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—75 to be exact—of things to do this season, from rediscovering Hollywood to heading down PCH for a day at the beach 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 LA
75 things to do in the summer (1–20)
It isn't summer in LA 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 (Seven, Almost Famous, Rear Window, etc.) to the hallowed resting place of such Hollywood greats as Rudolph Valentino and Bugsy Siegel. It's an LA 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 LA'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.
One of LA'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 twenty years at the museum, the April-to-November series continues to be one of the museum’s most recognizable (and beloved) programs.
This gorgeous outdoor amphitheatre has been hosting concerts since the LA Philharmonic first played here in 1922. It's the summer home of the LA Philharmonic, 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 the Santa Monica Pier, 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. LA’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.
Can't make it to the beach? Roll out a blanket instead at one LA'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 LA 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.
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.
Los Angeles provides a pretty much endless summer, but when the actual season rolls around, you'll find the best of LA'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 LA 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 newcomers like Eggslut and Sticky Rice, which have turned this into one of the trendiest spots in town. Take your lunch—or on weekends, dinner—outside with a seat at Horse Thief BBQ's Hill Street patio.
The Eastside's historic Echo Park Lake has finally become a family-friendly destination worthy of its Downtown skyline backdrop amid the lotus flower bloom and the spray of the fountains. The lake has been around since 1860—it was once used as a drinking water reservoir, and later as a recreational park with canoes, fishing and a floating lotus garden. 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 Square One) and the Lady of the Lake statue.
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.
75 things to do in the summer (21–40)
Armed with excellent film choices and a steady supply of snacks and booze, Rooftop Film 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.
Each summer music-loving Angelenos from all over the city make a pilgrimage for one of SoCal's best festivals. At FYF, emerging artists take the stage along with established acts—past headliners include the Strokes, Kanye West and Morrissey—in every genre from rock to funk and dance, while fans turn out for two days of musical bliss in the California sun.
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.
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.
Perched over the Pacific in San Pedro sits one of the most idyllic spots in all of LA: 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 Angel's 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 LA'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. A great place to bring kids, dogs, a picnic, or a running club. 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 frisbeeor bocce. Note: no pups allowed.
Every Thursday, head to the Santa Monica Pier for free bands on the beach during their Twilight Concert series. Pack a picnic (and arrive early to get a spot on the sand near the speakers) to enjoy as the local talent plays sunset sets with crashing waves in the distance—it's a quintessential LA music experience.
Sure, LA 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 seven 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, you'll find enough quite from the rift raft of Santa Monica beach warriors and crowds of Surfrider. Long boarders can paddle out for mellow waves—it gets no more than chest-high at this point break—while nature lovers can explore tide pools on the rock-dotted coastline and a nearby trail. Groups can make use of the on-site camping grounds, picnic area, RV lot and token-operated showers. And don't forget Fido: This is one of the rare beaches where dogs (leashed) are allowed to roam north of the lifeguard tower.
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, who provided $27.5 million for the transformation. Completed in 2009, 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.
75 things to do in the summer (41–60)
You've stuffed yourself at LA'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 LA.
There's no dearth of cheap eats in LA, 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 LA's young, professional and creative, the enigmatic Downtown Arts District is the city's neighborhood to watch.
The gorgeous grounds of the LA 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 LA Arboretum and Gardens for hours; many do, taking in tropical forests and waterfalls, trees and fish.
If you're looking for weekend getaways out of LA, 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.
When Italian-born tilesetter Simon Rodia moved to Watts, the neighborhood was ethnically mixed. Three decades later, when he left, it was predominantly black and Latino, widely seen as the heart of LA's African-American community. In the intervening years, though, Rodia had constructed its single iconic structure, an extraordinary piece of folk art that's one of only a handful of National Historic Landmarks in Los Angeles. Rodia started work on constructing what have become known as the Watts Towers shortly after purchasing a triangular lot in the area and moving on to the site in 1921. Using nothing but found objects (salvaged metal rods, cast-off pipe structures, broken bed frames)... (click to read more).
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 this 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. Or head to the petting zoo for—what else—some stand-up comedy. Local food truck faves will be on hand, along with a full bar for getting zoo-boozy.
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 LA) is just what you need. Here, your list of the best places to take cover—literally—and be underground in LA.
Hollywood tour options are in no short supply, from the open top vans that line the Hollywood Walk of Fame to intimate walking tours. Explore major tourist attractions and celebrity hangouts or take an offbeat look at Hollywood history. Finding that perfect one can be a challenge, especially when most Hollywood tours are, in fact, excursions through the Sunset Strip and Beverly Hills. So, we hopped aboard Tinseltown's top tour buses to find you the best tours through one of Los Angeles' most famous neighborhoods.
It's summer in LA 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 7-9pm to hear live music during or after your shopping trip or dinner al fresco.
America’s largest pro surfing competition attracts the world’s elite, who compete for big money while wowing 200,000 beach boys and girls in Huntington Beach. Heating up the festivities are live bands, a sports expo and after-parties with the friendly locals.
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 LA—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 LA 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.
75 things to do in the summer (61–75)
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 Bring Your Own Dance Moves, 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 LA, 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. Check out the site for more event and vendor deats.
As a city by the Pacific, LA 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, LA'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 LA 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.
Have you had it up to here with the mainstream gay scene in Los Angeles? Never fear, because percolating just under the surface of the usual gay cruising spots and gay nightclubs is a vast reserve of unpublicized nightlife opportunities. Fueled by quality talent and promoted with discretion, these weekly, monthly and off-the-cuff events showcase the brightest and most influential new faces on the scene. Get a leg up on the competition and check out the fashions, music and artists that everyone else will be rocking six months from now at the best underground LGBT parties.
Not all summer music festivals require a road trip to the desert; in fact, you'll find a pretty even split between local LA 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.
This delightful tribute to the horticultural magic of Southern California includes more than 600 varieties of camellia (these are best seen between the middle of February and early May, when there are around 34,000 of the plants in bloom) 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 gardens host yoga classes amid the greenery.
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 LA's best vegan restaurants. Here, the ten best—all 100 percent vegan.
You don't need a Getty Center museum guide or a tour of LACMA to find some of the best art in LA: The city has its fair share of secret art adorning buildings, billboards and subway tunnels—all you have to do keep your eyes peeled (and check out our list below) to see undeground art in unexpected, secret places in LA.
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 LA’s majestic city lights below make this a special evening for the whole family.