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14 of My Favorite Things to Do During Summer in Los Angeles

Free events, outdoor movies, and late-night parties.
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The other night, G kicked on the grill while I sat on the couch, the smell of roasting peppers wafting into the room. It was warm and still outside and felt like the seasons had shifted overnight. It had been one of those frustrating days where I felt like my entire to-do list went unchecked and yet I was exhausted by the time I shut my computer. In order to put the day behind me and have something to look forward to, I began to jot down all of my favorite things to do in the city during the summer. Even though the weather doesn't change dramatically in Los Angeles, it always feels like the city makes a collective decision to relax—everything moves a little slower, and fun, often free, events pop up around town. After 12 summers in Los Angeles, I’ve acquired something of a rolodex of must-go events. Here are a few of my favorites, whether you’re visiting the city for the first time or just want to shake up your routine:

outdoor movies

Cinespia (several times a month, $12 to $16): Outdoor movies at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery are a Los Angeles mainstay and with good reason. Since it takes place on a lawn, make sure to bring a summer picnic and a bottle of wine (wine is allowed, while spirits are not) and watch one of the popular movies they show on the big screen. My personal favorites are the scary movies—I love the spookiness of watching them in a graveyard.

Alcove Dinner and a Movie (once a month, free): This restaurant-bar in Los Feliz hosts fantastic outdoor movies with film-themed food and cocktails. Entrance is free, but make sure to get there well before 8 p.m. when the movie starts, as it’s first come, first serve.

Rooftop Cinema Club (several times a week, $19 to $29): The Los Angeles version of this UK-based outdoor movie club takes place on top of a theater in the heart of Hollywood and is a little more structured than other outdoor movies. There are lawn chair seats and everyone receives a pair of headphones so you don’t miss out on any of the dialogue.

Electric Dust Drive-In Theater (several times a month, $12 to $14): Few things feel more retro than pulling up to a drive-in theater. This one in Glendale shows old favorites (Risky Business, There's Something About Mary, Jurassic Park) all summer long. They sell refreshments there but don't forget to BYO-popcorn!  

evening events 2

First Fridays at Abbott Kinney (first Friday of every month, starting at 5 p.m., free to enter): At the start of every month, food trucks, including a favorite of mine, Kogi, line the block, while shops stay open late and restaurants offer special happy hour deals. It’s a great way to kick off each month.

Jazz Nights at LACMA (Fridays starting at 5 p.m., free): Now that Sloan is able to stay up a little later, G and I are considering going to jazz nights at LACMA with her (which used to be a favorite pre-Sloan event). People bring blankets and picnics and camp out on their lawn for an early, family-friendly evening with food and drinks available for purchase, and free, live jazz performances.

Trivia Tuesdays at Grand Central Market (every other Tuesday, starting at 8 p.m., free): Grab dinner from one of the stalls in the market (which are open late during the summer) then walk towards Gold Coast Brewery, grab a table, create a team name, and join in for trivia. Prizes include gift certificates to the market and personal pride.

Roaring Nights at the Los Angeles Zoo (last Saturday of every month, $25): Once a month during the summer, the zoo stays open until 11 p.m., with live bands, food trucks, drinks, and occasional live animal feedings and talks from trainers. Since it's an over-eighteen event, we have to leave Sloan at home, though she isn’t crazy about the idea of us going to the zoo without her.

under the sun

Roga at the Santa Monica Pier (Saturdays, run at 8 a.m., yoga at 9 a.m., free): While I haven't gone since we've had Sloan (Saturdays are usually our mornings together), I still consider this to be one of the best free events L.A. offers. At 8 a.m., participants have the choice to walk or run a two- or five-mile course, and then at 9 a.m., everyone gathers for yoga overlooking the water. 

Smorgasburg (Sundays from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.): The last summer I visited New York, my friends couldn’t stop talking about the amazing weekly food market in Brooklyn, which is why I was thrilled when it opened in Los Angeles last summer. The downtown L.A. version boasts food from many of my favorite places like Guerrilla Tacos and also has a section for craft booths.

arts and culture

Chinatown Summer Nights (first Saturday of every month, free to enter): Somewhere between a food truck event and a party, Chinatown Summer Nights take place once a month on North Broadway. The entire block closes down to make way for the huge crowds it draws, craft beers, and live DJs.

Fresh Out! Night at UCB (every Thursday night at 8:30 p.m., $7): To be completely honest, these amateur nights at UCB can be hit or miss, but at under $10 per show, they're usually worth the risk for a good laugh.

Art Walks Downtown (second Thursday of every month, free): During the summer, the Los Angeles Downtown Arts Walk nonprofit hosts themed "art walks" with gallery tours, pop-ups, and crafts. Since our office is right in the heart of it, G and I make an effort to join in a couple times a summer. 

The Broad (Tuesday through Sunday, varying hours, free): Because The Broad Museum has rotating exhibits, there are constantly new pieces to see. Admission is free, but to guarantee your spot you should reserve online a few months before you plan to go, as lines start early in the morning (and last all day) for walk-ins. I also love that The Broad is next door to Otium, a beautiful restaurant with great outdoor seating and wonderful food.

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