By: Scott S. Smith, Sandra Wells and Christian Smith

November is the perfect time to eat in or out with family and friends, focus on what you are grateful for, and help the less fortunate. Thanksgiving is also the biggest travel holiday of the year, so visitors to SoCal from all over the world have an opportunity to spend a day or few enjoying the unique things to do that we often take for granted, as this column has been highlighting.

The Hollywood Christmas Parade
occurs around Thanksgiving and the organization has activities to raise funds for the Marine Toys for Tots. In 2022, the Grand Marshal was Danny Trejo, the colorful actor and entrepreneur. There are other celebrities in cars and on floats, equestrian groups, dancers and marching bands from around the country, humorous street performers, and larger-than-life character balloons (see photo of the U.S. Army’s last year). The 91st anniversary parade in 2023 will be popular, so arrive early to find a place to park and expect to walk a few blocks (it starts at the Chinese Theater at Hollywood Blvd. and Orange Dr. and goes east to Vine, south to Sunset, and west to Orange).

Restaurants are Open (or Pick Up From Faves and Not Have to Cook)
A surprising number of restaurants are open on this holiday, including Du-par’s at the Original Farmer’s Market in Hollywood, the Fairmont Miramar Hotel in Santa Monica, Geoffrey’s Malibu, and the Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel:

For those of us who prefer a turkeyless dinner, we reviewed these plant-based local eateries:
Hart House in Hollywood, University Park South near USC, Westchester, and Monrovia (so far). Actor and comedian Kevin Hart has created a vegan fast-food chain with a menu of items that taste incredibly better than what passes for food elsewhere and is healthier, harmless to animals, and kinder to the planet (see photo). You can eat your Hart out with generous servings at very reasonable prices. We were delighted by the Deluxe Hot N Crispy Chick’n Sandwich; the Double Burg’r with two patties, grilled onions, lettuce, American-style plant cheese, and the Signature sauce; and the BBQ Burg’r (not listed on the menu when we were there). The biggest surprises were the high-quality of the fries and the Kale Crunch Salad (which did not sound tasty, but it). We also enjoyed the sodas and shakes and both types of Chick’n nuggets dipped in the other sauces: hunny mustard, creamy buffalo, smokey BBQ, sweet heat, and creamy ranch. Fernando manages an efficient and friendly staff for a thoroughly enjoyable experience (and natch you can take out everything).

Veggie Grill
pioneered plant-based fast food and now has locations in Hollywood, L.A. Farmer’s Market, UCLA, Santa Monica, El Segundo, Torrance, Long Beach, Encino, Toluca Lake, Pasadena, Tustin, Laguna Niguel, and Carlsbad. What we enjoyed most on their extensive menu during our most recent visit were the Loaded Burrito, Spicy Crab Cake Sandwich, BLT Avocado Croissant, and Southwestern Nachos (with Tex-Mex taco “meat”).

Stuff I Eat in Inglewood offers “vegan soul food” and was very popular last Thanksgiving for dining in and pick-up in an area not known for healthy cuisine of any type, so you need to pre-order to beat the crowd. It offers cooked and raw holiday meals that draw rave reviews for dishes like barbeque tofu, mashed potatoes with animal-free gravy, cornbread stuffing, greens, and sweet potato pie (see photo). They can be prepared oil-free and gluten-free, too.

Volunteer Opportunities During the Holidays
In downtown Los Angeles there are, of course, an overwhelming number of homeless, especially around Skid Row, and some of the best-regarded nonprofits that help them year-round especially need volunteers in November and December, when demand skyrockets. These include the Midnight Mission,
Union Rescue Mission,
Fred Jordan Mission, and Los Angeles Mission

Other areas:
Project Angel Food is well-known for providing food daily to 2,500 of the critically ill. On Thanksgiving 2022, Mayor Eric Garcetti and celebrities such as Melissa Rivers and “Weird Al” Yankovic joined volunteers to distribute 7,400 meals to the seriously ill and housing-insecure people throughout L.A. County.

Food on Foot distributes meals, clothing, and other essential supplies to low-income neighbors in Hollywood every Sunday, including holidays, and kids 6-17 can participate if they sign up online and are accompanied by a supervising adult.

Gobble Gobble Give has a widespread variety of opportunities to help feed the needy at Thanksgiving (see photo), most often in Santa Monica, downtown L.A., and Hollywood (where last year they partnered with the Hollywood Food Coalition to distribute food boxes, hygiene kits, and other essentials at the Blessed Sacrament Church and you can also donate everything from stuffing mix to milk).

Pasadena’s Union Station Homeless Services needs help year-round with everything from food prep to providing essential ingredients for daily meals or shelf-stable emergency food packs.

Los Angeles Regional Food Bank needs help with collecting food, sorting, and boxing it for distribution through 600 partners to some of the two million people who suffer from food insecurity in L.A. County. organizes volunteers for numerous causes all over, including thousands who get involved for Thanksgiving events around SoCal.

Celebrate the Holidays by Rescuing a Lost Pet
The local Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals aka SPCA has two pet adoption centers (see cat photo), one in Hawthorne and the other in Long Beach (as well as a pet supply marketplace there) It also provides support to no-kill shelters and has dog-training classes.
Animal Care L.A. County has care and control centers outside the City of L.A., including Agoura, Baldwin Park, Carson, Castaic, Downey, Lancaster, and Palmdale (dog photo is from the Carson center by Sophie Gamand). It says that their live release rate is 68% for cats and 82% for dogs out of a total intake in 2022 of 27,500, but that “the majority of euthanasia cases are either medically necessary or for public safety issues.”