Cultural Nights Out in Los Angeles

After-Hours at L.A. Institutions

DJ Jedi on the decks in the African Mammal Hall at First Fridays | Photo: Natural History Museum, Facebook

Los Angeles is as much a hub for cultural experiences as it is for entertainment and nightlife. L.A. boasts a multitude of museums and arts centers around the city, with more on the way like the upcoming Academy Museum of Motion Pictures later this year and the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art in 2020. But can you have both a fun night out and experience culture at the same time? In Los Angeles, the answer is YES.

Throughout the year, many institutions host evening programs that are open to the public: the Music Center’s Sleepless after-hours series recently presented Quinceañera Reimagined, a celebration of the rituals and symbols associated with this coming-of-age Latin tradition that went on until 3 a.m.; the GRAMMY Museum hosts 80-plus conversations and performances with music stars throughout the year; the Paley Center for Media hosts screenings and star-studded Q&As; and even though it's not necessarily a cultural center but a cultural landmark in its own right, the Andaz West Hollywood hotel, presenting its quarterly Salon art exhibit series showcasing works by local artists.

Read on for Los Angeles museums and cultural centers offering after-hours events and experiences.

First Fridays at the Natural History Museum

What do you get when you combine DJs with dinosaurs? First Fridays at the Natural History Museum (900 W Exposition Blvd, Los Angeles 90007). Held on the first Friday of every month from March through June, these popular events feature live musical performances, DJs, a bar, food trucks, guided behind-the-scenes museum tours, and scientist-led conversations focusing on a different topic each month. This year’s First Fridays series explores California’s four Forces of Nature: fire, drought, flood, and earthquakes.

For tickets and more information, visit the NHM website.

Sustainable Wine + Dinner Series at the LA Zoo

Sustainable Wine + Dinner Series at the LA Zoo | Photo: @LAZoo, Twitter

Sustainable Wine + Dinner Series at the LA Zoo

Enjoy wine and wildlife after-hours at the Los Angeles Zoo (5333 Zoo Dr, Los Angeles, CA 90027), which is hosting its third annual Sustainable Wine + Dinner Series, taking place on April 11, May 30, and June 27. Tickets are $150 per person and feature a custom five-course, farm-to-table dinner menu crafted by the Zoo’s executive chef, Brad Robertson, and wines from local, environmentally friendly wineries. Each evening is set in a different location within the zoo, offering spectacular views of areas such as the Amazonian stilt house within the Rainforest of the Americas or the Cambodian viewing area at Elephants of Asia. Each event also features conversations with a curator or keeper, up-close animal encounters, and wine introductions from winery representatives.

For more information and to purchase tickets, visit the LA Zoo website.

Odd Nights at the Autry

Odd Nights at the Autry | Photo: Odd Market

Odd Nights and After-Hours at the Autry

On the third Friday of every month from March through October, the Autry Museum of the American West in Griffith Park (4700 Western Heritage Way, Los Angeles 90027) invites the public to spend an evening al fresco at the Odd Market, dubbed an “indie bazaar” with food trucks, live music, family entertainment, and Southern California-based vendors selling crafts, vintage items, home goods, and other oddities. Situated on more than two-and-a-half acres in the heart of Griffith Park, the event runs from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m., and guests will be able to roam select museum galleries until 9 p.m. Admission is $5 and free for Autry members.

In addition, on May 22 the Autry will return with its annual after-hour series to celebrate all things L.A. Autry After Hours: We Love L.A. will feature performances by local poets, DJs, and artists, plus tacos, beer, wine, and cocktails. The event starts at 6:30 p.m. and admission is free for Autry members, and $5 for nonmembers. Reservations are recommended.

For more information on these events, visit the Autry Museum website.

