20 things to do in L.A. before summer ends
This is part of “California 101,” our guide to the best experiences across the state.
Let’s face it, unless you’re a Dodger, you’ve probably achieved very little this summer.
Or maybe that’s just me.
As the days of the season tick away, you may be tempted to find some shade and lie down. Don’t do it! Naps are for fall. You and I can still have many L.A. adventures before we’re all obliged to start wearing sweaters, arranging skeletons on the porch and ordering pumpkin-flavored everything.
Beaches and piers await. Cool, dark theaters. Shady museum gardens. Farmers markets, flea markets and night markets.
Carpe summer, friends. There’s still time.
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Greet little sea creatures at Abalone Cove Shoreline Park
It’s about a 10-minute walk to the beach down a fairly steep dirt path, so Abalone Cove may not be ideal for families with small children. Once at the beach, head south toward the cliff. There are no longer many sea stars here — blame years of sea star wasting syndrome, the mysterious disease that has been killing sea stars from Alaska to Mexico — but it is possible to see all the other usual suspects: sea hares, urchins, hermit crabs, shrimp, snails and perhaps even an octopus.
Note that portions of the beach and tide pool areas are closed due to falling rocks and unstable cliffs. Check the city’s website for updates. There is a paid parking lot right off Palos Verdes Drive South.
Bonus: Don’t miss the unique and stunning Wayfarers Chapel, designed by Lloyd Wright (son of legendary Frank Lloyd Wright), perched on a hill above Abalone Cove. It’s nearly all glass with views of the surrounding trees and shore below.
Get charmed (and a cool treat) at Bob Baker Marionette Theater
Bob Baker founded the theater in 1963 with partner Alton Wood, created thousands of marionettes and ran the outfit for decades in a rustic cinderblock-walled space near the edge of downtown Los Angeles. Legions of pint-sized Angelenos passed through, many of whom are now grandparents.
Now comes a new chapter. Since Baker’s death in 2014 at age 90, the troupe has moved to a splendid (and very red) space on York Avenue at the border of Highland Park and Eagle Rock.
The venue holds fewer than 100 people and most kids sit “criss-cross applesauce” style on the carpet in front. Weekend shows (it’s “Fiesta!” through Sept. 18) typically begin with jaunty organ intro music by Mr. Ed Torres, followed by about an hourlong presentation that features 100 or more marionettes, which waltz madly, sing operatically, bat eyelashes and operate right at a kid’s eye level. . At the end of the regular shows (don’t tell the kids) there’s surprise ice cream. Tickets $22 for adults and children, advance reservations required.
Flee by sea to Catalina Island
Catch a Disney classic at El Capitan
It was built for live stage shows in 1926, used for the premiere of “Citizen Kane” in 1941 and revived in the 1990s by Disney, which opens many new films here and often features characters like Belle and Moana “live on stage” before animated features begin. Keep an eye (and ear) out for the venue’s Mighty Wurlitzer organ, which rises from beneath the stage, gleaming like gold, and sends its sound through more than 2,500 pipes.
Juggle art, science and history in Exposition Park
Linger in shade at the Getty Center Gardens
The gardens also include a variety of cactuses and succulents and sculptures, all framed by the Getty’s austere, otherworldly architecture. Admission is free but parking is $20 per vehicle.
Sample the art, music and energy of Grand Avenue
Other arts organizations are close at hand, including the Music Center and Center Theatre Group, the Museum of Contemporary Art and the Colburn School (a performing arts school). Across the street from Disney Hall, a pair of mixed-used skyscrapers — including the Conrad Los Angeles hotel (now open, room rates north of $500) — have risen and are expected to boost foot traffic.
Eat globally at Grand Central Market
Pro tip: Across Hill Street, you’ll find the Angels Flight Railway, a funicular that dates to 1901. Its two orange cars charge $1 for a short, steep ride (298 feet) to California Plaza atop Bunker Hill.
Scan the sky from Griffith Observatory
Free public telescopes are available on the roof and lawn, usually beginning about 7 p.m., on nights when the observatory is open and skies are clear.
The facility’s 290-seat Samuel Oschin Planetarium Theater offers shows ($10 per adult) every 60 to 90 minutes. The most frequently presented show is “Signs of Life,” which examines prospects of life elsewhere.
Catch a show at the Hollywood Bowl
Also coming soon: three nights in celebration of renowned film composer John Williams, Sept. 2-4; and three fireworks shows featuring Duran Duran, Sept. 9-11.
What’s more summery than picnicking before and during a show at the bowl? Picnics there have become a treasured civic tradition in a city that could use more of such rituals.
Pro tip: You’re allowed to bring your own food and drink for many shows but alcohol is forbidden at some. Read up in advance.
See a movie or catch a concert at Hollywood Forever Cemetery
Show up early for one of the pop concerts offered on the Fairbanks Lawn and remind yourself that Mel Blanc, Cecil B. DeMille, Judy Garland, Johnny and Dee Dee Ramone, Rudolph Valentino, Burt Reynolds and many others repose here. (So can you, either long-term or on a more temporary basis. Management hosts pay-by-donation yoga classes daily.)
Among the coming movie screenings: “Grease” (featuring Olivia Newton-John opposite John Travolta) on Sept. 3; and “A Star Is Born” (the 2018 version) on Sept. 24.
The cemetery’s Day of the Dead celebration — a spectacle for more than 20 years, usually featuring costumed visitors and altars honoring the dead — takes place Oct. 30.
Explore Huntington Library inside and out
Depending on where you roam, the gardens evoke the desert, the jungle, China, Japan and a dozen other themes on 120 acres.
