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Immersive Van Gogh
Photograph: Courtesy Immersive Van Gogh

May 2021 events calendar for Los Angeles

Plan your month with our May 2021 events calendar of the best activities, including free things to do, festivals and our favorite concerts


May is starting to look like the Los Angeles we know and love: Museum exhibitions are back on the calendar, live performances are beginning to return and so too are more and more of our favorite things to do. So make the most of that sweet, pre-summer stretch between Cinco de Mayo and Memorial Day—before the beach crowds return—with our May events calendar.

RECOMMENDED: Full events calendar for 2021

The best events in L.A. this May

Immersive Van Gogh
Photograph: Zach Long

Immersive Van Gogh

Art Location T.B.A.,

True to its name, this exhibition transforms the iconic paintings of Vincent van Gogh into moving, wall-filling projections. “Immersive Van Gogh” promises half-a-million cubic feet of projections that pull from some of the post-Impressionist’s most recognizable pieces, including The Bedroom, Sunflowers and, yes, The Starry Night.

The Music Center
Photograph: Courtesy Tim Street-Porter

Dance at Dusk

Dance The Music Center, Downtown

Live dance returns to the Music Center—outdoors only for now—with this series of ticketed ballet, tap and modern dance performances on a new stage set up in the Jerry Moss Plaza, plus a free stream on Sunday evenings.

Installation view of Ai Weiwei: Trace at Skirball Cultural Center.
Photograph: Courtesy Robert Wedemeyer

Ai Weiwei: Trace

Art Installation Skirball Cultural Center, Westside

Originally staged at Alcatraz, “Trace” displays portraits of activists and prisoners of conscience made from millions of LEGO bricks. Chinese artist Ai Weiwei was inspired to create this installation after he was imprisoned in Beijing due to his political activism.

Rooftop Cinema Club
Photograph: Courtesy Rooftop Cinema Club

Rooftop Cinema Club

Movies Multiple venues

The masters of alfresco rooftop movie viewing have returned, with both a Santa Monica drive-in and a new rooftop in El Segundo.

Party Mantras
Rendering courtesy the artist

Grand Park’s Celebration Spectrum

Things to do Multiple venues

Make up for a year of missed celebrations with this joyous installation in Grand Park. The free, month-long display from web radio collective dublab, artist Tanya Aguiñiga and curator Mark “Frosty” McNeill is blanketing the Downtown L.A. park in a series of five visual and audio pieces.

Judson Studios
Photograph: Michael Juliano

Judson Studios: Stained Glass from Gothic to Street Style

Art Glasswork Forest Lawn Glendale, Glendale

See more than 100 works pulled from the archives of Judson Studios, L.A.’s celebrated 123-year-old glass studio, in this examination of its collaborations with contemporary artists pushing the boundaries of art glass. Objects on display at the Forest Lawn Museum include stained glass artworks, preparatory drawings, oil paintings, watercolors and archival photographs.

Gamble House
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Wikimedia/Martin Green

Goat Yoga at the Gamble House

Things to do Classes and workshops Gamble House, Pasadena

Partake in some goat yoga on the front lawn of one of SoCal’s most handsome homes during this series at the Gamble House. Pasadena’s Arts and Crafts masterpiece is inviting yogis to come stretch and practice their posture as a trip of goats trots around. The Nigerian Dwarf kids come from goat yoga specialists Hello Critter, and the Gamble House notes that its class suits both first-timers coming just for the goats and more experienced attendees looking for a challenge. Each half-hour class is bookended with 15 minutes of petting and pictures. You’re encourage to bring your own yoga mat or towel, but if you don’t want it to collect with little goat presents, you can rent a sanitized mat for $5.

TCM Classic Film Festival
Photograph: Edward M. Pio Roda, Photo courtesy Turner Classic Movies

TCM Classic Film Festival

Movies Drama Online, Los Angeles

This must-visit for classic film buffs showcases four days of beloved movies—from the iconic to forgotten gems—courtesy of Turner Classic Movies. While typically you could see these time-honored favorites on the big screen, the way they were meant to be seen, this year’s festival again has had to move online. From May 6 to 9, you can tune in to the cable network or HBO Max for a slate of TCM Classic Film Festival favorites, as well as some event highlights from the past decades.

Photograph: Courtesy We Rise

We Rise

Things to do Exhibitions Various locations in L.A.,

This Mental Health Awareness Month event is pulling together a bunch of community events, like a CicLAvia-hosted bike ride and a BLM LA-endorsed workshop on breathwork and healing; digital programming from Get Lit and Drag Queen Story Hour, among others; and a total of 21 in-person art installations.

