5 Edgy-Fun Things to Do in LA This Week for $11 or Less

The NHM glows at night.EXPAND
The NHM glows at night.
Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County.

This week is full of opportunities for summer fun, with a twist. This Saturday, go to the Natural History Museum — at night. Revisit one of the greatest albums of all time, Michael Jackson's Bad, with the Spike Lee-directed documentary that goes behind the scenes of its creation. Check out two film festivals that highlight the work of oft-ignored filmmakers: women in genre film at Etheria, and LGBT artists at Outfest. And finally, celebrate the blooming lotuses in Echo Park Lake, Filipino style. Summer is in full swing. 

5. Party in a Garden
We’ll admit it: Sometimes we go to the Natural History Museum just to hang out in the garden. With the Rose Garden and the museum’s own collection of California native plants, not to mention the abundance of flowers gracing the Butterfly Pavilion, we don’t always make it into the museum itself. The Natural History Museum gets this, which is why it’s offering a free summer festival series, Summer Nights in the Garden, complete with DJs, food trucks and educational programming. At the kickoff July 11, master preserver Emily Ho, locally famous for her blog Roots & Marvel and her contributions to The Kitchn and KCET Food, will teach a pickle-making class, while in the Willow Hut, artist Mileece Petre will create a soundscape inspired by the sounds of nature — everything from Norwegian mud and Canadian icebergs to French crickets and Costa Rican birds. Each of the five nights will feature a different crafting workshop: DIY birdhouse, anyone? Natural History Museum of Los Angeles, 900 Exposition Blvd., Exposition Park; Fri. July 11 & 25, Aug. 1, 15 & 29, 5:30 p.m.; free, registration required. (213) 763-3466,  —Sascha Bos

4. Catch a Different Kind of Chick Flick
Thrillers, horror, science fiction and action converge at Etheria Film Night, a mix of mostly short films from an international group of filmmakers. Co-presented by the American Cinematheque, this one-night-only event showcases the diversity of women working in genre film. Selections include Wakening, the sci-fi story of a Cree woman in a dystopian Canada; The Jelly Wrestler, an action-comedy about wrestling in jelly; and Dia de los Muertos, a horror flick in which women get back at their abusers. The evening is the North American premiere of Axelle Carolyn’s supernatural feature, Soulmate, which includes a director Q&A (moderated by Fangoria’s Rebekah McKendry) and cocktail reception. The event also marks the L.A. premiere of Rose McGowan’s directorial debut, Dawn. You can buy tickets for the 4 p.m. Soulmate screening or the 7:30 p.m. shorts showcase. Both tickets include admission to the cocktail reception held between screening sessions. Etheria also is hosting a gear drive for Reel Girls, which provides classes for girls and young women. If you have gaffer’s tape, SD cards or other filmmaking supplies to donate, bring them with you. Egyptian Theatre, 6712 Hollywood Blvd., Hlywd.; Sat., July 12, 7:30 p.m.; $11. etheriafilm?, americancinematheque? —Liz Ohanesian

See also: 30 Free Things to Do in L.A. Any Time

3. Celebrate the Lotus
Every summer for three decades, the grassy banks of Echo Park Lake transformed into an enchanting promenade called the Lotus Festival, in honor of the blooming of the lotuses on the north side of the pond. Paddleboaters pedaled around fountains as crowds examined handmade crafts, snacked on delicious street food and listened to exotic tunes. But then the festival quietly disappeared. The paddleboats were grounded, Echo Park Lake was drained for a multimillion-dollar renovation and the lotuses wilted, seemingly refusing to blossom until the festival returned again, too. Fortunately, after the festival’s three-year hiatus, the Philippines has stepped up to be host country of the 34th edition of the Lotus Festival and, just like the lotuses, the festival is back in full bloom. In its 2014 comeback, the festival features the signature dragon boat races, as well as a range of cultural dances, martial arts demonstrations, a 1920s-themed drill-team routine and live music, including Latin jazz, rock and stress-relieving ancient sacred sounds. Since the lotus is a prominent symbol in Asian art and religion, the eastern continent’s myriad cultures have always been the theme of the festival, but in practice, the summertime tradition appeals to all cultures. That’s so L.A. Echo Park Lake, 751 Echo Park Ave., Echo Park; Sat., July 12, noon-9 p.m.; Sun., July 13, noon-8 p.m.; free. (213) 413-1622, or —Tanja M. Laden

Keep reading for two more great events, including LGBT movie extravaganza Outfest.

A still from Outfest.EXPAND
A still from Outfest.
Courtesy of Outfest

2. Watch the King of Pop
Last month marked both the fifth anniversary of Michael Jackson’s death and the 25th anniversary of Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing. The filmmaker is no stranger to the King of Pop’s work; he directed the video for “They Don’t Care About Us.” And in 2012, he released Bad 25, a 25th-anniversary documentary on the making of what was unquestionably the singer’s last great studio record. As part of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences’ summerlong retrospective on Lee (dating back to his days at NYU film school), the movie is a behind-the-scenes look at not only the album’s tracks but also its elaborate videos, back when they were called “short films.” Lee interviewed nearly everyone involved in Bad’s creation, including label executives, musicians and engineers, as well as Martin Scorsese (director of the title track’s video), Siedah Garrett (co-writer of “Man in the Mirror” and co-singer on “I Just Can’t Stop Loving You”), Sheryl Crow (tour backup singer) and choreographers Vincent Paterson (“Smooth Criminal”) and Jeffrey Daniel (“Bad” and “Smooth Criminal”), the latter of whom was a Soul Train dancer and taught Jackson the Moonwalk. Now you can finally learn the origin of “Shamone.” (Hint: Mavis Staples sang it first.) Linwood Dunn Theater, 1313 Vine St., Hlywd.; Sun., July 13, 2:30 p.m.; $5, $3 students. (310) 247-3000, —Siran Babayan

1. Go Out to the Movies
Outfest returns to Los Angeles with nearly 200 cinematic offerings ranging from the classic to the brand new, in short, documentary and feature categories — plus parties, panels and readings — spread across 11 days at half a dozen historic and happening venues. After the opening-night gala at the Orpheum, programs start on July 11. You can download the full program at, but a quick overview gives a sense of the dynamic eclecticism (and disco naps and car mileage) in store for audiences. July 11 features a big showcase night at REDCAT, where at noon on July 12 they also show one of the quirkiest films with a most moving backstory, the wry murder mystery Good Mourning, Lucille. July 13 at DGA is the must-see feature from Ken Roht of 99-Cent Theatre fame, The Perfect Cowboy, while the next day the promising roller coaster of a screenwriting lab unfolds. On July 15, shit gets heavy and inspiring at the Sundance Sunset, with a showing of Lady Valor: The Kristin Beck Story, about former Navy SEAL Christopher Beck’s new life as a transgender private citizen. In possibly the most anticipated guilty pleasure, on July 16 it’s The Wizard of Oz Sing-Along under the stars at the Ford Amphitheatre. Carry on with New Queer Latin American Shorts back at REDCAT on July 17; All-Girl Friday at the DGA on July 18; the annual Home Video Gong Show at REDCAT July 19; and, if you’re still standing on the 20th, hit the awards brunch at the DGA on Sunday morning, and the closing-night gala back at the Ford that night. Get out there. All details at —Shana Nys Dambrot

See also: this week's Top 4 Food Events.

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