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Culture, Things To Do

A Checklist of Free Things To Do This Summer in Los Angeles [2022]

June 8, 2022 by Brian Champlin
Korean Friendship Bell
Korean Friendship Bell in San Pedro. Photo by Christina Champlin.

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.

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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

Photo via Grand Performances

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

Echo Park lotus flowers
Echo Park Lake lotus flowers. Photo by Brian Champlin / We Like L.A.

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

From 2015 ISC production of Romeo & Juliet in Griffith Park. Photo by Reynaldo Macias Photography.

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

Inside the Wayfarers Chapel. Photo by Christina Champlin

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:

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Walk a New Neighborhood

Morning on the L.A. River Path near Frogtown. Jan. 22, 2022. Photo by Brian Champlin.

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:

Go to a Free Museum

Interior of The Broad. Photo by Christina Champlin / We Like L.A.

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

Moonlight Movies
Image via Alfredos’ Beach Club

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:

Take a Free Tour

The Jet Propulsion Laboratory Visitor Center. Photo by Brian Champlin

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:

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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:


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