When the weather warms, both LACMA and Descano Gardens offer two opportunities each week to picnic and hear (for free or cheap) world music, Latin sounds or jazz. And the best part is, the music is just the capper to outings kids adore anyway, and both spots are big enough that your tots can run wild while you relax. Ah, summer!
Los Angeles County Museum of Art: Jazz at LACMA and Latin Sounds
Chances are you’ve spent plenty of days exploring LACMA, the La Brea Tar Pits and and the Page Museum. It’s one of those perfect LA mixes of indoor/outdoor spaces coupled with exploration, art and room to run. But you shouldn’t go home at the end of the day; in the summer there are two chances to hear music, for free on the museum grounds.
Jazz at LACMA is celebrating the 25th season with an amazing lineup of amazing artists from Billy Childs to Barbara Morrison. Jazz at LACMA is every Friday night at 6 p.m. and lasts through September 30.
If Friday nights are a rush with school and work, LACMA also offers Latin Sounds on Saturday evenings, and features sounds from Latin America and L.A. The programming offers a blend of indigenous and traditional work to more contemporary bands and salsa that will get you all on your feet and moving. Latin Sounds happens every Saturday evening at 5 p.m.from Memorial Day through Labor Day. Check their schedule for the lineup.
photo: LeTania Kirkland
Room to Play
The music is the draw, but the atmosphere is what brings you back all summer; it’s like a big block party. The place gets crowded, so load up your picnic blanket, ice chests and try to hit the main lawn at LACMA early (the kids won’t mind more time in the Boone’s Children’s Gallery or poking around the tarry pits). You are not only encouraged to bring food and drinks (alcohol is permitted), also feel free to bring scooters, balls, hula hoops and any other outdoor gear for the littles that will keep them happily occupied.
The music on stage is loud enough that you can spread out as far on the lawn as you would like, to give yourself space for the kids to play where you can see them as you relax. Take advantage of this time to let them run and ride underneath Michael Heizer’s “Levitated Mass” (the massive boulder hoisted above the outdoor walkway adjacent to the galleries) or make gravel angels (see above).
If you don’t feel like or didn’t have the time to pack a picnic, never fear, there are food options here. Years past have offered a BBQ pop up and bar as well as LACMA’s main restaurant, Ray’s, where you can sit and enjoy staples like wood-fired pizzas, small plates and delicious salads. A C&M (Coffee and Milk) stand is also set up for your caffeine needs. And if none of those options do it for you, Wilshire Boulevard, just south of the jazz stage, is lined with food trucks galore, and The Counter does a mean takeout burger and fries, made anyway you like ’em.
photo: LeTania Kirkland
Beyond the Music
One of the great advantages of a concert at LACMA is the museum itself. Galleries are open until 8 p.m. on Fridays and 7 p.m. on Saturdays. If anyone needs a little distraction, head into one of the galleries to take in some of the amazing collections. Be sure to take the time to see “Metropolis II”—a zipping and zooming sculpture city where mini cars, trains and any number of automobiles move on an automated track that will suck everyone in.
Freebies & Parking
While you’re here, sign up for the NextGen Program, which gives free admission to kids and one adult (per child) until the age of 18. If you’re with friends, LA Country residents receive free admission after 3 p.m. on weekdays. If you’re feeling frugal, there is metered and unmetered (yes!) street parking on 6th Street. LACMA does have parking if you don’t want to hunt on the street. The Pritzker Parking Garage is on 6th Street just east of Fairfax and for your $12 parking fee, you also get to ride like Charlie on a great glass elevator up to the main plaza.
5905 Wilshire Blvd.
photo: Martha Benedict
Summer at Descanso
Summer is magical at the Descanso Gardens. Beyond the amazing blooms, the gardens extend their hours Tuesday & Thursday nights during the season for music, movement, food and fun under the beautiful Oak Trees.
photo: ©Carlo Singson Photography, courtesy of the artist
Rhythms from Every Region and for Every Taste
Tuesday nights are our favorites when you visit with kids, as the theme is World Rhythms, with music and dance performances from around the world that celebrate human connection to nature. Between the music, movement and surrounding beauty, every sense is illuminated. The World Rhythms series runs from June 7-July 26 and concerts are from 6-7 p.m. There’s forro music and Korean dance and everything in between; check out the full lineup to plan your trip.
photo: Descanso Gardens
Music on the Main on Thursday nights is a more mellow option, where you can catch jazz greats like Louis Cruz Beltran as you lounge on your blanket as the summer night cools in the garden. Concerts run from 6-7:30 p.m. Music on the Main runs from June 9-July 28. Check the schedule for the full lineup.
photo: Descanso Gardens
Descanso Summer Nights are the only times you’re allowed to bring a picnic to the gardens. Bring your blankets or lawn chairs and food of choice and savor an evening outdoors in the middle of the week. It is a good idea to arrive as early as possible to claim a spot, as lawn areas are first come first serve. But kids won’t mind arriving early, as it gives them plenty of time to play in the Japanese Gardens or take a mini hike before it’s time for food and music. If you don’t have the time or energy to pack a full picnic, Patina is on site with grill classics on Tuesdays and tostadas and grilled street corn on Thursdays for sale.
After you spread out your blanket, be sure to take a walk through the spectacular gardens. From California Natives to the Ancient Forest of cycads that includes endangered species these fascinating, breathing beauties are not to be missed. We recommend on Tuesday nights you get a blanket spot up close to the stage, so kids can see the dancing or watch the musicians perform on unfamiliar instruments. One Thursdays, go back a little further in the grass, where kids can roam and wrestle under your watchful eye while you lie back on the blanket and let the music wash over you.
Good to Know
There is plenty of free parking available at the Descanso Gardens. Music and entertainment are free with garden admission. Adults are $9, Kids 5-12 are $4, 5 and under are free.
1418 Descanso Dr.
La Cañada Flintridge
Which is your favorite: LACMA or Descanso for family music and picnicking? Let us know in the comment section!