Downtown Holiday Guide: Shopping, Skating, Tree Lights and Much More

It’s the middle of November, but Los Angeles has already leapfrogged Thanksgiving, instead setting its sights on the upcoming winter holidays. 

Stores have already started hitting play on the Christmas albums, providing a nice soundtrack as shoppers look for that perfect holiday gift, while local organizations and groups are preparing to transition their venues into a collection of winter wonderlands.

A host of free and ticketed events, including concerts, art installations and public gathers, dot Downtown Los Angeles every year, with more expected to spring up with each passing week.

In the following pages, Los Angeles Downtown News runs down a list of things to take advantage of before the end of the holiday season. Consider this list just a jumping off point, as there are plenty more events in the Central City to check out before the start of the New Year.

Skate On

It’s old news at this point, but it’s still hard to believe that there is a place in Downtown Los Angeles where one can strap on a pair of skates and glide along the frozen ice.

Not only is there a place, but there are two of them.

On Nov. 14, the Bai Holiday Ice Rink at Pershing Square officially opened to skaters, marking the unofficial start of the holiday season for Downtowners. Skaters can sign up for specific hour-long skate sessions. Skates can be rented, with sizes ranging from toddlers to adult size 15. The session times can be found at holidayicerink.com. The rink will remain open through Jan. 20.

There is also a list of fun and engaging events scheduled around the rink, including a silent skate party on Dec. 19. Fans of the Disney mega-hit Frozen can also glide across the ice while being serenaded by a recording from the cast of the Broadway play every Tuesday from 7 p.m. to closing. “Learn to curl” days are also making their return, allowing visitors to learning about the mysterious, yet enthralling Olympic sport.

While Pershing Square might have curling, it can’t boast that it provides an opportunity to share the ice with the Los Angeles Kings’ mascot Bailey.

The annual L.A. Kings Holiday Ice at L.A. Live opens at the complex’s Xbox Plaza on Nov. 30.

Like the Pershing Square Rink, the L.A. Live rink is split between multiple sessions per day; starting at 5 p.m. Tickets are only sold on site and include the skate rental. Each session lasts one hour.

Pro-tip: Be mindful of the massive Christmas tree in the middle of the rink and make sure to check out the list of skate and supper deal that L.A. Live is offering for the holiday season.

Lotsa’ Lights

There is no better signifier in Los Angeles that the holiday season is right around the corner than the return of bright and gleaming holiday lights.

It’s no different in Downtown Los Angeles, which has a bevy of places to get lost in the glow of the holiday season.

Union Station, which has become one of Downtown’s most happening destination points over recent years, is bringing back its annual tree lighting event. Held on Thursday, Nov. 21 on the station’s south patio, the free family-friend celebration features candy and opportunities to snap photos with Santa Claus, culminating with the signature tree lighting. The ceremony begins at 6:30 p.m. with the tree lighting scheduled for 7:15 p.m.

The event kicks off a month-long series of free musical shows dubbed the “Cocoa Concerts.” The events will occur through the holiday season on Fridays, Dec. 6, 13 and 20.

On Thursday, the award-winning Grand Arts Chamber Singers, a group of student performers from Ramon C. Cortines School of Visual and Performing Art, will sing holiday tunes, while the Beverly Belles will belt out a capella versions of holiday staples. In addition, the Toy Soldiers Drumline will provide the rhythm for the evening.

On Dec. 2, the Music Center and Los Angeles County will flip the switch on its towering Christmas Tree. Located on the Music Center’s recently renovated plaza at 135 N. Grand Ave., the free event will feature performances by the Brass Pacifica, as well as chorale performances from a local student choir.

Los Angeles County Fifth District Supervisor Kathryn Barger and other civic leaders are slated to be in attendance and hot cocoa will be served to help fight off the biting Downtown cold. The event begins at 5 p.m. and is expected to take one hour.

Not exactly a tree lighting, but sticking with the light motif, the Music Center will also launch the second annual Winter Glow event at Grand Park and the Music Center Plaza on Dec. 6.

The free nighttime public display features light installations and displays from Los Angeles-based artists, including Cassandra Carillo, Carlos G. Rodas and Aphidoidea.

Arts and Entertainment

With so many different artistic organizations calling Downtown Los Angeles home, it not surprising that there are plenty of performances and concerts to help celebrate the holiday season.

A majority of the holiday performances are centered at the Music Center, and its quartet of world-class venues. On Dec. 7 and 14, the Los Angeles Master Chorale is hosting its annual selection of holiday carols and songs Festival of Carols, this year, conducted by Swan Family Artist-in-Residence Eric Whitacre.

The two-day concert will feature performances of traditional carols and songs like “Silent Night” and a sing-a-long version of “Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer.” The evening will conclude with a world premiere of Whitacre’s “The Gift of the Magi.”

Just down Bunker Hill on Dec. 7 is Pershing Square’s Winter Holiday Festival. Hosted by the Department of Recreation and Parks, the event is about as close to a white Christmas as you will get in Downtown. The event features tons of real snow for sledding, as well a photo opts with Santa and other entertainment options.

The event does not include entry to the Pershing Square ice rink.

Head to the Walt Disney Concert Hall on Dec. 22 to help Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye and Rosemary Clooney belt out those familiar holiday songs during a screening of White Christmas. There are two screening times, at 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. and early arrivals can head to BP Hall to sing along with carolers and enjoy complimentary hot cocoa.

The biggest events occur the week of Christmas. On Dec. 21 at 11:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m., the Walt Disney Concert Hall will host the Holiday Sing-Along. Hundreds of revelers are expected to participate alongside the Angeles Chorale, jazz combo and the concert hall’s massive organ.

On Christmas Eve the Music Center will host the 60th annual L.A. County Holiday Celebration at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. The county’s largest holiday celebration, the event will feature performances from more than 20 L.A.-based artists, including dancers, singers and music ensembles.

The three-hour show begins at 3 p.m., but this year the Music Center is trying something a little different with Plaza Wonderland at the Music Center Plaza, also on Christmas Eve. Starting at noon and running through the Holiday Celebration performance, the event will feature free games, movie screenings and art-making classes for all ages. It will also include a market place for last minute gift ideas.

sthomas@timespublications.com.