LA is warm year long, which sometimes makes it hard to notice when summer has arrived or when winter has started. Seasons blend together giving us what I believe to be the most perfect weather in North America. But one major characteristic of LA summers, besides the packed beaches and the shining sun, is all the free events around the city. LA has the most variety of fun and free events of any other US city. I personally think it beats New York and San Francisco hands down. This is THE city to be if you are young and broke.
Most mainstream people prefer the many clubs and bars the city has to offer so most of these free events aren’t that well known, which is a great thing for locals. Its never too packed and the crowd is always very alternative. A lot of people ask me about all the places I take Kaio to so I figured I would just write a list of places to go and things to do this summer in LA. Most of these events are kid friendly, although some I don’t recommend taking children.
Jazz at LACMA
Every Friday from April no November at LACMA, they have free Jazz concerts on their lawn area. This is my all-time favorite free thing to do in LA. I try to go every other Friday. Sometimes I take Kaio with me (if other kids are going) and sometimes I just go with a good group of friends. Both are always fun. You can (legally) bring your own alcohol and food and set up a little picnic area for your group. They also sell wine by the glass and sangrias and there are some food trucks. The crowd is super diverse and alternative. It can get pretty busy so try to arrive a bit before to get a good spot. Shows start at 6pm.
Every Saturday they also have Latin Sounds, which is pretty much the same event but with Latin Music rather than Jazz. I have never been but its on my list.
Downtown Art Walk
Downtown Los Angeles Art Walk is my second to best thing to do in LA. It happens every Second Thursday of Every Month in Downtown Los Angeles
It’s held around the Historic Cores Gallery Row neighborhood. For this one day each month, Downtown LA returns to its historic pedestrian-based culture, a vibrant scene that is itself a draw for locals and tourists seeking an authentic urban experience. This is a must go event in LA! Galleries offer free cocktails so make sure you metro or UBER there!
This is LA, so the beaches need to make the list. There are TONS of beautiful beaches to hang out at and they are all free. You simply cant beat that. My favorite beaches are in Malibu, with Paradise Cove being my all time favorite place to hang out by the water. They have a restaurant/bar right on the sand. I mean, RIGHT ON the sand. There is a minimum consumption to use their chairs and table (understandable), but the beach itself is free. Its an awesome spot to take kids or to go drinking with friends. If you have extra money you can also rent kayaks and paddle boards for $15/hour. Not bad!
Another favorite spot if you live south or if you don’t mind driving like myself is White Point tide pools in San Pedro. Its really really beautiful and worth the drive. Its more of a place for kids. Kaio absolutely loves this spot. He spends hours looking at the fish and playing in the water. Just watch out for tiny crabs, those fuckers bite.
Twilight Concerts at Santa Monica Pier
This is a MUST go! I am a sucker for events at the beach so I try to go every single Thursday. It starts at 7pm and its free. Just pay parking. You can check out the bands and schedule here. It gets very crowded the closer you get to the pier. You can’t (legally) drink alcohol but people do it anyways. Just be smart about it. I have horrible horrible coworkers so they are always turning their coffee into Irish coffees and teas into hot toddies without anyone noticing. Bring a blanket to sit on and a sweater, sometimes it can get kind of windy. I don’t recommend bringing kids here because of how loud it is and how packed it can get. Kind of hard to be chasing a child around and the chances of you losing your kid is pretty high. So leave them home if you can. There is also music concerts at the Hermosa Pier every Thursday but I recommend staying away from anything that involves alcohol and the south bay. That’s just a recipe for douchebaggery. Go at your own risk. Just saying.
Movies at the Beach
This is also an awesome place to go if you live near Long Beach or doesn’t mind the drive. I personally love going here. They show free movies on the beach every single day from June 22 to August 27 at 8pm. Did I say every single day? Yep that’s right. So if everything else fails and you have no money to do anything, go watch a movie and hear the waves for absolutely free, including parking. Alfredo’s Beach Club is the bar that puts this together. They are right on the sand, where the screenings take place. So after the movie, if you have the cash, you can always sit down and have some drinks. I have been here a couple nights. Its super fun. I have never taken my son here because of how late it is. I am not a fan of changing his bedtime routine and I don’t like chasing a child around when I am trying to enjoy my movie. If you are going to bring your children please make sure they are well behaved. No one likes crying and screaming and sand kicked in their faces when they are trying to watch a movie. Let’s leave our asshole kids at home for this one shall we?
