There are two things I’m certain about our readership at this very moment. First, the inflation pain is absolutely real for many of you and there is a desire, if not outright need, to cut back on expenses. Second, despite the fact that we are still not living in a Covid-free world, there is a ton of pent up energy to go out, socialize, and generally do stuff. But that makes you wonder, right? How do you reconcile these two seemingly opposing inclinations? This is why our blog exists.
Free things to do in Los Angeles are my bread and butter. For better or worse, this is where my expertise is grounded, and over the past weeks I’ve been gathering ideas, saving emails, and bookmarking social media posts. The list below represents the culmination of my brainstorm, arranged as a checklist of different “buckets” covering more or less all the ideas I have to offer.
Is it comprehensive? Meh, I don’t think Los Angeles and comprehensive belong in the same sentence. But there is a lot. And I’ll promise you that if you manage to check off one item in each of the buckets outlined below over the course of the next few months, you’ll feel like you really scratched that social itch and you spent your budget wisely.
Doesn’t sound like a bad summer, eh? Let’s get it started.
Enjoy a Free Concert and/or Dance Party
For the first time in more two years the outdoor music and dance series scene in L.A. is jam packed with free admission favorites. Those freebies include:
- LA Plaza de Cultura y Artes’ Summer of Salsa concerts pop up one Friday per month through September.
- Music Center Dance’s DTLA has free, all-ages Friday dance parties and instruction on most (but not all) Fridays through September 2.
- KCRW Summer Nights has 15 free events featuring live music and/or DJ sets from July 7 through September 29.
- Off the 405, The Getty’s signature outdoor music program, has four more dates scheduled for this summer: June 18, July 9, July 23, August 27.
- Skirball Cultural Center brings back its Sunset Concerts series on Thursdays from July 21 through August 25.
- Jazz at LACMA offers free, weekly Friday nights concerts through November at Smidt Welcome Plaza on the campus of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.
- Levitt Pavilion Concerts is hosting 50 (fifty!) different shows at MacArthur Park on weekend dates from June 18 through September 4.
- Grand Performances, the signature free summer music series at California Plaza, will host free shows on Saturdays now through August 25.
- Manhattan Beach Concerts runs every Sunday at Polliwog Park from July 3 to September 4.
- Valley Cultural Center will host free weekly music concerts at Warner Ranch Park on (almost) every Sunday from June 19 through August 28.
Attend a Free Festival
Assuming no major Covid spike (knock on wood), I anticipate that even more cultural programming will be announced as we get deeper into the summer, but here are a few big festival-style events you might want to save the date for:
- This weekend is LA Pride, and day two (June 12) features the 52nd annual parade that will include over 130 parade floats and thousands of onlookers.
- The Pasadena Chalk Festival brings together over 500 artists for a two-day event held on Father’s Day weekend (June 18-19) in Old Pasadena.
- Pier 360 is a two-day, all-ages, free festival hosted at the Santa Monica Pier featuring ocean sports competitions, interactive games, a beer garden, a “museum of beach life,” and plenty of live music on both days.
- Grand Park’s 4th of July Block Party will draw thousands of Angelenos to DTLA for an evening of family-friendly entertainment capped by a huge fireworks show.
- The Lotus Festival is back at Echo Park Lake on July 9-10 for its 41st annual celebrating of Asian Pacific Culture. Expect food trucks, onsite art installations, dragon boat races, and family friendly entertainment.
- Getty 25 is a series of pop-up community festivals celebrating the 25th anniversary of the museum. Upcoming dates include pop-ups in Long Beach, Pacoima, Koreatown, Wilmington, Reseda, El Monte, Crenshaw, and Watts.
Take in Some Free Live Theater
Pre-pandemic, annual Shakespeare festivals were a tradition I always looked forward to, and the two biggies are back in full swing for 2022.
The Independent Shakespeare Co.’s annual free Griffith Park Shakespeare Festival will include productions of Franicis Beaumont’s Knight of the Burning Pestle and Shakespeare’s Macbeth, to be held on Wednesdays through Sundays starting July 2 and ending on September 4. Because space is limited space, registration will be required for all performances. Free registration to all Festival dates will open on Friday, June 24. Seating is General Admission on the grass, first come, first served.
Alternatively, Shakespeare By the Sea is celebrating its 25th season with productions of Much Ado About Nothing and Romeo & Juliet, to be held at over a dozen locations throughout the SoCal area from June 30 through August 6.
