L.A. After Dark: Summer Nights Offer Family Fun That Beats the Heat

By Michael Berick

Bring your own telescope or work with amateur astronomers at Griffith Observatory’s Star Parties. PHOTO COURTESY GRIFFITH OBSERVATORY

Bring your own telescope or work with amateur astronomers at Griffith Observatory’s Star Parties. PHOTO COURTESY GRIFFITH OBSERVATORY

When you think about the joys of summer, your first thought might be the fun of spending school-free days out in the sun. But one of the great things about the summer is that the fun can continue long after the sun goes down (and things cool off a bit). To quote those great philosophers Danny Zuko and Sandy Olsson (from the movie Grease): “Summer days drifting away, to uh-oh those summer nights ….”

Al Fresco Films

Movies, in fact, are one of the mainstays of summer nights, with summer film series on view at many a mall and public park. For a particularly unique outdoor cinema experience, take in a movie at Paramount Ranch or Will Rogers State Historic Park.

See Will Rogers’ film State Fair on his former ranch Aug. 15. PHOTO COURTESY WILL ROGERS RANCH FOUNDATION

See Will Rogers’ film State Fair on his former ranch Aug. 15. PHOTO COURTESY WILL ROGERS RANCH FOUNDATION

Situated on Will Rogers’ former estate, the state park will spotlight his classic 1933 film State Fair, co-starring Janet Gaynor, at sundown Aug. 15. Admission to the park (1501 Will Rogers State Park Rd., Pacific Palisades) is free, but parking is $6 after 6 p.m. There will be a free tour of Rogers’ ranch house and free popcorn, too. Learn more at www.willrogersranchfoundation.org/movies-in-wills-backyard.

Paramount Ranch’s land once was Paramount Studio’s “movie ranch.” Now a national recreation area, it will host a free screening of the 1929 silent movie drama The Last Warning – complete with selected shorts and live musical accompaniment – at 7:30 p.m. Aug. 17. Visitors can bring a picnic dinner to the park, which is located at 2903 Cornell Rd. in Agoura Hills. Tickets are $6 for adults and $3 for ages 11 and younger. Email silents@hollywoodheritage.org or call 323-874-2276 for more details.

Another historic locale, Heritage Square Museum (3800 Homer St., L.A.; www.heritagesquare.org) is inviting guests to pack a picnic dinner and watch vintage cinema on its lawn during monthly Silent & Classic Movie Nights this summer. Parents might want to use a little discretion regarding the museum’s Aug. 2 attraction: the 1949 film noir drama Impact, a twisted tale of murder-for-hire gone wrong. The movie starts at 8:15 p.m., and tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for ages 12 and younger.

If you are looking to see a film with a lighter tone, The Huntington (1151 Oxford Rd., San Marino; www.huntington.org) will screen the Disney classic Sleeping Beauty at 7 p.m. Aug. 23. Besides the film, there’ll be a screening of a documentary video about a book conservation project done at the Huntington to save a prop from the movie. Tickets are $10 and can be purchased at www.brownpapertickets.com.

Santa Clarita Aquatic Center’s Dive-In Movie series lets families jump in the pool or lounge poolside to view films. PHOTO COURTESY THE CITY OF SANTA CLARITA

Santa Clarita Aquatic Center’s Dive-In Movie series lets families jump in the pool or lounge poolside to view films. PHOTO COURTESY THE CITY OF SANTA CLARITA

A particularly cool way to watch a film is at the Santa Clarita Aquatic Center’s Dive-In Movie series, where you can jump into the water (or sit poolside). The Aug. 8 series finale will be a screening of The Smurfs 2. The center is located at 20850 Centre Pointe Parkway. The film starts at 7 p.m., and admission is $7. For more information or to register, visit http://arts.santa-clarita.com/Dive-In-Movies.

Nighttime Tune Time

There are also plenty of places to groove to music on SoCal summer evenings, from the Santa Monica Pier’s fabled Twilight Concert Series on Thursday nights to the Sunday Concerts on the Green at Woodland Hills’ Warner Park (which has a Saturday night film series, too).

There are a couple of notable music series to mention. The L.A. County Arboretum (301 N. Baldwin Ave., Arcadia; www.arboretum.org) has a Friday night family-friendly concert series featuring The Ooks of Hazzard and their rootsy hoedown Aug. 1 and the Steven Rushingwind Project performing native world flute music Aug. 8. Admission is $5 for adults and $3 for ages 5-12 for these shows, which start at 6 p.m. (gates open at 5 p.m.).

Descanso Gardens (1418 Descanso Dr., La Cañada-Flintridge; www.descansogardens.org) has a pair of evening music series. Tuesday nights feature the more family-oriented World Rhythms performances, while Thursday nights are for jazz. El Dorado Nature Center (7550 E. Spring St., Long Beach; www.longbeach.gov/naturecenter) also mixes music into its bucolic setting. On Aug. 14, the Sligo Rags kick things up with lively Celtic tunes, while Steele Parade performs Calypso music Aug. 28. Admission is $3, although kids 5 and younger get in free for these shows that last from 7-8 p.m.

