There's never a shortage of things to do in Los Angeles, where there are major festivals and events somewhere in the city every week. Here, a month-by-month guide featuring the highlights. See Events & festivals for a full calendar of events.
Tournament of Roses Parade
Where: parade starts in Pasadena at Orange Grove Boulevard & Green Street, travels east on Colorado Boulevard and north on Sierra Madre Boulevard, ends at Villa Street
When: January 1
Tel & website: 626-449-4100/www.tournamentofroses.com
The first Rose Parade in 1890 was staged to show off California’s sun-kissed climate. The tradition is still going strong, complete with elaborate floral floats, musical performances and marching troupes (not to mention the crowning of the fresh-faced Rose Queen and her court), but the celebration now draws more than a million spectators who line the streets of Pasadena. The big Rose Bowl football game follows the parade. Later in spring, the event is spoofed with a day of costumed mayhem at the Doo Dah Parade (626-590-1134, www.pasadenadoodahparade.info).
Chinese New Year
Where: parade travels along Hill Street at Temple Street toward Bernard Street, turns right on Bernard, right on N Broadway back to Broadway & Temple, Downtown
When: early February
Tel & website: 213-617-0396/www.chinatownla.com
The spectacular Golden Dragon Parade through Chinatown is the highlight of this annual two-day street fair, which also includes a carnival, lantern processions, fashion shows, and plenty of food.
Where: Queen Mary, Queens Highway, Long Beach
If you can’t make it all the way to Rio, you’ll have to make do with this over-the-top explosion of feathers, sequins, production numbers and tan lines. It’s held each year at the vintage ocean liner that’s now permanently docked in Long Beach.
Pan African Film Festival
Where: Rave Cinemas Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza 15, 4020 Marlton Avenue, Crenshaw
Tel & website: 310-337-4737/www.paff.org/panafricanfilmfestival
A slate of African and African-American films, many addressing issues of cultural and racial tolerance.
Where: Kodak Theatre, Hollywood & Highland, 6801 Hollywood Boulevard at N Highland Avenue
When: late February
Tel & website: 323-308-6300/www.kodaktheatre.com
Oscar day is like Christmas in LA. The ceremony is held on a Sunday and fans queue for days to get places in the stands overlooking the red carpet.
Los Angeles Marathon
Where: starts at Dodger Stadium, finishes at Ocean & California Avenues, Santa Monica
Tel & website: 213-542-3000/www.lamarathon.com
Every year, more than 23,000 runners and wheelchair racers take to the streets for this 26-mile slog through the city. But it’s not a typical marathon: this being LA, the route is dotted with cheerleaders, and neighborhoods from Boyle Heights to Downtown LA celebrate with street performances.
Blessing of the Animals
Where: El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historical Monument, Olvera Street, Downtown LA
When: Saturday before Easter
Led by a cow festooned with flowers, this procession of farm animals and pets (with their owners), winds its way down LA’s oldest street, where each animal is blessed with holy water.
Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach
Where: Long Beach Convention & Entertainment Center, 300 E Ocean Boulevard, Downtown Long Beach
When: mid April
Tel & website: 888-827-7333/www.gplb.com
Nicknamed "Southern California's Official Spring Brake," this high-speed extravaganza takes places over a two-mile street circuit that includes plenty of straights and curves. Spectators should expect to spend the afternoon biting their nails.
LA Times Festival of Books
Where: USC campus, Downtown
When: late April
Tel & website: 213-237-7335/www.latimes.com/fob
Literate Angelenos flock to the USC campus each spring to commune with authors giving readings and doing signings. Alongside the talks and discussions, a variety of booksellers set up stalls so that they can hawk their wares directly to the public.
Santa Clarita Cowboy Festival
Where: Melody Ranch Motion Picture Studio, just north of Hwy 14
When: late April
Tel & website: 661-250-3735/www.cowboyfestival.org
Dig out your dude-ranch duds for this Western hoedown. Attractions include the Walk of Western Stars gala, horseback rides, a cowboy couture fashion show, a casino and plenty of cowboy comedy, poetry and chow. The festival is the only time that Gene Autry’s ranch opens to the public.
