The Best Things to Do in Los Angeles During Coachella

All of the fun, none of the crowds!

Each year, more than 250,000 music fans descend upon the SoCal desert near Indio for the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival – an event so famous that it’s known simply as “Coachella.” This multi-genre, two-weekend juggernaut - augmented by art installations, DJs, and dining - is an annual “must” for many Angelenos and on bucket lists of music lovers worldwide.

However, like most major events, attending Coachella has its downsides - not the least of which is the cost, with general admission for just one weekend starting at $499 and VIP more than $1,000. Then there’s the two and a half hour drive from LA that can take double that with festival traffic. Nearby accommodations can be hard to find and dramatically hike their prices during Coachella. And there’s the stress of finding (and paying for) parking and walking for miles beneath the Sonoran Desert sun to likely join a long queue for entry.

Meanwhile, back in LA, the streets are less congested during the Coachella weekends (this year April 12-14 and 19-21) and everything from restaurants to hotel pools can be a little more chill. So, forget your festival FOMO – the first weekend is already sold out, anyway – and consider some of these fun things to do in Los Angeles while your friends (and their finances) sweat it out at Coachella.

"Hip-Hop America: The Mixtape Exhibit" at the GRAMMY Museum
"Hip-Hop America: The Mixtape Exhibit" | Photo: GRAMMY Museum

Celebrate a Half-Century of Hip-Hop at the GRAMMY Museum (through Sep. 4)

The GRAMMY Museum’s Hip-Hop America: The Mixtape Exhibit comprises 5,000-square feet of deep dives into not only hip-hop music but also related dance, graffiti, fashion, activism, business, and history. This immersive, multifaceted experience explores the profound impact and influence of hip-hop culture, including artifacts like notorious B.I.G.’s iconic red leather pea jacket, Slick Rick’s handwritten lyrics for “Children’s Story,” and LL Cool J’s distinctive Kangol bucket hat. There’s also a unique Sonic Playground featuring five interactive stations where you can unleash your inner DJ, rapper, or sampler and maybe one day become a part of the hip-hop story.

Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling dancing in Griffith Park in "La La Land"
Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling dancing in Griffith Park in "La La Land" | Photo: Lionsgate
"Casablanca" final scene at the airport
Photo: "Casablanca," Facebook

Enjoy Al Fresco Films at Outdoor Movie Screenings

Even in April, LA boasts sufficiently reliable fine weather to make outdoor movies yet another facet of the city’s lauded cultural landscape. So, your buddies out at Coachella needn’t be the only ones being entertained beneath the stars with Rooftop Cinema Club atop LEVEL DTLA screening La La Land and Set It Off (Apr 12), Legally Blonde and Goodfellas (Apr 13), Mamma Mia! (Apr 14), and How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days and Friday (Apr 19). Meanwhile, Rooftop Movies at the Montalbán will be showing Casablanca (Apr 12), Pulp Fiction (Apr 13), The Big Lebowski (Apr 19), and The Breakfast Club (Apr 20).

Smorgasburg Los Angeles at ROW DTLA
Photo: Smorgasburg Los Angeles

Browse Curated Small Businesses at Smorgasburg (Sundays)

Happening 10am to 4pm every Sunday at ROW DTLA, Smorgasburg Los Angeles is an open-air market comprising nearly 100 small businesses carefully curated to represent the next wave of SoCal’s food, beverage and shopping scenes. With its family-friendly beer garden and huge array of eats, it can be a something-for-everyone day out or spoilt-for-choice solo lunch stop. New vendors at the LA edition (Smorgasburg also operates markets on the East Coast and in Brazil and Canada) include The Basket Taco Co., Battambong BBQ, focaccia di Recco from Glad, and HGG’s authentic tanghulu (Chinese rock sugar-coated fruit skewers).

