inventive and creative people to make sure those cozy holiday vibes still hit the southland. Thankfully, every year plenty step up to the plate, from holiday markets to seasonal shows, and from movie screenings to menorah lightings. Here’s a list of the best holiday events to get you into the spirit of the season in Los Angeles.

Photo by Rob Latour, courtesy of Love Actually Live
Photo by Rob Latour, courtesy of Love Actually Live
Photo by Rob Latour, courtesy of Love Actually Live

Holiday Shows in LA

Mariah Carey: Merry Christmas One And All

November 17 and November 19
Hollywood, $99.95+
If you hate “All I Want For Christmas Is You,” well, you’re out of luck: ‘tis the season for Mariah Carey’s undeniable holiday classic (which, objectively, is one of the best pop songs ever written). If you want to hear it and her other holiday songs performed live by the diva herself, here’s your chance. Not only is Mariah playing these two shows at the Bowl, she’s also at Yaamava Casino in a much smaller showroom on November 15, though tickets for that one start at $700-which may mean way fewer presents underneath that Christmas tree.

Love Actually Live

November 22–December 30
Beverly Hills, $69-$139
Somehow the classic holiday rom-com Love Actually is already 20 years old. To celebrate the major anniversary in style, check out this full-on, live-band-and-singers production at the Wallis Theater. It features a star-studded cast that includes finalists from American Idol and The Voice, Emmy award winners, and Broadway vets.

Yuletide Cinemaland

December 14–December 23
Pasadena, $34.99-$39.99
This Street Food Cinema screening series of holiday classics drops different films and themes each night, starting with a 20th anniversary showing of the Will Ferrell classic “Elf,” with everything from “Die Hard” to “Harry Potter” in the mix. There’s also a bar, photo popups, singalongs, and all sorts of holiday cheer throughout.

LA Ballet’s The Nutcracker

December 21–December 26
Hollywood, $50-$183
Tchaikovsky’s ballet classic is back, but this time it’s got an LA twist-set pieces featuring the Venice Canals and views of the Pacific Ocean. And the LA Ballet’s year-end rendition of the iconic ballet is being performed with a live orchestra, for an extra bit of holiday magic.

Photo courtesy of The Mission Inn
Photo courtesy of The Mission Inn
Photo courtesy of The Mission Inn

Holiday Festivals in LA

Mission Inn Festival of Lights Switch-On Ceremony

November 18
Riverside, free
Tens of thousands of people come through Riverside for the switch-on ceremony for the Mission Inn’s Festival of Lights, a display of zillions of lights decorating the historic, sprawling hotel. This year’s Switch-On includes a concert featuring Sugar Ray’s Mark McGrath and Jason Scheff from Chicago, with special guest Cheech Marin onboard as well; the event also marks the opening of an ice skating rink next door to the property.

LA Kings Holiday Ice

November 21–December 31
DTLA, $25
LA Live’s seasonal Kings-branded ice rink is back and open for free skate and special events for the next month-and-change. The price includes skate rentals, and private rentals are available.

Photo courtesy of Nights of the Jack
Photo courtesy of Nights of the Jack
Photo courtesy of Nights of the Jack

Holiday Road

November 24–December 27
Calabasas, $29.99-$34.99
The folks at King Gillette Ranch are going all out for their “immersive holiday experience” this year. The massive light installation is on a picturesque walking trail with photo ops including massive gingerbread men, Mr. and Mrs. Claus, giant nutcrackers, and much more. There are also food trucks serving wintery snacks and holiday bars set up on the property for a little extra good cheer.

DTLA Holiday Market

Thursdays–Sundays from December 1–25
DTLA, prices vary
Every weekend in December, Hotel Figueroa is hosting a holiday market with a bunch of different vendors. Participants include companies selling sustainable jewelry, luxury candles, flower arrangements, and more. It looks like just the right mix of gift options to suit anyone on your list.

