Summer in Los Angeles is a playground, and the options are as enticing and varied as you remember from the first time you scampered off to recess. Of course there is one key difference. The adult version of monkey bars and teeter-totters cost money. Sometimes lots of money. Ticket fees, admission fares, and parking costs add up quick. And that’s not even taking into consideration how valuable your time is. But that’s where this list comes in!
My goal here is two-fold: First, to inspire you to learn about and/or try new local gems you hadn’t previously known about. Secondly, I just want to flat-out save you money. That’s it.
As in past editions of the big ‘Free & Fun’ list, how you use it is up to you. You may want to make this your master bucket list for the summer, or perhaps refer to it on a random Sunday when you’ve got nothing better to do.
Either way, I hope it’s helpful and sparks a few new adventures in the city of angels. Enjoy.
[FOR MORE: Be sure to join our email newsletter to get updates on all the latest to-dos in L.A.]
1. Enjoy the 37th Annual Lotus Festival
The lotus bloom at Echo Park Lake is expected to be one of the best in years, and the The 37th annual Lotus Festival is a perfect excuse to check it out for yourself. The two-day fest will include live entertainment, arts and crafts, a boat race, an asian food court, and of course and plenty of opportunities to enjoy the blooming flowers on the lake. -> More information
2. Relive the 90’s at the DT Stage Concert Series at Pershing Square
Pershing Square will be one of the sneaky-best places in L.A. to find entertainment on the house during the months of July and August. Some of the performers include The Wallflowers, the B-52s, and Toad the Wet Sprocket. If you’re looking a bit of 90’s nostalgia, there might not be a better option this summer in L.A. -> More information
3. Enjoy the Hollywood Bowl During the Day
The Hollywood Bowl isn’t just the largest natural outdoor amphitheater in the United States, it’s also a public park with 14 picnic areas that also includes a free museum you can visit during the day. If you get lucky (or plan ahead), you might even be able to enjoy the LA Philharmonic rehearsing for an evening performance, all at no cost! -> More information
4. Hike to Amir’s Garden
Amir’s Garden is pseudo hidden oasis situated smack dab in the middle of Griffith Park. A volunteer named Amir Dialameh cultivated the garden (with permission from the city) for almost 30 years, and the location continues to be fully cared for by volunteers to this day. The 5-acre tree-topped sanctuary contains dozens of species of plants and trees along with benches, nooks, and terraces that make it feel like one of the most special places in the entire city, and totally worthy of a summer morning hike. -> More information
5. Hike with Ranger Ernie’s One Last Time
Ranger Ernie Ybarra has been leading free guided hikes of various Griffith Park trails for more than a decade. Over the past few years after discovering the Ranger hikes I have gotten to know Ernie and in the process, come to appreciate his service as one of the most valuable in the entire city. Sunday, July 16 will be Ernie’s final hike before retirement, a moderate 6-mile jaunt to Bill Eckert Trail. -> More information
6. Climb the Stairs at the Baldwin Park Scenic Overlook
The Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook is a 58-acre park along Jefferson Blvd just southeast of Downtown Culver City. The overlook is known for one of the most picturesque (and difficult) stair climbs in the city. It’s a roughly 282-step straight shot to the top, which ascends in just under a fifth of a mile. Combined with the surrounding switchback trail, it’s about 1.25 miles total, and makes for a great morning workout. On a clear day, the views from the top of the hill are great too! -> More information
7. Go Back in Time at the Valley Relics Museum
Every Saturday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. the Valley Relics Museum opens its doors to offer a glimpse into the pop-culture past of the San Fernando Valley. The museum is a potpourri of neon signs, vintage cars, historical documents, clothing, menus, and other artifacts, all melding together to help illuminate the unique history of this thing we call ‘The Valley’. -> More information
8. Be a Guest of the Beta Main Museum
The Main Museum, still under construction as of June 2017, is a brand new artistic space being developed in Downtown Los Angeles that will, once finished, feature exhibition galleries, a rooftop plaza completed with an amphitheater and cafe, studios for artists, and even a restaurant. Until then, visitors can check out the Beta Main, a preview version of the space that includes featured exhibitions as well as public programs, including live readings, rehearsals, and workshops. Open Wednesday through Sunday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. -> More information
9. Get to know L.A. on Foot at a CicLAvia
CicLAvia represents an open-streets initiative to connect angelenos with the neighborhoods they work, live and play in. A couple times a year the organizers of CicLAvia work with these neighborhoods to coordinate a day when a stretch of roadway normally dominated by cars is closed off from auto traffic, thereby opening it up cyclists and pedestrians. The result is tens of thousands of local citizens experiencing Los Angeles like never before. The next edition is scheduled for August 2017 in San Pedro.