Fiesta Broadway/Cinco de Mayo
Where: around Broadway & Main Street, between E César E Chávez Avenue & 11th Street, Downtown LA
When: last Sunday in April
Tel & website: 310-914-0015/www.fiestabroadway.la
Covering 36 square blocks and drawing crowds that top 500,000, this free fiesta lives up to its reputation as the largest Cinco de Mayo celebration in the world. The festival commemorates the day in 1862 when Mexicans defeated French invaders, and is a blowout of feasting, piñata-breaking, music and general indulgence.
Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival
Where: Directors Guild of America, CGV Cinemas, The Art Theatre of Long Beach
Tel & website: 213-680-4462/www.asianfilmfestla.org/2013
A variety of Asian and Asian-American films.
Last Remaining Seats
Where: various venues
Tel & website: 213-623-2489/www.laconservancy.org
The LA Conservancy offers a wonderful time-machine trip by screening classic films, one-night only, in Downtown’s grand old movie palaces.
LA Gay Pride
Where: around Santa Monica Boulevard
When: early June
One of the biggest pride events in the US, LA Gay Pride attracts as many as 400,000 people during its three-day festival and famous three-hour Sunday parade. The atmosphere is good-natured and raucous; local color is provided by divas, drag queens and DJs.
Film Independent’s Los Angeles Film Festival
Where: LA Live, Downtown
Tel & website: 866-345-6337/www.lafilmfest.com
With 200-plus features, shorts and music videos, this prestigious ten-day festival is cardio cinema.
Los Angeles River Ride
Where: around Los Angeles; start and finish are in Griffith Park
This festive annual bike ride is the premier fundraiser for the LACBC (Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition) and features five different bike rides of varying lengths.
Pasadena Chalk Street Painting Festival
Where: Old Town Pasadena
When: mid June
Tel & website: 626-795-9100/www.pasadenachalkfestival.com
Hundreds of artists create temporary masterpieces in chalk on the streets of Pasadena, while thousands of onlookers watch where they walk. Eventually, awards are presented in a number of different categories, and then it’s all washed away for good.
Where: Staples Center, 1111 S Figueroa Street; Nokia Theatre LA Live; LA Live Event Deck; Chick Hearn Court; Gilbert Lindsay Plaza, Downtown LA
When: late June/early July
Competitors from around the world battle for both honor and treasure in extreme sports; thousands of adoring fans risk sunstroke to cheer them on.
Where: across Los Angeles
When: July 4
The Hollywood Bowl hosts LA’s most famous fireworks display, synchronized to music by the LA Philharmonic. However, celebrations aren’t limited to the Bowl: Huntington Beach stages a parade during the day, capped by fireworks, and there’s more patriotic razzle-dazzle at Venice Beach, the Rose Bowl and Disneyland. Note: many fireworks displays take place on the closest weekend to July 4; check Things to Do for schedules.
Where: venues around LA
Tel & website: 213-480-7088/www.outfest.org
A ten-day festival of gay and lesbian film shorts and features, spread across several venues.
Downtown Film Festival
Where: various venues
Launched in 2008 by the folks behind the Silver Lake Film Festival, the DFF aims to celebrate the resurgence of Downtown LA.
Los Angeles Latino International Film Festival
Where: various venues
Tel & Website: 323-446-2770/www.latinofilm.org
Mexican and Latin American filmmakers come to Hollywood to promote their work.
Pageant of the Masters
Where: Laguna Canyon Road, Laguna Beach
When: early July/late Aug
Tel & website: 949-494-1145/www.foapom.com
Life imitates art, literally: Classic paintings, statues and murals take on a new dimension, as real people dress and pose to recreate original masterpieces, a trick popularized by vaudeville artiste Lolita Perine at the first festival in 1932. A professional orchestra, a narrator, intricate sets and theatrical lighting now help bring the works to life.
US Open of Surfing
Where: Huntington Beach Pier, at Main Street & Pacific Coast Highway, Huntington Beach, Orange County
When: late July/early August
America’s largest pro surfing competition attracts the world’s elite, who compete for big money while wowing 200,000 beach boys and girls with their skill, grace and innovative board designs. Heating up the festivities are live bands, a sports expo and after-parties with the friendly locals.