If you want to be part of the show, the Music Center’s Friday Sing-Alongs might be the ticket for you. Broadway Favorites will the program on Aug. 1, while it’s Mariachi tunes Aug. 15. There will be lyric sheets, a live band and a joyful sense of community at these free public sing-alongs that take place on the Music Center’s plaza (135 N. Grand Ave., L.A.; www.musiccenter.org) from 6:30-8 p.m.

Starry Starry Nights

While you might not see any stars at community sing-alongs, you can see plenty (of the celestial kind, at least) at astronomy-related events occurring around Southern California. On Aug. 11, you can be part of a Perseid Meteor Shower Partyat Upper Las Virgenes Canyon Open Space Preserve (Las Virgenes Canyon Road and Victory Boulevard, Calabasas; meet at the Victory Boulevard entrance trailhead; 310-858-7272, ext. 131) from 8-10 p.m. Bring a blanket and gaze up to see what the heavens have to offer. Telescopes will be available, too, for those who want a closer look at the skies.

The Huntington celebrates the two-year anniversary of the Curiosity rover’s landing on Mars, Aug. 6. PHOTO COURTESY THE HUNTINGTON

The Huntington celebrates the two-year anniversary of the Curiosity rover’s landing on Mars, Aug. 6. PHOTO COURTESY THE HUNTINGTON

At Paramount Ranch’s Summer Star Festival, 7:30-9:30 p.m. Aug. 2, you can learn about the solar system from astronomers, then look at it through telescopes. Visitors also are invited to bring a flashlight with a red lens or a red cellophane filter for an astrology experiment. The Huntington also hosts a special family evening of stargazing on Aug. 6 to celebrate the two-year anniversary of the Curiosity rover’s landing on Mars. You can use a telescope to explore the skies or view historic astronomy works in the museum’s “Beautiful Science” exhibit. Tickets are $10 and can be purchased at www.brownpapertickets.com.

The Burbank Sidewalk Astronomers bring out their telescopes (weather permitting) every month along the Chandler Boulevard bike path at Lima Street in Burbank. Their August star-gazing event takes place Aug. 8 from 8-10 p.m. Email sidewalkastronomers@earthlink.net for more information. The most popular place in L.A. for star-gazing, however, is Griffith Observatory (2800 E. Observatory Rd.). The local landmark hosts Star Parties almost every month, and there will be two in August – on the 2nd and the 30th – lasting from 2-9:45 p.m. You can bring your own telescope or use one of the telescopes set up on the lawn. Experienced amateur astronomers will be on hand to help out and answer questions. For more information, go to www.griffithobservatory.org.

Take A Hike

This year, the Observatory also has started a monthly Sunset Walk & Talk. August’s outing will be on the 5th from 7:35-8:35 p.m. Led by a museum guide and a park ranger, this sunset hike offers park history and astronomy facts while you traverse the (moderately steep) Charlie Turner Trail around the Observatory.

The Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority invites families for marshmallow roasting at a variety of park locations this summer. PHOTO COURTESY MOUNTAINS RECREATION AND CONSERVATION AUTHORITY

The Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority invites families for marshmallow roasting at a variety of park locations this summer. PHOTO COURTESY MOUNTAINS RECREATION AND CONSERVATION AUTHORITY

Many other parks also have nighttime hike programs, some with particular appeal for families. The Satwiwa Native American Indian Culture Center (4121 Potrero Rd., Newbury Park; 805-370-2301) asks “Who’s Hoo?” on its Aug. 3 hike, from 7-8:30 p.m., where a ranger will help identity different types of owls that can be encounter along the 1.5-mile route. On Aug. 27, from 6-7:30 p.m., Paramount Ranch holds a Youth Wildlife Biologist class where kids ages 4-12 can study mountain lions and other native carnivores (no real-life encounters, though). Every Friday night in August, El Dorado Nature Center has a naturalist-led family night walk from 7-9 p.m. Pre-registration is required; go to www.longbeach.gov/naturecenter for more details.

S’more Things To Do

While some families love movies, music, stars and hikes, others prefer sweeter outdoor fun. The Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority (MRCA) has a summer-long campfire series at various park locations. They provide the marshmallows and conduct a different nature program each week.

On Tuesdays, campfire songs and marshmallow roasting rule at King Gillette Ranch (26800 Mulholland Hwy., Calabasas; 818-878-0266 x228), where parking is $7. Wednesdays offer two options, both with free parking: Vista Hermosa Natural Park (100 N. Toluca St., L.A.; 213-250-1100) or Franklin Canyon (2600 Franklin Canyon Dr, Beverly Hills; 310-858-7272 x131).

Tunes and treats can be had on Thursdays at Temescal Gateway Park (15601 Sunset Blvd., Pacific Palisades; 310-858-7272 x131. Parking: $7), while marshmallow mania will take place Aug. 9 at Marsh Park (2960 Marsh St., L.A.; 310-858-7272 x131. Free parking). In fact, Aug. 9 is the final day for this free program. Don’t procrastinate, or you’ll miss out on making this summer’s marshmallow memories.

Michael Berick is Calendar Editor of L.A. Parent.

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