Academy Museum
Photograph: ©Academy Museum Foundation

Hildur Guðnadóttir Gallery Talk

Things to do Talks and lectures Online, Los Angeles

The Oscar-winning Joker composer chats with Academy Museum curator Jenny He about Guðnadóttir’s work and her approach to designing the museum’s composer’s inspiration gallery.

Magic Castle comedy show
Photograph: Courtesy Stevo Rood @aroodphoto

Magic Asphalt: Drive-In Comedy Under the Stars

Comedy Stand-up Magic Castle, Hollywood

Nope, this isn’t an illusion: A stand-up comedy show is setting up in the parking lot of Hollywood’s most whimsical clubhouse for magicians. The sets will all be blasting through your FM radio during multiple nights of drive-in sets at the Magic Castle.

Made in L.A.
Photograph: Time Out/Michael Juliano

Made in L.A.

Art Contemporary art Multiple venues

The Hammer Museum’s excellent, ongoing series of biennial exhibitions ups the ante each year with its spotlight on emerging and under-recognized L.A. artists, and the fifth edition is no exception—with a co-presentation at the Huntington Library, too.

Photograph: Michael Juliano

First Fridays at the Natural History Museum

Things to do Classes and workshops Online, Los Angeles

The Natural History Museum’s in-person First Fridays may have gone the way of the dodo for now, but the museum isn’t letting the after-hours event go totally extinct—instead, it’s digging it up and brushing it off for an online presentation.

Ty Segall
Photograph: Courtesy Kyle Thomas

Ty Segall

Music Rock and indie Online, Los Angeles

The prolific singer-songwriter finds room for lo-fi garage-rock riffs and acoustic strums at his shows, sometimes performed solo and at other times with the backing of his many associated bands.

For this streaming show, Segall and his band perform from Occidental College’s Remsen Bird Hillside Theater, an amphitheater in the hills of Eagle Rock.

Valley Relics Museum
Photograph: Courtesy Jared Cowan/Valley Relics Museum

Movies on Location

Movies Various locations in L.A.,

Catch a series of movies in the Valley screened at the locations where they were shot or at a local landmark that fits the film’s theme. So far, My Valley Pass, the area visitors’ guide that runs the event, has lined up showings of the Bow Wow-starring roller skating flick Roll Bounce at car-hop-serving Cupid’s Hot Dogs in Winnetka; ’80s BMX movie RAD at the Valley Relics Museum; and Punch-Drunk Love at Eckhart Auto Body, which was used as Adam Sandler’s office. Chairs will be provided and the sound will be broadcoast via speakers, but you can also opt to rent wireless headphones for $5.

The Normal Heart

LGBTQ+ Online, Los Angeles

The USC-adjacent ONE Archives Foundation, in collaboration with Invisible Histories Project, presents this virtual reading of Larry Kramer’s The Normal Heart, a largely autobiographical play about the early days of the AIDS crisis. Sterling K. Brown and Laverne Cox lead the cast, along with an introduction by Martin Sheen. Ticket sales support the foundation’s LGBTQ+ education initiatives and exhibitions.

Photo: David Dibert/Unsplash

Flower Super Moon Forest Bathing

Things to do Walks and tours Los Angeles County Arboretum & Botanical Garden, Arcadia

Slow down and soak in the magic of the woods during this guided, moonlit forest walk at the Arboretum, inspired by the Japanese practice of shinrin yoku.

Cylinder Seal of the Royal Scribe Ibni-Sharrum
Musée du Louvre, Département des Antiquités orientales Image © RMN-Grand Palais / Art Resource, NY. Photo: Franck Raux

Mesopotamia: Civilization Begins

Art Sculpture Getty Villa, Pacific Palisades

Travel a few millennia back in time to see jewelry, sculptures and cuneiform writing from the ancient Sumerians, Babylonians, and Assyrians. The objects on loan from the Louvre are broken up into three galleries, each themed to a different “first”—cities, writings and kings—and filled with items that date from the initial Mesopotamian cities in about 3200 B.C. to Alexander the Great’s conquest of Babylon in 331 B.C. Timed reservations are currently required to visit the Getty Villa (and do note that you may have a brief wait when moving between the exhibition’s limited-capacity galleries).

Second Home Hollywood
Photograph: Courtesy Iwan Baan

Sam First at Second Home

Music Jazz Second Home Hollywood, Hollywood

Jetsetting-yet-cozy LAX-adjacent jazz bar Sam First is hooking up with East Hollywood coworking space Second Home for this series of outdoor concerts. On Tuesdays in May, Second Home Hollywood is opening up its lush campus (which happens to share the same distinctive architect, SelgasCano, as Sam First) for live, in-person concerts from the Mike Cottone Quartet, Artyom Manukyan Trio, Dan Rosenboom Quartet and Josh Nelson Group. Tickets are available by table, up to a maximum of six people.

