Looking for things to do in the summer? Thankfully, in Los Angeles we have no shortage of outdoor activities and festivals to suggest. We’ve got you covered with a list of things to do this season—75 to be exact—from rediscovering Hollywood to heading down PCH for a day at one of the best beaches in L.A. or even splashing around at a summertime pool party. Read on to dispel your couch potato habits and make the most of the season with these things to do in the summer.
RECOMMENDED: See our full guide to things to do in the summer in L.A.
75 things to do in the summer
It isn’t summer in L.A. until the first cemetery screening brings hoards of movie-lovers to Hollywood Forever, toting folding chairs, picnic blankets, snack spreads and lots of booze. Each year, Cinespia brings classic cult favorites to the hallowed resting place of such Hollywood greats as Rudolph Valentino and Bugsy Siegel. It’s an L.A. rite of passage, a quintessential summer experience and one of the best film venues in the city.
What is it that they say about smog? Oh yeah, beautiful sunsets. Make L.A.’s haze work for you at these cocktail bars and beachside spots, where the views rightfully rival the booze. From Downtown Los Angeles’ rooftop bars to Malibu’s seaside cabanas, here are the city’s best bars with a view.
This gorgeous outdoor amphitheatre has been hosting concerts since the L.A. Philharmonic first played here in 1922. It’s the summer home of the L.A. Phil, but it’s hosted everyone from the Beatles to Big Bird, and today mixes classical concerts with all manner of rock and pop. Best of all? You can bring your own bottle of wine to nearly every performance.
Free shows are everywhere, especially during the summer months. Whether you get your kicks dancing, at the club or along the Sunset Strip, there’s always tons of live music options—and surprisingly enough, not all of them will cost you. From the Getty to a Downtown park, there are plenty of free concerts this summer.
Take a walk along the palm and eucalyptus-lined bluffs and it becomes obvious why tourists flock to Santa Monica. With the beach on one side and mountains on another, it’s the essence of that postcard picture of Southern California’s coastline. You’ll find more than just a beach town, though; there are plenty of things to do in Santa Monica without setting foot on the Pier or Third Street Promenade, from fresh dinners prepared straight from the farmers’ market to bars with a view.
Endless summers in Los Angeles mean non-stop cravings for the best ice cream. When temperatures climb and the Santa Ana winds roll in, treat yourself to the city's tastiest frozen treats. As Angelenos, we appreciate a quality scoop of ice cream as much as a quality workout—after a hike or even after a sweaty yoga practice. After all, what's the point of a great workout sesh if you don't indulge?
When you’re craving wines by the flights but a boozy weekend getaway among the vines just isn’t in the cards (or you just can’t go back to Malibu Wines again this month), worry not. L.A.’s wine shops are the next best thing. Just like visiting a winery, you’ll pay a fee to sip through a flight of wines based on a theme—maybe all reds or whites, or all New World Zinfandels—and walk away with discounted bottles.
The allure of the canyons is inescapable once your car climbs their well-worn roads. The era of folk and free love trickled out of the mainstream but never left the canyons. Magic is still hidden around every bend in these mountains, and it’s yours to discover. So, fill up your gas tank and head for the hills.
Can’t make it to the beach? Roll out a blanket instead at one L.A.’s beautiful parks. Whether you’re an art aficionado or a devoted dog owner, there’s a slice of nature that fits your lifestyle. So take a stroll through our favorite (and free) parks in Los Angeles.
Outdoor movies combine two obvious things about L.A. and the people who live here: we’re really into film and we love being outside, whether it’s for working out, hitting the beach or dining rooftop. Makes sense, right? This summer, add outdoor movies to your list of budget-friendly things to do.
Los Angeles provides a pretty much endless summer, but when the actual season rolls around, you’ll find the best of L.A.’s nightlife at the pool. The season officially kicks off with a splash of pool parties thrown at shindig-friendly hotels around town. If you’re looking to lounge (or dance) by the pool, music in ear and cocktail in hand, be prepared to arrive early or grab a hotel room the night before, as most parties cap out at 500 people.
In the heart of Downtown L.A. is this European-style food hall, which has been operating on the ground floor of the iconic Homer Laughlin Building since 1917. Old school Mexican- and South American stalls mix among newer crowd pleasers like Eggslut and Sticky Rice, which have turned this into one of the trendiest spots in town. Take your lunch or dinner outside with a seat at Horse Thief BBQ’s Hill Street patio.
With its Downtown skyline backdrop, lotus flower bloom and spraying fountains, this onetime drinking water reservoir is the perfect Eastside recreational destination. Today, you can walk the track around the lake or push your way through it in a pedal boat; either way, make sure to stop at the revived boathouse (and its breakfast pit stop Beacon) and the Lady of the Lake statue. And make sure to look out for the Lotus Festival in July.