Hatsune Miku 2024
Photo: Hatsune Miku, Facebook

Attend “Official” Coachella Alternatives (Apr. 10-24)

Dubbed "Localchella" by regulars, Goldenvoice Presents April is a two-week concert series that brings Coachella acts to much smaller and more convenient stages around LA, the Bay Area, and San Diego. Presented by Coachella promoter Goldenvoice, this year’s lineup includes Blur at the Fox Theater Pomona (April 10), Hatsune Miku at the Shrine Auditorium (April 17), Bar Italia at the Fonda Theatre (April 18), and Innellea at Sound Nightclub (April 20). If you were considering attending Coachella for just one or a handful of acts, this “official” alternative can save you considerable time, money, and sunburn.

Los Angeles Times Festival of Books
Photo: Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, Facebook

Restock Your Library at the Festival of Books (Apr. 20-21)

Fill your shelves and your head at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books – the largest such event in the U.S. Held over two days on the USC campus, this literary lovefest offers free general admission plus ticketed events featuring authors and celebrities. Participants this year include RuPaul discussing his new memoir, The House of Hidden Meanings; José Andrés talking about his latest cookbook, Zaytinya; and Pod Save America hosts Jon Favreau and Tommy Vietor. Limited public tickets are also available for the Los Angeles Times Book Prizes ceremony on Friday, April 19.

Magic Market at Heritage Square
Magic Market at Heritage Square | Photo: Eventbrite

Make a Metaphysical One-Stop at Magic Market (Apr. 20-21)

Gathering 75 vendors amongst the stately Victorian homes of Heritage Square, Magic Market is a slightly surreal shopping experience where guests are highly encouraged to dress in theme (think fae, spring whimsical, vintage, and green witch). Celebrating the return of spring with its first event of the year, this edition of Magic Market features all manner of metaphysical products, tarot, palmistry, witch supply, plants, and vintage as well as workshops and classes including sound healing, yoga and more. There’s also vegan food, a picnic area, live music, and tours of the throwback homes. Bring a blanket – and friends!

Great L.A. River Clean Up
Great L.A. River Clean Up | Photo: Friends of the Los Angeles River, Facebook

Do Good, Feel Good at Earth Day River Cleanup (Apr. 20)

Gather with fellow Angelenos at North Atwater Park for two hours of family-friendly LA River cleanup to appropriately mark Earth Day two days later. After an unusually rainy winter, there’s plenty of debris to be removed and riverbank to revitalize, while also learning about the river’s rich history and assisting in water quality tests with LA Waterkeeper (the city’s long-running water watchdog). While it’s estimated that the Coachella fest produces around 1,600 tons of waste each year, Earth Day River Cleanup is an educational and healthy opportunity to have the opposite impact on our natural surroundings. Register here.

The Black Crowes
The Black Crowes | Photo: The Greek Theatre

Shake Your Money Maker with The Black Crowes (Apr. 12)

Atlanta’s Black Crowes are one of those rare bands that can conjure an old-school rock fest aura all on their own, and only the more so in the balmy outdoor setting of the Greek Theatre. Through 35 years, three breakups and a couple of dozen come-and-go members gathered around founding brothers Chris (vocals) and Rich Robinson (guitar), the Crowes have retained their heyday Rolling Stones swagger, throwback Faces boogie, and a nostalgic love for extended jams and improvisational flourish that may sit well with fans less keen on Coachella’s more contemporary, eclectic bills.

2023 TCM Classic Film Festival at the TCL Chinese Theatre
TCM Classic Film Festival at the TCL Chinese Theatre | Photo: Presley Ann, Getty Images

Celebrate Celluloid GOAT at the TCM Classic Film Festival (Apr. 18-21)

Remind yourself why some movies have become regarded as classics at this 15th annual cinephiles’ paradise. The theme for this year’s TCM Classic Film Festival is “Most Wanted: Crime and Justice in Film,” a fascination of filmmakers since cinema began. A century’s worth of celluloid struggles between killers and cops, fugitives and G-Men, crooks and amateur sleuths is celebrated with screenings at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel (including poolside evenings) and the nearby TCL Chinese Theatre, Chinese Multiplex and the newly-restored Egyptian Theatre. Gather the usual suspects for special showings of the likes of White Heat, Send Me No Flowers, and Pulp Fiction.

