From baseball games and ducking into museums on those really hot days to enjoy all our meals outside, summer is nearly here which also means summer concerts on also on the horizon. Thankfully there is no shortage of spots to enjoy an outdoor concert series. With venues all over that offer something for every family member’s taste: whether it’s local bands, classical music, world rhythms and more, the city’s options will keep you moving and grooving, all summer long. Scroll through for the top spots to see live music, this summer in the city and then check each site for the full roster of line-ups.
Jazz at LACMA is really the Ol’ Faithful of outdoor summer concerts in L.A. Beginning in Apr., LACMA opens up its space on Fri. evenings at 6 p.m. The stage is set up just behind the famed Lamppost Sculpture on the Wilshire side of things but these concerts expand all the way to the 6th street entrance. Bring blankets, a full picnic, balls and scooters because this is a party for all.
If you have big movers, setting up in the lawn near 6th street is the way to go. The kids will have plenty of space to run, ride or make gravel angels in the dirt adjacent to the lawn (yes, it happens). If you want to hear the music for a bit, wander up closer to the stage, have a listen and make your way back when you’re ready. Never fear, if you don’t have time to pack a picnic there are lots of food options from Ray’s Stark Bar, LACMA Cafe or C+M (Coffee and Milk) at LACMA. Plus there are lots of food trucks on Wilshire. And if the family loses interest in the music, hit the galleries — they are open late until 8 p.m. on Fri. nights.
If a Saturday afternoon is more your style, LACMA also offers Latin Sounds. These concerts include rhythms from Cuba, Brazil, Argentina, Peru, Mexico, and Los Angeles. The festivities begin Memorial Day weekend and run through Labor Day weekend. Music includes everything from indigenous work to more contemporary sounds and don’t be surprised if people are up and dancing. You can bring a full picnic and there are also always food and drink offerings available if you make an impromptu visit. The first concert is May 26 with the Boogaloo Assassins. Shows begin at 5, but get there early to grab a spot.
5905 Wilshire Blvd.
photo: Martha Benedict
Music on the Main at Descanso Gardens
If you want to couple a beautiful garden setting with music, drive up to La Cañada for “Music on the Main Series” at Descanso Gardens. Beginning Jun. 7 with Carol Welsman, this eight-show series features jazz favorites from around Southern California. You can also bring a picnic or buy dinner on site. Lawn chairs and blankets are also allowed but be aware of space. Concerts are included with garden admission but you have to reserve tickets beforehand to secure your spot! Reservations can be made online beginning May 21.
1418 Descanso Dr.
La Cañada Flintridge
photo: Yazmin L. via Yelp
The Levitt Pavilion at MacArthur Park
If you’ve never been to MacArthur Park the summer concerts at Levitt Pavilion is a perfect excuse. Since 2007, Levitt Pavilion has been teaming up with local artists to bring free music and cultural programming to folks from all over the city and beyond. The lineup is diverse and exciting and will make you want to get on your feet and dance.
This year Levitt Pavilion will be hosting 50 free concerts from Jun. 9-Sept. 2. Past shows include family friendly Lucky Diaz and the Family Jam Band and the New Orleans inspired sounds of Jazzy Ash.
Arrive early for the Kid Zone set up near the Pavilion where the family can enjoy art activities and games. The Pavilion also hosts a “Sunday Series” specifically geared toward young fans. Lawn chairs, blankets and picnics are encouraged. If you don’t feel like packing dinner, food vendors abound and the famed pastrami from Langer’s is just across the street.
Concert times vary between 6:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.
Levitt Pavilion at MacArthur Park
W. 6th Street and S. Park View St.
photo: Natasha Calzotti/Grand Performances via Yelp
If you want a downtown experience, Grand Performances is your ticket. Every summer Grand Performances hosts tons of free events that include music and theatrical performances. Many of the concerts are held around 8 p.m. (perhaps too late for the little littles) but there are also earlier events like Sock Puppet Sitcom Theater on Jul. 22 at 3 p.m. and 4:30 p.m.
Picnics and blankets are allowed and if you get there early enough you can grab a seat around the famed Cal Plaza Water Feature. And you’re downtown, so if you want to pick up something to go there is no shortage of options. It can be as easy as hopping over the Grand Central Market and choosing one of the many options to-go. Concert times vary.