Everyone needs to escape the city sometimes—even this one—and there’s no better place for hiking, camping and exploring than Southern California. We’re surrounded by miles of beachy coastline forested mountains—maybe save the desert for another season. Pack your bag, grab a map and take your pick of these rustic weekend getaways.
In 1974, oil magnate J. Paul Getty opened a museum of his holdings in a faux villa on a Malibu clifftop. Eventually the decorative arts and paintings were moved to the Getty Center, and the villa was closed for conversion into a museum for Getty’s collection of Mediterranean antiquities. Even if you’re not interested in the art, the palatial courtyards and manicured gardens are worth the visit.
One of L.A.’s best free live music offerings, Jazz at LACMA has featured such legends as Wayne Shorter, John Clayton, Kenny Burrell amd Arturo Sandoval. Celebrating over 20 years at the museum, the April-to-November series continues to be one of the museum’s most recognizable (and beloved) programs.
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 help bring the works to life at the Festival of Arts in Laguna Beach. This year’s theme, “Under the Sun,” is inspired by Laguna’s own artistic pioneers.
Armed with excellent film choices and a steady supply of snacks and booze, Rooftop Cinema Club is your snazzy, comfortable and less stressful alternative to other outdoor movie screenings. You don’t even need to bring your own blanket or camping chair—Rooftop Film Club provides you with your very own comfy lawn chair, blankets and a set of wireless headphones.
Barnsdall Park’s wine tastings regularly attract sell-out crowds. Perched on top of Olive Hill in the west lawn of historic Hollyhock House, Barnsdall Fridays includes four selections of boutique wines provided by Silverlake Wine every week with a spectacular sunset and 360-degree views of the city.
Small, beautiful and dominated by rocky outcrops, El Matador looks not unlike a European beach. Six miles north of Malibu and 25 miles from Santa Monica, it’s past just past Leo Carrillo Beach, accessible via a steep gravelly path. Just make sure to mind the tide.
Nature lovers rejoice! Spend a day at the NHM’s Butterfly Pavilion with more than 53 butterfly and moth species and an assortment of California plants. The seasonal outdoor exhibit allows for adults and children alike to witness nature up close—we’re talking having bufferlies take flight and land on your arms or shoulders.
While Venice’s claim to fame may be its beach culture from Dogtown to the Boardwalk, the ’hood’s most stylish block, Abbot Kinney, has some of the city’s best boutiques, galleries, restaurants and bars. Accessorize in your best beachside casual and hop on your cruiser.
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. Bring your own picnic, or munch on eats from the nearby snack stand during kid-friendly flicks.
Returning to the Rose Bowl–adjacent Brookside Golf Club for a second year, this all-ages, rock-leaning fest is headlined by Neil Young, Jack White, Kings of Leon and Robert Plant. Belle and Sebastian, Alanis Morissette and Third Eye Blind join a small-print bill that, this year, skews toward Americana and ’80s throwbacks.
Perched over the Pacific in San Pedro sits one of the most idyllic spots in all of L.A.: the Korean Bell of Friendship. The mighty metallic bell's rusty green finish complements the ornately painted hipped roof—its paint job has seen better days, but that doesn't detract from the beauty of the 1976 goodwill gift from South Korea. The exposed, grassy bluff is an ideal spot to fly a kite or just lounge in the grass of Angels Gate Park.
Instead of spending away the summer being a couch potato, why not get a little active and be a badass while doing so? That’s right, we’re talking archery lessons, and free ones at that. You can make like Katniss and Robin Hood and learn how to hit the bullseye for free all around the city.
This all-ages concert series from KCRW sets up shop across the city every week from June through August, and is definitely among the liveliest of L.A.’s summer concerts. Participate in cultural workshops before busting a move on the dance floor to DJ sets and live bands. Sample food-truck grub or cuisine from surrounding restaurants as you party ‘til midnight in the heart of Chinatown and Pasadena as well as at the Hammer Museum.
The original Muscle Beach (located on Ocean Front Walk, off Appian Way between Pacific Terrace and Arcadia Terrace) has plenty of regulars, gawking tourists and a healthy crowd of amateurs. On weekends, you’ll see some amazing beach gymnasts and the vibe is friendly—be courteous and don’t hog the ropes, and they’ll offer tips or share handfuls of chalk (you can also usually find chalk left in the sand near the ropes swings).
