From Sunset to Sundown: 5 Ways to Spend the Perfect Summer Night in Los Angeles

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Rachel Off Duty: What to Do in Los Angeles this Summer - Hollywood Bowl Playboy Jazz Festival

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I can hardly believe how time flies after realizing I’ve now spent 8 whole summers in California. And because California is so well-loved for its weather, I actually end up talking about the weather in Los Angeles in particular a lot. People often joke that Los Angeles gets to experience summer all year long, and even though they’re not technically wrong (in comparison), I like to think that there’s some extra magic in the air once May-September rolls around. The warm days get even more savory when the sun doesn’t set till past 8, and the city welcomes the shorter nights with hot anticipation, expressed through the infinite events and happenings that start popping up throughout the city left and right. My favorites are the events that start in the afternoon and laze slowly into the evening hours. This is the kind of summer night I have learned to live for, and one that I look forward to every single year. 

Los Angeles and the surrounding areas are absolutely ginormous, and I’m not joking when I tell you you’ll find hundreds (thousands?) of things to do this summer. But to sift through the noise… well, that can be daunting. So, I wanted to share a list of some of the things I truly look forward to. Things that I think capture the essence of what it means to gather together and enjoy the late afternoons and toasty evenings that make summer in LA so spectacular. Everything on this list is something I have marked on my calendar as either a social event with friends, a post-work event with coworkers, or a date night with my boyfriend. Here’s what you can’t miss this summer in LA. 

5 Ways to Spend the Perfect Summer Night in Los Angeles 

1. Rooftop, Beach, and Cemetery (Yes!) Outdoor Movie Screenings 

Rachel Off Duty: Cinespia
Rachel Off Duty: Cinespia
Rachel Off Duty: Cheeseboard on a Picnic Mat

Going to the movies is fun, but getting to see a screening outside under the stars is the best way to do it! Most movie screenings range from $0-$30, and you can usually bring your own food, drinks, and picnic spread. Movie screenings on the beach are really relaxed and usually free for all who want to come. But if you’re feeling like going for a super-LA experience, movie screenings at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery are a long-standing tradition. While it sounds kind of freaky at first, the reason these screenings were born was to keep classic films alive, and to attract new audiences to films they would’ve otherwise not seen. It’s pretty poetic when you think about it (though yes, still creepy. But I promise, it’s really a fun experience!). Sometimes, the director, actors, and other special guests make an appearance during the screening too. 

My Top Picks for Catching An Outdoor Movie Screening in and Around LA this Summer:

  1. Cinespia ($, BYOB): Weekly screenings and slumber parties featuring classic films at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery, Hollywood 

  2. Moonlight Movies on the Beach (Free, BYOB): Frequent screenings of both classic and new films all summer at various beaches throughout Long Beach 

  3. Melrose Rooftop Theatre ($, Full Bar, Snack Boxes for Purchase, Restaurant): Frequent screenings of both classic and new films using individual headsets, taking place on the rooftop of a well-liked Hollywood restaurant, E.P. & L.P.

  4. Rooftop Cinema Club ($, Food & Drink for Purchase): A selection of screenings using individual headsets, taking place in both Hollywood and downtown LA 

2. Bonfires on the Beach 

You can’t start your own fires on most beaches, but there are a handful of spots with designated fire pits you can access for free. Throughout the summer, it’s common for large parties of friends and coworkers to gather, cook hot dogs and marshmallows, and hang out long into the night together, huddled around the fire. It’s so much fun and the warm evenings during the summer makes it that much more enjoyable!

My Top Picks for Having a Bonfire in and Around LA this Summer:

  1. Dockweiler Beach (Playa Del Rey)

  2. Cabrillo Beach (San Pedro) 

  3. Corona Del Mar State Beach (Newport Beach) 

  4. Huntington State Beach (Huntington Beach) 

  5. Leo Carrillo Beach (Malibu) 

3. Outdoor Summer Concerts

Rachel Off Duty: Woman at the Beach in Los Angeles
Rachel Off Duty: Woman at the Beach in Los Angeles

From free concerts on the beach to full-on festivals at the Hollywood Bowl, there’s tons to experience musically during the summer in LA. Some of my favorite memories of summer involve packing up a picnic (if you haven’t noticed), leaving work early to beat traffic (a must), and hanging out on the sand for hours surrounded by friends, good food, good drinks, and music. There are countless options for places to enjoy a concert that only pop up in LA once summer rolls around. 

My Top Picks for Finding an Outdoor Concert in LA this Summer:

  1. Twilight on the Pier (Free): This concert series on the Santa Monica Pier is a longstanding institution for Angelinos, and for me it’s become synonymous with the longer days of summer. Before, the concert series would blast music out towards the beach below the pier, and people would gather to lay out picnics on the sand and relax with friends. Because the event has gotten a bit too popular (after Khalid’s performance nearly broke the city by attracting 25,000 attendees), the concert series is cutting back this year by limiting the event to those on the pier itself. With its 35+ years on the scene, I think the concerts will still be worth going to, but the picnic atmosphere I love so much is definitely not something you’ll find anymore. 

