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Lotus Festival
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Joits

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

Everything’s better when it’s free, including these concerts, movie screenings and more free things to do this summer

Michael Juliano
Edited by
Michael Juliano
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“Free” and “summer” go together like coffee and doughnuts, or ice cream and another scoop of ice cream. We Angelenos love spending time outdoors and saving a few bucks here and there. What better time to do both than during the summer? L.A. wears that summertime vibe all year long, but these free things to do, including concerts and movie screenings, really let us know that summer has arrived.

  • 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.

  • 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. 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.

Back for the first time since 2019, this year’s lineup of free Saturday night shows includes Zsela (May 21), Bartees Strange (June 18), Los Retros (July 9), Hand Habits (July 23) and Standing on the Corner (Aug 27).

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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totally overhauled California Plaza stage in DTLA, where the shallow water separating the stage from the audience has been replaced by a proper event lawn.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.

  • Music
  • Latin and world
  • Downtown

See a free salsa concert every second Friday of the summer during this series at LA Plaza de Cultura y Artes. This year’s lineup includes Ricardo Lemvo and Makina Loka, TROMBOR, Echo Park Project, La Obsesión and La Verdad.

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  • 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 includes events in Inglewood (May 14, 15), Lincoln Heights (May 21, 22), Long Beach (June 4, 5), Koreatown (June 11, 12), Pacoima (June 25, 26), 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
  • 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.

  • 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).

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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 on the grass (read: bring a picnic blanket) and enjoy performances like this season’s headliners: Knight of the Burning Pestle (July 2–31) and Macbeth (Aug 6–Sept 4).

You’ll find a few changes to the 2022 season that’ve carried over from last year: Since work is still underway on a permanent performance stage, the Independent Shakespeare Co. is instead setting up slightly farther up the hill at the Old Zoo. That means each performance will only be able to accommodate about 450 people, so reservations will be required. Registration opens on June 24.

  • Things to do
  • Marina del Rey

There’s something about watching fireworks over the ocean. Every year in Marina del Rey, fireworks explode over the marina channel and spectators gather all over to watch: at Burton Chace Park or Fisherman’s Village as well as from Marina “Mother’s” Beach, waterfront hotels and restaurants, and on boats. Fireworks start at 9pm and usually last for about 20 minutes. Arrive early to the area’s county lots.

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  • 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.

  • 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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  • 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.

  • Things to do

The car-free, bike-friendly street takeover makes its return with four events this year, including a pair in the summer: through South L.A. along Western Avenue on July 10 and the Hollywoods (the West, East and plain varieties) on August 21.

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