PaleyFest 2024 at the Dolby Theatre
Photo: The Paley Center for Media

Indulge Your TV Nerdiness at PaleyFest (Apr. 12-20)

For 41 years, the annual William S. Paley Television Festival, colloquially dubbed PaleyFest, has presented a weeklong program of exclusive television episodes, clips, and panel discussions with some of the brightest stars of the medium. Appropriately and conveniently located right on Hollywood Boulevard at the Dolby Theatre, the 2024 incarnation includes Avatar: The Last Airbender, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Loki, The Late Show with Stephen Colbert and a 25th anniversary celebration of Family Guy. Celeb appearances will include Jennifer Aniston, Alex Borstein, Larry David, Cheryl Hines, Mila Kunis, Seth MacFarlane, Seth Meyers and Reese Witherspoon.

John Waters
John Waters | Photo: Greg Gorman

Dive Into the Divinely Dark at "John Waters: Pope of Trash" (through Aug. 4)

Dubbed the “Pope of Trash” by William S. Burroughs, DIY filmmaker, author, and self-proclaimed “filth elder” John Waters is perhaps the ultimate self-made American iconoclast. Now on view at the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures, John Waters: Pope of Trash explores the nuances of Waters’ process behind cult classics like Pink Flamingos and Hairspray; and how he redefined the possibilities of independent cinema, serving as not only writer and director but also often producer, cinematographer, and editor. Amongst the costumes, handwritten scripts, photos, props and more on display are an original Pink Flamingos script and Debbie Harry’s exploding wig from Hairspray.

Pysanka Festival at the Ukrainian Art Center
Photo: Ukrainian Art Center

Immerse in Ukrainian Art & Culture at the Pysanka Festival (Apr. 14)

A pysanka is a traditional decorated Ukrainian Easter Egg. The annual Pysanka Festival at the Ukrainian Art Center on Melrose Avenue is the cultural center's largest outreach project to the local community, where attendees are entertained by dancers, musicians, and Pysanka workshops while exploring Ukrainian crafts, foods and libations. It’s a true immersive experience and celebration at a time when Ukraine is constantly making headlines for the most tragic of reasons. Admission is free but donations are welcome and these, alongside proceeds from food sales and some vendors, benefit humanitarian war relief through the Ukrainian Art Center and Post Angeles.

"Wild Things Are Happening" at the Skirball Cultural Center
"Wild Things Are Happening" | Photo: Skirball Cultural Center

Behold Beauty & Whimsy at "Wild Things Are Happening" (Apr. 18 - Sep. 1)

Author and illustrator Maurice Sendak had a signature style at once mystical and whimsical, haunting and entrancing, innocent yet unafraid of the dark. Best known for his 1963 children’s book Where the Wild Things Are, the Jewish American artist also worked in opera, film and television. Opening at the Skirball Cultural Center on April 18, Wild Things Are Happening: The Art of Maurice Sendak is the first major Sendak retrospective since his passing in 2012, comprising over 150 artifacts including original paintings, drawings, videos, and objects that showcase the depth and breadth of his creativity.

CicLAvia: Venice Blvd 2024
Photo: CicLAvia

Safely Celebrate Pedal Power at CicLAvia: Venice Blvd (Apr. 21)

Inspired by a weekly event in Bogotá, CicLAvia is a non-profit that since 2010 has been temporarily closing L.A. County streets to car traffic to create vibrant public spaces and encourage active transportation and community connection. The biggest open streets event in the country, CicLAvia has brought together more than 1.8 million people to safely enjoy cycling, walking, skating, and each other, while also improving air quality and impacting transportation policy. Its April 21 route – one of eight CicLAvia Sundays in 2024 – runs straight down Venice Boulevard through Palms, Mar Vista and Venice Beach.

Experience IndyCar Thrills at the Grand Prix of Long Beach (Apr. 19-21)

The Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach, held on a street circuit in Downtown LB, is one of the longest continuously running IndyCar Series events and among the most prestigious. While ostensibly resembling Formula 1 with its ultra-fast single-seater, open-wheel cars, IndyCar is a chiefly North American rather than a global enterprise with more technical regulation, and therefore less design diversity, than F1. But while Formula 1’s 2024 season only visits Miami and Austin stateside, the Grand Prix of Long Beach offers a convenient local fix for auto aficionados with a serious need for speed.

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