Find free events in LA to help you rediscover the city. Explore cultural institutions like the Getty and take advantage of some of the best live music LA has to offer without opening your wallet. Cheap eats are great, but nothing beats a free day out. Get inspired for your next date night or family outing with our list of free upcoming events.
RECOMMENDED: Full list of free things to do in LA
Indulge your inner foodie and shopaholic at this weekly food-focused market. The Brooklyn export has landed in the Arts District and become a hotbed of fantastic food and retail vendors, with some that are testing out their dishes before launching a full-blown brick-and-mortar in the city. Bonus: there is plentiful (and free, for two hours!) parking in the nearby parking garage.
The term CicLAvia (Spanish for "bike way”) can also be used to describe a temporary closing of L.A.'s streets. The event—inspired by the first Ciclovías in Bogotá, Colombia—welcomes bikes, tricycles, skateboards, strollers and smiles (sounds cheesy, but it's true) to ride a rotating cast of car-free routes. While most rides center around Downtown, past events have taken the event to Wilshire Boulevard, Venice and South L.A. Wherever it is, expect music, street performances and food trucks, as well as general whimsy and shenanigans. Shop owners and restaurants along the CicLAvia route will also open their doors. It goes without saying that you should bike or take the Metro to your desired spot along the route.
Silver Lake's legit little music venue offers up some of the best local music in the city every Monday night... for free. Check out LA bands that are about to make it big (acts like Fitz & the Tantrums, Superhumanoids and even Local Natives have graced the residency stage) without spending a dime—well, except on maybe a beer, or a round for the folks onstage. Check the Satellite calendar to see who's on the bill each month. Acts often have a rotating cast of openers, so you can see different bands each week while watching the main act work on material, become more comfortable onstage and find their rhythm as the month goes on. Then a few years from now, you can say "I saw them when...."
Grand Park transforms into a bookworm's Shangri-La this May for an all-day literary festival, featuring poetry, a local pop-up bookshop, food, tunes and more. Last year's activities included adding your own five-line poem to a crowd-sourced installation as well as lending a brushstroke to a giant piece of sheet music. Take a load off while your little ones sit transfixed by the kid-friendly entertainment, including a sketch comedy musical based entirely on stories by children—including those written by kids at the Bookfest. The event is free and open to the public.
The newest flea market on the block, the Venice outpost of this artisan/craft-focused flea market mini-empire is bringing records, vintage and vintage-inspired clothing, cosmetics, jewelry and more to the Westminster Avenue Elementary School. A handful of small batch confectioners provide sweet treats to snack on or take home, while food trucks and nearby restaurants provide heartier bites. Though relatively small in size, owing perhaps to its prime location bookending the neighborhood’s famed Abbot Kinney stretch, vendors hawk a diverse range of hand-made and expertly curated wares that seems to simultaneously fit in and stand out in one of the nation’s most unusual neighborhoods.
Partake in astronomy-themed trivia with some tipsy scientists at this monthly boozy meet-up. Caltech has spearheaded the programming at the local outlet of this national bar night, with a rotating cast of lecturers from UCLA, Carnegie, the Planetary Society and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Pasadena is home to most of those institutions, so the event appropriately takes place in Old Town, at the German beer hall Der Wolfskopf. The evening starts with two 15-minute talks and includes an ongoing astronomy quiz with the chance to win NASA prizes. Attendance is free and includes happy hour food and drink pricing throughout the event.
It’s been called the best raunch-fest in the City of Angels and it’s held weekly at Fubar, West Hollywood’s most alternative outpost. Every Thursday, moustached alt-nightlife-maestro Mario Diaz brings out boystown’s sexiest players for a night that kicks off the weekend with a healthy dose of testerone, a scantily clad, tattooed brigade of go-go boys and a contest that dares patrons to have their “members” photographed and judged at the climax of the party. Add in vintage gay porn playing on screens around the bar and you’ve got yet another one of those nights that helps Fubar live up to its reputation as “not your father’s gay bar.”
Every Saturday and Sunday, the UCB franchise's longest-running, most beloved showcase starts when a base cast of the theater's current top-brass—including founding UCB members Matt Walsh, Matt Besser and Ian Roberts—takes the stage. Then they introduce the surprise celebrity alumnae and friends who will be joining them (think Horatio Sanz, Ben Schwartz, Adam Pally). And finally, another special guest takes the stage, a non-improviser (think Flea, Cat Power, Rebel Wilson, Lena Dunham) who opens the show with a personal story, that's deftly mined for laughs by the players. But you have to go to find out who's there—that's part of the fun. Looking for a cheap night out? Sunday shows are free, but seating is first-come, first-served, so be sure to arrive early.
It's free music every Monday when sponsored, up-and-coming local bands call the Echo stage home for a one-month stint, honing their stage presence and giving various opening acts a chance at the spotlight as well. If you're worried a Monday night will fill up to capacity, you can RSVP on the Echo website for VIP entry. When a band is on its third or fourth Monday and killing it, this is a pretty convenient way to make sure you're in on the action.