LACMA Friday Night Jazz featuring Anthony Wilson Nonet

Anthony Wilson Nonet performs at Jazz at LACMA | Photo: LACMA

Friday Night Jazz at LACMA

If searching for a relaxed night out under the city lights – Chris Burden’s Urban Light, to be exact – then the free Friday night jazz sessions at LACMA (5905 Wilshire Blvd, Los Angeles 90036) are for you. One of the best free live music events in L.A., Jazz at LACMA has featured such luminary figures as Kenny Burrell, Barbara Morrison, Arturo Sandoval, and Wayne Shorter. Events take place from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. every Friday night from April through November and are held in the Smidt Welcome Plaza, just steps away from LACMA’s Urban Light sculpture, dubbed by AFAR magazine as one of the most Instagrammable places in the world.

Visit the Jazz at LACMA page for more info about upcoming performances.

La Luz performs at the Getty Center Off the 405

La Luz performs at Off the 405 at the Getty Center | Photo: @cooltite, Instagram

Off the 405 Summer Concerts at the Getty Center

Though this year's lineup of performers has yet to be revealed, the Getty Center (1200 Getty Center Dr, Los Angeles 90049) will return with its popular Off the 405 annual outdoor summer concert series, pairing up-and-coming bands and artists with stunning architecture and breathtaking sunset views. This year’s series kicks off on May 18 with subsequent concerts scheduled for June 22, July 13, July 27, August 24, and September 14.

Keep tabs on the Getty Center website for more information and a full schedule of performers.

The Marias at Skirball Cultural Center Sunset Concerts

The Marias at Skirball Cultural Center Sunset Concerts | Photo: @lindzbest, Instagram

Sunset Concerts at the Skirball

Now in its 23rd year, the popular Sunset Concert series at the Skirball Cultural Center (2701 N. Sepulveda Blvd, Los Angeles 90049) kicks off on July 18 and runs through August 22, with a full lineup of performers to be announced in May. Presented every summer since 1997 in the Skirball’s picturesque hillside setting, Sunset Concerts features both emerging and established talents, drawing music fans from across greater Los Angeles. Music fans of all ages are invited to arrive early to enjoy food and drink under the stars and also explore the museum galleries. Concert admission is free and open to the public.

Stay tuned to the Skirball website for more information.

Cut Chemist at the Hammer Museum Summer Nights

Cut Chemist at the Hammer Museum Summer Nights | Photo: @source_, Instagram

Summer Nights at the Hammer Museum

Co-presented with KCRW 89.9FM, the highly anticipated Summer Nights at the Hammer Museum (10899 Wilshire Blvd, Los Angeles 90024) is a free summer concert series that is sure to feature an eclectic lineup of rising bands and artists. The popular Hammer shows kick off at around 6:30 p.m. in the museum’s courtyard and guests are free to roam through the galleries until 9 p.m. The all-ages shows are free and open to the public. Past performers have included Cut Chemist, Elohim, Grace Mitchell, Peanut Butter Wolf, Wargirl, and more.

Stay tuned to the Hammer Museum website as more information regarding dates and a full schedule of performances are expected to be announced in the coming months.

"CONTACT HIGH: A Visual History of Hip-Hop" à Annenberg Space for Photography

CONTACT HIGH: A Visual History of Hip-Hop | Photo: Annenberg Space for Photography

Photoville LA at the Annenberg Space for Photography (April 26-28 & May 2-5, 2019)

The Annenberg Space for Photography (2000 Avenue of the Stars #10, Los Angeles 90067) will host Photoville LA, the largest photographic event in New York City, when it comes to Los Angeles for the first time in its seven-year history from April 26-28 and May 2-5. This special event will feature exhibitions from local and international photographers and include nighttime screenings, talks, workshops, family-friendly activities, and the Smorgasburg Beer Garden. Admission is free and open to the public. For more details, visit the Annenberg website.

