Can't Afford Arts in L.A.? Here's Our Guide to Cheap Tickets, Perks and Parties

A party for L.A. Opera's Aria programEXPAND
A party for L.A. Opera's Aria program
Courtesy of L.A. Opera

Those who say Los Angeles is devoid of culture, or that culture is just too expensive, clearly don't know where to go. Many museums, parks and theaters offer special programs, discounts and membership levels to encourage young adults to embrace what the city has to offer. A few of them even cater to college students and the not-quite-as-young adults. In short, "I can't afford it" just doesn't cut it any more.

With the Getty's next College Night coming up tonight from 6 to 9:30 p.m., we figured it was a good time for our guide to the best perks:

Getty Villa's College Night

Making olive wreaths from the Villa’s own olive trees is about as authentic a toga party as you can get outside of ancient Rome … and Sigma Chi. At a recent College Night, students kept the Roman fortune teller busy all evening and turned the application of Greek monster temporary tattoos into performance art. They also enjoyed free food and drink, special tours led by Villa staff and docents, games and prizes, Greco-Roman Jeopardy, portraits by caricature artists and behind-the-scenes looks at conservation labs. Attendees even have the chance to get their selfie on with Roman re-enactors in legit Legio VI Victrix costumes. #WhenInRome. Want to be camera-ready? Master dressing yourself in a toga the ancient Roman way with this online video from the Getty.

Cost: free

How to take advantage: Follow the Getty Villa on Instagram and Twitter, where information will be posted as soon as it’s available. Once it’s been posted, call (310) 440-7300 or go online to reserve a ticket. (Admission and parking are free for College Night but a ticket is required.)

Musing over the exhibits at College NightEXPAND
Musing over the exhibits at College Night
Courtesy of The Getty Villa

Geffen Playhouse Insiders

At the Geffen, if you’re an “Insider,” you can keep your theater ticket costs down to $25-$38 a pop (with no fees!). All you have to be willing to do is deal with a bit of uncertainty. The Geffen sends one email every four to six weeks letting Insiders know of dates on which seats are available for select shows. Usually you get five to seven dates to choose from, plus often you get first crack at productions that are extended. Call as soon as you receive your email — Insider tickets often sell out within two to three days of the email going out.

Cost: free to join

How to take advantage: Complete the registration form here and you’ll start receiving emails. Once you get an email, buy tickets by phone or at the box office — and be sure to mention you’re an Insider.

Getty Villa's Free Theater for College Students

If you’re in college, seeing theater at the Getty is like getting into a time machine. You get to see plays written in ancient times, and you get to remember what it was like when your parents paid for everything … because if you’re in college, theater at the Getty is free for certain Wednesday and Saturday matinees. These shows include the Outdoor Classical Plays, which are full productions of a classical tragedy or comedy, and the Villa Theater Lab series, which develops reinterpretations of classical theater. The Labs feature Q&As with cast, crew, director, writer and whoever else is there and involved with the staging and wants to talk. They're a forum to develop works and develop reinterpretations of classical theater, and by attending, you get to be a part of the process. Perhaps even a part of history.

Cost: free

How to take advantage: Contact education specialist Shelby Brown via email at sbrown AT getty DOT edu.

The Hammer Museum's Hammer Plus cardEXPAND
The Hammer Museum's Hammer Plus card
Courtesy of the Hammer Museum

Hammer Plus Membership

The whole museum is now free, but young adults on a budget (or anyone, really) can rack up 12 visits in one year and earn VIP membership, which includes invitations for two to all exhibition opening receptions, priority entry and seat selection for you and a guest at Hammer public programs, as well as one Hammer Plus event — such as Cocktails With Curators or Coffee Talk, which includes refreshments and an exhibit walk-through with a curator.

Cost: free

How to take advantage: Sign up at the Hammer Museum welcome desk, museum store or information kiosk in the courtyard and earn your first point.

L.A. Phil's Coda program

In music, the coda brings a piece to its end, but the L.A. Phil’s Coda program is designed to get you going … to the Philharmonic. This new group for music enthusiasts in their 20s and 30s offers a 20 percent discount on tickets, members-only concert after-parties, opportunities to meet the musicians and guest artists and complimentary drinks.

Cost: free to join (for this first season, at least)

How to take advantage: Go here to register.

An L.A. Opera Aria partyEXPAND
An L.A. Opera Aria party
Courtesy of L.A. Opera

L.A. Opera's Aria Young Professionals program

Intrigued by opera but think it’s too expensive and no one your age is going anyway? Aria brings together people ages 21 to 35, some very familiar with opera and others just getting their feet wet. Membership in Aria is free and gets you heavily discounted tickets. The Full Season Subscription includes six opera performances and three after-parties, starting at just $102 per person. The ARIA package includes four opera performances and three after-parties, starting at just $76. Purchasing a subscription, either the ARIA package or Full Season, gets you the additional benefits of three off-site after-parties with cocktails, hors d’oeuvres, raffle prizes and opportunities to hobnob with the artists you’ve just seen onstage. You'll also be invited to an opening-night gala and exclusive intermission no-host reception. At the Full Season level, you'll also enjoy complimentary champagne, ticket exchanges and priority seating. And even if you don't subscribe, you can pay $20 on top of your individually purchased ticket to get access to that evening’s intermission reception and after-party. 

