Come summer, neighborhoods throughout Los Angeles and the Valley take on an undeniable new energy. There’s more music, more dancing, more food and more fun, with festivals and special events abounding from sunup to sundown. Our summer 2018 entertainment guide offers a sampling of the many ways to revel in and around the city this season, whether you’re a visitor, recent transplant or longtime resident. Play tourist and explore the nearby studios, chill out at a rooftop movie or a concert in the park, or visit a museum and enjoy a free cultural program. The choices are as endless as the long summer days ahead.
Behind the Scenes
One of Toluca Lake’s notable charms is that it retains its small-town vibe despite being less than three miles away from three major Hollywood studios. If you have relatives or friends visiting town for the first time, studio tours are one of the best ways to give them a glimpse of real Hollywood magic. Even seasoned locals can enjoy these behind-the-scenes looks at moviemaking while learning more about area history.
In Warner Bros. Studios’ three-hour guided tour, visitors explore some of the exterior sets and soundstages housed in the 110-acre backlot, where classics like Casablanca were filmed. Highlights include the self-guided “Stage 48: Script to Screen,” which allows you to learn about film and television production using various interactive tools, like a working replica of Friends’ Central Perk Café. Standard price is $65, with classic and deluxe tours available at varying prices.
The Universal Studios Hollywood Studio tour features an overview of the largest movie set in history, designed with creative input from director Steven Spielberg. Video host Jimmy Fallon acts as your virtual tour guide as you make your way through 13 city blocks on 4 acres of historic studio lot where classics like Back to the Future and Psycho were filmed. The one-hour tour is included with park admission; one-day general admission starts at $99.
Walt Disney Studios is the site where childhood favorite films like Dumbo, Aladdin and Bambi were created. A two-and-a-half-hour tour explores the studio grounds, from its animation building and soundstages to its archives and corporate offices. Unfortunately, Disney doesn’t offer regular public tours, but there are two ways to get in: booking a Southern California trip with Adventures by Disney or being a member of the D23 official Disney fan club (general membership is free for the first year).
Be Part of a Live Studio Audience!
Another fun showbiz activity is seeing a live taping of a television program. Favorites near us include The Ellen DeGeneres Show (and her summer game show, Ellen’s Game of Games), Conan and Jimmy Kimmel Live!, all known for surprise giveaways, celebrity guests and live music performances. Best of all, they’re free! Simply head over to a show’s website to request your tickets — but beware, they can sell out quickly.
Stay out of the sun and enjoy a matinee or evening performance at a local theatre.
The Garry Marshall Theatre’s Hot Summer Show, Wood Boy Dog Fish, is a macabre and inventive adaptation of the story of Pinocchio by Rogue Artists Ensemble, a group specializing in “hyper-theater,” a hybrid of puppetry, mask work, dance, music and modern technology. May 18–June 24; $45–$65. The theatre is also continuing its popular Movies at the Marshall series. In June and July, catch screenings of Georgia Rule, Valentine’s Day, New Year’s Eve and Mother’s Day.
Bop along to four nights of classic rock ‘n’ roll at the El Portal Theatre’s Summer Concert Series, where favorites like Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash and Elvis will be brought to life by talented tribute artists. July 4–7; $45–$150.
Shakespeare in the Park
Live theater can be a great outdoor activity, too! Enjoy Sunday night performances of A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Titus Andronicus by the Independent Shakespeare Company during this year’s Free Shakespeare Festival at Griffith Park. June 30–September 3, 7 p.m.
Nights at the Museum
Explore L.A.’s sprawling art and museum scene, and take part in special summer programs that fill these cultural institutions with live music, dancing and educational activities after hours.
During Odd Nights at the Autry, the museum’s 2-acre lawn is transformed into a night market. People (and pets) of all ages can enjoy an evening of shopping, live music, food and crafts at the Odd Market, an independent bazaar with more than 80 vendors. A $5 ticket gets you into the fair and admission to select museum galleries. Every third Friday through October, 6–9 p.m.
Warm nights call for evenings of stargazing at the Griffith Observatory, which is free and open to the public on most days until 10 p.m. Get there early and enjoy free exhibits on astronomy and space exploration. After the sun sets, head outside and try out one of the free public telescopes to view the celestial bodies above. Free monthly public star parties are held one Saturday each month from 2 to 9:45 p.m., with members of the L.A. Astronomical Society, L.A. Sidewalk Astronomers and Planetary Society educating attendees and bringing a variety of telescopes for all to try.
