Discover LA by Metro:
Summer in LA means the parks and plazas near Metro Rail stations are alive with the sound of music, the rhythm of dance, and the applause of the crowds. It’s free concert time!
All across Los Angeles County you can see FREE music, dance, and theater performances adjacent Metro Rail stations. We attended performances at four venues: Grand Performances at California Plaza and Levitt Pavilion at MacArthur Park, both off the Red/Purple Line; Levitt Pavilion at Memorial Park, Pasadena, off the Gold Line; and Summer and Music – Downtown Long Beach, off the Blue Line. These are just a sampling of what’s available for free. We’ve included links to other free (and fee) concerts. Each venue we visited has its own character and offers a fun experience. And all are less than three blocks from a Metro Rail station.
Grand Performances – Downtown Los Angeles – Pershing Square Metro Station, Red/Purple Lines
Grand Performances is the longest established series, celebrating its 25th season. The venue at California Plaza is stunning, with the stage floating above a reflecting pool – at night, the lights dance on the water during the show. This very urban setting, surrounded by steel and glass office buildings in the middle of Downtown, was created for the purpose of presenting public performances and is a real treasure for Downtown LA. Offerings include musical, dance, and theater productions.
The Grand Performances series offers Friday noon concerts as well as Friday, Saturday and alternating Thursday evenings at 8 p.m. Concerts continue through August 27, 2011. Come early to get a good view because this venue fills up. There is seating on chairs as well as “amphitheater” stairs. Bring cushions, blankets
or wraps for evening, and a picnic. Food is also available at various restaurants in the complex. This venue is very easy to access, and part of the fun is getting there. Use the Fourth Street exit at the Pershing Square Red/Purple Line Metro Station. You will then be facing Angels Flight Railway, the famous little funicular that will carry you up the hill to California Plaza for 25 cents. The short ride offers a great view and beats walking the stairs.
UPDATE: Angels Flight is closed for repairs. There is a steep staircase next to it that also goes to California Plaza.
Alternately, use the Temple St./Grand Park exit from the Red/Purple Line, walk up through Grand Park to Grand Ave. and turn left. California Plaza will be on your left. It’s about a half-mile walk.
Levitt Pavilion at Memorial Park – Pasadena – Memorial Park Metro Station, Gold Line
The classic gold band shell in Pasadena’s Memorial Park adds a nostalgic feel to this concert venue. Dedicated on Memorial Day, 1930, the historic band shell, a beloved site for community gatherings, sing-a-longs, and concerts in the 1930s and ’40s, fell into disuse by the ’70s. Neglected and in need of refurbishing, a grant from the Mortimer Levitt Foundation enabled the band shell to host concerts anew since the summer of 2003.
The Levitt Pasadena concert series offers children’s concerts every Wednesday at 7 p.m. and general audience concerts every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 7 p.m. Offerings include musical, dance, and theater productions. This series continues through August 28, 2011. Seating is on the sloping lawn, with a few park benches. Bring blankets (both for sitting on and for use as wraps) and folding chairs. Picnicking is part of the experience – and some food trucks may also be on site.
This venue is immediately adjacent the Memorial Park Gold Line Metro Station. Turn right as you exit the station and the band shell will be visible on your right.
Levitt Pavilion at MacArthur Park – Westlake, Los Angeles – Westlake/MacArthur Park Metro Station, Red/Purple Line
At the turn of the last century, Westlake Park, established in 1863 and renamed for the World War II General in 1942, was an elegant destination for strolling, boating, or listening to concerts. The park has had a checkered history, falling into disrepute in the ’80s and ’90s. But after the opening of the Westlake/MacArthur Park Metro Station in 1993, the park is regaining its lost, past glory. Since 2002, a revitalization effort by community/business leaders and the Los Angeles Police Department has led to a decline in the crime rate. The park is once again a destination for family outings, with soccer games, picnics, and children feeding the ducks and pigeons.
Community support for the park and the concerts is evident. All ages and ethnicities can be seen enjoying the beauty of the lake and the music. The Levitt MacArthur Park concert series runs Thursday through Sunday at 7 p.m., with children’s concerts on Sunday at 4 p.m. The schedule runs through Sunday, September 4, 2011.
In addition to rock, rap, and jazz, performers include a variety of ethnic groups reflecting the neighborhood, from Mariachis to traditional Korean dancers. On the Sunday we attended, many who, like us, came for the children’s concert also stayed for the evening event. We were very impressed with the children’s program by FUNdamentals of Music and Movement.
The band shell is located in the northwest corner of MacArthur Park, near the intersection of W. 6th Street and S. Park View Street. As you exit the Metro station, turn right on Alvarado Street to Wilshire Blvd., which divides the park in two. Cross both Alvarado and Wilshire, then enter the park and walk along the path that parallels Wilshire Blvd. past the soccer field to the band shell. Seating is on the lawn and some large boulders. Bring blankets (for sitting on and for use as wraps) and folding chairs. Picnicking is part of the experience – some local food vendors may also be on site.
Summer and Music – Promenade Square Park, Long Beach – 1st Street and Long Beach Transit Mall Metro Stations, Blue Line
Long Beach’s small and attractive Promenade Square Park hosts the intimate Sundays in the Park with SAM (Summer and Music) concerts every Sunday afternoon through August 21, 2011. There are three featured acts in each concert, starting at 3:30 p.m. and ending at 7 p.m. (first set: 3:30-4 p.m.; second set: 4:30-5:15 p.m.; headliner: 5:45-6:45 p.m.). Additionally, there are exhibits by local artists that contribute to the relaxed community feeling of the venue.
Picnicking is encouraged – bring food and blankets or folding chairs. It’s not far from the ocean, so it may get a bit cool at times. The Blue Line stops on Long Beach Blvd. at the 1st Street Metro Station, then passes Promenade Square Park on 1st one block before the Long Beach Transit Mall Metro Station. You can use either Metro station.
UPDATE: 2016’s Summer and Music Events are in different locations in Downtown Long Beach. See http://www.summerandmusic.com/ for dates and locations.
Listings for other venues with free (and some fee) concerts this summer:
Wine & Jazz at Hollywood and Highland –
Los Angeles County Arts Calendar –
Go Los Angeles Arts Calendar –