Although neither of the above charges to attend, I strongly recommend a donation if you’re able.
Photograph an L.A. Landmark
Sometimes the start of a good adventure is just picking up your camera and heading to a place with a view. If you’ve read this blog long enough, you don’t need too much of a refresher on all the well-trodden photo spots in Los Angeles, but here are five quick ideas:
- Peep the Korean Friendship Bell then take a walk along the bluff at Point Fermin Park.
- Walk the grounds at the Wayfarer’s Chapel then scoot up Pacific Coast Highway to visit the Point Vicente Interpretive Center.
- Visit the exterior garden of the Greystone Mansion then drive over the Spadena House (Witches House) for a second photo op.
- Explore the Old L.A. Zoo then take a hike in Griffith Park.
- Take a lap around the Hollywood Reservoir then drive (or even walk) up to Lake Hollywood Park for a selfie with the Hollywood Sign in the background.
Walk a New Neighborhood
My 2022 L.A. On Foot series has now covered eight walks in Los Angeles. Their will be more coming as the summer progresses (I promise!), but here are a couple of my favorites so far:
- A 3.1-mile walk in Culver City that crosses Ballona Creek, Downtown Culver City, and runs past The Hobbit House.
- A 2.4-mile walk in Frogtown (Elysian Valley) that guides you along the L.A. River Path where numerous eateries are located.
- A 2.8-mile walk that goes up the Santa Monica Stairs, over to Palisades Park, across PCH, then along the boardwalk past the Annenberg Beach House.
Go to a Free Museum
You didn’t think I was going to make this checklist without glossing my free museum guide. As I said in that post, there are dozens of institutions in L.A. County that offer either free admission or have special free admission days. My advice: Scout the guide, pick a place you’ve never been, and put it on your summer checklist.
Catch a Free Outdoor Movie
Outdoor movie screening series in Los Angeles are ubiquitous. And while there are plenty of options that will charge you $20-$30 for a spot on the lawn, there are far fewer that will let you in for free. Here are some options:
- Moonlight Movies on The Beach has a huge slate of free movies screenings running on select Tuesday and Thursdays from June 21 to August 18, all spread over three locations in Long Beach.
- Movies Under The Stars will screen one movie every Friday in July in the outdoor space at One Colorado in Old Pasadena.
- The Audubon Center at Debs Park has announced they are hosting Family Movie Nights throughout the summer, but so far only one date (Our Great Parks: A World of Wonder on June 24) has been announced.
- Los Angeles County’s Parks After Dark event series will bring movie nights throughout June, July and August to 30+ parks throughout L.A. County.
- PCH Movies and Moonlight brings outdoor movie nights to the 2nd & PCH (Long Beach) shopping plaza on Fridays in July and August.
- The Valley Cultural Foundation will host a series of family-friendly movies on Saturdays in August.
- The Santa Monica Mountains Fund has two dates set for its Silents Under The Stars series at Paramount Ranch: Speedy on July 17 and Beverly of Graustark on August 14
Take a Free Tour
Sometimes the best way to get to know a subject is to have someone else show you the way. And if they do it for free? All the better. Some ideas:
- The Jet Propulsion Laboratory has resumed its Visitor Day Tours (though this can be a tough ticket to reserve and you’ll have to check back often).
- Metro Art is again doing free art and architecture tours at Union Station.
- The Annenberg Beach House offer free docent-led tours of the Marion Davies Guest House.
- Every second Saturday of the month, California African American Museum offers free in-depth tours of selected exhibitions.
- The Hammer Museum regularly hosts free weekly lunchtime art tours and curator walk-throughs.
Explore a Night Market (with free admission)
Walk. Talk. Explore. Eat… maybe? The good thing is admission is free so if nothing else than these spots make for some good atmosphere on date night:
- The Culver City Arts District Night Market pops up at Ivy Station every second Friday of the month.
- Vegan Playground comes to Boomtown Brewery every Wednesday and Party Beer Co. in West Adams on Fridays.
- The Thursday Night Market runs weekly in Downtown Long Beach.
- 818 Night Market runs every second and fourth Saturday in Mission Hills.
- San Fernando Outdoor Market runs one Saturday per month.
- Night Market at the Bungalow runs every Thursday at 5 p.m. in Santa Monica.
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