  2. Redondo Beach Pier Concert Series (Free): If you are looking for more of a casual beachy scene, Redondo Beach offers an alternative free live concert series every Thursday and Saturday throughout the summer that you can BYOB and set up a picnic for. 

  3. Playboy Jazz Festival ($): I went to the Playboy Jazz Festival for the first time last June and fell in love with it. Located at the Hollywood Bowl (which is an experience in itself), the festival is a two-day concert series with single-day tickets available and a lineup of jazz artists from early afternoon all the way into the late evening. You can BYOB and set up a nice little spread in the cement block-style seating or buy food from the venue itself. I loved the diverse crowd of people, the fun everyone was having while jamming out, and the music so much that I am convinced this festival will be a priority of mine for years to come. 

  4. Jazz at LACMA (Free): Every Friday and Saturday throughout the summer, outdoor jazz concerts fill the twilight air with chill vibes to kick off the weekend. If you’ve never been to LACMA before, come early in the afternoon to make a day out of visiting the museum first, because getting to this area during rush hour can be a challenge. 

4. Old-School (and New-School) Drive-In Movies

If you don’t like the idea of watching a movie outdoors, but still want to do something novel and unique, there are a couple different spots you can drive up to and enjoy a screening from the comfort of your car. I love drive-in movies because you can bring pillows and blankets to get cozy, and, you honestly don’t even have to dress up at all. 

My Top Picks for Catching a Drive-In Movie in and Around LA this Summer:

  1. Level 8 Drive-In – Summer Movie Series at The Grove: A park-and-dine movie experience on the top floor parking lot of The Grove, a popular shopping center in west LA 

  2. Van Buren Drive-In Theatre: A classic drive-in movie theater in Riverside that has been around for over 50 years


5. Block Parties, Pop-Ups, and Food Walks 

Rachel Off Duty: Cheeseboard

Block parties and food walks are kind of a staple in LA all year long, but they’re especially fun when the nights are warm and you don’t have to bundle up to walk around. In Long Beach (30 min southwest of downtown LA), you’ll find culinary block parties of the city’s best restaurants doling out samples of the meals that put them on the map. In downtown Chinatown, you might come across an evening of artisan markets, food trucks, and local performances. For a little but of everything, the LA Wine Fest, LA Street Food Fest, and the Orange International Street Fair are all great options that let you try bites and beverages from all over the world. 

My Top Picks for Enjoying a Block Party, Pop-Up, or Food Walk in and Around LA this Summer:

  1. Long Beach Crawfish Festival: If you like southern cuisine, creole food, and crawfish (especially), this unique food festival is definitely one to mark on your calendar. 

  2. Long Beach Vegan Fest: A smorgasbord of vegan-friendly vendors serving food that (I’ve heard) even non-vegans can appreciate. I’ve never been so I can’t vouch, but I do know this event gets pretty packed! 

  3. Chinatown Summer Nights: Chinatown Summer Nights was created in partnership with a local radio station, KCRW, to bring the unique flair and vibrant scene in Chinatown to the masses. It features live music, food vendors, flea markets, local bars, and more. 

  4. LA Wine Fest: The LA Wine Fest features wine, beer, and gourmet food from all over the world and is a hit every summer. And, wine and beer sampling is unlimited with the price of your admission. 

  5. LA Food Fest: Born out of a love for street food and small business, this food festival allows you to pay for 1 ticket and gain unlimited access to food sampling, beer, wine, and cocktails. Bring a picnic blanket to lay out and enjoy your food (or take a break from it) throughout the day. 

  6. Orange International Street Fair: An event that’s near and dear to my heart, the Orange International Street Fair (about an hour outside of LA) has always been my marker for the end of summer and the start of school. This is because it is held in Old Towne Orange, a few blocks away from Chapman University where I did my undergrad. The Orange International Street Fair is particularly cool because each section of the fair is marked by banners from a different country or region, like Germany or Japan, to signify the kinds of food vendors you’ll find in that area. Beyond food, you’ll also find beer gardens, shopping, and specials being offered from many of the local restaurants in the surrounding area. 

Rachel Off Duty: Woman at the Beach

Now you know everything you need to know about how to have some seriously perfect afternoons and evenings in Los Angeles this summer! Was there something I missed that I need to check out? Let me know in the comments below.

Looking for date night ideas in Los Angeles or road trips to take just outside the city? Check out my roundup of Los Angeles Date Night Ideas and two of my favorite quick road trip destinations that aren’t far from LA: Santa Barbara and Greater Palm Springs!

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Rachel Off Duty: How to Spend the Perfect Summer Night in Los Angeles
Rachel Off Duty: How to Spend the Perfect Summer Night in Los Angeles

Hey there! I’m Rachel, a travel writer and a full-time advertising / marketing expert. In 2019, I traveled more than 25 times while working 9 to 5, and since then I’ve committed myself to living a more adventurous life, even if it means bringing my laptop along for the ride.

Are you hungry to travel more, but overwhelmed with how to juggle work and play? You’ve come to the right place!

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