We’ve rounded up some of the must-go events of the summer. From movie nights on a boat to local art fairs to Moon Jellies, we’ve got your family covered to have the best SoCal summer.
1. Kayak the L.A. River
Thanks to local organizations like FoLAR, the Los Angeles River has been getting some much-needed attention over the last few years, which has led to revitalization efforts. Today, you can bike along the river, go fishing or even kayak! Take advantage of this unique summer-only experience and book a tour or rent a kayak from local rental companies like L.A. River Expeditions and L.A. River Kayaks. This urban kayaking experience is for adults and kids 10 years and over.
2. Movie night on the beach
Nothing says SoCal summer more than a movie on a beach. Whether its catching Disney classics, like “Frozen” or “Coco” at Newport Dunes Waterfront Resort Marina, or a family-friendly film, like “Little Giants,” at Catalina Island’s South Beach, you’ll want to make sure to bring a blanket, snacks and drinks for the full experience.
3. Movie night on a boat
If you want to level up your outdoor movie-going experience, how about movie night on a boat? The same team behind L.A. Haunted Hayride present Boat Cinema, running July 2 – Sept. 26. Guests can experience movies like “Jaws” and “Moana” while riding a boat on Castaic Lake.
4. Roller skate in a garden
The DiscOasis, a music-filled magical roller-skating disco party, arrives at South Coast Botanic Garden July 16 and runs through Labor Day weekend. Guests of all ages can experience the 90–120-minute theatrical journey, which includes live performances, DJs, food, beverages and a custom roller-rink.
5. Catch a puppet show
Families have a few opportunities to check out Bob Baker Marionette Theater’s beautiful puppets. Head over to Knott’s Berry Farm to see “Alegre!” This colorful celebration of music and marionettes features samba-dancing cacti, a majestic marimba player and more newly restored puppets. Or catch Bob Baker’s free summer tour, “Holiday Brouhaha,” a 30-minute puppet-filled musical celebration of a years’ worth of holidays. The show takes place at various public locations throughout L.A.
6. Go on a carnival ride
The OC Fair returns this summer with cute animals, contests, concerts, delicious carnival treats and carnival rides. New carnival rides include the Liberty Wheel and space-themed adventure, Moonraker.
7. Get inspired at an art show
Browse over 100 local artisans featuring their hand-made goods from home décor to photography to accessories and more at Jackalope Indie Artisan Fair in Pasadena. The free outdoor festival is open July 17 – 18 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Take a stroll through Grand Park to admire photography and video exhibitions that celebrate the culturally rich and diverse communities that comprise L.A. County. The month-long public art installation, “Portraits of Freedom: Building a Life in L.A.” runs July 1 – 31. For even more inspiration, head over to Laguna Beach for their annual Festival of Arts show, featuring over 100 local Orange County artists. The festival runs July 5 – Sept. 3.
8. Eat your way through a food fest
Delicious Little Tokyo is back this summer with a hybrid virtual and in-person festival. Every weekend from July 10 – 25, experience and celebrate Little Tokyo’s food history with virtual events and in-person promotions and culinary experiences. If you’re up for a little road trip, take a drive up the coast for the 61st Annual Artichoke Festival in Monterey. Try artichoke prepared in different forms like lumpia and cupcakes by local chefs and shop the farmer’s market to bring a taste of the festival home.
9. Pop bubbles
It’s the summer of bubbles! Checkout Discovery Cube OC’s Mega Bubblefest Laser Show as part of their 2021 Bubblefest, or head over to Kidspace Children’s Museum for Bubble Planet, a multi-sensory, outdoor bubble-themed exhibit.
10. Attend an outdoor concert
There are no shortages of places to experience the joy of life music in the great outdoors. OC Parks Summer Concert Series brings free outdoor concerts and local food trucks to various parks through Sept. 10. The Laguna Beach Festival of Arts presents their Concerts on the Green and Music in the Parks series weekends through Aug. 22. Segerstrom Center for the Arts offers feel-good music through Summer Sounds, sunset concerts on the Julianne and George Argyros Plaza.
11. Walk with butterflies
Experience live tropical butterflies at South Coast Botanic Garden’s SOAR exhibit through July 31 or at the Natural History Museum’s Butterfly Pavilion through Sept. 6.
12. Have an outdoor family “staycation”
You don’t have to travel far to get the full family camping experience. L.A. County Parks and Recreation is hosting “Overnight Family Camping” select weekends through the end of August. Participating parks include Santa Fe Dam Recreation Area, Frank G. Bonelli Regional Park, Castaic Lake Recreation Area, Kenneth Hahn State Recreation Area and Whittier Narrows Recreation Area.
13. Enjoy Shakespeare by the sea
Take in an evening of Shakespeare at Point Fermin Park in San Pedro. The free summer festival “Shakespeare by the Sea” returns with “Richard III” and “Love’s Labour’s Lost” Friday, Saturday and Sunday July 16 – Aug. 22.
14. Immerse yourself in art
Immersive Van Gogh arrives at the former Amoeba Music building in Hollywood on July 31. Experience Van Gogh’s works through 300,000 cubic feet of projections, which highlight brushstrokes, detail and color of his famous paintings.
15. See fireworks
Catch an early 4th of July fireworks show off Long Beach Harbor with Harbor Breeze Cruises on July 3. If you’re looking for fireworks on the 4th, head over to the Rose Bowl in Pasadena for the 95th annual AmericaFest celebration, or to Orange County’s newest outdoor venue, FivePoint Amphitheater, for their July 4th Spectacular featuring the music of Elton John.
16. Visit a cardboard city
Santa Monica’s pop up community art center features large-scaled cardboard sculptures by local artists and the “Cardboard City” shop selling tools and materials families can use to make cardboard art at home.
17. Pick your own food
Underwood Family Farms’ second location, Somis Farm Center, offers a variety of “pick your own” opportunities throughout the summer. Pick your own strawberries and blueberries through early July. Raspberries are available through November and blackberries are available through December.
18. Build a sandcastle
Work on your sand sculpture skills while raising funds for the Roundhouse Aquarium’s Education Programs. The Sunsational Sandcastle Contest is accepting entries through July 6.
19. Join the largest urban cleanup in the nation
Volunteer with Friends of the L.A. River (FoLAR) as they remove trash from a different stretch of the river every weekend through July 31. Have fun with your community members while taking part in the Great L.A. River Cleanup.
20. Experience the magic of moon jelly
Birch Aquarium launched a new 600-gallon cylindrical Moon Jelly experience, which provides guests to get up close and personal with the jellies.