International Pop Overthrow
Where: various venues around LA
When: late July/early August
A two-week festival of guitar pop that gets LA rocking.
Festival of the Chariots
Where: Ocean Front Walk Plaza, Windward Circle, Venice
When: first Sunday in August
Tel & website: 310-836-2676/www.festivalofchariots.com
Hosted by the Hare Krishnas, this Indian tradition attracts 50,000 people who chant and cheer for three honored deities, representations of whom are paraded from the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium to Venice Beach on elaborately decorated chariots. A free Indian feast is held at the end of the route.
Nisei Week Japanese Festival
Where: Little Tokyo, Downtown
When: mid August
Tel & website: 213-687-7193/www.niseiweek.org
This eight-day event celebrates Japanese culture with displays of martial arts, tea ceremonies, flower arranging and more, and culminates with the coronation of the Nisei Week Queen. Nisei refers to the first generation of Japanese to be born in America.
Watts Summer Festival
Where: Will Rogers Memorial Park, 1335 E 103rd Street, Watts
When: mid August
Conceived in 1966, the year after the Watts Riots, this black pride event is the longest-running African-American cultural festival in the US. Music and performances, a fashion show, a parade and kid activities round out the offerings.
Fuck Yeah Fest
Where: Los Angeles State Historic Park, 1245 N Spring Street, Downtown
Where: late summer
The enthusiastically named Fuck Yeah Fest rallies rowdy post-punkers, low-brow artists, anarchist skaters, caustic stand-ups and all manner of other virulently anti-establishment types for a weekend of indier-than-thou amp-busting fringe culture.
Fiesta Hermosa Arts & Crafts Fair
Where: Hermosa Beach, at Marine Avenue & Aviation Boulevard
When: Labor Day weekend (before the 1st Monday in September)
Tel & website: 310-376-0951/www.fiestahermosa.com
Wear a swimsuit under your clothes: After roaming the 400 stalls at this arts festival, sampling the fine foods and listening to the music, you may want to take a dip in the nearby Pacific. There’s another Fiesta over Memorial Day weekend (late May).
LA Greek Festival
Where: St Sophia Cathedral, 1324 S Normandie Avenue, at W Pico Boulevard, Koreatown
When: weekend after Labor Day (early September)
LA isn’t known for its large Greek community, but there are enough locals with roots to the islands to merit this weekend-long festival of baklava, moussaka and mandolin music on the grounds of a cathedral in—naturally—Koreatown.
Los Angeles International Short Film Festival
Where: Laemmle NoHo 7 Theaters
Tel & website: 818-508-0800/www.lashortsfest.com
The world’s largest shorts festival crams 400 entries into a typically dense program.
Port of Los Angeles Lobster Festival
Where: Ports o’ Call Village, San Pedro
When: mid September
Tel & website: 310-798-7478/www.lobsterfest.com
Bizarre fact: Although this weekend-long festival is held in the coastal town of San Pedro, all the lobsters eaten at it are flown in from Maine. There’s a fine line-up of bands, partially curated by KROQ's Locals Only, and Saturday’s troubling LobsterDog Parade, when locals dress their pet pooches as sea creatures.
West Hollywood Book Fair
Where: West Hollywood Park, 647 N San Vicente Boulevard, between Santa Monica Boulevard & Melrose Avenue, West Hollywood
When: late September
Cruise the vendors at the nearby Pacific Design Center for the new bookshelves that you’ll probably need after a visit to the award-winning WeHo Book Fair. Readings, panel discussions, workshops are all among the IQ-elevating activities on the schedule.
LA County Fair
Where: Fairplex, W McKinley & N White Avenues, Pomona
When: late summer
Tel & website: 909-623-3111/www.lacountyfair.com
LA has changed immeasurably since 1921, when this event was first staged as an agricultural fair. However, the perennially popular event still has farm-friendly appeal (livestock beauty contests, local produce) alongside the more modern acrobats, wine tastings, exhibitions and concerts.
