Free Things To Do For Kids & Students This Summer in L.A.

Kids and adults hang out for Latin Sounds at LACMA. Photo by Brian Champlin

Whether you’re a college student looking to fill in the hours between semesters or a parent in search of ways to entertain the kiddos in the coming months, we get two things about summertime in Los Angeles: A) There’s always a lot to choose from B) The entertainment costs add up in a heartbeat. But maybe they don’t have to…?

First, since we know getting there is often the biggest cost of an experience, let’s give a quick shoutout to the Metro GoPass program. GoPass lets eligible students of L.A. County K-12 schools or community colleges ride all Metro buses and trains for free. Plus, the free rides extend to a group of regional transit agencies including Antelope Valley Transit Authority, City of Commerce Transit, Culver CityBus, Foothill Transit, Glendale Beeline, GTrans, LADOT Dash, La County Shuttles, Long Beach Transit, Montebello Bus, Norwalk Transit, Pasadena Transit, Santa Monica Big Blue Bus and Torrance Transit. And that’s not just to-and-from school. That’s anywhere Metro (or a regional agency) takes you, no restrictions. You can click here to see if you/your child’s school is enrolled.

Now, armed with that handy transit tidbit, we can move on to a HUGE assortment of free ideas for this summer in L.A. Here we’re talking outdoor festivals, live concerts and open streets event. We’ll point you towards up art labs, youth sports activations, teen zones, telescopes, and even a 75-foot ferris wheel at one of the city’s biggest annual block parties. Sound good? Let’s roll into the lineup of possibilities.

Ongoing Programs + Summer Series

CicLAvia South LA. Photo via CicLAvia

NextGenLA -> NexGenLA is a free membership at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art for kids under 17 years who live in L.A. County. As NexGenLA members, kids and teens can visit the museum for free anytime and bring one guest for free admission. Pair it with live music on Friday Night Jazz at Smidt Welcome Plaza or Latin Sounds (Saturdays through June 30) and you’ve got a full afternoon of activities to enjoy. Go Metro: Take Line 20/720 along Wilshire Blvd.

CicLAvia -> L.A.’s signature open streets program has a pair of summer offerings (both sponsored by Metro), including a 5-mile South LA course on June 23, and a Meet the Hollywoods event on August 18. Both events are free to attend, and both will be accessible by multiple Metro service stops. Plus, remember you can bring your bike on board Metro trains and Metro Bike Share bikes are usually available for rental at the events.

Parks After Dark -> The Los Angeles County Department of Parks & Recreation offers seasonal programming at 34 LA County Parks from June 13 to August 3. The 2024 slate includes Teen Zones on Thursdays (designed for ages 13-18), special activities at 16 LA County Pools, and weekly movie and concert nights. And yes, it’s all 100% free! Head over to the Metro Trip Planner for accessibility options to get to your destination park or pool.

Free Family Programs at Central Library -> There are 72 branches in the Los Angeles Public Library system, and most of those offer an outstanding selection of free programs for kids and adults, but here we’ll take note of the Central Library summer offerings, as there are some great items on the schedule coming including storytime and art-making collaborations with the Skirball Cultural Center, Drag Story Hours, workshops on 3D Modeling & Printing for Children, and the Los Angeles Libros Festival to cap the summer on September 28. Go Metro: Take the A, B, D, or E Line to 7th Street / Metro Center Station.

Free Programs at The Getty -> The Getty not only offers free admission year-round, but also has an array of family friendly live programming that activates the campus over the summer. On the schedule in the coming months you’ll find the Off the 405 concert series, free drop-in workshops in the museum courtyard, and Garden Concerts for Kids in the Central Garden. Go Metro: Take Line 761 to Sepulveda / Getty Ctr.

Public Star Parties at Griffith Observatory -> Catch free public star parties one Saturday per month at Griffith Observatory, led by volunteers from the Los Angeles Astronomical Society, the Los Angeles Sidewalk Astronomers, and The Planetary Society. Bring the little ones to look at the Sun, Moon, visible planets, and other objects, try out a variety of telescopes, and also get a bit of insight from the onsite experts. Always free to attend. Go Metro: Take the B Line to Vermont/Sunset station then ride the DASH Observatory Shuttle (free to ride) to Griffith Observatory.

Free Programs at ESMOA -> The Experimentally Restructured Museum of Art (formerly the El Segundo Museum of Art) always has lots of free, all-ages programs on their docket. In the coming weeks you’ll find Art Maker Space sessions, a community chalk floor mural making event, and Musical Storytime hours for kids. Go Metro: Take Line 40 to Hawthorne / Marine.

Free Summer Programming at The Hammer -> The Hammer has an incredible array of offering aimed both for kicking things off with a summer celebration on June 8 welcomes new exhibitions to the museum, followed by a Bloomsday Celebration the following week that celebrates author James Joyce with dramatic readings of Ulysses, live music and Guinness on tap ini the courtyard. The Hammer’s programs for kids include recurring drop-in art labs, ongoing workshop collaborations with 826LA, and a Family Flicks series of movie screenings. All free to attend! Go Metro: Take the 20/720 along Wilshire Blvd.