Looking for lit? If you’re book shopping in Los Angeles, look no further. We’ve found the best shops and independent retailers offering art books, travel guides political tomes and children’s tales. Check out these top 20 Los Angeles booksellers for the best bargains, out-of-print titles, author readings and community events.
Silver Lake’s Reservoir has two dog parks (one big, one small), a basketball court, playground and field for the kiddies and a 2.2 mile trail around its entirety. The Reservoir is also home to the Meadow, a soft, grassy knoll overlooking the water where visitors can lounge, picnic or play a game of frisbee or bocce.
Sure, L.A. may not have grilled fish on sticks as they famously do in Munich, but the spirit of Oktoberfest is in effect year-round at these outdoor biergartens. Stop in for a beer and wurst. You may even momentarily forget the annual fall Bavarian revelry taking place 6,000 miles away.
It’s impossible to cruise along Grand Avenue and miss the Walt Disney Concert Hall, a twisted metallic explosion of Frank Gehry’s imagination. You may not realize, though, that the acoustically impressive hall harbors a lush garden in its shadows. Whether you’re looking for a quiet place to sit on your lunch hour or a climb along the building’s lustrous exterior, it’s the perfect spot to both appreciate and escape the city.
Leo Carrillo has the best of both worlds—a well-equipped stretch of sand with seclusion and scenic beauty. Stretching one and a half miles across the north tip of Malibu, the beach calls to nature lovers with tide pools on the rock-dotted coastline and a nearby trail. And don’t forget Fido: This is one of the rare beaches where dogs (leashed) are allowed to roam north/west of the lifeguard tower.
Rosie’s Dog Beach, a four-acre waterfront spot, is the only legal off-leash dog beach in L.A. County. The park is named after the area’s late local canine celebrity, Rosie the English bulldog. You can easily spot the dog-friendly area by the colorful “Dogs at Play” silhouette.
What started as an opulent beachfront estate built by William Randolph Hearst for Hollywood star Marion Davies in the 1920s is now a modern, community beach club open to the public, thanks to Wallis Annenberg of the Annenberg Foundation. The five-acre beach house accommodates a main house with a rec room for board games, ping pong and classes and events, a swimming pool, a splash pad, beach volleyball and tennis courts, soccer fields, canopies, a cafe and rentals for paddle boards.
You’ve stuffed yourself at L.A.’s finest restaurants and tippled at the city’s best watering holes and now it’s time for a detox. Ditch the fat (and solid food) and chew on this—juices are sprouting up faster than you can turn that kale into liquid green. From seaside smoothies in Malibu to raw juices in Hollywood, check out the best juice bars in L.A.
There’s no dearth of cheap eats in L.A., especially on the Eastside. So if you’re looking for somewhere to host a celebratory meal—or drown your sorrows—after a Dodgers game, check out our list of the twelve best budget places to eat and drink near Dodger Stadium, from dive bars and taco trucks to al fresco dining and fancy brews. No matter your budget or your palate, we’ve got the spot for you... Unless you’re rooting for the opposite team, in which case our advice is to get out of the ’hood as fast as you can.
It may seem like a no man’s land at first glance, but the Downtown Arts District is a whole ’nother beast when you take a closer look. Equal parts warehouse wasteland and burgeoning hub for L.A.’s young, professional and creative, the enigmatic Downtown Arts District is the city’s most exciting neighborhood right now.
The gorgeous grounds of the L.A. County Arboretum in Arcadia, very close to the Santa Anita racetrack, have been designed as an educational facility (the plants are mostly arranged by region, and tours are available), but many people simply come here for a little peace and quiet. You could wander the gardens for hours; many do, taking in tropical forests and waterfalls, trees and fish.
If you’re looking for weekend getaways out of L.A., Santa Catalina Island is a close and beautiful bet. The little strip of land—accessable by ferries from Long Beach or San Pedro—has all the makings of a well rounded vacation: Rich history, beach town relaxation and outdoorsy adventure. It’s only 22 miles from the mainland, but whether you stay for a day or the whole weekend, you’ll be on island time in no time.
Italian-born tilesetter Simon Rodia constructed this iconic structure over the course of decades, an extraordinary piece of folk art that’s one of only a handful of National Historic Landmarks in Los Angeles. Today, the tower assembly of found objects is also home to an arts center and a neighboring patch of grass that’s perfect for a contemplative picnic.
Tucked between the grimy Venice Boardwalk and the posh Abbot Kinney, the Venice Canals offer a completely different side of the famed beachfront neighborhood. Take a stroll through these three canal-lined blocks—hence the name, Venice—and you’ll discover an idyllic scene: arching pedestrian bridges, charming beach houses, bunches of ducklings and the occasional paddle boarding bulldog. Though you won’t find boat rentals anywhere along the canals, you can bring your own non-motorized vessel to tour the neighborhood at water level (enter via the launch ramp at Venice Boulevard).
