12 Actually Cool Things to Do in LA This Summer

From comedy shows to beach days, get ready for IRL fun.

We can’t make any guarantees, but we feel pretty comfortable saying that this summer is going to be better than the last. Nearly eight million vaccines and counting have been administered in LA County; California has the lowest rate of COVID cases in the entire country; and we’re on the brink of a full-on real-deal reopening. If you’ve ever wondered what it was like to live during the Roaring ‘20s, hang onto your Gatsby hat because you’re about to find out. To kick things off, here are 12 summer activities around Los Angeles this summer. Some are indoors, some are outdoors and all, unbelievably, are in person. So close your laptop and get out there.

Tour a museum IRL

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OK so we tried to keep up with culture during this whole thing, but looking at a Van Gogh on your iPhone screen just isn’t the same. Nearly all of LA’s most impressive museums are back open for the first time since March of 2020, many with new and exciting exhibits. (We’re not totally back to normal yet, so most require timed tickets you purchase ahead.) LACMA is up and running with an exhibition by renowned Japanese artist Yoshitomo Nara and the California African American Museum is back with a trio of new summer installations, including Sanford Biggers: Codeswitch, a collection of quilt-based works by the New York-based artist. The Broad reopens May 26 with new works by heavyweights like Lichtenstein and Warhol and the Getty Center has plans to open late May with an exact date TBD.

Hike it out 

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Yes, we can do a lot of cool stuff indoors again but it’s still summer, which means we’ll want to be outside. A lot. And one of the best ways to get both a workout and a healthy dose of fresh air is, of course, one of all Angelenos’ favorite pastimes, hiking. If you’ve got your pup in tow, you’ll want to hit Runyon Canyon, of course, one of LA’s most dog-friendly hiking areas. For a serious sweat, trek the Westside’s Los Liones trail, a 7-mile-plus in-and-out trail that pays off with awesome ocean views up top. If you’ve got time for a ride up the coast, make your way to Sandstone Peak -- the tallest peak in the Santa Monica Mountains at 3,114 feet – that offers a six-mile loop trail with equally excellent views and quad-burning potential. Here are a few other ideas for off-the-beaten path hikes.

stand up comedy show
Photo by Holly Beaupre, courtesy of Don't Tell Comedy

Laugh your ass off 

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We all deserve a good laugh right now and luckily, you happen to live in a city with the highest number of comedians per capita in the world (a totally made-up but potentially true stat.) Some of LA's top comedy clubs have recently reopened with shows several nights a week featuring lineups of both household names and lesser-known funny folks. The Hollywood Improv (which has announced it will only allow vaccinated comedy-seekers in) is putting on shows every Thursday-Saturday, and The Comedy Store is back to a near-nightly schedule. If you’d prefer to take your comedy outdoors, Don’t Tell Comedy, an underground series of “secret” standup shows is still offering pop-up shows at venues including parking lots and rooftops.

Blow some cash on a big fancy dinner

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If your dining out game has gotten a little rusty, there’s no better way to get back at it than with a big old blowout dinner worthy of a serious celebration. Indulge in some standout seafood at Beverly Hills’ modern Mexican Mirame, where you can order up some of Michelin-starred chef Joshua Gil’s decadent dishes like local toro tostada, Meximoto oysters, and a whole-fried Baja snapper. Down the street, take a table inside the super swanky dining room at long standing Viet-fusion restaurant Crustacean and splurge on lauded chef Helene An’s “secret menu” of garlic-roasted Dungeness crab and whole Maine lobster and colossal Tiger prawns over her fabled garlic noodles. After doing plenty of pivoting during the pandemic, Scratch Restaurants’ Phillip Frankland Lee and Margarita Kallas-Lee have reopened their newer concept, Pasta|Bar, in the old Woodley Proper space with two seatings a night at the eight-person bar where you’ll get to watch the chefs do their thing while indulging in 13 artful courses ($125) centered around fresh pasta, delicate proteins and seasonal ingredients (think cavatelli with grilled lobster and pea shoots and an albacore tataki with poblano and black lime). On Thursday nights only, Mid-City’s modern-French stalwart Republique offers an eight-course tasting menu full of innovative items like a potato-and-“vintage”-sardine beignet and truffle-and-lobster-topped cauliflower soup.

