Los Angeles, California, doesn't have that many rainy days in the year, but when it does pour down, it's a good idea to stay off the streets and freeways and find something to do near where you are. Even visitors from wetter areas are unprepared for how slick the dusty roads get when it rains. If possible, use the Metro or some other public transportation to get across town on a damp day.
If inclement weather hits, there are various interesting things to do in L.A. to keep the fun going, like choosing from more than 250 diverse museums or spending the day getting a pedicure and a facial at the spa. Or you may want to take the kids to try out an indoor electric go-kart, or stroll around big shopping malls and the colorful, historic farmers market.
This one is a no-brainer for most people. Even those who don't naturally gravitate to museums will most likely find a way to entertain themselves, with over 250 museums to choose from. The LA museums cover everything from art and history to planes, trains, and cars, and from police memorabilia and martial arts to death and the loss of relationships, to name a few. There are also many great museums that can keep the kids engaged for the entire day.
Your photos from the bus or van won't be as pretty as on a sunny day, but if you have a limited amount of time in town, it's a good way to get an overview of the city or see some celebrity homes. You can kill a few hours, learn some interesting L.A. history, and stay dry, as long as you don't take an open-top tour.
Esotouric has some unique options that take place rain or shine via enclosed buses: Try the True Crime tour to hear about the gory and passionate history of some Downtown L.A. hotels and businesses.
Relax With a Spa Day
The closest thing to a destination spa in the L.A. area bordering Ventura County is at the Four Seasons Westlake Village, where you can easily spend an entire day or week being pampered with an outdoor serenity pool, numerous hot tubs, and views of the Santa Monica Mountains in the background.
But some of the top L.A. luxury hotels around the city also have lovely spas onsite, or relationships with nearby day spas. Treat yourself to a massage, manicure, pedicure, facial, or any of the other healing and pampering modalities, or just enjoy the hot tub, sauna, or steam room. You'll feel much more like you've been on vacation than when you are running around the city full force. Also, duos seeking relaxation can check out the Top Couples Spas in LA.
You can see a movie anywhere, so it may not be something you want to normally do on vacation. However, watching a family film at the classic Disney's El Capitan Theatre in Hollywood accompanied by pre-show music on the 1920s "Mighty Wurlitzer" organ, live character visits, and prop exhibits is something special and is a great way to spend a couple of rainy hours with kids. You can extend the time with ice cream, coffee, and shopping for Disney gifts and sweet treats at the Ghirardelli Soda Fountain & Chocolate Shop next door.
Most of L.A.'s top shopping locations have lifted the roof to become outdoor centers, but there are still some indoor malls where you can shop 'til you drop without exposure to the elements. The Beverly Center in West Los Angeles is the place to go for brand name shopping at more than 150 stores. Those closer to the Hermosa Beach and Manhattan Beach area can find about 200 stores and numerous food courts at the Del Amo Fashion Center in Torrance.
The Original Farmers Market is a popular indoor tourist attraction and landmark open every day in the Fairfax District on the west side of Hollywood. Have a blast checking out the produce vendors, butchers, gift shops, food stands with specialties from global hot sauces to Traditional Argentine empanadas, and sit-down restaurants. You can even take a food tour there. If you are in the Downtown L.A. area, Grand Central Market is another gathering of indoor vendors.
If it's just an ordinary rainy day and not a torrential downpour, it's actually a good time to visit Disneyland and the adjacent Disney California Adventure in Anaheim, so grab a rain poncho and go have some fun. You and the kids can try the enclosed rides without standing in long lines. Open-air coasters will be closed, but since you won't waste a lot of time waiting, you'll be able to see most of the shows and do all of the many indoor rides at both parks in one day.
Peruse a Bookstore
The City of Angels is home to some chain and independent bookstores that will keep you cozy on a damp day. Near the beach, you'll find Barnes and Noble in Marina del Rey's Villa Marina Marketplace Mall, Manhattan Gateway Shopping Center in Manhattan Beach, and the Del Amo Fashion Center in Torrance. Further inland there are Barnes and Noble stores at Bookstar in Studio City and in The Grove at Farmers Market.