Night Garden at Descanso Gardens

Night Garden at Descanso Gardens | Photo: Descanso Gardens, Facebook

Night Garden at Descanso Gardens

As the sun sets and the temperature gets cooler, the nighttime fun begins at Descanso Gardens (1418 Descanso Dr, La Cañada Flintridge 91011). On one Saturday each month from February to May, Descanso opens its floral gates for Night Garden - special evenings of science, music, libations, and more. The event runs from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., and advance tickets are required at a cost of $5 for members and $15 for non-members. Descanso Gardens have become widely known for their annual holiday event, Enchanted Forest of Light (which returns in November 2019), but this is the inaugural year for their Night Garden event.

For more information on upcoming events and to purchase tickets, visit the Descanso Gardens website.

Jessica Fichot at Arboretum Summer Nights

Jessica Fichot at Arboretum Summer Nights | Photo: @jessicafichotmusic, Instagram

Arboretum Summer Nights

The 127-acre Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Garden (301 N Baldwin Ave, Arcadia 91007) will offer up live music and a variety of family-friendly entertainment such as crafts, storytelling, lawn games, and a “Bookmobile” during its annual Arboretum Summer Nights. Events take place on select Fridays from June through August, with the series kicking off June 29 at 6 p.m. with Northern California psych-pop folk/rock band Strawberry Smog and fellow NorCal musician Christine Shields. Local food trucks will be on site with food for purchase, and attendees are encouraged to bring blankets, lawn chairs, umbrellas, food, and wine. General admission is $7 and $4 for children ages 5-12. Arboretum members and children 4 and under are free.

For more information about upcoming events, visit the Arboretum website.

Yozmit performs "WALK" at the Pomona College Museum of Art

Yozmit performs WALK at Art After Hours at the Pomona College Museum of Art | Photo: @pomonacollegemuseumofart, Instagram 

Art After Hours at Pomona College Museum of Art

The Pomona College Museum of Art (330 N College Ave, Claremont 91711) will stay open late on Thursdays from April to May for their Art After Hours series, offering a variety of programming, including lectures, panels, workshops, tours, film screenings, and music performances sponsored by KSPC 88.7FM, and performances in conjunction with museum exhibitions and in partnership with on-campus student and academic groups.

Events are free and open to the public. For more information, visit the Pomona College Museum of Art website.

Magician Aiden Sinclair performs "Illusions of the Passed" at the Queen Mary

Magician Aiden Sinclair performs Illusions of the Passed at the Queen Mary | Photo: Queen Mary, Facebook

Twilight Aboard the Queen Mary

For those looking for a spookier way to learn about history, Twilight Aboard the Queen Mary (1126 Queens Hwy, Long Beach 90802) offers several opportunities when the sun goes down. If you're interested in diving into the legendary ocean liner’s haunted past, there are several tours available, including a paranormal ship walk that explores all of the reportedly haunted locations and a paranormal investigations tour that leads you into the depths of the Queen Mary’s purported active locations led by resident ship para-investigator Matthew Schulz. You can even dine with the dead in the award-winning Sir Winston’s Restaurant and Lounge and participate in Illusions of the Passed, a theatrical séance with master magician and apparitionist Aiden Sinclair.

If you’re not too spooked out yet, visit the Queen Mary’s website for more information on twilight attractions, and to purchase tickets.

Night Dive at Aquarium of the Pacific

Night Dive at Aquarium of the Pacific | Photo: Aquarium of the Pacific, Facebook

Late Nights at the Aquarium of the Pacific

Go under the sea after dark during Late Nights at the Aquarium of the Pacific (100 Aquarium Way, Long Beach 90802), featuring select Friday evenings when guests can experience the Shark Lagoon for free until 9 p.m. Get up close and personal with the ocean’s ultimate predators, like sand tigers and rays, and even have the opportunity to touch a bamboo shark, should you be so daring. Coffee, hot cocoa, beer, wine, desserts, and snacks will be available for purchase.

For further details on upcoming Late Nights events, visit the Aquarium website.

Words by
Crystal Larsen Avatar of author Crystal Larsen