In its 27th anniversary season, Los Angeles County Museum of Art’s Friday Night Jazz still reigns as one of the most popular events in L.A. Set near the museum’s iconic Urban Light installation, this series brings together the finest jazz musicians in the city to play a free sunset concert for both museumgoers and passersby. Sip wine from Ray’s and Stark Bar and let the sounds of everything from big band swing to neo-classical serenade you into the night. Through November, 6 p.m.
The Natural History Museum’s Summer Nights in the Garden takes you outside to experience its lush botanical garden in a whole new light. Ambient music and live DJ performances provide a soothing backdrop for science and nature presentations, arts and crafts, live theatre performances and more. Imbibe garden-infused cocktails and grab a bite from various food trucks. Fridays: June 29, July 13 and 27, and August 10, 5–9 p.m.
If you’re looking for a pre-weekend wind-down, the Skirball Cultural Center holds its signature free Sunset Concerts series on Thursday evenings. Enjoy an eclectic mix of jazz, pop, folk and cultural performances in the museum’s picturesque central courtyard. Concertgoers can also view the Leonard Bernstein, Jim Henson and Kehinde Wiley exhibitions for free. July 26–August 30.
The Hammer Museum’s JazzPOP is a free creative concert series that presents today’s best contemporary jazz musicians. Arrive early to stroll through the museum’s current and permanent exhibitions for free before the show begins. Thursdays in August, 8 p.m.
Enjoy art and wine at Barnsdall Art Park’s Friday Night Wine Tastings, which feature matching food and wine pairings along with music presented by KCRW DJs. As you explore the grounds, be sure to check out the Hollyhock House, Frank Lloyd Wright’s first L.A. project. Through August.
The Getty Center’s annual Off the 405 series brings some of today’s most exciting bands to the stage for summer concerts amid stunning architecture and breathtaking sunset views. Before the show starts, take a stroll through the museum’s epic garden. May 19–August 25.
Take an Art Walk
Create your own self-guided itinerary and check out various galleries and museums throughout L.A. during these monthly art walks.
- Canoga Park: third Thursdays
- Downtown L.A.: second Thursdays
- Leimert Park: last Sundays
- Long Beach: first Fridays and second Saturdays
- Pomona: second Saturdays
- North Hollywood: second Saturdays
- San Pedro: first Thursdays
Nightlife With Wildlife
For a wild Friday night, make your way to Roaring Nights at the L.A. Zoo. This adults-only zoo adventure features full bars, live bands, a game zone, lounges with photo ops, special animal encounters and more. June 29, July 20, August 17 and September 14.
Movies al Fresco
Open-air screenings are proliferating, with special seasonal opportunities to view recent and vintage films in parks, amphitheaters and unusual urban venues.
Sit back and relax on a comfortable deck chair with a cocktail in hand as you watch a sunset movie at the Melrose Rooftop Theatre. This season, showings range from classics to current releases, like Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Moonlight and The Shape of Water. For a spin on dinner and movie, enjoy a three-course meal from the EP Restaurant below before making your way to the rooftop. Sunday through Thursday every week until November; $27.50–$65.
Showtime’s Eat|See|Hear is a summer-long traveling series that brings an array of classic, cult and recently released movies, along with food trucks and live music, to public amphitheaters, fields and parks throughout L.A. Bring lawn chairs, pillows and blankets, and make yourself cozy as you watch films like The Warriors and Lady Bird. $8–$21.
Bringing together pop-culture films, gourmet street food and live music performances, Street Food Cinema delivers a dynamic movie-watching experience to 14 locations across L.A. Enjoy music and dancing before settling in for a late-night film. April through October, $14–$19.
The Valley Cultural Center’s Movies on the Green is a free family film showcase that screens new releases at dusk in Warner Center Park’s Lou Bredlow Pavilion. Blockbusters like Coco and Black Panther are among the offerings expected to draw large crowds this year. Thursdays: August 4, 11, 18, 25; 8–10 p.m.
Cinespia’s film screenings bring the best of cinema to an unlikely location: Hollywood Forever Cemetery. Set down your blanket and picnic accoutrements on the expansive Fairbanks Lawn — an open, grassy field adjacent to the burial sites of stars like Jayne Mansfield and members of the Ramones — then explore the grounds, groove to tunes by live DJs and take a snapshot at a themed photo booth before the movie starts. $16.