Skirball Hanukkah Festival

December 10
Bel Air, $18
The Skirball Cultural Center’s annual Hanukkah celebration takes on a bit of added weight this year, which means Jewish festivities should be at their all-time biggest and most enthusiastic: expect live klezmer music from Mostly Kosher, dublab DJ Callie Ryan, a retelling of the Hanukkah story, shamash-making, and a family candle lighting.

Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade

December 13–17
Newport Beach, $36
This annual holiday tradition is exactly what it sounds like: a parade of boats in the Newport bay and canals all dolled up in their holiday best, with increasingly extravagant light displays decorating the vessels. Though the parade only lasts for four nights, there are lit-up rentals and rides available all month to get into the spirit of the season yourself.

Photo courtesy of Birdie G's
Photo courtesy of Birdie G’s
Photo courtesy of Birdie G’s

Holiday Drinks and Bar Crawls in LA

Santa’s Secret

November 24–December 30
Mid-City, $55+
This adults-only immersive theater meets Instagram popup meets speakeasy experience takes visitors down a path filled with gingerbread girls and burly lumberjacks until finally ending up in two pop-up bars to grab a drink before a cabaret-style variety show featuring burlesque dancers, ballet, and more. Costumes are encouraged, and there are also food add-ons if you want to make a whole night of it.

Mana Holiday House

November 30–December 1
Beverly Hills, Free
If you’ve ever wanted to have a tequila toast with The Rock, this is your chance (sort of): Dwayne Johnson’s agave-based spirit company Teremana is putting on this pop-up party, with tastings, snacks, cocktail classes, holiday menu ideas, giveaways, and more surprises.

Birdie G’s

December 1–December 30
Santa Monica, prices vary
Jeremy Fox’s lauded Jewish-ish Santa Monica restaurant is bedecking its bar area in Christmas and Hanukkah decorations and dropping seasonal drinks like “Don’t Knock The Nog,” with four types of rum as well as cloves, cinnamon, vanilla bean, and a candy cane rim. The real appeal, though, may be walk-in access to the restaurant’s guest chef dinner series, 8 Nights of Birdie G’s. The series always sells out, and this year should be no different, with menus from world renowned chefs like Sean Brock, Mei Lin, and Dave Beran.

Santa Monica Pub Crawl

December 16
Santa Monica, $20+
This massive, costumes-encouraged bar crawl on the westside hits over 20 drinking establishments, with $6–$9 food specials throughout and free drinks for the first 500 revelers. There are three different routes, but if you really want to get housed, get a route-hopper ticket to just obliterate your way through every bar in SaMo; proceeds go to feeding those in need in LA.

The Matzoball

December 24
Hollywood, $50+
The Original Matzoball bills itself as the “#1 Holiday Party In The US,” and the multi-city Christmas Eve bar event is basically a rager for anyone who’s not committed to spending time with their family on December 24, for any reason. It was started over 35 years ago as a fun event to get people who don’t celebrate Christmas out of the house, away from the endless TV and radio specials, and into the rare bar that happens to be open on Christmas Eve. This year’s party is at Bootsy Bellows; admission can be bought individually or by table.Want more Thrillist? Follow us on Instagram, TikTok, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and YouTube.

Jeff Miller is the founding editor of Thrillist LA. You can follow him at @jeffmillerla on Instagram.

Lifestyle

The Best New Bookstores in LA are Curated, Specific, and Personal

Discover a new favorite book, join a book club, and maybe even do some karaoke at the new wave of LA bookshops.

Photo by Innis Casey Photography, courtesy of Zibby's Bookshop
Photo by Innis Casey Photography, courtesy of Zibby’s Bookshop
Photo by Innis Casey Photography, courtesy of Zibby’s Bookshop

A couple of years ago, the legendary Powell’s Books in Portland released a perfume designed to evoke the smell of a bookstore. The scent has notes of wood, violet, and the lovely and unusually precise word biblichor, the particular aroma of old books. The reality of the scent is what it is-mostly sweet and floral-but more important is the imagery it conjures. The best bookstores are both cozy and mysterious, familiar and surprising, with endless potential for discovery.

