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.
Jason Rhoades grew up in a small town in the foothills outside of Sacramento—an equivalent of L.A.'s heartland. But Rhoades would go on to study in Oakland, San Francisco and L.A. That ideological division would inform his envelope-pushing installations, which often exuberantly approached politics, race, nationality, commerce, sex and gender through the use of neon signs, mechanical parts and readymade objects. Hauser Wirth & Schimmel has collected six such installations from the late artist in his first comprehensive L.A. retrospective. Rhoades would collect readymade objects and mechanical parts, and often work with neon. Just a quick note: Some subject matter in the exhibition may not be appropriate for children, though not any more so than your typical contemporary art museum.
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.
Mary Pickford co-founded legendary entertainment studio United Artists and picked up the second ever Academy Award for Best Actress in 1929. So we'd say the Theatre at Ace Hotel (formerly the United Artists Theatre) is a pretty perfect place to sit and watch the Oscars. The theater will be streaming the red carpet arrivals as well as the ceremony broadcast. Creative fancy dress is strongly encouraged.
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.
Printed Matter presents LA Art Book Fair, a unique (and free!) event showcasing artists' books, catalogues, monographs, periodicals and zines. Over 250 international presses, booksellers and independent publishers from twenty-one countries come together to hawk their wordy wares at this not-to-be-missed companion fair to New York's Art Book Fair. Peruse naughty pulp paperbacks, catalogues full of fancy modern art, and books that you don't really "read" so much as just admire.
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.
Get into the Mardi Gras spirit with this festival at Long Beach's Shoreline Village. Catch a crew of zydeco bands as well as face painting and balloon artists. Chow down on beignets at the Funnel House and Blue Carousel along with hurricanes, spiked Kool-Aid, jambalaya, gumbo and alligator legs at Louisiana Charlie’s. A parade kicks off on Saturday at 3pm.
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.”
Find out how harnessing the power of people can have a serious impact on science at this beer and lecture series. Each month the Natural History Museum will highlight a different community project, while Angel City Brewery will involve participants in its quest to build the first crowd-sourced beer.
See the documentation of David Bowie's only trip to Mexico City in this collection of photos of Bowie taken by photographer Fernando Aceves. Aceves was commissioned to accompy Bowie on a tour of the city's cultural highlights in 1997, which led the duo to murals by Diego Rivera, David Alfaro Siqueiros and Jose Clemente Orozco; the Frida Kahlo Museum; the pyramids of Teotihuacan; and other historic sites.
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...."
It's Mardi Gras weekend, but you're having a seriously hard time deciding whether to toss some beads or to play toss with Fido. Do both at the original Farmers Market with their annual Mardi Gras celebration. The fun begins with the Mutti Gras Pet Parade & Costume Contest at the Market Plaza. Pups, and the occasional cat, parade along the plaza in costume and are then judged by the crowd. A King and Queen are then crowned in categories of small, medium, and large, and are awarded prizes from the Dog Bakery.The Mardi Gras Ranch Party kicks off on the West Patio with music from Eddie Baytos & the Nervis Bros (who'll return on Fat Tuesday). Seafood and gumbo ya ya, jumbalaya, Cajun meat loaf, blackened chicken, beignets, po'boys, and other traditional New Orleans food will be available throughout.
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.
Slur your way through tricky vocabulary words at this drunken spelling bee. Comedians Billy Parker and Mandy Levy host this boozed up competition; take a shot and attempt to spell out a word, and if you're successful you get a free shot and another word. The last person standing is crowned the winner and can claim half of the prize pot.
Each spring, thousands of gray whales and their calves begin the journey back north from the Baja, passing just off the SoCal coast in the process. To celebrate, Dana Point hosts two weekends of festivities dedicated to the marine migration. Opening day festivities include a parade and street fair and the fest closes out with a whale-themed concert, with crafts, art shows and whale watching excursions scattered in between. The festival takes place all over the Dana Point Harbor; you'll find free four-hour parking in the harbor lots, as well as all-day parking ($8) at Doheney State Beach, with a free shuttle servicing the festival area.
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.
Say hello to the first weekly stand-up comedy show in Highland Park. Every Thursday night from 8pm-10pm, the Collective Arts Incubator will be home to Hi! Highland Park, a free show that will bring great comics from around the country such as Laurie Kilmartin and Allen Strickland from Conan, Ron Babcock from Adam DeVine's House Party, and Matt Ingebretson, one of Time Out L.A.'s comedians to watch in 2017. Hi! Highland Park is based on donations, which can be made here. The show is produced by Paloonis Productions and is hosted by Colin Hughes and special guests. Check the Facebook for more details on upcoming shows.
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.
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.
Mark the musical culture and heritage of New Orleans during this Mardi Gras party and parade at Amoeba. The record store features DJs as well as a parade with masks, beads, floats and musicians. You're welcome to bring your horn or percussion to join the annual party procession to "When The Saints..."
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.
This San Francisco export delivers comedy to Echo Park's Little Joy every Monday night. Hosts Chris Garcia, Sean Keane, Caitlin Gill and Anna Seregina put together a lineup of stand-ups each week, though past shows have included some quirkier storytelling additions, everything from a gourmet sandwich maker to a former bank robber.