Get back to the beach 

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Remember that big blue thing just west of you called the Pacific Ocean? It misses you. Head to any number of LA’s beautiful beaches and take advantage of everything our sandy stretch of coastline has to offer. Sign up for a surf lesson, rent a standup paddleboard, pedal the bike path, take an oceanfront yoga class on the sand, get in on a beach volleyball game, or just sit there in the sand and stare. You deserve it.

Go wine tasting

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Malibu may not be an international destination for oenophiles, but it’s completely serviceable for LA peeps who want to spend the day sipping. The Sunday Funday hotspot Malibu Wines is currently closed but has opened its sibling spot, Malibu Wines & Beer Garden, in West Hills in the meantime, serving both its wines by the tasting flight, glass or bottle and local craft brews plus pizza on weekends. Book a picnic table on the outdoor patio for groups of up to six and let the summer sipping begin.

Check out the summer bloom

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Catch a booming bloom at the 150-acre Descanso Gardens, which has extended its hours to 7 pm on weeknights. Right now you can catch (and stop to smell) plenty of roses along with wildflowers, poppies, and even a dose of wildlife if you’re lucky. If you’re not a member, make sure to buy tix online ahead of time.

Do the zoo 

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We never knew how much we wanted to see blue-eyed black lemurs, western lowland gorillas, Nigerian dwarf goats, and southern hairy nosed wombats until we weren’t allowed to anymore. And lest you think we’re making up any of the above species, we most certainly are not and all of them—along with around 270 other species of mammals, fish, birds, reptiles, and amphibians—are currently living their best lives at the LA Zoo, which has been welcoming humans back for a few months now. Since the zoo is operating at limited capacity, you’ll need to buy a timed-entry ticket in advance.

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PHOTO COURTESY ZYRTEC

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Catch an outdoor movie

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While drive-in theaters made a serious comeback in and around LA (and around the country) thanks to the pandemic, we’re happy to report that many of our favorite outdoor summer movie series are returning just in time for balmy night viewing under the stars, almost like a normal summer. Street Food Cinema is back at locations around the city including Griffith Park, Downtown’s LA State Historic Park, and Veterans Memorial Park in Culver City, screening faves like Dirty Dancing, Pulp Fiction, and Black Panther. Rooftop Cinema Club has popped up in El Segundo, where you can pay for perks like lounge chairs (or a love seat if that’s kind of evening) and popcorn. All tickets come with wireless headphones so you can drown out any outside noise and lose yourself in Wayne’s World.

Get a taste of LA’s finest farmers markets 

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If you can dream it (and it’s in season) you’ll find it at the farmers market—from the tomatoes and berries of your dreams, to obscure heirloom beans, to every fresh herb known to man. Now that summer is in full swing, LA’s farmers markets are more abundant than ever, providing Angelenos with daily opportunities to stock their fridges with fresh produce, pantry items, desserts, and more. If Downtown Santa Monica’s massive market is too much to take on right away, work your way up with a visit to Culver City’s farmers market on Tuesdays from 2–7 pm, or head to The Original Farmer’s Market at 3rd and Fairfax (open daily) early to beat the rush. If you’re up early on a Saturday, the CrenshawEast LA, and Noho farmers markets are great, less crowded options.

Do some good 

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Volunteering gets a lot of buzz around the holidays, but nonprofits focused on making the lives of our fellow citizens better need help all the time. So, if you’ve got a free Saturday or want to make volunteering a regular part of your life, now is the time. If you’re not sure where to start, check out helpful sites including VolunteerMatch and LAWorks, where you can find organizations that match your interests, skill sets, and the time you have to commit. Right now, you’ll also find plenty of virtual opps as well if you’re not ready for in-person stuff just yet.

Find out what forest bathing is

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Forest bathing is 1. a thing and 2. apparently really good for you. Every Saturday, the LA County Arboretum and Botanical Garden leads a socially-distanced walk through a forest to help guests interact with the land. It’s based on a Japanese practice called shinrin yoku and has been scientifically proven to boost immune strength, reduce stress, and improve cognitive functioning. Want nothing to do with forest bathing but still interested in doing something healthful? They’ve got you covered with weekend sound baths, plus morning and evening yoga, too. You can check the calendar here.

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Lizbeth Scordo is a food and lifestyle writer. Follow her on Instagram @modlizbeth and Twitter @lalizbeth.
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