Los Angeles has a wealth of independent book sellers, including beloved legacy shops like The Last Bookstore, The Iliad, and Chevalier’s. But a new wave of bookstores has been growing over the last few years, shops that eschew the traditional one-of-everything mindset to focus on specificity, curation, and point of view. There are bookstores with themes, bookstores that double as event spaces, bookstores that reflect their neighbourhoods, bookstores that take inspiration from a specific person-whether that’s the shop owner, a historical figure, or a little bit of both-and so many more.

Like the niche-ification of the internet and the culture at large, these new and new-ish bookstores provide a space to discover books, ideas, and perspectives led by an expert, the kind of things that you may never have found on your own. They can also be a safe harbour for pure nerdiness, a place to dive deep into your favourite category or cause. To help you on your way, we’ve put together a list of some of the best new bookstores in LA, with a focus on curated shops with their own specific perspectives.

Photo courtesy of Octavia's Bookshelf
Photo courtesy of Octavia’s Bookshelf
Photo courtesy of Octavia’s Bookshelf

Octavia’s Bookshelf

Pasadena
Pasadena is a famously book-friendly city, with bookstore royalty in the form of legendary Vroman’s and its own literary alliance. Now it has one of the most exciting new bookstores too. Octavia’s Bookshelf is owner Nikki High’s tribute to the science fiction master Octavia E. Butler, who was a Pasadena native herself. The name of the shop provides a clue into High’s inspiration, titles she imagines Butler would have had on her shelves, with a focus on BIPOC authors. The storefront is small, but the collection is impeccably curated and the space is cozy and welcoming for readers of all backgrounds.

Photo by Mads Gobbo, courtesy of North Figueroa Bookshop
Photo by Mads Gobbo, courtesy of North Figueroa Bookshop
Photo by Mads Gobbo, courtesy of North Figueroa Bookshop

North Figueroa Bookshop

Highland Park
Vertical integration can be a beautiful thing, especially when it allows independent creators more control over their products. The new North Figueroa Bookshop is a shining example of the concept, a storefront built on a collaboration between two publishers, Rare Bird and Unnamed Press. North Fig features titles from those presses, of course, including lots of striking literary fiction and memoir, but it also features a curated collection of other books. They’ve made it a point of emphasis to serve the needs of the local Highland Park, Glassell Park, Cypress Park, and Eagle Rock community-there’s lots of fiction from fellow independent publishers, other general interest titles with a focus on California history and literature, and plenty of Spanish-language books.

Photo by Karen Cohen Photography, courtesy of Zibby's Bookshop
Photo by Karen Cohen Photography, courtesy of Zibby’s Bookshop
Photo by Karen Cohen Photography, courtesy of Zibby’s Bookshop

Zibby’s Bookshop

Santa Monica
Speaking of vertical integration, there’s another new combined publisher and bookstore on the other side of town. Zibby’s Bookshop is the brainchild of Zibby Owens, Sherri Puzey, and Diana Tramontano, and it’s the physical home of Zibby Books, a literary press that releases one featured book a month. That system is designed so that each book gets the full attention and resources of the press. Owens is an author, podcaster, and book-fluencer, and she has become something of a lit-world mogul with a magazine, podcast network, event business, and an education platform too. The shop has a unique sorting system, built around a feeling for each book-in store many of the shelves are labelled by interest or personality type, like “For the foodie,” or “For the pop culture lover.” On their webshop, you can browse for books that make you cry, escape, laugh, lust, or tremble. There are recommendations from Owens and the staff, sections for local authors, family dramas, and books that have just been optioned. If this all seems a little overwhelming, you should probably avoid the section dedicated to books that make you anxious.

The Salt Eaters Bookshop

Inglewood
Inglewood native Asha Grant opened The Salt Eaters Bookshop in 2021 with a mission in mind-to centre stories with protagonists who are Black girls, women, femme, and/or gender-nonconforming people. Over the last year and change that it’s been open, it has also become a community hub, a place for Inglewood locals and people from across town to drop in, to see what’s new and to discover incredible works in the Black feminist tradition. They also host regular events like readings, discussions, and parties.

