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KCRW Summer Nights
Photograph: Courtesy Brian Feinzimer

Free things to do in Los Angeles this month

Make the most of your month without breaking into your wallet.

Michael Juliano
Written by
Michael Juliano
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You’ve planned a day at one of L.A.’s best beaches and brushed up on the city’s free museum days, but there are far more free things to do in July. From Shakespeare in a park to free summer concerts, these are the best ways to make the most of your month without breaking into your wallet.

The best free things to do in L.A. this month

  • Things to do
  • Festivals

After more than six years of construction, the swooping new Sixth Street Viaduct is finally set to open—and with a two-day, car-free celebration.

On July 9, you’ll find a marketplace that includes vendors from both Boyle Heights and the Arts District; a celebration of a century of car culture that includes a lowrider tribute; food trucks; performances by Ozomatli and La Sonora Dinamita; and a lighting ceremony and fireworks display to end the evening. The pedestrian-only event is limited to 15,000 people, so you’ll want to register in advance and enter from the Boyle Heights side.

Then, on July 10, the bridge officially opens, but for the first few hours of the day (from 11am to 4pm) it’ll be limited to bikes and pedestrians only. Then, at 7pm, it’ll open to car traffic.

  • Music
  • Westwood

Everyone’s favorite NPR member station has a hand in a slew of summer concert slates at public plazas and beloved museums, and this summer’s schedule is particularly packed. Familiar KCRW DJs and local buzz bands will be providing free, open-air tunes on select nights from July through September at the Hammer Museum, One ColoradoCAAMDescanso Gardens, Bowers Museum, the Geffen Contemporary at MOCA, JANM and—our favorite—the party-till-midnight bashes at Chinatown Central Plaza.

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  • Theater
  • Shakespeare
  • Griffith Park

Each summer, Bard fanatics watch their favorite works come to life at the historic Old Zoo in Griffith Park. Independent Shakespeare Co. puts on a series of lively productions each week, inviting audiences to take a seat (with a reservation) on the grass and enjoy performances like this season’s headliners: Knight of the Burning Pestle (July 2–31) and Macbeth (Aug 6–Sept 4).

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  • Things to do
  • Sport events
  • Downtown Santa Monica

The Major League Baseball All-Star Game is headed back to Dodger Stadium for the first time in over four decades—and tickets are expensive. But there’s some free activities outside of Chavez Ravine: Things kick off over the weekend with a baseball-themed carnival and yoga on the beach at the Santa Monica Pier, part of the MLB All-Star Oceanfront (July 15–17 11am–7pm).

  • Things to do
  • Festivals
  • Echo Park

Celebrate the bloom of Echo Park Lake’s beloved floating flowers with the annual Lotus Festival. Expect plenty of food, music, dragon boat races, lantern launches and—fingers crossed—the lotus flower beds in full bloom. The historic event celebrates the contributions of Asian-Americans to L.A., and this year, the 41st, will honor the Indian community.

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  • Music
  • Westside

The Skirball puts on its annual series of free summer concerts, highlighting indie, folk and world music from L.A. and beyond. Guests can arrive early and visit the museum’s galleries for free, dine under the stars and grab a seat for the show in the beautiful central courtyard. The concert is free (and reservations are required), but parking is $10 in advance or $20 at the venue.

This summer’s lineup includes Mamak Khadem (July 21), Rocky Dawuni (July 28), Nefesh Mountain (Aug 4), Booker T. Jones (Aug 11), Ak Dan Gwang Chil (Aug 18) and Son Rompe Pera (Aug 25).

  • Movies
  • Family and kids
  • Long Beach

The best things in life really are free—love, happiness and an evening spent watching movies on a giant inflatable screen at the beach. On select dates from June until August, pack up your folding chairs, grab your kids and head to Long Beach for this unique outdoor screening. Thanks to Alfredo’s Beach Club, you can give your babysitter the night off while you and the fam enjoy a host of kid-friendly flicks. Bring your own picnic, or munch on eats from the nearby snack stand. You’ll find the event hitting Granada Beach, as well as inland at Long Beach City College’s PCC and LAC campuses.

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  • Things to do
  • Classes and workshops
  • Downtown

The Music Center offers a free, joyous mash-up of music and dancing all summer long, with different themes (K-pop, Bollywood and voguing, among them) and free dance lessons plus live DJ sets. Head to the Music Center plaza and join in the fun—no dance experience required.

