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Los Angeles is Perfect for Alternative Thanksgiving

Have a mammoth time at La Brea Tar Pits. (Wikimedia Commons)

There’s nothing fun about sitting around with a belly distended and sore from overindulging on turkey, mashed potatoes and the other traditional Thanksgiving food. It’s a ritual that I’ve grown to like less every year. A few years ago, I stumbled on a great “alternative Thanksgiving” idea:

Go to Los Angeles.

My wife wanted to visit her sister, who was attending Cal Arts in the Los Angeles area. We arrived to find the city virtually abandoned. I guess all the transplants who moved to the area seeking fame and fortune fled back to their ancestral homes for turkey and stuffing.

The infamous LA traffic? Virtually non-existent. Long lines? Nope, none of those either.

That makes Thanksgiving weekend the perfect time to explore LA. And you won’t even have to do dishes.

So what’s there to do? Plenty, even beyond the beach and the theme parks. Despite the holiday, you’ll find plenty of open businesses, restaurants and attractions. Here are a few off-beat ideas to get you started:

La Brea Tar Pits

Los Angeles is a sprawling mass of concrete. But not at La Brea Tar Pits. Scientists are still finding the remains of saber-toothed cats, sloths, turtles and other creatures in the oozing, bubbling muck. According to written records dating to the 1700s, the tar would actually gush like a geyser at times. I loved seeing a reminder that the earth is still living and breathing, even in the heart of a megalopolis like Los Angeles. Be sure to check out the Page Museum to get a better look at this truly bizarre site.

Check out Hollywood landmarks like the Whisky a Go-Go while you stroll the Sunset Strip. (Photo by Kjetil Ree)

Cruise the Sunset Strip

I don’t think anyone has ever calculated where you can find the greatest number of guitar shops per capita in the world. If it ever happens, I imagine that Hollywood’s Sunset Strip will take the top honor. You have many of the big companies like Guitar Center, Carvin and Mesa-Boogie setting up retail shops – but alongside them, you’ll also find mom-and-pop shops offering collectibles and rarities. If you’re going to buy, though, be sure you truly know your stuff. Some of the locally owned places also had a high degree of hucksterism at work. I could easily see cobbled-together Frankenguitars getting sold as valued classics.

And let’s not forget: Hollywood (the Walk of Fame and the Sunset Strip, in particular) is to people watchers what the Serengeti is to wildlife photographers. World-class fun, even on a light weekend!

Create Your Own Movie Crawl

If you watch a lot of movies, you’ve already seen a lot of Los Angeles. If you have a favorite film set there, do a little detective work and try finding as many of the locations as possible. For me, a few days of tracking down locations from The Big Lebowski and Pulp Fiction would be a lot of fun. And certainly better than lolling in a turkey-induced tryptophan coma.

So break the mold this Thanksgiving. Say no to gorging yourself on turkey and watching football. Say yes to visiting an iconic city at its best without all the crowds, traffic and summer heat. Even if your not a heavy metal geology lover who quotes The Big Lebowksi at length, you can find some fun to suit your tastes in Los Angeles – especially when it’s half-abandoned.

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