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Academy Museum
Photograph: Time Out/Michael Juliano

October 2021 events calendar for Los Angeles

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

Michael Juliano
Edited by
Michael Juliano
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While fall foliage is sparse in L.A., the there’s no shortage of Halloween spirit. It’s October, so there are precious few weeks left to secure your haunted house and spooky screenings tickets. If Halloween isn’t really your holiday, then celebrate the end of summertime and enjoy one of the best hikes in L.A. sans the seasonal crowds. Regardless, you’ll find something to do in L.A. in our October events calendar.

RECOMMENDED: Full events calendar for 2021

This October’s best events

  • Art
  • Film and video
  • Miracle Mile

“Hayao Miyazaki,” which opens with the Academy Museum’s debut, features over 300 storyboards, concept images and backgrounds, many of them on display outside of Studio Ghibli’s Tokyo headquarters for the first time. It pulls from the director’s 11 feature films, with a particularly strong tilt toward My Neighbor Totoro, Princess Mononoke and Spirited Away as well as his lush, enchanted forest settings. Find out more in our full preview of the exhibit.

  • Things to do
  • Festivals
  • Boyle Heights

Boyle Heights’ Self Help Graphics & Art has presented this Day of the Dead celebration for over four decades. The event begins at Mariachi Plaza, where a handful of theater groups lead an animated procession to the Boyle Heights arts center, where you’ll find local food and craft vendors. In addition to the on-foot walk, you’ll also find a car caravan (plus a bike ride held a week later).

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  • Things to do
  • Santa Monica Mountains

Walk across the grounds of the scenic King Gillette Ranch as the Santa Monica Mountains hideaway is illuminated with thousands of hand-carved jack-o’-lanterns. Nights of the Jack reverts to an on-foot, two-thirds-of-a-mile trail this year (with a “Spookeasy,” too). Timed tickets required each night; expect to spend an hour to an hour and a half there.

Tim Burton’s the Nightmare Before Christmas Live with Danny Elfman
  • Things to do
  • Performances
  • USC/Exposition Park

See Danny Elfman step back into the role of Jack Skellington for a live performance and screening of The Nightmare Before Christmas at the Banc of California Stadium. Elfman staged similar shows at the Hollywood Bowl in 2015, ’16 and ’18, and now the voice behind the Pumpkin King is set to return to the stage once again for this Halloween tradition.

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  • Art
  • Painting
  • San Marino

Just weeks before his portrait of Barack Obama goes on display at LACMA, the Huntington will debut artist Kehinde Wiley’s Portrait of a Young Gentleman, his own take on Thomas Gainsborough’s The Blue Boy. That recently-restored 1770 portrait, easily the centerpiece of the museum’s collection, played in key role in Wiley’s stylistic development, and the two works will be on display across the gallery from each other.

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  • Things to do
  • Festivals
  • Hollywood

Hollywood Forever Cemetery claims to host the largest Day of the Dead celebration in California, and we wouldn’t doubt it: The cemetery grounds are covered with art exhibitions, dance rituals, musical performances, arts and crafts projects and food vendors (and crowds) aplenty. You’ll see altars to the dead created by community artists, and can either watch or participate in the calaca (skeleton) costume contest.

  • Things to do
  • Exhibitions
  • Westside

Space: the final frontier. This is the voyage of a traveling pop culture exhibition. Its latest mission: to stop by L.A.’s Skirball Cultural center. After missing its 2020 debut because of, you know, everything happening here on Earth, “Star Trek: Exploring New Worlds” is set to land at the Skirball.

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  • Art
  • Westwood

You’ll have to hop between Westwood and the Arts District to catch both parts of this survey of mid-career women artists. The Hammer Museum and ICA LA are teaming up for “Witch Hunt,” a showcase of 16 artists who use feminist, queer and decolonial viewpoints to unpack the sociopolitical world. Participating artists include Leonor Antunes, Yael Bartana, Pauline Boudry and Renate Lorenz, Candice Breitz, Shu Lea Cheang, Minerva Cuevas, Vaginal Davis, Bouchra Khalili, Every Ocean Hughes (formerly Emily Roysdon), Laura Lima, Teresa Margolles, Otobong Nkanga, Okwui Okpokwasili, Lara Schnitger and Beverly Semmes.

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  • Things to do
  • La Cañada

Stroll through a mile-long trail filled with carved, glowing pumpkins during Descanso Gardens’ annual Carved. For three weeks in October, the event will line a loop of the botanical garden with thousands of professionally-carved pumpkins. You can expect to see a bunch of jack-o’-lanterns—and none of that synthetic stuff; all of them will be carved from real pumpkins.

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  • Movies
  • Horror
  • Downtown

Each year the Walt Disney Concert Hall adds a little bit of Frank Gehry architecture to Halloween with a silent film screening accompanied by organist Clark Wilson for an extra eerie feel. This year, take a seat for 1920’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, starring John Barrymore.

  • Art
  • Architecture
  • Silver Lake

Roam the handsome Neutra VDL House and look out for these site-specific installations from 32 artists, designers and architects that complement the Modernist home’s features.

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