Lost Books

Montrose
Thankfully, legendary downtown bookshop The Last Bookstore’s name is hyperbole, and owners Josh and Jenna Spencer have even gone so far as to open a second shop, Lost Books in Montrose. Instead of the technicolour whimsy of the book tunnel at The Last Bookstore, Lost Books has a tunnel of plants that welcomes you into the shop, which opened in the summer of 2021. They sell those plants in addition to books, and coffee and vinyl too, which makes Lost Books a lovely destination and a fun little surprise in the quaint foothill town just off the 2 freeway.

Photo by Claudia Colodro, courtesy of Stories Books & Cafe
Photo by Claudia Colodro, courtesy of Stories Books & Cafe
Photo by Claudia Colodro, courtesy of Stories Books & Cafe

Stories Books & Cafe

Echo Park
Ok, this one is fudging the criteria a little-Stories has been open for almost 15 years. But over those years the shop has become a pillar of Echo Park community life, hosting readings, discussions, and events, and their cafe tables function as a de facto office for about half of the neighbourhood on any given afternoon. After the tragic recent passing of co-owner and Echo Park fixture Alex Maslansky it seemed like the shop’s future was in doubt, but thankfully after a brief hiatus co-owner and co-founder Claudia Colodro and the staff were able to band together to reopen and keep the beloved cafe and bookstore going strong.

Page Against the Machine

Long Beach
The name alone makes it clear what you’re getting at Page Against the Machine-revolutionary progressive books, with a collection centred on activist literature, socially conscious writing, and a whole lot of political history. The shop itself is small but the ideas are grand, with fiction by writers like Richard Wright, Colson Whitehead, and Albert Camus next to zines about gentrification and compendia of mushroom varieties. They also host regular readings and discussions.

Photo by Viva Padilla, courtesy of Re/Arte
Photo by Viva Padilla, courtesy of Re/Arte
Photo by Viva Padilla, courtesy of Re/Arte

Re/Arte Centro Literario

Boyle Heights
Boyle Heights has its own small but mighty combined bookstore, art gallery, gathering space, and small press in Viva Padilla’s Re/Arte. Padilla is a poet, translator, editor, and curator, and as a South Central LA native and the child of Mexican immigrants, she’s focused on Chicanx and Latinx art, literature, and social criticism. Re/Arte’s collection has a wide range of books, from classic Latin American literature to modern essays and everything in between. Re/Arte is also now the headquarters for sin cesar, a literary journal that publishes poetry, fiction, and essays from Black and Brown writers. There are always community-focused events happening too, from regular open mics and zine workshops to film screenings and more.

The Book Jewel

Westchester
Most bookshops host events, but few host them with the regularity of The Book Jewel, the two- year-old independent bookstore in Westchester. Their calendar is so full with readings, several different book clubs, signings, and meet and greets that there are sometimes multiple events on the same day. The shop also hosts a ton of family-focused readings, with regular storytime on Sunday mornings often followed by a talk with the author. It’s a great fit for the relatively low-key (but not exactly quiet) suburban neighbourhood, and it’s no coincidence that storytime lines up with the Westchester Farmers Market, which takes place right out front.

Reparations Club

West Adams
Most bookstores lean into coziness, aiming to be a hideaway for some quiet contemplation or maybe a quick sotto voce chat-not so at Reparations Club, the exuberant and stylish concept bookshop and art space on Jefferson. Owner and founder Jazzi McGilbert and her staff have built a beautiful and vibrant shop full of art from Black artists, including books but also records, candles, incense, clothing, and all sorts of fun things to discover. There’s a perfect seating area to sit and hang out for a while, and they host a range of wild and fun events from readings to happy hours, panel discussions to karaoke nights and more.

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Ben Mesirow is a Staff Writer at Thrillist.

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