  • Things to do
  • Performances
  • Reseda

The beloved Getty Center turns 25 years young in 2022, and to celebrate the hilltop museum is hosting a series of free festivals across L.A. On most weekends this summer, the Getty will collaborate with a different local community partner on a two-day arts fair filled with music, workshops and food.

The lineup continues with events in Reseda (July 9, 10), El Monte (July 16, 17), Wilmington (July 30, 31), Crenshaw (Aug 13, 14) and Watts (Aug 27, 28).

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  • Music
  • Downtown

This epic (and free) outdoor concert series features live performances by artists from around the world at the totally overhauled California Plaza stage in DTLA, where the shallow water separating the stage from the audience has been replaced by a proper event lawn. Don’t miss a diverse and highly intriguing mix of bands, DJ sets and dance parties.

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  • Things to do

Sure, it doesn’t look so glamorous now, but give it a few years, a billion or so dollars and some much-needed rain, and the L.A. River will be a point of civic pride for Angelenos. Do your part in the process during the Friend’s of the Los Angeles River’s annual cleanup. Rather than focusing on one spot, the cleanup tackles a different branch each Saturday, with multiple meet-up locations at each.

  • Music
  • Westside

Hilltop sunset views and rising bands combine to make this Getty tradition a worthy destination for Angelenos on both sides of the 405. Back for the first time since 2019, this year’s lineup of free Saturday night shows includes Los Retros (July 9), Hand Habits (July 23) and Standing on the Corner (Aug 27). Tip: Avoid the traffic and the crowds and arrive early. You’ll get to visit the exhibits (which stay open until 8pm starting in June) and beat the dinner rush.

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  • Music
  • Jazz
  • Miracle Mile

One of L.A.’s best free live music offerings, Jazz at LACMA has featured legit legends over its three-decade run at the museum. The beloved program is back again for the season, and so too is its open seating and picnicking format (whereas last year you needed a reservation). You’ll find the series on Friday evenings in LACMA’s welcome plaza (just behind Urban Light) starting in April.

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  • Art
  • Painting
  • Westside

Though they share the same building (the West Pavilion) and focus (murals), about 400 years separates these two summertime exhibitions at the Getty. “The Lost Murals of Renaissance Rome” uses drawings from the museum’s collection to show how the familiar stately walls of Rome were once covered in elaborate frescoes. Bringing things much closer to home, “Judy Baca: Hitting the Wall” will examine the design, painting, destruction and restoration of the artist’s 1984 Olympics mural by the 4th Street off-ramp on the northbound 110.

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  • Things to do
  • Festivals
  • Huntington Beach

America’s largest pro surfing competition attracts the world’s elite, who compete for big money while wowing thousands of 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.

  • Music
  • Fairfax District

The Original Farmers Market is host to a plethora of fun, family-friendly outdoor events, and its summer music series are some of its best. Take a load off near the end of the work week and stop by the West Patio on Thursday nights from 6 to 8pm to hear a genre-spanning mix of live music, or Friday nights from 7 to 9pm for a lineup of tribute bands courtesy of E.B.’s Beer & Wine.

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  • Things to do
  • Exhibitions
  • Culver City

Culver City’s Cold War-focused Wende Museum presents a trio of shows this spring: “The Medium is the Message: Flags and Banners,” which mixes Cold War-era Eastern Bloc political flags with contemporary artwork; “Martin Roemers: Relics of the Cold War,” a collection of abandoned war objects taken by the Dutch photographer between 1998 and 2009; and Lightguardhouse, a 1970s East Berlin state media guardhouse that artist Farrah Karapetian has turned into a rainbow lighthouse.

  • Things to do
  • Exhibitions
  • USC/Exposition Park

The California African American Museum unpacks the romanticism behind Buffalo Soldiers, regiments of Black soldiers who served on the Western frontier in the late 19th century. Through artifacts, audio interviews, photographs, uniforms and newspapers, the museum will explore how both their personal and in-uniform lives shaped California during a time of government-sanctioned racial segregation—and confronts their role in war and violence against indigenous populations.

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  • Art
  • Carson

L.A. artist Lauren Halsey installs works of architectural mappings at the University Art Gallery at CSUDH, with pops of red, black and green (the colors of the Pan-African flag) in conversation with orange, yellow, pink and blue hyper pigments (the colors of South Central).

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