Consistently good seafood (think fresh lobster, shrimp tacos and New England clam chowder)—not to mention an unbeatable waterfront location—makes this iconic Malibu lunch and dinner spot, which first opened in 1956, a popular choice for families, beach bums and regular old fried food lovers.
See the zoo in a whole new light at Roaring Nights, a special after-hours exploration series. Those 18 and up can roam the zoo on their own or learn from pop-up zookeeper talks and live animal encounters. Unleash your own inner animal at live shows from local indie bands plus a dance party at the carousel. Local food truck faves will be on hand, along with a full bar for getting zoo-boozy.
What is a backyard barbecue without a hot dog? Alongside burgers, watermelon slices and beer, hot dogs are as necessary during the summer as fireworks and trips to the beach. So what if you don’t have a backyard? L.A. is, thankfully, rife with restaurants, stands and food carts offering excellent versions of this national dish, however you like it—topped with a pickle spear, slathered in chili, fried in pastry dough. Check out our guide to the best hot dogs in L.A.—it’s basically your civic duty.
As an Angeleno you know all the city’s best places to see and be seen—from the hottest restaurants and bars to pool parties and popular hiking trails—there’s bound to be a few celebrity sightings as well. Though sometimes escaping the bustling cityscape (without really leaving L.A.) is just what you need. Here, your list of the best places to take cover—literally—and be underground in L.A.
It’s summer in L.A. and that means beach escapes and the great outdoors. Before hitting the sand or heading to the Hollywood Bowl or catching an outdoor movie, stop by the city’s best gourmet food stores for a DIY picnic or pre-made box to-go. And for every other season of the year, stock up on gourmet food items from artisan condiments and fancy confections to local cheeses and homemade baked goods.
Just inland from the Pacific Coast Highway and easy to miss when you’re rushing to catch the sunset, the mystical, mysterious Self-Realization Fellowship Lake Shrine is run by a non-denominational order that welcomes visitors but doesn’t proselytise to them. Set on a ten-acre site that was used as a film set during the silent era, the lovely gardens evoke old Hollywood: look out for the Dutch windmill chapel, the Mississippi houseboat and a number of gliding swans. The East, meanwhile, is represented by a gilded lotus gate enclosing a shrine that contains some of Gandhi’s ashes.
Los Angeles is a great city, and it’s not like there isn’t enough to do here on the weekends. But sometimes you just need to escape for a few hours, and luckily we happen to be surrounded by spectacular landscapes, beautiful beaches and small towns perfect for day trips. If you’re itching for an out-of-town getaway but are a bit short on time, check out these spotsl within three hours of the city.
The Farmers Market across from the Grove hosts a plethora of fun, family-friendly outdoor events, and its summer music series are some of its best. Take a load off at the end of the work week and stop by the West Patio from 7 to 9pm to hear live music during or after your shopping trip or dinner al fresco.
Head to the Santa Monica Senior Center (of all places), trade your photo ID for a key, then ascend a narrow staircase leading to a tiny room containing a camera obscura apparatus that’s more than 100 years old. Passersby outside are reflected in miniature on a large white disk, which you can steer for different views. Sneak a kiss in the dark as tiny strangers stroll across the disk, oblivious to your PDA.
Explore the many free attractions in L.A.—from museums to iconic landmarks and lesser-known sites, we’ve listed the best places to visit on a budget. Whether you’re looking to get outdoors, spot celebs or explore a new neighborhood, read on for must-see L.A. attractions. Plus, you can even get some post-eating and drinking ideas for your next wallet-friendly date night.
Take wicked mash-up lineups (Talking Heads, LCD Soundsystem, James Brown, etc.) and add in a cutting-edge, technology-meets-music event and you have the basics of HUSHconcerts. You’re given a pair of wireless headphones and all of your tunes are pumped in through those. Basically, you’re dancing your ass off to great music next to a bunch of other people doing the same—take ’em off and you’ll only hear the sound of the ocean.
Manhattan Beach boasts two miles of sparkly coastline, almost all of it stacked with dreamy hillside homes. Most of the activity is centered around the walkable waterfront slope of Manhattan Beach Boulevard, with additional shops and an increasingly essential dining scene trailing along Manhattan Avenue as well. Head down to the beach for countless volleyball nets, the Manhattan Beach Pier and the Strand, the bike and walking path that traces the shoreline.
This is the road of classic make out points, Hollywood chase scenes and scenic splendor. Roll the windows down and avoid cross-town traffic with a drive along the entirety of the scenic highway—and make sure to stop at these half dozen or so overlooks, all in less than an hour.