At the Drive-In
Watch cult-favorite movies in the comfort of your own vehicle at San Fernando Valley’s Summer Drive-In Nights. Located at the Lake Balboa Complex, this Valley favorite event features tons of pre-show entertainment, like an arcade game truck, laser tag, family board games and more. This year’s film selection includes Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Back to the Future Part II, Pee-wee’s Big Adventure and Selena. August 3, 4, 10 and 11; $15.
An excursion to the Hollywood Bowl with a picnic basket in tow is on everyone’s summer must-do list, but don’t forget to check out the wide array of other concerts and music festivals around town.
This year, the Ford Theatre is presenting its first full five-month summer season since 2013. Grab a seat in the spacious outdoor amphitheater and watch an acoustic or interpretive dance performance, or join in on a JAM Session and learn how to line dance or do the tango. April–August.
Burbank’s very own Starlight Bowl returns for the season with the best in tribute bands. Watch uncanny re-creations of performances by the Beatles, Fleetwood Mac, Lynrd Skynrd and more at this local Saturday evening concert series. July–August.
For the more than 30 years, the Grand Performances at the California Plaza outdoor concerts have delivered high-quality performing arts to the heart of Downtown L.A. This free series celebrates the diversity of the city with a curated selection of world music, dance, theater and more. June–August, 8 p.m.
Every summer, the Levitt Pavilion in MacArthur Park hosts 50 free concerts. With critically acclaimed artists and emerging talent performing everything from ’90s hip-hop and Afro-Cuban to Latin dance-pop and folk, this concert series leaves no genre untouched. June 9–September 2.
Like its movie counterpart, the Valley Cultural Center’s Concerts on the Green invites people of all ages to enjoy an evening Sunday picnic and free concert at Warner Park. Each show features emerging artists from the community followed by a special headliner. June 10–August 19, 5:30 p.m.
The Pershing Square Summer Concert Series brings a mix of free lunchtime and evening concerts and film screenings throughout the week to DTLA’s bustling Pershing Square, an outdoor space featuring children’s playgrounds, pet areas and a chess area. July–August.
Dance the night away at The Music Center’s Friday night Dance DTLA parties in Grand Park. Curated by influential artists and tastemakers, this series brings the city’s dynamic culture to life with various types of dance, including disco, salsa and Bollywood. Select Fridays, June–September.
On Friday nights, L.A.’s original Farmers Market offers up live music, like Latin jazz, world beat soul, swing and more. Dance along to tunes on the West Patio or listen as you enjoy dinner from one of the many restaurants located throughout the market. May 25–August 31, 7–9 p.m.
One of the largest and longest-running jazz festivals in the city, the Central Avenue Jazz Festival attracts over 70,000 people each year who come to listen to dozens of performers across three stages. As music fills the air, attendees can walk through pavilions dedicated to arts, health, youth and business/employment resources. July 28–29.
Free Music Mondays
Listen to up-and-coming acts every Monday at these hip L.A. venues:
Summer in SoCal offers no shortage of weekend music festivals. Look out for these upcoming favorites filled with the hottest headliners and genre-spanning lineups.
Billed as L.A.’s newest music festival, All My Friends Music Festival is a welcomed addition to the city’s expansive concert calendar. Headliners include M.I.A., Jamie XX, Jhené Aiko, Gucci Mane and Armand Van Helden, along with many more artists to be announced. August 18–19; $119–$249.
Building off a successful inaugural weekend last year, the Arroyo Seco Weekend returns to Pasadena’s Brookside Park (next to the Rose Bowl) for its second year with a solid two-day lineup. Rock legends Neil Young and Robert Plant headline along with the Pretenders, Alanis Morrissette, Jack White and more. In between shows, munch on some delectable bites from L.A.’s most popular restaurants. June 23–24; $149–$999.
Reminiscent of FYF’s old days, Echo Park Rising is a free four-day festival presenting local and national talent at various locations throughout the neighborhood, including the Echo and Echoplex, the outdoor Liberty Stage and bars, cafés and restaurants. The roster had yet to be released at publication time, but in keeping with previous years, there will be a diverse selection of indie and up-and-coming artists. August.
Part pool party, part music festival, Splash House takes you across three Palm Springs resorts — The Renaissance, The Rivera and The Saguaro — to experience the best in dance music. When the sun sets, the party continues with more music and drinks at After Hours, open-air parties at the Palm Springs Air Museum. June 8–10 and August 10–12; $115–$145.