10. Ponder the Stars at All Space Considered
Every first Friday the senior staff at the Griffith Observatory host a public panel and forum where they discuss and explain the latest in developments in space exploration and astronomical phenomena. The free monthly event tends to fill up fast, so be sure to get there about 30 – 45 minutes if you want to secure a spot. Something to be aware: The Observatory has new paid parking rates. You’ll have to pay $4 an hour if you park in the main lot or along West Observatory Road . If you want free parking you can opt to park further down the hill and walk up, or park and ride near one of the designated dash buses within the park. -> More information
11. Enjoy a Free Concert at Grand Performances
Grand Performances has a staple of free summer events in L.A. for more than thirty years, and the 2017 edition offers not only a diverse lineup of world music performers, but also a series of beer pairing events in association with Angel City Brewery. -> More information.
12. Plan a Day to Check out The Broad
Built in 2015, the 120,000 square foot gallery space of The Broad Museum contains more than 2,000 works spread over two floors, including Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Mirrored Room. Advance reservation is required, and capacity for the Infinity Room is limited! -> More information
13. Head to the Arts District to see Hauser & Wirth
Hauser & Wirth, the new, massive gallery space that opened in the Arts District in 2016, has closed their galleries for the month of June while new works are installed. On July 1 a trio of new exhibits will open to the public : Takesada Matsutani, Monika Sosnowska, and Paul McCarthy. WS Spinoffs, Wood Statues, Brown Rothkos. The opening night will feature a public reception from 6 to 9 p.m. Regular gallery resume thereafter, Wednesday to Sunday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. -> More information
14. Boogie Down at Free Dance/DJ Nights at Grand Park
The Music Center’s Dance DTLA returns for 13 weeks of free dance parties, this year taking place at Grand park. The events are divided into two distinct series. Dance Downtown takes places on alternating Friday nights from 7 to 11 p.m starting on June 23. DJ Nights runs every other Friday from 9 to midnight starting June 30.
15. Chill Out at Sunday Sessions in Grand Park
One Sunday per month Grand Park will offer a free dance party to pay tribute to L.A.’s house music scene. Bring a few dollars and a valid I.D. you can also check out the 21+ cocktail garden. -> More information
16. Enjoy the Night at the LA Plaza de Cultura y Artes Summer Film Series
LA Plaza de Cultura y Artes is hosting four free film screenings over the course of the summer and early fall. The lineup features Boulevard Nights on June 24, Frida on July 29, Blood In, Blood Out on August 19, and La Bamba on October 14. -> More information
17. Cruise the Downtown Art Walk
Every second Thursday of the month see downtown Los Angeles come alive in a vibrant blend of art, community, culture and food known as the DTLA Art Walk. If you’re like me, you might even become part of the art itself (watch below!).
18. Soak in the Vibes at the Venice Beach Music Festival
The Venice Beach Music Festival is full day of free/public entertainment at Windward Plaza Park taking place this August 25. While you’re in the area, I also recommend walking a few blocks to checking out the Venice Canals (assuming you’ve never been).
19. Make a Night of it at the Metro Art Summer Series at Union Station
Metro Arts has a killer series of summer programming scheduled for Union Station, including a summer train fest on July 15, a dance night featuring the Los Angeles salsa group Rumbankete, and an August 25 edition of KCRW Summer Nights.
20. Get Down at Echo Park Rising
Every August the EPR music festival brings a madhouse of free music to the east side, with multiple stages and activities on Sunset Blvd, Glendale Blvd, Alvarado Avenue and Echo Park Avenue. -> More information
21. See Sunset Concert at Skirball
The Skirball Culutral Center’s free sunset concert series runs on Thursdays from July 27 through August 31. Just remember parking is $10 so carpooling or a ride-share is recommended. -> More information
22. Hike to the Hollywood Sign
You can get there via Bronson Canyon like we did, or take one of several other routes, although as of the writing of this post I think the Beachwood Canyon access point is closed off. If the sign doesn’t interest you, we’ve also documented 9 other great hikes around L.A. with NO trail fees and NO parking costs. Enjoy!
