A man plays with a marionette in the back of a truck on the street.
(Illustrations by Grace Danico / Genaro Molina/ Los Angeles Times)

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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Stay up to date on the best things to do, see and eat in L.A.

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A person walks in shallow water among rocks at Abalone Cove.
(Catherine Pearlman)

Greet little sea creatures at Abalone Cove Shoreline Park

Los Angeles County Tide pool
A classic Southern California spot for discovering sea life, Abalone Cove remains popular among marine explorers, big and small. One of the most striking features is the giant cliff with a nearly straight vertical on the south end at Portuguese Point. At the base are the tide pools, with tan rock shelves and a shallow lagoon.

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.
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Children seated on the floor watch a performer manipulate a clown marionette puppet.
(Christopher Reynolds / Los Angeles Times)

Get charmed (and a cool treat) at Bob Baker Marionette Theater

Los Angeles County Attraction
If you have kids, great. If you don’t, it’s still a treat to take a seat in the Bob Baker Marionette Theater and submit to the utterly analog charm of puppets on strings. And the experience comes with a wonderfully summer-appropriate bonus at the end.

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.
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Aerial view of Catalina Island's Avalon harbor.
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

Flee by sea to Catalina Island

Los Angeles County Attraction
When you need an island escape with creature comforts and Hawaii is too far, here is your answer. The ferry ride is about an hour (about 22 miles) and you may encounter playful dolphins or a breaching whale on the way. In tiny downtown Avalon, traffic is a matter of bikes and golf carts. Back in the day, Zane Grey wrote westerns here and chewing gum potentate William Wrigley Jr. built a mansion (Mt. Ada, with room rates at potentate prices). Nowadays there are just enough options to fill a weekend: submarine tours, snorkeling, miniature golf, cycling, Descanso Beach Club and the Catalina Zipline Eco Tour, which will set you zinging above eucalyptus trees. Round-trip ferry rides with Catalina Express to Avalon from Long Beach, San Pedro or Dana Point cost $83.50.
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Stage and seats inside the El Capitan Theatre
(Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)

Catch a Disney classic at El Capitan

Los Angeles County Venue
Hollywood Boulevard still houses more blight and desperation than any visitor or resident wants to see. Yet there is showbiz history here, and if you pick spots carefully, the boulevard is doable and rewarding for grownups and kids alike. The kid-friendliest address on the boulevard — and one of the most comfortable places to be on a sweltering summer day — is El Capitan Theatre.

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.

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The Natural History Museum is seen rising above the Exposition Park Rose Garden.
(Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times)

Juggle art, science and history in Exposition Park

Los Angeles County Park
Think of this USC-adjacent compound as a sampler, with all the culture, science and beauty you can absorb in the space of a few hours. Start with the California African American Museum, which wins praise for thoughtful, lively shows. On display through Oct. 30 is “For Race and Country: Buffalo Soldiers in California.” Just a few steps away, the California Science Center awaits, with its kid-captivating display of the Space Shuttle Endeavour. There’s also the Natural History Museum of L.A. County, which has a special exhibition up now that’s a sort of comfort in time of drought: “L.A. Underwater” reminds us that Los Angeles was under water for 90 million years before it got to be the way it is now.
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Visitors make their way through the Central Garden at the Getty Center.
(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

Linger in shade at the Getty Center Gardens

Brentwood Public garden
The Getty Center is one of L.A.’s most renowned art museums, but the four surrounding gardens are worth a visit all by themselves. Most spectacular is the large Central Garden, a kind of living artwork designed by California artist Robert Irwin that involves paths that follow and cross a fast-moving stream that ends in a waterfall into a pool at the bottom of the hill. Brilliant bougainvillea cascade out of tall iron trellises like colorful giant umbrellas, and the foliage and plantings change with the seasons to live up to Irwin’s statement about the garden: “Always changing, never twice the same,” carved into one of the stepping stones.

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.

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People wait in line outside the Walt Disney Concert Hall
(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

Sample the art, music and energy of Grand Avenue

Los Angeles County Attraction
Downtown Los Angeles has slumbered, awakened, stumbled and now staggers toward prosperity (and full occupancy). When it comes to culture, Grand Avenue leads the way. Walt Disney Concert Hall, home to the L.A. Philharmonic, shimmers. Catch a concert or do a self-guided tour. The Broad museum looms like a great white hive of contemporary art. (Admission is free but you must book in advance; closed Mondays and Tuesdays.)

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.
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Long-exposure photo of people walking among food and fruit stalls at Grand Central Market
(Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times)

Eat globally at Grand Central Market

Los Angeles County Food market
Grand Central Market, which dates back more than a century, gives you a quicker, slicker view of L.A. diversity than just about any address in town. Gentrified in recent years, the space offers quick food from around the world and gives visitors a chance to rub elbows with downtown locals. It’s a happy place, with about 40 food stalls and several craft vendors in the less-trafficked bazaar downstairs.

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.
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Griffith Observatory is lit up at night, with the Los Angeles skyline behind it.
(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

Scan the sky from Griffith Observatory

Los Angeles County Experience
Griffith Observatory, the slope-clinging architectural star of Griffith Park, is open Thursdays through Sundays with a variety of exhibits and programs, some free, some not. (To enter, visitors age 12 and over must show proof of COVID vaccination, and masks are required inside.)

