The summer in LA means baseball games and all the visits to museums but also another one of our favorite to-dos: Summer concerts! Thankfully there is no shortage of spots around the city to enjoy musical performances. From local bands, classical music, world rhythms and more, these Los Angeles summer concerts will keep the whole family moving and grooving all summer long.
For a quintessential Los Angeles outdoor summer concert experience, Jazz at LACMA is a must-see and hear event! Beginning in Apr. (through Nov.), The Los Angeles County Museum of Art hosts LA’s finest jazz musicians on Fri. evenings at 6 p.m. The stage is located in the Smidt Welcome Plaza just behind the famed Lamppost Sculpture on the Wilshire Blvd. side, but these concerts tend to expand all the way to the 6th St. entrance so plan to arrive early for a spot close to the action!
For your tiny dancers who need to get their wiggles out, set up blankets and a picnic spot in the lawn near 6th St. The kids will have plenty of space to run, ride scooters or make mud pies in the dirt adjacent to the lawn.
Insider Tip: Don’t have time to pack a picnic? Not to worry as there are lots of food options from Ray’s Stark Bar, LACMA’s new Airstream outdoor cafe or C+M (Coffee and Milk). And if the family loses interest in the music, go check out the art galleries — they are open until 8 p.m. on Fri. nights.
5905 Wilshire Blvd.
If a Sat. afternoon is more your style, LACMA also offers Latin Sounds in Hancock Park behind the museum. These concerts include rhythms from Cuba, Brazil, Argentina, Peru, Mexico, and Los Angeles that are sure to get everyone’s hips swaying. The festivities kick off May 25 with Conjunto Oye! and run through Labor Day weekend.
You can bring a full picnic and there are always food and drink offerings available if you make an impromptu visit. Shows begin at 5 p.m. but it’s best to get there early for a prime spot. The best part about all of LACMA’s outdoor concerts: They are free of charge and open to the general public (no museum admission required). Now that certainly puts a song in our hearts!
5905 Wilshire Blvd.
The hills at Descanso Gardens are certainly alive this summer with the sounds of both world beats and jazz tunes! Throw some lawn chairs (and maybe a picnic basket) in the car, pack up your tiny toe-tappers and head over to La Cañada for a variety of quality concert offerings.
Beginning Jun. 6 with Louie Cruz Beltran, the “Music on the Main” eight-show series features jazz favorites from around Southern California. Or check out Descanso’s six-show series “World Rhythms” beginning Jun. 18 with the Grammy award-winning Mariachi Divas (both evening shows).
If the picnic didn’t make it into the car, not to worry as there are always on-site dining options. Concerts are included with garden admission but you have to reserve tickets beforehand to secure your spot! Reservations can be made online beginning May 23.
1418 Descanso Dr.
La Cañada Flintridge
The Levitt Pavilion at MacArthur Park
MacArthur Park is one of Los Angeles’s oldest icons—it’s even a registered historical landmark—and has undergone extensive clean-up efforts in the past 17 years. One of the most exciting results of these elaborate beautifications to the MacArthur Park scene is Levitt Pavillion. For the past 12 years, this space 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 even your shyest sprout want to shake their groove thangs. This year, the Levitt Pavilion will be hosting 50 free concerts from Jun. 1-Sep. 1. Past shows include The Boogaloo Assassins, The Aggrolites and LA’s Got Talent Little Kids Rock.
Insider Tip: 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. Concerts are free to the public and are offered Thur.-Sat., beginning at 7 p.m. and Sun. at 4 p.m.
W. 6th St. and S. Park View St.
Chinatown Summer Nights
Looking for another downtown option? Check out Chinatown Summer Nights. Part food event, part summer party, this festival is held every 2nd Sat. of the summer featuring live music and D.J. sets, open art galleries, food demos, hands-on cultural activities, food trucks a ‘plenty, kids craft areas and a craft beer garden for the (parent) win! Added bonus: Summer nights is sponsored by KCRW so you can be sure the music and DJ offerings are on point!
Insider Tip: There is not a lot of outdoor space, so this is more of an opportunity for exploring the multitude of food truck options rather than picnicking. Once everyone is fed be sure to check out the stage in the Central Plaza at 943 N. Broadway and dance the night fantastic amidst oodles of floating confetti. Summer nights are free to the public and, this year will take place on Jun. 8, Jul. 13 and Aug. 10 from 5 p.m. to midnight.
943 N. Broadway
The Autry Museum
Giddy up on over to Autry Museum when the weather turns warm and celebrate a different side of the American West with their Sizzling Summer Nights concert series. In keeping with the museum's overall theme, The Autry features the best Salsa and Latin Fusion bands this side of the border. These concerts are more like a family-friendly party and include free dance lessons in between music sets and a separate kid dance floor to boot.