In its 16th year, HARD Summer at the Auto Club Speedway in Fontana still reigns as L.A.’s premier electronic dance and hip-hop music festival. At press time, this year’s lineup was still under wraps, but expect a diverse mix, like last year’s festival, which included Justice and Snoop Dogg among other heavy-hitting headliners. August 4–5; $ $179.
For the Foodies
Food festivals are a match made in heaven for those who like their entertainment edible. Look for the next Instagram-worthy dish at one of these events featuring the hottest restaurants and pop-up food vendors in town.
A food event and festival in one, Chinatown Summer Nights is an exciting way to discover the neighborhood and learn about Chinese culture. Throughout the night, view culinary demonstrations and traditional performances sponsored by local organizations and museums. Large-scale video projections and music by KCRW DJs provide a lively backdrop as you make your way through Central and Mandarin Plazas to enjoy craft beer and dishes from gourmet food trucks. June 30, July 28 and August 25, 5 p.m.–midnight.
Fill up on delicious Asian fare at 626 Night Market at Santa Anita Park in Arcadia while enjoying carnival games, craft booths and live music. With more than 250 food vendors to choose from, you can sample next-level fusion favorites like seaweed tacos, ramen burgers and pizza dumplings. June 29–July 1, July 20–22, August 10–12, August 31–September 2; $5 entry.
Add a little spice to your summer at the Latin Salsa Festival in Pershing Square. Dip into a wide assortment — like pico de gallo, ranchera and roja — at the salsa-tasting tent, then cool down your taste buds at the do-it-yourself margarita bar. July 7–8, 12 p.m.–8 p.m.
The Vegan Street Fair in North Hollywood brings restaurants and vendors together to celebrate the latest and greatest in vegan food, drinks and desserts. With over 200 vendors offering small bites and full-sized items, you can fill up on a variety of plant-based eats. September 1–2, 5 p.m.–midnight.
A literal smorgasbord of local food vendors set up shop at the ROW DTLA every Sunday to offer their latest mouthwatering culinary creations for Smorgasburg L.A. This open-air food market is known for being a testing ground for pop-up restaurants that haven’t established brick-and-mortar locations, so you’re bound to indulge in dishes you can’t get anywhere else. After eating, shop the vintage clothing, craft and design booths. Sundays, 10 a.m.–4 p.m.
Sip, explore and enjoy wines and artisan beers from across the globe during LAWineFest, the city’s signature wine celebration. Attendees will receive a commemorative glass to sample unlimited tasting-sized pours. A selection of palate refreshers will also be available, such as water, coffee and small bites, in addition to more substantial snacks from food trucks. June 2, 2–6 p.m., and June 3, 1– 5 p.m.; $60–$90.
Unlimited tacos and unlimited craft beer tastings from local and regional breweries are the highlight of the L.A. Taco and Beer Fest. After eating your fill, play games, shop the pop-up boutiques and, if you partake, enjoy hand-rolled cigars. June 23–24, 2–6 p.m.; $29–$49.
The California Pizza Festival at L.A. Center Studios promises to be the city’s first-ever all-you-can-eat pizza festival. Expect unlimited samples of hot, cheesy Chicago-style, Neapolitan and Margherita pizzas from top local pizzerias as well as chefs flying in from as far as Italy. Beer, wine and live music will also be available. July 28–29; $45.
Enjoy the ocean breeze as you taste your way through dozens of craft beers and hard ciders from breweries throughout California, Utah and Oregon at Taste of Brews Long Beach in Shoreline Aquatic Park. Unlike other beer fests, Taste of Brews sells a limited number of tickets to ensure that attendees have a quality beer-tasting experience that doesn’t revolve around waiting in long lines. August 18, 12–5 p.m.; $25.50–$40.
Tour a Brewery
For a cool, refreshing activity, tour a local craft brewery with L.A. Beer Hop Brewery Tours. The group facilitates public and private tours in L.A., Orange County, South Bay and San Fernando Valley. Each tour takes you to three breweries and includes a flight of beer at every stop.
Friday Night Lights at Dodger Stadium
It’s time for Dodger baseball! Root for the home team and enjoy a special fireworks extravaganza after Friday night games all summer long. Also, check the season calendar for theme nights with special giveaways (like limited-edition bobbleheads) and movies on the field; a screening of The Sandlot is scheduled for June 16.
Looking for even more to do this summer? Check out “Family Fun in the Neighborhood” for kid-friendly activities.