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.
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Hollywood Bowl at night
(Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)

Catch a show at the Hollywood Bowl

Los Angeles County Venue
The Hollywood Bowl, summer home of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, has been hosting performances since the early 1920s — before the Hollywood sign went up. And there’s plenty of action remaining in the summer schedule, including the perennially popular “Sound of Music” sing-along on Sept. 17.

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.
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A woman with face paint at Hollywood Forever Cemetery for Dia de Los Muertos
(Mariah Tauger / Los Angeles Times)

See a movie or catch a concert at Hollywood Forever Cemetery

Los Angeles County Attraction
This studio-adjacent graveyard combines film screenings and other pop culture programming with a long roster of show business gravesites.

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 celebrationa spectacle for more than 20 years, usually featuring costumed visitors and altars honoring the dead — takes place Oct. 30.
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A Chinese temple stands on a hill above a lake, surrounded by greenery, at the Huntington's Chinese Garden
(Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)

Explore Huntington Library inside and out

Los Angeles County Museum
The Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens is a cultural triple threat. To beat the summer heat, start with the gardens in the morning — opening time is 10 a.m. (but some areas open as early as 8 a.m. for members).

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.
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In-N-Out sign in Baldwin Park
(Christopher Reynolds / Los Angeles Times)

Drive through and order big at In-N-Out Burger

Los Angeles County Fast food
For certain carnivorous Californians, a visit to this burger chain is like church, but with more flexible hours. At the flagship location in Baldwin Park, you can drive through, as most customers do. But you can also eat inside, then browse mountains of merch at the company store and perhaps matriculate at In-N-Out University, where managers train.

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.
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Pedestrians head toward the entrance to Malibu Pier.
(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

Take a walk above the water on Malibu Pier

Los Angeles County Attraction
This is about as genteel as a pier can get while still selling bait. With no Ferris wheel or thrill rides and a 9 p.m. closing time, Malibu Pier, built in 1905, is content to offer sea views, a jewelry vendor in a 1949 Airstream trailer, and upscale dining, with Malibu Farm Restaurant at the base of the pier and the casual Malibu Farm Cafe at the ocean end. You can fish here without a permit, and the bait shop rents rods.

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.
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Mariachi musicians perform around an freestanding bandstand.
(Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)

Chase tunes and flavors at Mariachi Plaza

Los Angeles County Attraction
If Los Angeles has a Mexican heart, this public plaza (and Metro subway stop) must be a ventricle. Maybe both ventricles. It’s where mariachi musicians hang out in hopes of being hired, and you see them lugging their instruments from one corner or another, or practicing a little. All that action slowed during the pandemic, but the plaza is still surrounded by intriguing retail, including the Casa del Mariachi costume shop, Casa del Musico music store and the Espacio 1839 boutique (spicy T-shirts!). There are several tempting casual places to eat and drink, including Santa Cecilia Restaurant, Un Solo Sol (vegan) and Street Tacos and Grill.

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.
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Visitors sitting and eating at the Original Farmers Market
(Christina House / Los Angeles Times)

Roam the Farmers Market (and check out the Grove)

Los Angeles County Farmers' market
The Original Farmers Market, founded in 1934, is old-school Los Angeles, a place that holds its charm through daily tides of tourists. It includes more than 100 eateries, markets and shops. That’s one for every screenwriter schmoozing on the patio, or so it seems some days.

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.
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The Rose Bowl Flea Market is a vast marketplace of vintage goods, antiques and work by local artisans.
(Christopher Reynolds / Los Angeles Times)

Hunt vintage treasure at the Rose Bowl Flea Market

Los Angeles County Flea Market
The Rose Bowl Flea Market in Pasadena happens only 12 times a year — the second Sunday of every month. Which means that the last market of summer will be Sept. 11.

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.
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Photo taken from the floor looking up at the hand-painted ceiling at Union Station
(Jason Armond / Los Angeles Times)

Travel to 1939 at Union Station

Los Angeles County Train station
Union Station is a masterpiece, the last of the grand American train stations, a rare marriage of Mission Revival and Streamline Moderne styles that has been a landmark since its 1939 opening.

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.
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A photo of the Venice Venus mural
(Christopher Reynolds / Los Angeles Times)

Admire the Venice Venus

Los Angeles County Beach
If you’re new in these parts, you’ll find Venice and its famed Ocean Front Walk just south of Santa Monica and many miles beyond the American mainstream. It is youthful, bohemian, occasionally dangerous and reliably squalid around the edges. Try the walk on a weekend morning with a concealed fistful of dollar bills for tip-seeking street performers. And don’t miss Rip Cronk’s mural of Venus on roller skates (near Speedway and Windward Avenue) or the dangling VENICE letters at Pacific and Windward. Take in the careening teens at the Venice Skate Park, the cyclists, the busy basketball courts, fishing pier, Muscle Beach bodybuilders and the quirky little bookstore. Save time (or another day) for the canals just south of South Venice Boulevard and the upscale restaurants, galleries and shops along Abbot Kinney Boulevard. Parking can be tough, but there are three nearby county lots.

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.
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Two women stand among a crowd of people sharing food from a paper plate.
(Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

Eat with abandon at the 626 Night Market

Los Angeles County Food market
There’s no telling what you’ll end up eating or drinking at a 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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