Post 43 Drive-In
Photograph: Courtesy American Legion

Legion Drive-In

Movies Hollywood American Legion Post 43, Hollywood

Catch drive-in screenings outside of a 92-year-old theater with the Hollywood Hills as your backdrop during this series. The American Legion Hollywood Post 43 will host up 30 cars a night, seven days a week during the veterans organization’s pop-up drive-in (with films digitally projected onto a 38-foot screen and transmitted via your car radio). Each reservation includes popcorn, soda and candy.

Desert X installation view of Serge Attukwei Clottey, The Wishing Well. 2021.
Photography by Lance Gerber. Courtesy the artist and Desert X.

Desert X

Art Installation Various locations in L.A.,

The desert-spanning biennial is back, with premieres of site-specific works from a slate of 13 artists. For its third iteration, Desert X will once again stage outdoor installations across 40 miles of the Coachella Valley through May 16. Admission is free and there’s an emphasis on visitor safety (with the exhibitions all being outdoors, that seems like a natural fit). Check out our preview of all of the installations.

Sound Mind Mental Health Music Festival

Music Music festivals Ventura County Fairgrounds, Ventura County

All Time Low, Fitz and the Tantrums, lovelytheband and Charlotte Lawrence top this drive-in concert from the Ventura County Fairgrounds. Event proceeds support the National Alliance on Mental Illness of Ventura.

Butterfly gowns worn by the Supremes
Photograph: Courtesy Rebecca Sapp/GRAMMY Museum

Motown: The Sound Of Young America

Things to do Exhibitions Grammy Museum, South Park

Follow the history of the culture-defining record label with this decade-spanning dive into Motown. The Grammy Museum exhibition includes stage outfits from the Supremes, the Jackon 5 and Boyz II Men, as well as some more recent additions like Migos; Stevie Wonder’s harmonica; and a station where you can learn the Temptations’ signature dance moves.

Yoshitomo Nara
Photograph: Courtesy the artist

Yoshitomo Nara

Art Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), Miracle Mile

This Yoshitomo Nara exhibition had been sitting there, just waiting to welcome visitors for about a year now. But finally, LACMA is open again, and this exhibition along with it. The museum is assembling 30 years of works from the wildly popular Japanese artist (known for canvases of fiendish, wide-eyed children and animals) and examining them through the lens of his longtime passion for music.


The Frida Cinema Pop-Up Drive-In

Movies Location T.B.A.,

Santa Ana’s Frida Cinema is hopping around Orange County for a series of pop-up drive-in screenings. You’ll find most of the screenings at the Mess Hall at FLIGHT in Tustin, with some additional ones in cities around the county.

Street Food Cinema
Photograph: Courtesy Street Food Cinema

Street Food Cinema

Movie theaters Outdoor Multiple venues

Outdoor movie season isn’t canceled—it’s just headed to the drive-in. Seasonal fave Street Food Cinema is making some social-distancing–friendly tweaks to its schedule and parking itself at a few locations for drive-in movie screenings (and one traditional outdoor one).

Neon sign that says We Miss Places
Courtesy Dani Bonnet


Art Installation Hollywood Palladium, Hollywood

This free show features neon and mixed media works from over a dozen artists that are taking over the windows of the Hollywood Palladium.

Hollywood Bowl
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/vagueonthehow


Music Classical and opera Online, Los Angeles

Ever wondered what a show would look like at the Hollywood Bowl with no crowd? You can find out—for free—with this series of recorded performances from the LA Phil.

Butterfly pavilion
Photograph: Courtesy Gina Cholick/Natural History Museums of Los Angeles County

Butterfly Pavilion at the Natural History Museum

Things to do Natural History Museum, USC/Exposition Park

Nature lovers rejoice! Spend a day at the Natural History Museum’s Butterfly Pavilion with up to 30 butterfly and moth species and an assortment of California plants.

Lygia Pape, Memória Tupinambá
© Projeto Lygia Pape. Courtesy Projeto Lygia Pape and Hauser & Wirth. Photograph © 2020 Fredrik Nilsen.

Lygia Pape. Tupinambá

Art Contemporary art Hauser & Wirth Los Angeles, Downtown Arts District

Neo-Concrete movement founder Lygia Pape was largely known for her colorfully political geometric pieces, and though her late-career Tupinambá series may lack hard edges, it certainly has something to say. Balls of red artificial feathers covered in breasts and bloody hands channel Brazil’s indigenous populations and a particular cannibalistic ritual.