Cost: free to join

How to take advantage: Fill out the web form here to begin receiving ARIA news and find out more about upcoming operas. Call the box office at (213) 972-8001.

Upcoming Events

The Fringe at Center Theatre Group

If you want to mix and mingle with the theater set at a discounted price, the Fringe offers various membership levels. The basic perks include free after-parties and events with hosted food and drink, 10 to 40 percent discount on show tickets to all Center Theatre Group shows and access to discounted Fringe subscription packages. Memberships at higher price points include complimentary theater and/or opening-night tickets, special events, exclusive invitations to Fringe events and promotions, show vouchers for friends, holiday party access and opportunities to serve on Fringe Leadership Board.

Cost: $35 (Fringe Member), $200 (Fringe Ensemble), $400 (Fringe Principal) or $0 (Intern for one year)

How to take advantage: Sign up online, then once you're a member, call (213) 628-2772 and mention your membership to get discounts.

Center Theatre Group Student Body

Young but not yet professional? Center Theatre Group also has a membership program for college students and below. Study up on these perks and see if you can resist: $20 tickets to almost all CTG shows, free workshops and events, free mixers, the opportunity to participate in the August Wilson Monologue Competition for free and the opportunity to participate in the Student Ambassador Program, which is free and will earn you $500.

Cost: free to join

How to take advantage: To join, be between 13 and 23 years old and fill out your information here. Also, check out the Emerging Artists Green Room on Facebook.

Outdoor Movie Night at Barnsdall Art ParkEXPAND
Outdoor Movie Night at Barnsdall Art Park
Courtesy of Barnsdall Art Park

Barnsdall Art Park

Barndsall got on the right track by calling itself an “art park,” and it follows up on the promise of fun with amazing events such as Friday Night Wine Tastings, Outdoor Movie Nights and Champagne & Croquet, all held on the lush west lawn of Frank Lloyd Wright’s famed Hollyhock House. Among the many things to enjoy at its events are a selection of wines or Champagnes curated by Silverlake Wines, music by KCRW DJs Dan Wilcox and Marion Hodges, a host of specialty food trucks and croquet instruction. The Wine Series is from May to September, Movie Nights are in October and Croquet takes place in November. The best way to keep up to date and make sure you don’t miss out is to become a member. Members enjoy special events and previews, a signature Barnsdall tote bag and discounts at favorite local eateries and shops — even YogaWorks Los Feliz. And when it comes to the prone-to-selling-out wine-tasting nights, membership ensures you a golden ticket, which admits one person — without a reservation — to any single wine event during the season, even the sold-out ones.

Cost: With ticket prices ranging from $10 to $35, these fundraisers barely make a dent in your pocket but will put a smile on your face. Each event is priced differently — movie tickets cost $25 for movies plus tasting (3 pours of wine or beer) or $10 for the movie without beverages — but all are cheaper for members. Barnsdall memberships start at $75.

How to take advantage: Keep up with its website. Becoming a member of Barnsdall is really the best way to get updates and first dibs on tickets to the oftentimes sold-out events. Barnsdall also offers an array of classes.

Barnsdall's Champagne & Croquet eventEXPAND
Barnsdall's Champagne & Croquet event
Courtesy of Barnsdall Art Park

LACMA Avant-Garde

Sound fancy? It kind of is. LACMA's Avant-Garde group is geared toward young professionals, ages 21 to 40. Members enjoy behind-the-scenes experiences with LACMA and the L.A. art community, including monthly invitations to museum exhibition openings, curatorial tours, collection and artist studio visits, insight into collecting and connoisseurship, a subscription to LACMA’s Insider magazine and other social gatherings, discounts and opportunities.

Cost: $1,000 a year ($520 of it tax-deductible — OK, so this one isn't so cheap)

How to take advantage: Visit the LACMA website and sign up online. 

Other LACMA events for the young and fun

In addition to knowing how to build a rock and preserve ancient sculptures, LACMA knows how to throw a party. Really. It kicks off the year with College Night — food, drink and art creation at the museum after-hours — in January, while April's Young Directors Night celebrates emerging filmmakers. In August, Muse ‘til Midnight is the ultimate late-night dance and art party, and in October, LACMA throws its annual Costume Ball, where guests are encouraged to attend dressed as a work of art or artist.

Cost: varies by event

How to take advantage: To purchase tickets, visit lacma.org, call (323) 857-6010, or visit a LACMA ticket office. For College Night, have a college ID, then reserve a ticket by calling (323) 857-6010 or visiting the event's webpage and clicking the link to reserve your free tickets.

LACMA student membership

LACMA also offers student membership, which includes unlimited free general admission for one person, priority ticketing and admission for major special exhibitions, one free ticket to all specially ticketed exhibitions, an invitation to one members-only Art 101 art history lecture every year, previews, Member Mondays and various discounts.

Cost: $30 per year

How to take advantage: Be a full-time student currently enrolled in college. Then visit any LACMA ticket office during regular museum hours with proof of enrollment, photo ID and expected graduation year.

Grammy Museum Backstage Pass

This program allows college and high school students to enjoy a private performance and Q&A with guest artists and learn about the history of music and the process of producing a Grammy-winning song or album, all while touring the Grammy Museum.

Cost: free

How to take advantage: All programs are listed on the website as they are booked and students can email education@grammymuseum.org for more information or to RSVP.


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