Grand Performances at Cal Plaza
359 S. Grand Ave.
photo: LeTania Kirkland Smith
Chinatown Summer Nights
Another downtown option? Chinatown Summer Nights. This event is more of a monthly festival, held every last Sat., complete with live music and D.J. sets along with open art galleries, food demos, food trucks and beer garden for the parents. Summer nights is sponsored by KCRW so you can be sure the musical and DJ offerings are on point.
There is not a lot of outdoor space so this is more of an opportunity for exploring food trucks rather than picnicking. Once everyone is fed be sure to check out the stage in the Central Plaza at 943 N. Broadway.
Summer nights are held on Jun. 30, Jul. 28 and Aug.t 25 from 5 p.m. to midnight.
Chinatown Summer Nights
943 N. Broadway
photo: Danielle Klebanow
Sizzling Summer Nights at The Autry Museum
The Autry Museum is known for presenting great work about the American West and that work expands into art and entertainment with their Sizzling Summer Nights Series. In keeping with the theme of the West, The Autry features the best Salsa and Latin Fusion bands in L.A. The concerts are really a party and include free dance lessons along with the amazing music and a separate kids dance floor to boot! Plus the museum galleries are open to 8 p.m.
Music begins at 6:30 p.m. but tacos and margaritas are on sale beginning at 5:30 p.m. which, conveniently, is a great time to snag a spot on the lawn. Picnics are allowed but no outside alcohol and bring your blankets but leave your lawn chairs at home. You’ll be dancing the night away so it’s just as well.
The Autry Museum of The American West
4700 Western Heritage Way
photo: Timothy Norris courtesy of Ford Theatres
Big World Fun at the Ford Theatres
Head to the Hollywood Hills if you’re looking to expose the family to some diverse culture. Big World Fun at the Ford Theatres are one hour music and dance performances held on Sat. mornings in Jul. and Aug. The mission of this summer series is to represent the diversity of the L.A. region and the performance culture that comes along with it.
This year’s line up will feature Le Ballet Dembaya, Impro Theater, Kim Heung Hwa Korean Dance Theater and Quattrosound. Concerts are recommened for ages 4-12 though you can bring your little littles (kids are free) and just $5 for adults.
The Ford Theatres
2580 Cahuenga Blvd. East
photo: The Getty Center
Garden Concerts for Kids at the Getty Center
If you’re looking for a daytime concert, make your way to The Getty Center for their Garden Concerts for Kids held on Sat. and Sun. in Aug. Past concerts include Secret Agent 23 Skidoo and Sonia De Los Santos. Blankets are encouraged but lawn chairs are not allowed.
Admission to The Getty Center is free, simply pay the $15 parking fee and take the shuttle up (one of the best parts for the kids, frankly) to that beautiful view and enjoy.
The Getty Center
1200 Getty Center Dr.
photo: Beverly Hills Conference & Visitors Bureau
Concerts on Canon in Beverly Hills
Why not get fancy and head over to Beverly Hills for a free outdoor concert? Really you don’t have to get fancy, just get ready to enjoy a meal and listen to tunes every Thurs. night from Jun. 7 to Aug. 30 at the Beverly Canon Gardens. Each evening features two, 45-minute sets at 6 p.m. and then at 7:15 p.m.
Picnics are allowed or you can grab take out from one of the restaurants around the gardens. There is seating available on the lawn and tables around the gardens. Be sure to get there early to grab a spot. This year will feature a nice variety from Motown to Beach Boys covers.
Beverly Canon Gardens
241 N. Cañon Dr.
photo: Redondo Pier Association
Redondo Beach Summer Concerts at Fisherman’s Wharf
If you want to feel like you’re out of town without going too far, take a little drive to Redondo Beach for their 2018 Summer of Music in Jul. and Aug. every Thurs. and Sat. night. The pier hosts a wide variety of music from blues to Hawaiian from 6-8 p.m. Bring a picnic and blanket and chairs or grab take-out on the pier or nearby restaurants.
Redondo Beach Fisherman’s Warf
100 W. Torrance Blvd.
Twilight Concert Series on the Santa Monica Pier
If you can’t stand to let the summer go, hed to Santa Monica Pier at the beginning of Sept. This year, the pier will be hosting its Twilight Concert Series beginning in the fall. Concerts are Thurs. evenings at 7 p.m. but get there early because the pier fills up fast. And while you’re there, make the most of it: Take a walk on the beach, grab a scoop of ice cream and take a photo of the amazing Pacific from the famed pier Ferris Wheel.
Santa Monica Pier
200 Santa Monica Pier
What is your favorite summer concert series? Have we missed any? Let us know!
—Shahrzad Warkentins & LeTania Kirkland Smith