Indoors (and air-conditioned) through Sept. 5, the museum is showing “100 Great British Drawings” (including works by William Blake, John Constable, Thomas Gainsborough and J.M.W. Turner). The museum also has put a new spin on its collection with “Borderlands,” a permanent installation that includes more than 70 contemporary works.
Drive through and order big at In-N-Out Burger
If you’re selfie-hungry, you’ll head to the nearby replica of the chain’s first tiny, red-and-white burger shack, open for photo ops 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Thursday through Sunday at 13752 Francisquito Ave., Baldwin Park.
Harry and Esther Snyder founded the first In-N-Out burger shack in 1948, which put them among the first to try a drive-through restaurant. To taste what the fuss is all about, order a “double-double, animal-style” — a double cheeseburger with the works, basically — which has fueled the company’s growth to more than 300 outlets.
Take a walk above the water on Malibu Pier
For a kid-friendlier beach experience, think about Paradise Cove, eight miles west of the pier. The Paradise operation includes a sequestered beach with a lively restaurant, beach-gear rentals, lifeguards, reclining seats on the sand and servers fetching burgers and rum drinks. But be sure to spend more than $30 and less than four hours in the Paradise Cove restaurant. That way, you qualify for a parking fee of $10-$15. Otherwise, your tab for weekend parking could jump to $65.
Chase tunes and flavors at Mariachi Plaza
To the west, there’s the historic Boyle Hotel, once a hangout for wayward musicians, now the ground-floor site of a La Monarca Bakery & Cafe and the Libros Schmibros Lending Library. On the east side of the plaza rises a bandstand.
On a warm day, head for the northwest corner of the plaza, near Boyle Avenue, where the J & F ice cream shop stands. Check out the guys playing cards on the wooden benches, the statue of Mexican singer Lucha Reyes, the umbrella-shaded tables. If there’s music you can yelp along with, let out a grito or two. Then maybe get a banana smoothie from Minnie Villa, owner of J & F.
Roam the Farmers Market (and check out the Grove)
Hungry? For all things French, try Monsieur Marcel Gourmet Market. For tacos, Trejo’s. And for pie, Du-par’s (since 1938).
Though the market’s Thursday evening summer music series wraps up on Aug. 25, the west patio area features rock tribute bands every Friday from 7 to 9 p.m., near EB’s Beer & Wine.
If you’re traveling with teens, or craving some 21st century vibes, head next door to the Grove, an upscale mall that opened in 2002 with about a dozen restaurants, 14 movie screens, a dancing fountain and occasional live music.
Hunt vintage treasure at the Rose Bowl Flea Market
To avoid the midday heat, arrive promptly at 9 a.m., the general admission opening time. Or pay $8 extra for VIP admission as early as 5 a.m.
Like the decades of markets that have gone before, it promises to be a vast production. These events draw as many as 2,500 vendors and 20,000 buyers and browsers.
One recent Sunday I found Fiesta ware, siesta wear, disco balls, antique awls, molas, colas, Elvis on velvet, Buddha on a pedestal, Jesus on a cross, Jell-O molds, foam fingers, maps, caps, stones, phones, pliers, flyers, carpenters’ tools, costume jewels, two old seats from the L.A. Coliseum, hot dogs for $2 and (this was no bargain) water for $5.
It’s $12 per person for buyers, or $20 for early admission. The most convenient parking lot costs $15.
If you miss the flea market this summer, there are plenty more outdoor markets, some in the cool of the evening. Keep an eye out for the Odd Nights at the Autry Museum in Griffith Park (18 food trucks, $5 per adult), where the summer season winds up with events on the nights of Aug. 19 and Sept. 16.
Travel to 1939 at Union Station
If you’re making a late-summer dash to San Diego or Santa Barbara, consider ditching your car at the station and hopping a train: You’ll avoid hours of driving and see one of California’s coolest buildings in the bargain.
You could get lunch, snacks or a drink at Traxx or a taco to go at Cilantro, or repair to the south patio’s Homebound Brew Haus, which is a sort of Bavarian beer hall full of Dodgers fans.
Whether you eat or drink or not, be sure to gawk at the high ceiling, the grand arches and the stately chairs in the waiting area. And the shops and eateries of Olvera Street are just outside, across Alameda Street.
Admire the Venice Venus
Pro tip: The Sidewalk Cafe (at Horizon Avenue) is a prime place along Ocean Front Walk to sit and watch people. The Venice Ale House (at Rose Avenue) is another.
Eat with abandon at the 626 Night Market
The event, created by Taiwanese American Jonny Hwang in 2012, is inspired by the varied after-dark marketplaces that thrive throughout Asia and named for the area code of heavily Asian San Gabriel Valley. But it’s not just traditional street food. It’s also a sort of snack lab, full of hybrids and experiments (though not so full of places to sit down). On my last visit — to a mini spring version of the market in Santa Monica — I wound up trying macadamia nut ice-brew coffee, which nicely washed down the bulgogi dumpling from a stand nearby. The pho tacos, snorkel-shaped Hawaiian honey cones and red velvet cake infused with red wine? Maybe next time.
In its early years at Arcadia’s Santa Anita racetrack, the market grew to include as many as 250 vendors and 100,000 guests in a long weekend, then paused, shrunk and rearranged itself to endure the pandemic. It happens in Santa Anita Aug. 26-28 and Sept. 3-5 (admission: $5-$6) before slipping into autumn mode (and a series of mini market weekends in Santa Monica).
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