Independent sellers like Book Soup—on the Sunset Strip portion of Sunset Boulevard famous for its nightlife—has been a West Hollywood landmark since 1975, with 60,000 titles to explore.
The Last Bookstore in Downtown L.A. is the biggest used and new book and record store in the state, with over 250,000 titles on two floors.
Kart Racing at MB2 Raceway lets you and the family hit the track indoors in electric karts specially made in Italy which are said to limit toxic emissions. Speed demons can test out their track skills at locations in Sylmar or Thousand Oaks. Junior and adult karts are available; it is recommended to review age and height requirements before heading out.
Roller skating, said to have started in 1743, had one of its peaks in the early 1960s and 1970s when rinks with disco music were in style. If you're feeling nostalgic or would like an aerobic workout, delve into this uniquely fun thing to do indoors.
World on Wheels in L.A.'s Midtown Shopping Center (open every day but Monday) offers skate lessons on Saturday mornings for all ages, followed by open skate times during the day and night.
In Glendale, Moonlight Rollerway is the place to go for some skating and to see where many movies, TV shows, and music videos were filmed. Open daily, Moonlight Rollerway has kids' lessons and skate sessions on Saturday mornings; all ages can skate on Saturday and Sunday afternoons and evenings.
These Hands Maker's Collective is a not-for-profit that offers workshops in a variety of creative endeavors taught by artists from around the world—a perfect activity for a wet day. You can learn everything from making silver or woven earrings to building a stained glass wall hanging or even designing sustainable baskets. The collective is located on Abbot Kinney Boulevard, a trendy mile of galleries, shops, and restaurants in bohemian Venice Beach.
Experience Classic TV at the Paley Center for Media
The Paley Center for Media (open Wednesday through Sunday) is a dream come true for classic TV fans. This site in Beverly Hills is filled with video footage of more than 150,000 television shows, commercials, and radio programs, plus costumes, memorabilia exhibits, set pieces, and more. You can spend hours inside watching classic television, from 1980s sitcoms to older black and white soap operas. The center also offers panel discussions with TV actors, as well as guided tours, which you can attend in person or watch online.
Warm up With a Cooking Class
Food lovers and novices can turn a gloomy day into a cheery and delicious one by letting the experts teach them a few new culinary skills.
Hipcooks offers hands-on, engaging classes for all levels—with meals centering around fresh, healthy, local and organic foods—in three L.A. locations. Those in West L.A. can head to South Robertson Boulevard a bit north of the 10 freeway. In East L.A., Hipcooks is at The Brewery Artist Lofts near Downtown L.A., and a third location is in Woodland Hills in the San Fernando Valley.
Those interested in Japanese food and culture can contact Foodstory in Downtown L.A. Classes cover topics such as how to make ramen, noodles, or sushi; attendees can also go on a tour of the downtown wholesale fish market and cook Japanese-style fish afterward.
Explore City Hall Downtown
If you are looking to stay dry during regular business hours, drop by Los Angeles City Hall—a 452-foot (138-meter) tower built in 1928 and designated a Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument in 1976—located in Downtown's Civic Center district. Check out the dome from the third and fourth floor, and if the rain is light, you may want to explore panoramic views of downtown from the open-air 27th-floor observation deck that's also free to visit.
On weekdays, the Department of Cultural Affairs' Bridge Gallery at City Hall showcases art created by youth and adults in various local creative programs, or exhibits related to the city's diverse themed Heritage Month Celebrations.
As one of the country's most ethnically diverse cities, L.A. is home to residents who speak about 225 different languages, and the area offers an abundance of global dining options. From Ethiopian to Thai to Mexican and Lebanese cuisine, eating out is an enjoyable activity for all ages and palates in any type of weather.
While going to a restaurant in L.A. may cost more than in other cities, you can find creative, worldly flavors that make an outing worth every penny. L.A. even has fusion tacos: Anyone curious about Korean-Mexican food can try a quesadilla with kimchee (spicy fermented Korean cabbage). For a taste of something French-Mexican, vegetarians may enjoy items like carrot mole (a traditional Mexican sauce with fruit, spices, and more) enchiladas.
Touring neighborhoods such as Little Armenia, Chinatown, Little Bangladesh, and others is an additional fun adventure for locals and visitors.