Pasadena's underrated collection of museums and performance spaces open up their doors for free at this biannual art celebration. Take advantage of the free shuttle buses or hoof it between site-specific installations and local institutions such as the Norton Simon Museum, Pacific Asia Museum and Pasadena Museum of California Art. And, of course, no arts fest would be complete without food trucks, often including local bricks-and-mortar Pie 'n Burger and Coolhaus.
Explore the imaginative landscape of young, female and trans-identifying photographers from around the world at #girlgaze: a frame of mind. This mostly digital exhibition at the Annenberg Space for Photography has been largely sourced through social media by Girlgaze, a collective founded by the famed British-born television host, women’s advocate and photographer Amanda de Cadenet.
Travel back to 1966 at There’s Something Happening Here…, a photography exhibition at the West Hollywood Library. The show features shots from Henry Diltz—responsible for the locally set Morrison Hotel album cover by the Doors—of the Sunset Strip in the throes of a pivotal counterculture year, one marked as much by Frank Zappa and Bufflao Springfield as restless teenagers.
Ring in the Lunar New Year in the real heart of L.A.'s Chinese community at this annual two-day Monterey Park festival. This street fair takes over five blocks of Downtown Monterey Park with folk art, delectable bites and a carnival zone. The action kicks off Saturday morning with firecrackers and dragon and lion dances. Last year's fest drew 250,000 people over two days so plan ahead; the city suggests utilizing the free parking shuttles at Mark Keppel High School (501 E Hellman Ave) and El Repetto Elementary School (650 Grandridge Ave). RECOMMENDED: Chinese New Year in Los Angeles
In honor of their five-year anniversary, L & E Oyster Bar will be offering week-long specials that you will not want to miss. Enjoy free paella at the restaurant on Sunday, January 22 and free oysters on Monday, January 23. Each day (January 23-27), Chef Spencer Bezaire's favorite specials from the last five years will be featured on the dinner menu starting from 6pm. Start your night off at this Silver Lake eatery with these complimentary items, then stay for a delicious meal that will make you wish it was their anniversary all the time.
This examination of different approaches to figuration and self-representation takes over the Broad's first floor more than 50 mostly post-'80s works. Local artist Thomas Houseago's imposing 15-foot-tall Giant Figure (Cyclops) sculpture, in its U.S. debut, sits at the exhibition's entrance. The rest of the show compiles a range of human figures, from Jean-Michel Basquiat's primitivist profiles to Alex Israel's selfie-shaped canvases, plus more than 25 other artists, including Leon Golub, Jenny Holzer, Jeff Koons, Georg Baselitz, Takashi Murakami and Andy Warhol.
Peroni Nastro Azzurro has taken over the the gallery space at the W Hollywood for their unique pop-up. The visual installation lasts until January 31 and will showcase how the brand is bringing style to the world of beer. Peroni is partnering with various brands for the pop-up; the beer company is currently featuring luxury furniture designer Christopher Guy.
Mark the Lunar New Year without leaving the Westside for this annual Beverly Hills bash. This year's celebration is broken into three parts: a variety show, "Charming Beijing" photo exhibit anda cultural heritage handicrafts display. RECOMMENDED: Chinese New Year in Los Angeles
Los Angeles gets a taste of Broadway once a week on Musical Mondays (MuMo) at the massive Eleven Nightclub. Unlike most nights, when the latest Top 40 dance hits can be heard in heavy rotation at the Santa Monica Boulevard hotspot, the genre of choice on Mondays at Eleven is musicals... purely musicals. For one night only, Gaga, Beyoncé, Madonna and Rihanna take a backseat while the songs of musical legends like Barbra Streisand, Patti LuPone, Kristen Chenowith and Linda Eder rule the stage. A mix of live performances and videos of classic moments from Broadway and film make this not only one of the most feel-good nights of the week, but also one heck of a reason to actually look forward to Mondays.
As far as obscure holidays go, this one is arguably the most sophisticated. Founded by cellist Dale Henderson under the streets of New York City, Bach in the Subways Day takes place annually on the birthday of German composer, Johann Sebastian Bach, to bring public enthusiam to the beautiful and increasingly forgotten art of classical music. On March 21 (as well as the previous three days), soundtrack your commute with free performances throughout Union Station, train platforms and other public spaces with everything from an organ recital to a flute choir. Check the full schedule for performance details and locations.
Need any more convincing that Broadway is back? How about a cultural festival spanning seven of Downtown's historic theaters and movie palaces. All of the venues will open their doors for free during Night on Broadway to host performances and installations, from performances by Mayer Hawthorne and Tim Hecker to a dodge ball cage match and an Oingo Boingo dance party. Outside the theaters, there's a street festival between 4th and 7th with shopping pop-ups, a family-friendly kids area and a music main stage. The event celebrates the ninth anniversary of Councilmember José Huizar's Bringing Back Broadway initiative, which, judging by the recent road diet and influx of new businesses, we'd say is going pretty well.
Head to Echo Park on Mondays for free residencies at one of the best venues on the East side, the Bootleg. Theater shows happen in the Gallery, and music in the Theater (in back) and the Bar (in front). Residencies take place in the bar, with high tables and stools in the back, a bar with great craft brews and a high, open-beamed roof with great acoustics. Check the Bootleg's calendar to see who's on the bill month to month.