Abbot Kinney Festival
Where: Abbot Kinney Boulevard, between Main Street & Venice Boulevard, Venice
When: early October
Tel & website: 310-396-3772/www.abbotkinney.org
Take every artsy street fair you’ve ever attended, add all the stereotypes about the fun-loving Venice Beach locals you’ve ever heard and you’ve got the general idea. Be sure to hit not only the guest vendors but also the locally owned galleries, shops and salons that line the world’s poshest skid row.
Calabasas Pumpkin Festival
Where: Juan Bautista de Anza Park, 3701 Lost Hills Road, at Agoura Road, Calabasas
When: mid/late October
Tel & website: 818-222-5680/www.calabasaspumpkinfestival.com
Yes, there’s more to pumpkins than Halloween jack-o’-lanterns: pumpkin bowling, pumpkin beer, pumpkin bread and, of course, pumpkin pie.
Where: Across Los Angeles
When: October 31
The main action is at the West Hollywood Halloween Costume Carnaval, held on Santa Monica Boulevard between La Cienega Boulevard and Doheny Drive (www.weho.org). More than 400,000 rowdy revellers are entertained by DJs, bands, costume contests, drag queen competitions and the crowning of the celebrity honorary mayor.
Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead)
Where: across Los Angeles
When: 1st Saturday in November
Tel & web: 323-881-6444/www.selfhelpgraphics.com
Self-Help Graphics in East LA hosts art-oriented workshops and theater performances, while the historic Downtown paseo of Olvera Street offers a day of dancing and piñata-breaking. Meanwhile, the haunting romance of the cinematic Golden Age is celebrated with the elaborate art-altar competition at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery.
Artivist Film Festival
Where: Barnsdall Theatre & Park, 4800 Hollywood Boulevard, Hollywood
When: early November
This festival offers a platform for activist artists.
AFI Los Angeles International Film Festival
Where: various venues
Tel & website: 866-234-3378/www.afifest.com
This weeklong festival shows some 130 films from 40 countries, along with special events.
Hollywood Christmas Parade
Where: parade travels along Hollywood Boulevard, Sunset Boulevard & Vine Street
When: Sunday after Thanksgiving
Tel & website: 323-469-2337/www.thehollywoodchristmasparade.com
The event that inspired Gene Autry to write ‘Here Comes Santa Claus’ is a glitzy, star-studded presentation that attracts a million fans. First held in 1928, the parade features elaborate floats, pop stars galore, celebs riding in antique cars, camels, equestrian shows and marching bands giving it the full razzle-dazzle. Even with reserved bleacher seats, early arrival is a must, and parking hideous.
Where: Mariachi Plaza, at N Boyle Avenue & E 1st Street, Boyle Heights
When: mid December
Tel & website: 323-526-3059/www.lacity.org
Decked out in ruffled, rainbow-colored splendor, the itinerant musicians at this festival of Latino culture entertain visitors in mariachi styles. Tequila, tacos and other spicy specialities add further appeal.
Marina del Rey Holiday Boat Parade
Where: main channel, Marina del Rey
Tel & website: 310-670-7130/www.mdrboatparade.org
It’s anchors aweigh at this watery festival, as more than 70 ornamented boats compete for attention and prizes. Watch proceedings from Fisherman’s Village or Burton Chace Park.
Hanukkah Family Festival
Where: Skirball Cultural Center, 2701 N Sepulveda Boulevard, at I-405
When: mid/late December
Tel & website: 310-440-4500/www.skirball.org
Enjoy the music, games, tastes and traditions that mark the Jewish festival of lights up at the Skirball Center. Anyone can participate in the Hanukkah play, complete with costumes and songs.
Where: Olvera Street, at E César E Chávez Avenue, Downtown
Where: mid/late December
Tel & website: 213-485-6855/www.olvera-street.com
This surprisingly cheerful reenactment of Mary and Joseph’s journey to Bethlehem features a candlelit procession, songs, dancing and piñata-breaking, with free candy for children and adults.
LA County Holiday Celebration
Where: Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, Music Center, S Grand Avenue & W 1st Street, Downtown LA
When: December 24
This day-long festival of art, music and general merriment aims to represent the range of cultural and religious traditions that have put down roots in LA. The event has a worthy commitment to inclusivity, but it’s also an entertaining way to spend the last few hours before Christmas.