12 Can't-Miss Events in Los Angeles

Los Angeles is so much more than the glamour of Hollywood award shows and lazy beach days. Check out the best events in LA all year long, from a Mexican-wrestling-themed Valentine’s Day celebration to retro Christmas fun!
By: Theis Duelund

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January: L.A. Art Show

Held at the L.A. Convention Center downtown, the annual L.A. art show attracts high-end art dealers, cutting-edge new artists and connoisseurs from all over the world. This is where you’ll see everything from pieces by up-and-coming local talent to some of the greatest works of art ever produced.

February: Lucha VaVoom Valentine's Day

Founded in 2002, wrestling promoters-cum-party starters Lucha VaVoom are the masterminds behind the craziest variety show in town. Billed as a healthy mix of sex, comedy and comic-book violence, Lucha VaVoom features Mexican masked wrestling, burlesque dancers and comedy supplied by names such as Patton Oswalt, Dana Gould and Bobcat Goldthwait. The Valentine’s extravaganza includes some romantic wrestling you won’t want to miss.

March: PaleyFest

The Paley Center in Beverly Hills is dedicated to television (and now streaming) entertainment of all kinds. The center’s annual March TV showcase attracts major Hollywood players from both behind and in front of the camera. Panel discussions and talks usually feature most of the cast and creators of a given show, offering a rare opportunity to engage with your favorite actors and TV auteurs.

April: 'Los Angeles Times' Festival of Books

Held on the gorgeous campus grounds of the University of Southern California, the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books is the biggest event on the L.A. literary calendar. Catch talks by beloved local writers such as T.C. Boyle and Aimee Bender and literati from all over the world. Plus, there are tons of other literary-inclined activities, including a wonderful array of events and programs for children.

May: Cinespia

May in L.A. equals open-air movies — hosted by Cinespia — at the recently restored Hollywood Forever Cemetery, the final resting place of Rudolph Valentino, Mickey Rooney and Douglas Fairbanks, just to name a few. Bring a blanket and a picnic basket and cool down after a hot L.A. summer day by watching a film under the open sky.

June: Grunion Run

You’re going to have to get up early for this one. Fishing for (or, rather, scooping up) the minute grunion throughout spring is a Southern California family tradition. Each year, during the spring months, millions of tiny, silvery fish indigenous to the West Coast beach come here to spawn. It’s an amazing spectacle, as well as an opportunity to do some fishing. You will need a license, though, and don’t bring a net — you may use only your hands.

July: July 4th on the Queen Mary

Celebrate America's Independence Day on a retired cruise ship named after a former British regent. Irony aside, the Queen Mary, which is docked in Long Beach, 45 minutes south of downtown Los Angeles, offers a full day of fun maritime activities, rounded off by an epic evening party featuring music and impressive fireworks. All aboard!

August: Nisei Week

Los Angeles is home to a huge Japanese-American population, and you’ll find some of the best Japanese cuisine outside Japan on Sawtelle Boulevard, in Little Tokyo and in the South Bay suburb of Torrance. Every August, Nisei Week celebrates all things Land of the Rising Sun. With its many floats, celebrity appearances and traditional Japanese dancers, the Grand Parade that winds its way through the streets of Little Tokyo is the festival’s highlight.

September: Port of Los Angeles Lobster Festival

Held in San Pedro, a hidden L.A. gem, the annual Lobster Fest is a crustacean connoisseur’s paradise. Lobsters are flown in fresh from Maine for the three-day festival and served up in a dizzying variety of preparations. The event schedule is also jam-packed with musical entertainment. Editor's note: Although traditionally held in September, last year's event was held in July, so check the website for current dates.

October: West Hollywood Halloween Carnaval

The annual Halloween Carnaval in West Hollywood is one of the biggest street parties in the country. Put on your spookiest or sexiest (or both) costume and take to the streets with thousands of other revelers. The event boasts multiple stage areas with live music and drag queens performing. The highlight is the crowning of the Carnaval Queen, an honor whose past recipients include Rihanna and Queen Latifah.

November: Dia de los Muertos at Hollywood Forever Cemetery

The Latin American tradition of celebrating the Day of the Dead is a big deal in Southern California, and every year, the iconic Hollywood Forever Cemetery opens its gates to thousands of people observing the holiday. Most patrons arrive at the cemetery in beautiful traditional garb, colorful costumes, or black and white face paint to commemorate deceased loved ones. The event includes everything from live music to kid-friendly activities such as face painting, altar building and costume contests.

December: Cicada Club Christmas

Zoot suits, wide-brimmed hats and chic vintage dresses — downtown's Cicada Club is a trip back in time to the swinging ’40s and ’50s. People show up to this fun dinner club in period-appropriate attire and dance their hearts out all night long to the tunes of jazz, swing and old-school party music. If you miss the Christmas festivities, the Cicada Club’s annual New Year’s Eve party is the classiest shindig in town.

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