Things to do around LA over the holidays: hike, ski, swim

Yesterday marked the darkest day of the year. Whether you’re spending the next week solo or among a circle of friends and family, I hope you’re finding a bit of light this week as the holiday season reaches its culmination.

I was moved by my colleague Deborah Netburn’s recent story about five winter solstice practices celebrated in California, including the Chumash’s multiday Kakunupmawa ceremony, Shab-e Yalda and Dongji.

“Regardless of how you honor this dark time of year — whether engaging in gift-giving, lighting up the dark with string lights or partying on New Year’s Eve — we are all engaging with the rhythms of the Earth,” Netburn writes.

Travel is another way to mark the passage of time and the end of another year. In this edition of Escapes, you’ll find several close-to-LA adventures you can take over the holiday weekend.


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Take a hike — while remembering the life of LA’s most famous feline

In this May 2020 shot, P-22 appears war of the trail camera.

(Miguel Ordeñana / Natural History Museum)

For more than a decade, until his death this past Saturday, P-22 wandered the wild expanses of LA’s Griffith Park.

After his birth in the Santa Monica Mountains, the young cat made his way through the Hollywood Hills and across the 405 and 101 freeways to the 4,300-acre green space in the middle of Los Angeles

His discovery in Griffith Park in 2012 was the start of a powerful relationship between the puma and his city. “Big cats prowl large swaths of the United States, but few cities would allow a cougar to live in their midst, let stay alone for a decade,” reported Times writers Laura J. Nelson and James Queally.

“Many Angelenos saw themselves in P-22, an aging bachelor who adjusted to a too-small space in the big city, waiting for a mate who might never arrive. Others identified with his story, crossing borders and freeways in search of a place he could call home.”

This weekend, you can remember the life of P-22 — and his tremendous contributions to conservation and awareness of mountain lions in California — by taking a walk in Griffith Park.

The hike to an area just behind the Hollywood sign may be one of the most famous treks in the park, but there are plenty of other trails to explore too. Our guide to Griffith Park, penned by James Bartlett and Mary Forgione, provides a rundown of several ways to spend a day in the LA gem. My favorite spots in the guide: Fern Dell’s lush pathways and Amir’s Garden.

So, here’s to you, P-22. Thank you for keeping us wild.

Ski or snowboard near LA County

A snowboarder gets some air on a Mt. Baldy slope

Alex Soto gets some air on his snowboard atop Mt. Baldy ski resort in Mt. Baldy, Calif.

(Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

Sure, you could drive to Big Bear, Mammoth or Tahoe this weekend for some world-class skiing and snowboarding.

Or you could find plenty of wintry fun just beyond the confines of LA County.

Mt. Baldy Resort, which former Times columnist Chris Erskine called in 2020 “the best ski deal in California,” is located in the Angeles National Forest, a mere 50 miles from downtown LA

As of Tuesday, adult one-day lift tickets for Christmas Day started at $66.

“Mt. Baldy has 26 runs spread over 800 acres and three mountains,” reported Times contributor Brian Clark earlier this year. “It also has a respectable vertical descent of 2,100 feet with wide-open glades, tree runs, bowls, moguls, groomed runs, cornices and quarter pipes.”

Experts may gravitate toward the resort’s 36-degree “Nightmare” slope, which maintains its drop for 1,000 vertical feet, Clark writes.

Not a skier or snowboarder? Mt. Baldy also includes a snow play area for sledders and tubers, plus the opportunity to take a 20-minute round-trip ride up its Sugar Pine chairlift.

Catch a holiday concert in Orange County

six men in tuxes onstage wave to the crowd as they accept an award

Mariachi los Camperos accept the Regional Mexican Music Album Grammy Award for “De Ayer para Siempre” in 2020.

(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

In the mood for some last-minute holiday cheer?

Tickets are still available for two shows at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts on Friday, Dec. 23

Five-time Grammy nominee Johnny Mathis will play songs off his six Christmas albums beginning at 7:30 pm at Segerstrom Hall. Tickets start at $59.

As of Tuesday, a small handful of tickets remained for the popular Fiesta Navidad concert, featuring the Grammy-winning Mariachi Los Camperos, at 8 pm in the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall. Prices start at $32.

The Segerstrom Center for the Arts earned a spot on Times travel writer Christopher Reynolds’ list of the 25 best California experiences to add to your winter bucket list.

While you’re in the area, finish off any last-minute gift shopping at South Coast Plaza, which Reynolds calls the “mother of all SoCal shopping centers.” Save some extra time to pop into the Orange County Museum of Art next door to the Segerstrom Center. The museum is open today through Saturday and reopens on Dec. 27, and admission is free.

Embrace alone time with a beachside staycation

This case, I came across a Reddit thread that caught my eye. A user in the Los Angeles subreddit asked “Fun things to do alone on Christmas in LA?”

People suggested a number of great activities, from hiking in Malibu to a drive down Christmas Tree Lane in Altadena.

But I was especially taken with an idea posed by user Comfortable-Paint-93: “Treat yourself to a stay at a nice hotel with a pool. Usually hotel restaurants are open for guests. Lay by the pool with a good book. Christmas is usually sunny in LA. Find a hotel near a movie theater complex and binge on the movies in the evening.”

Here are a few hotels that fit the bill, with availability for a check in on Dec. 24 and checkout on the 26th:

  • The Shore Hotel in downtown Santa Monica offers ocean views and easy access to the Santa Monica Promenade and its handful of movie theaters. Rooms start at $199 per night.
  • It’s hard to beat the vibes at downtown LA’s Ace Hotel, which is hosting a dance party and “open format” soiree on Christmas Eve. Rooms start at $171 per night.
  • The Kimpton Hotel Wilshire, featuring views of the Hollywood Hills and Hollywood sign, is a short walk from the Grove and Original Farmers Market. Rooms start at $183.

A virtual winter escape

A bald eagle sits on snow-covered branches above the Merced River waiting to catch a fish

It’s a winter wonderland in Yosemite National Park with few people in the park.

(Carolyn Cole/Los Angeles Times)

For a virtual gasp of brisk December air, take a look at the photos Times photographer Carolyn Cole captured along the Merced River during her time in the park.

A few weeks ago, I wrote about three holiday adventures to take in California’s national parks.

With its ski and snowboard area and ice skating rink with views of Half Dome, Yosemite National Park is hard to beat when it comes to winter fun. And a winter storm this past weekend left the park under “a beautiful blanket of snow,” Cole writes.

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🎸Road song

Instead of suggesting one song this week, I’m passing along an entire holiday playlist made specifically for Southern Californians.

Hat tip to Abby Hamblin of the San Diego Union-Tribune for the tunes.

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