Movies in Downtown
Downtown LA also offers free movies if you don’t feel like driving all the way to Long Beach. Free movies are shown at Pershing Square every Friday Night during the summer. This is just a few blocks from my apt so its an easy thing to do when all other plans fail. You can take the subway there (Pershing Square 5th street station) or park in their garage. You can also bring wine and food and your dog as long as he/she is on a leash.
While we are still talking about my hood, don’t forget to check out Grand Park. Its Downtown’s newest park and its fucking awesome. Its 4 blocks long in the heart of downtown and there is always something to do there. They have a multi million dollar playground for kids (I kid you not. It literally cost 1 million to build). They also have a walk and play fountain. Kaio loves this. Its an alternative way of playing in the water when time is limited and driving to the beach is not an option. They have picnics and concerts at the park every week and they now hold LA’s largest New Years Party every year with a huge projection screen showing the countdown. Its pretty awesome. Parking is a bitch around the park so if you don’t live close enough to walk like myself, I recommend taking the subway and getting off at civic center/grand park station. They have been working on the metro lines for years now so if you don’t know how to get around in it I urge you to learn and try it out. It runs from hollywood to silverlake to (and throughout) downtown down to koreatown, culver city and Santa Monica. It’s fast, it avoids traffic and it’s a cheap way of exploring the city without a car. I love it and use it frequently!
Hikes and Swimming Holes
Not only LA has the most beautiful beaches but it also has unique hikes with amazing swimming holes. A great alternative to cooling off this summer. There are two particular places I really love: Rock Pool in the Malibu Mountains and Hermit Falls in Arcadia.
Rock Pool is a very easy hike. Completely flat but there is no shade. So bring a hat and sunscreen. Its very easy to do with kids. Once you get to Rock Pool you can set a little picnic, go swimming and go cliff jumping (my favorite!). You can also bring floats and just get drunk while floating around.
Hermit Falls is also amazing. Its my favorite out of the two but I have never brought my son with me. I don’t recommend this hike for kids. Its long, its steep and its dangerous. Some parts are just two feet wide and very tall. Falling down the cliff means immediate death. No joke. Hermit falls is a place to go with friends and adults only, so pack your booze and swimming suits and hike there the first chance you get. Its beautiful. The water is super clear and there are three pools to swim in. There is also a natural water slide from the second pool to the bottom pool. You can cliff jump from a few different spots. The height varies from 20 feet do 60 feet. The tallest I have jumped there was 40 feet but I saw some crazy guys jumping the 60 feet cliff. Looked as scary as I thought it would. Please keep in mind that we are in a drought and water level is VERY LOW. I would not be cliff jumping this season and until water levels rise again.
Tip for moms: A friend surprised me by attaching my pool lounge float with Kaio’s baby float using an elastic string. It was such a simple idea that changed my experience at lakes. You can pretty much use anything to secure your float to your child’s float so that you can enjoy your mimosa and the sun without having to worry about your bundle of joy floating away and disappearing. This changes everything. You are welcome.
LA has lots of museums and they all offer free admission on some days of the month. Check out their websites to find out which days are free. Getty Museum is always free just pay for parking. It has a beautiful view and a nice area to picnic and spend the day with kids or friends. California Science Center is also free for the public. Kaio loves this place. Its fun and very educational. As an atheist family I started a little tradition of both of us going there every Sunday. It’s our church 😛 They always have new exhibits and some specials ones that you need to pay extra for, but its always cheap… like $2 per person. Its definitely worth a visit.
LACMA offers free memberships for children under 18 and one adult goes in for free with the minor membership holder. They have many free art classes for kids every month and different exhibitions as well. MOCA and Natural History Museum also have free events. Check out their website!
I am a firm believer that kids need to learn to love museums from a young age. I started taking Kaio when he was a baby and now at almost 2 he loves it. The only thing he loves more than museums is food.
And last but not least on the list of free things to do in LA is the LA Philharmonic. Although its not free, I feel like it has to make the list because its just simply amazing. You can get low cost tickets for $20 throughout the season at the Walt Disney Concert Hall. Its worth every penny. If you haven’t been I urge you to buy your tickets ASAP. You will thank me forever. It’s a great thing to do on a date, either with a boyfriend, a husband or a date with your child. In fact, I think every child should watch art performances so take your kids if you have them and can afford it.
These are my top favorite free events in the city but there are tons of others throughout LA. If anyone know of any other cool places and things feel free to comment. If you have been to the places I mentioned above I would love to hear your opinion. If you haven’t yet, please make some time and try them out. LA is amazing city to enjoy the outdoors and cultural events. Its weather makes it impossible for you to not want to get out and get wet. Its a global city with a lot to offer. Try not to limit yourself to bars and clubs. Your wallet, liver and brain cells will thank you! =)