Music begins at 6:30 p.m. and wraps up around 9 p.m. but tacos and margaritas are on sale outside beginning at 5:30 p.m. so there is plenty of time to grab a bite before the show. Additionally, the museum galleries are open until 8 p.m. if you want to stroll on over and take in some art.
If you're not up for buying a ticket to these performances, you can picnic on the south lawn for free (and is pretty common)! You'll still be able to hear a bit of the music and the kiddos have plenty of space to throw some frisbees and run around while you unhitch the wagons and take a load off.
Cost: $15 for adults; $10 for students/seniors; $6 for kids ages 3 - 12; kids under 3 are free.
4700 Western Heritage Way
Looking for a cultural connection? Bring the whole family to the Hollywood Hills to celebrate the region’s diverse communities and the performance culture that comes along with them. Big World Fun at the Ford Theatres are one-hour music and dance performances held on Sat. mornings in Jul. and Aug. under a shaded outdoor amphitheater.
Gates open early for a slew of tot-friendly preshow nature and craft activities (there might even be live animal demos) so try to get there with time to spare. This year’s lineup will feature El Santo Golpe, Viver Brasil Dance Company, The Get Down Boys and Leela Dance Collective. Concerts are recommended for ages 4-12 though you can certainly take the bitty boppers.
Cost: Kids are free; $5 per adult.
2580 Cahuenga Blvd. East
Often times the word “free” isn’t in the same sentence as “Beverly Hills” but in the summer, you get the best of both words with free outdoor concerts. You and your darling dancers will love the laid-back vibe while grooving to some upbeat tunes every Thurs. night from Jun. 6 to Aug. 29 at the Beverly Canon Gardens.
Each evening features two, 45-minute sets at 6 p.m. and then again at 7:15 p.m. BYOF (Bring Your Own Food) or grab take out from one of the many restaurants located around the gardens and soak up the pre-sunset ambiance only a place like this has to offer. There is seating available on the lawn (don’t forget blankets!) and tables around the gardens but be sure to get there early to grab a spot as these prime spots go fast.
241 N. Cañon Dr.
Get your beach chairs and head to the Redondo Beach Pier for their 2019 Summer of Music beginning Jul. 2 and ending Sept. 3. Every Thurs. and Sat. evening from 6 p.m.– 8 p.m. the pier hosts over 20 bands featuring a wide variety of free music performances with everything from Beatles tribute bands to the sounds of Hawaii. Bring a picnic or grab take-out on the pier or nearby restaurants.
100 W. Torrance Blvd.
Wind down the weekend each Sun. in Aug. with chill vibes and a sunset show. These free music events will be rocking out on the South side of the Hermosa Pier from 5 p.m.–8 p.m. Don’t feel like packing dinner? You’re in luck as there are plenty of food options on or around the pier making an early pre-show food outing fun for the whole family!
1 Pier Ave.
If you’ve never been to Polliwog Park in Manhattan Beach, these summer concert events are the perfect excuse to pay a visit. Once your mini music-makers have worn themselves out on the multiple playground options, grab a seat at the park’s outdoor amphitheater and relax to the beats of incredible local musicians.
These free concerts run every Sun. beginning the first weekend in Jul. through Labor Day weekend from 5 p.m.–7 p.m. There aren’t really food options within walking distance so probably best to pack a picnic dinner and dine al fresco.
1601 Manhattan Beach Blvd.
The Getty Center
Daytime concerts are a win/win on so many levels (especially since they don't infringe on bedtime) so be sure to make your way to The Getty Center for their free Garden Concerts for Kids series usually held each summer in Aug. Because these shows take place in the middle of the gorgeous Getty Central Garden, blankets are encouraged but lawn chairs are not allowed. Admission to The Getty Center is free, simply pay the $15 parking fee at ground level and take the shuttle up (a kid highlight for sure) to that beautiful view and enjoy.
1200 Getty Center Dr.
More Summer Concerts
Twilight on the (Santa Monica) Pier: These events have been a popular favorite each year, and with talented musicians set against the backdrop of the Santa Monic Pier, we can certainly understand why! This is truly a festival for all ages so make sure to check the website leading into the summer for updated dates and information!
Grand Performances: If Downtown LA is your jam then 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 usually some family-friendly events that begin on the earlier side. This organization is revamping their line-up and securing new locations this year so stay tuned to their website for up to date info!
Feature image via Danielle Klebanow
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—Shahrzad Warkentins, LeTania Kirkland Smith & Jenifer Scott