The Music Center offers a free, joyous mashup of music and dancing all summer long, with different themes (’90s, line dancing, cumbia, etc.) and free dance lessons plus live bands. Dance Downtown switches off every week with DJ Nights, with a late night bar menu and DJs. Head to the Music Center Plaza and join in the fun—no dance experience required.
The grand, white concrete tower has stood tall as a city icon since 1928, and today it’s the easiest way to take in an elevated view of Downtown and beyond. If you’re ever passing through the Civic Center during public hours—weekdays 9am-5pm, enter on Main Street—then you owe yourself a visit to the 27th floor observation deck. While you’re there, walk around the surrounding park and look for the 1984 Olympic torch near the Spring Street exit.
Mark the bloom of Echo Park Lake’s beloved floating flowers with the annual Lotus Festival. Expect plenty of food, music, dragon boat races and, of course, the lotus flower beds in full bloom. The historic event celebrates the contributions of Asian-Americans to L.A., with each year honoring a different ethnic community.
The midnight snacker’s greatest fantasy is just a car ride away. This summer, America’s largest Asian food market spans the course of Santa Anita Park’s front Paddock Gardens (285 W. Huntington Drive). Come hungry, and come caffeinated—this lively market, complete with over 150 Asian street food and booze peddlers, live music, artists, films, games, and beyond, won’t put itself to bed until 1am.
As a city by the Pacific, L.A. doesn’t have as many seafood restaurants as one might think it would. But if you’re intent on diving in to a raw bar or various seafood classics, there are plenty of good options. Whether you’re looking for a special-occasion splurge or a family-style grill, L.A.’s best seafood restaurants fit the bill.
Twice a year, the city’s eateries ramp up for a week-plus stretch of prix-fixe menus where diners can check out some of the best restaurants and best dishes in Los Angeles. During DineLA Restaurant Week, tasty meal deals can be had, and cheap eats scored. Here are our picks for the best DineLA lunch and dinner menus from our favorite participating L.A. restaurants.
This epic (and free) outdoor concert series features live performances by artists from around the world at the gorgeous water-encompassed California Plaza stage in DTLA. Don’t miss a diverse and highly intriguing mix of musical performances, live scores, films, poetry and theater.
Not all summer music festivals require a road trip to the desert; in fact, you’ll find a pretty even split between local L.A. venues and day trip destinations. While festivals aren’t the only upcoming concerts this summer, they certainly generate the most buzz—particularly these summer music festivals.
Though city views are great from the road, they’re even better from one of L.A.’s best hikes. As the sun sets and the temperatures cool off, it’s the perfect time to take one of these night hikes—just make sure to bring a flashlight.
This delightful tribute to the horticultural magic of Southern California includes more than 600 varieties of camellia and some five acres of roses. There are also lilac, orchid, fern and California native plant areas, as well as a tea house donated by the Japanese-American community.
The word “vegan” no longer raises eyebrows and prompts jokes about nut loaf the way it might have even a decade ago. Today, there’s a smörgasbord of meat-and-dairy-free restaurants in Los Angeles: from seitan burgers by Madonna’s former personal chef to heaping platters of soul food. There are plenty of spots considered among L.A.’s best vegan restaurants. Here, the ten best—all 100 percent vegan.
Want to admire the moon and constellations up close, but don’t have your own powerful telescope at home? Not to worry, Griffith Observatory has you covered with their popular (and free) monthly Public Star Parties. Head out to the Observatory’s expansive lawn among hundreds of other star enthusiasts and check out the views through a wide variety of telescopes, with savvy amateur astronomers happy to discuss what you see through their equipment. The views of celestial objects above and L.A.’s majestic city lights below make this a special evening for the whole family.
Want to cool off during the summer? Go to the beach. Not near the water? Try a public swimming pool. But what if you want to get wet and have an offroad adventure at the same time? That’s where swimming holes come in. Part day trip, part wilderness trek, these mountainous oases offer a cool dip in a scenic locale, oftentimes at the end of a waterfall hike. If you’re not afraid of a bit of walking and fecal bacteria—we’re only half joking—then reward yourself with a dip in one of these swimming holes near L.A.
Looking for summer concerts?
Get out your calendars: Your guide to the best summer concerts has arrived. Here, our picks for the best warm-weather gigs, including summer concert series, free shows, summer music festivals and more. Make sure to check out our monthly concert calendars, too, for shows in outdoor venues, clubs and theaters.
Summer music festivals in and near L.A.
Not all summer music festivals require a road trip to the desert.