23. Take Advantage of a Free Barnsdall Park Art Workshop
Every Sunday kids and families can enjoy free 2-hour arts and education workshops courtesy the folks over at Barnsdall Park.
24. Go for a Garden Walk at Greystone Mansion
The park and exterior garden of the Greystone Mansion provide one of the most gorgeous and peaceful spots in the entire city. Free parking, but it tends to get a bit more crowded on weekends.
25. Enjoy the Free Los Angeles Levitt Pavilion Concert Series
Now in its 10th year, the free concert series at Los Angeles Levitt Pavilion will bring 50 free shows to MacArthur Park from June 17 through July 29. -> More information
26. Spend an Evening at The Silver Lake Picture Show
The Silver Lake Picture Show series closes off Sunset Triangle Square to screen outdoor movies every other Thursday during the summer. Screenings are preceded by performances by live bands and short films produced by local filmmakers. Here’s a link to the 2017 schedule.
27. Watch the Planes of LAX at Clutter’s Park
The best place to watch plans take off the runway from LAX.
28. Frolic at a Free First Friday
Whether it’s going to an art walk, sampling delicious food trucks or checking out a free night at a museum, first Friday events (including in Venice Beach and Bixby Knolls in Long Beach) are a great way to connect to your local community and explore an area you’ve never been to.
29. Find More Free Art Galleries
If you’re looking for more gratis art gallery experiences, we’ve complied a handy list of 19 Awesome L.A. Art Galleries Every Angeleno Can Explore For Free.
30. Enjoy Free Shakespeare in the Park (or By The Sea)
There is plenty of free/donation-based Shakespeare to be found during Los Angeles in the summer. The Independent Shakespeare Co. will be perform runs of Measure for Measure and The Two Gentlemen of Verona this summer while Shakespeare By the Sea will have two featured productions: The Taming of the Shrew and Macbeth. Schedules for both can be found here.
31. Take a Tour of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory
The Jet Propulsion Laboratory (or JPL) is a federally funded research and development center and NASA field center located in La Cañada Flintridge, just northwest of Pasadena. JPL offers weekly tours (either Monday or Wednesday on an alternating basis) that you have to book in advance online. As of the writing of this post the first available tour for small visitors group sizes (1-10) is mid August. Even if you can’t book it for the summer, a JPL is a must-experience tour whenever you find availability.
32. Roam with Rover at Rosie’s Dog Beach
There is only one legal, off-leash dog beach in all of L.A. County and this is it! Even if you don’t have a fido of your own, it’s still kind of fun to check out Rosies to see all the pups at play. Parking along Ocean Blvd. is free, but competitive, so make sure to bring some quarters for a metered lot as a backup.
33. Bathe in the Moonlight While Watching Classic Films
Watch some of the best films of all-time right on the beach while bathing in the sweet summer moonlight at the Moonlight Movies on The Beach film series. The series begins June 15 and runs through August 22. Here’s the complete 2017 schedule.
34. Receive a Free Docent-Led Tour of the L.A. Public Library
Explore the architecture of the Bertram Goodhue Building and learn about the history of Los Angeles through the lens of the Central Library in downtown.
Docent tours are free and meet in front of the Library Store in the main lobby. Tours run about 1 hour long. Walk-ins are welcome (no reservation required) for groups of 6 of less.
Tour times are as follows:
Monday – Friday: 12:30 pm
Saturday: 11:00 am & 2:00 pm PLUS a 12:30 pm – Art-in-the-Garden Tour
Sunday: 2:00 pm
35. Check Out The Bradbury Building
One of the most unique architectural interiors in the entire city. As a visitor you can only go up to the second floor, but even that is a pretty impressive display.
