What’s open in LA on Christmas: eating places, films and seashores

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This is the sixth and final installation in By The Way’s secular Christmas series. Read more about DC, New York, Chicago, Houston and Seattle.

Christmas week in Los Angeles is actually one of the best times to be in the city. Traffic hits something that resembles a lull and the always-mild Southland weather encourages beach visits and morning hikes in the hazy Santa Monica Mountains. Nighttime walks — or, really, slow nighttime drives — through suburban neighborhoods bring you through over-the-top displays of holiday lights.

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.

A local’s guide to Los Angeles

Restaurants open in Los Angeles on Christmas Day

Gengis 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 LA on Christmas Day

While the ArcLight darkened its domed doorway in 2021, TCL Chinese Theaters in Hollywood is still open for Dec. 25 in a part of town made somewhat more bearable by thinned crowds.

For a lower-key art house experience, visit the Landmark Nuart Theater 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).

LA bounces back with breezy new stays, superheroes and movie magic

Where to go sightseeing in LA 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 spotlight exhibits 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.

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).

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