Free Sunset Concerts at Skirball -> Sunset Concerts at Skirball -> The schedule for Skirball Cultural Center’s annual Sunset Concert series offer fours evening concerts on consecutive Thursdays beginning July 18. The after-hours events are a great chance to see the Skirball’s latest exhibition, Wild Things Are Happening: The Art of Maurice Sendak. Parking is available from $15-$20. Go Metro: Take Line 761 to Sepulveda / Skirball Center.

Kid-Friendly Summer Events

Pasadena Chalk Festival. Photo provided by Visit Pasadena

San Gabriel Culture Fest (June 13) -> The City of San Gabriel kicks off a summer of free programming with a Culture Fest in the Mission District featuring live music and performancs, plus international arts and crafts for kids. Go Metro: Take Line 487/489 to Ramona / Wells.

TARFEST: A Day in the Park (June 15) -> The 21st edition of TARFEST pops up at Pan Pacific Park for a one-day festival featuring a reggae and afrobeat musical extravaganza curated by Boomtown LA, free art-making activities, dance classes, artisan booths curated by Runway Boutique, face painting, and local food trucks. Go Metro: Take Line 14/37 to Beverly / Curson.

Levitt Pavilion & LACMA Summer Art Hop (June 22) – > The Levitt Pavilion Los Angeles and LACMA Summer Art Hop brings hands-on art activities, music, and refreshments to Charles White Elementary School and Levitt Pavilion Los Angeles in MacArthur Park, all as part of the opening of the 2024 Levitt Pavilion Los Angeles concert series. Highlights include a reception with Sand Brewed Coffee and tea, live classical music, and the Levitt LA Opening Concert headlined by Vilma y La Sonora and La Diabla. The Art Hop runs 4 to 7 p.m., and the opening night concert starts at 7. p.m. Free to attend. Go Metro: Take the B or D Lines to Westlake MacArthur Park station OR take Line 20/720 along Wilshire Blvd.

Pasadena Chalk Festival (June 22-23) -> The Pasadena Chalk Festival returns to The Paseo for a two day-long event featuring art, music, and some 200 murals created by over 500 artists  This event is free to attend. Go Metro: Take the A Line to Memorial Park station.

Play Day 2024 (June 29) -> Th LA84 Foundation is hosting Play Day 2024 in West Adams, which brings youth sports organizations from around the nation together for a day of play and outdoor activities, along with a block party and concert. Free to attend! Go Metro: Take Line 14/37 along West Adams Blvd.

Pier 360 (June 29-30) -> This two-day, all-ages, free festival hosted at the Santa Monica Pier features ocean sports competitions, interactive games, a beer garden and plenty of live music on both days. Go Metro: Take the E Line to Downtown Santa Monica station.

Grand Park 4th of July Block Party (July 4)-> DTLA’s biggest free 4th of July event is back with an evening-long celebration (starting at 4 p.m.) featuring live performances, a 75-foot ferris wheel, an array of onsite food trucks, and a spectacular drone light show to cap the evening. Go Metro: Take the B or D Lines to Grand Park / Civic Center station.

Echo Park Lotus Festival (July 13) -> The 43rd annual Lotus Festival honors the people and culture of the Philippines for 2024 with live music, children’s activities, a lantern launch, dragon boat races, and more. Free to attend, but you want to participate in the lantern portion you can buy tickets starting at $25. Go Metro: Take Line 92 to Glendale / Santa Ynez.

Glendale Chalk-A-Doodle Festival (July 20) -> The Glendale Chalk-A-Doodle Festival brings a day of  fun-chalk murals, doodle-making station, live music, and community art to Glendale Marketplace. Go Metro: Take Line 92 along Brand Blvd.

2024 Natsumatsuri Family Festival (August 10) -> The annual Natsumatsuri Family Festival returns with a day of free cultural performances, crafts, and activities for families and kids of all ages. Ryukyukoku Matsuri Daiko and East LA Taiko will both perform, plus there will be interactive story times, souvenir photos by Cre8tive Outlets, a scavenger hunt for prizes, and free admission to the Japanese American National Museum galleries. Go Metro: Take the A or E Lines to Little Tokyo Station

LA Plaza Fiesta Patrias Family Day (September 15) -> LA Plaza de Cultura y Artes annually hosts this festival celebrating Mexican Independence through a day of live music, dance and art workshops. Always free to attend. Go Metro: Take the A, B or D Lines to Union Station.

More Free Concert Ideas

We mentioned a few of our favorite all-ages summer concert series above, but you might be wondering why we excluded standouts like KCRW Summer Nights, Dance DTLA at the Music Center, or Summer of Salsa at LA Plaza. Well, actually, we have a cheatsheet for that! Head over to our massive list of free summer concerts to scope out a calendar of dozens of events to attend between now and the end of September.

And whatever you decide on, we hope you have a great summer!


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