36. Visit the City Hall Observation Deck
A visit to the 27th floor of Los Angeles City Hall provides a 360-degree view of the city, including an up close and personal look at the Downtown Skyline. While you’re there you can also check out the a gallery of portraits mayors on the 26th floor, or pose for a photo at the lectern in the Tom Bradley Room.The Observation Deck is open to the public Monday-Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., excluding holidays. Be sure to enter on the Main St. side of the building to check in. -> More information
37. Receive Free Archery Training
Woodley Park Archers offers free introductory archery instruction to the community, designed specifically for the beginner / novice who has no previous experience handling a bow. Classes are held every Saturday from 9 to 11 a.m. and on Wednesdays from 6 to 8 p.m.. There is absolutely no cost to join, and all equipment is provided If you’re near Pasadena you can also check out the Pasadena Roving Archers, who also offer free Saturday morning instruction.
38. Find Free Days at L.A.’s Best Botanical Gardens
Every third Tuesday of the month you can get free admission at the L.A. Arboretum, Descanso Gardens, and the South Coast Botanic Garden. And if gardens are your thing, be sure to check out this handy list of the best garden spaces in Los Angeles.
39. Attend Free Events at the Hammer Museum
Every month the Hammer Museum offers tons of great free events including talks, tours, and discussions lead by artists by and educators from local universities.
40. Catch Free Flicks at Old Pasadena Summer Cinema
Old Pasadena Summer Cinema will offer 20 free movie screenings from July 1-29 at a variety of indoor and outdoor locations throughout the Old Town area, including a set of four travel-related films to screen at Distant Lands Bookstore, nine outdoor screenings at the courtyard of One Colorado, and three special theme nights at Central Park. -> More information
41. Experience KCRW Summer Nights
KCRW’s free signature outdoor event series is, simply put, one of the best things about summers in Los Angeles. Here’s the complete 2017 Summer Nights schedule, which includes events at The Hammer Museum, the Santa Monica Pier, the Annenberg Space for Photography, Union Station, and more.
42. Check Out Free Polliwog Park Concerts in Manhattan Beach
Free Sunday concerts are held in Polliwog Park from the first weekend in July through the first weekend in September.
43. Sit Back and Relax at Sundays Live at LACMA
Did you know every Sunday you can sit and back and enjoy a chamber music concert at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art’s Bing Theater? All concerts are free and open to the public. -> More information
44. Visit the Original In-N-Out Replica
On October 22, 1948 at 4:15pm the very first In-N-Out location opened its doors to the public at the intersection of Francisquito and Garvey in Baldwin Park, CA. Although that location is no longer serving customers, you can still visit a replica of the first restaurant complete with the original potato peeler, cash box and even a cigarette vending machine.
45. Head to The Valley for Free Flicks
Summer Movie Fest at Cal State Northridge is a free weekly movie night taking place at dusk on CSUN’s Oviatt Library Lawn. The series will kick off with The LEGO Batman Movie on June 15 and runs weekly through August 31.
46. Take a Free Brewery Tour
Beer tastes better when you learn how it’s made. That said, you can find regularly schedule free tours at Eagle Rock Brewery, Golden Road Brewing Tour. I believe Angel City Brewery also does a free tour, but at this time I can’t find updated info on their website.
47. Boogie Down at Concerts on The Bloc
Concerts on The Bloc in Downtown Los Angeles is a free summer concert series curated by Sofar Sounds. The monthly series kicks off with the R&B and soul sounds of VINCINT on June 15. Also, I hear the event may include some complimentary beer provided (if you’re into that sort of thing).
48. Fridays + Saturdays at The Getty
Friday Flights at The Getty offers locals the chance to hear, listen and watch L.A.-based artists present their unique storytelling, dance, music or art installations. Saturdays Off the 405 is the Getty’s annual free summer concert series. Both are free!
49. San Gabriel Summer Nights
The City of San Gabriel’s will host a free block party / concert in the Mission District every Thursday through August 10. -> More information
50. 2017 Pirate Invasion in Long Beach
The 2017 Pirate Invasion of Long Beach is taking place over 4th of July weekend. Some of the highlights include a living history encampment, pirate training, a mermaid shell hunt, live bands, belly dancing, and more. Admission is free, with food, beverages, and merch for sale.
Did we screw up anywhere in our list? Miss something free and fun in L.A. you think deserves mention? We know we can’t get them all, but we always love suggestions. Feel free to contact us to submit your ideas.