JW Marriott Los Angeles L.A. Live
Photograph: Courtesy JW Marriott

Poolside Dinner and a Movie Series at L.A. Live

Movies JW Marriott Los Angeles L.A. Live, South Park

We might not have hit go-in-the-pool season quite yet, but sit-by-the-pool season is all the time. You can do just that—and eat dinner and watch a movie while you’re at it—during this poolside screening series at Downtown’s JW Marriott. Each $45 reservation includes one appetizer or snack, one entrée and unlimited popcorn.

Live Talks L.A.
Photograph: Courtesy Darlene Chan/ Live Talks L.A.

Live Talks Los Angeles

Things to do Talks and lectures Online, Los Angeles

L.A.’s star-studded lecture series returns—albeit in virtual form—with a lineup of writers, artists, performers, scientists and business leaders who will graciously blow your mind. Like the in-person events, you’ll have the option of purchasing the speaker’s book—otherwise, some of the discussions are free to view.

Hollywood Roosevelt
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/dog97209

Tropicana Movie Nights

Movies Hollywood Roosevelt, Hollywood

Plunge into the deep end while watching a slate of classics during this outdoor screening series at the Hollywood Roosevelt’s Tropicana Pool & Cafe. You’re welcome to get wet (towels, blankets and heaters are available on a first-come, first-served basis) or stay dry; either way, arrive in a costume themed to the night’s film selection and you’ll nab a free cocktail or candy. Tickets are available by the table (up to four people) or bed (two to four people comfortably).

Music is the Soul of Life
Photograph: Courtesy Joshua Tree Music Festival

Music is the Soul of Life

Music Joshua Tree Lake Campground, Desert

Joshua Tree Music Festival welcomes live music back into SoCal with this series of distanced shows, with tickets available in pods of four.

South Coast Botanic Garden, los angeles, california
Photograph: Courtesy South Coast Botanic Garden

SOAR: Tropical Butterflies

Things to do South Coast Botanic Garden, Rancho Palos Verdes/Rolling Hills Estates

Walk through a pavilion of fluttering butterflies and peep a chamber with pupae and caterpillar’s at South Coast Botanic Garden’s new exhibition. In the spring and first half of the summer SOAR will feature tropical butterflies, while in the late summer and fall it’ll flip to monarch butterflies. Timed reservations are required.

Photograph: Courtesy Unsplash/Audrey Fretz

Dog Walking Hours at South Coast Botanic Garden

Things to do Walks and tours South Coast Botanic Garden, Rancho Palos Verdes/Rolling Hills Estates

Feeling like you and your four-legged friend are attached at the hip right now? Spend even more quality time together during this dog-friendly series at Palos Verdes’ South Coast Botanic Garden. Every third Sunday, you can roam the gardens’ 87 acres with your fur baby. You—the human—will need a reservation and a face covering, while your best friend—the pup—will need to remain on their leash at all times, including in the parking lot.


Photograph: Michael Juliano

The Art of the Brick

Things to do Exhibitions California Science Center, USC/Exposition Park

Budding engineers and artists will be equally enthralled by the masterpieces Nathan Sawaya has intricately crafted with over 1,000,000 toy blocks. (No, that number is not a typo.) Visitors who love dinosaur activities will gawk at the artist’s 20-foot T. Rex, which is comprised of over 80,000 pieces alone.

Dave Matthews Band exhibition
Photograph: Courtesy Rebecca Sapp/GRAMMY Museum

Dave Matthews Band: Inside and Out

Things to do Exhibitions Grammy Museum, South Park

Crash into this Grammy Museum exhibition on the sort-of-jam-band’s three-decade career, with a specific focus on its live shows and charitable efforts. Items on display include Dave Matthews’s Chet Atkins guitar, LeRoi Moore’s tenor sax, Carter Beauford’s 1990s-played drum kit and a whole bunch of set lists, lyrics sheets, posters and tour ephemera.

Venice Art Walk and Auctions

Art Online, Los Angeles

The Venice Artwalk returns in digital form with more than 200 works by nationally-recognized artists up for auction. If you’re flush with cash, you can bid on works donated by local luminaries like Lita Albuquerque, John Baldessari, Larry Bell, Billy Al Bengston, Laddie John Dill, Ed Moses and Ed Ruscha. Proceeds benefit Venice Family Clinic.


Daft Punk Dining

Things to do 1720, South LA

Eat a meal while listening to Daft Punk tunes during this tribute dinner at Downtown warehouse 1720.


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