Your Ultimate Guide to September: 20 Awesome Things to do in Southern California

We found a number of notable happenings in September to help plan your social calendar and say goodbye to summer. Read on for all our event picks and details.

Sept. 7-9

HARRY CONNICK JR. FIREWORKS FINALE (Music)

Harry Connick Jr. plays the Hollywood Bowl, celebrating both the end of summer, and New Orleans’ 300th birthday. The trombones and brass sounds of Bonerama open each night with help from special guest Erica Falls. Stick around for the fireworks after each show. Tickets: $14-$168.

Sept. 8

SANTA BARBARA POLO & WINE FESTIVAL (Sports)
Get gussied up, stomp the divots, and watch polo and the ceremonial sabrage (opening champagne with a sabre) at this one-of-a-kind festival on Sept. 8 from noon to 8:00 p.m. Held at the Santa Barbara Polo & Racquet Club, the event features two polo matches, music and wine tastings. Proper attire (like the Pretty Woman polo scenes) is encouraged. General admission starts at $75.

Sept. 14-Nov. 3

HALLOWEEN HORROR NIGHTS (Scares)
If you like feeling creeped out and scared out of your wits for fun, then rejoice, because Halloween Horror Nights returns to Universal Studios Hollywood from Sept. 14-Nov. 3. Immerse yourself in twisted worlds, and mazes from film and television, from the Upside Down world of Stranger Things to The Walking Dead. Ticket prices vary by days/times/experiences, but single general admission starts at $65.

Sept. 15

LONG BEACH ZINE FEST (Lit fest)
The fourth annual Long Beach Zine Fest takes over the Expo Art Center in Long Beach on Saturday, Sept. 15 from 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. to celebrate indie publishing. Shop printed works from more than 120 zinesters, sit in on a panel or workshop, listen to live music and enjoy food from local vendors and a new vegan food court from Green Saturday LA. The Zine fest is a free, all-ages event.

Sept. 16

GUSTAVO’S GREAT TORTILLA TOURNAMENT (Eats)
It’s time for #MasaMadness! Journalist and author of Taco USA Gustavo Arellano is in search of the best tortillas in SoCal. He’s teaming up with KCRW’s Good Food host Evan Kleiman to sample and find the best corn and flour tortillas. On Sept. 16, the finalists face off at the LA River Center & Gardens from 3:00-7:00 p.m., where there will be food and drinks available for purchase, tortilla art, music and kid-friendly fun. The winner takes home the golden tortilla. Free entry, with RSVP.

Sept. 20-28

2018 LA FILM FESTIVAL (Cinema)
The Los Angeles Film Festival, presented by Film Independent, makes the move from June to September. The festival runs from Sept. 20-28 at several venues throughout Los Angeles with ArcLight Culver City serving as the festival’s home base. The Opening Night Film is the World Premiere of Andrew Slater’s Echo in the Canyon, a love song to Laurel Canyon and its music scene. Individual tickets: $16; passes: $49-$599.

Sept. 21-22

ROUTE 66 CRUISIN’ REUNION (Classic cars)

Your Ultimate Guide to September: 20 Awesome Things to do in Southern California
Courtesy of Route 66 Cruisin’ Reunion via Facebook

The Route 66 Cruisin’ Reunion is a celebration of the automobile and the Route 66 “Mother Road,” which was established in 1926 and stretched from Chicago to Santa Monica. More than 1,000 classic cars and muscle cars will be featured throughout the weekend along Euclid Avenue in Ontario. In addition to the cars, enjoy live music and entertainment, as well as a variety of food options and shopping. This is a free, all ages event.

Sept. 22-23

JAY-Z AND BEYONCÉ (Music)
The music and culture power couple play two nights at the Rose Bowl this month as part of their On the Run II tour. Opening acts are Chloe x Halle, and DJ Khaled. Since tickets went fast for Saturday’s concert, they added the second night on Sunday, which still has better availability. Tickets: $20-$350.

Sept. 22

TARFEST (Music + Art)
LAUNCH LA presents Tarfest 2018, a festival that is “excavating future culture on the Miracle Mile.” Taking place at the La Brea Tar Pits, on Saturday, Sept. 22 from 1:00-7:30 p.m., the all-ages event features rising local artists, musicians and bands. Listen to live music by Wild, Caught A Ghost, Smoke Season, Jane Holiday, and Freedom Fry, or watch live painting from Brett Crawford and Holly Tempo. The day also features food trucks and libations for sale, as well as kid activities and breakdance and percussion workshops, among others. Free admission.

Sept. 22

DON CARLO (Opera)

Your Ultimate Guide to September: 20 Awesome Things to do in Southern California
A scene from LA Opera’s 2007 production of “Don Carlo” (photo credit: Robert Millard / LA Opera)

The LA Opera presents a free, live simulcast of Verdi’s Don Carlo, starring Plácido Domingo, in two locations on Sept. 22 at 6:00 p.m. The Opera in the Park edition will be transmitted to El Cariso Community Regional Park in Sylmar, and Opera at the Beach takes place on the Santa Monica Pier. Both locations will feature large LED screens showing high-definition video from nine cameras at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. Both events are free, but sign for parking and event information.

Sept. 22

2018 LOS ANGELES INTERNATIONAL UKULELE FESTIVAL (Music)
The four-stringed Hawaiian instrument gets its day in the sun as the Ukulele Fest takes over the
Torrance Cultural Arts Center on Sept. 22 from 9:30 a.m.-6:00 p.m. The day has something for everyone—from the experienced player to spectators—featuring live performances, workshops and vendors offering popular Hawaiian food and beverage options (for purchase). For those interested in learning to play, a starter Ohana ukulele can be purchased for $119, which also includes entry into the festival. Tickets: $45 for adults, $20 for students with ID, and kids 12 and younger are free to attend.

Sept. 22-23

UNION STATION’S RETROCADE EXPERIENCE (Gaming)
Remember when arcades dotted malls and boardwalks across America? Well, Union Station wants to help jog your memory with its throwback Retrocade Experience on Sept. 22 & 23, starting at 11:00 a.m. each day. Held in the historic Ticket Concourse, this free play event includes more than 40 cabinet games from the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s, allowing guests to play pinball and other games like Pac Man, Donkey Kong and Street Fighter.

Sept. 27

CALIFORNIA SOUL (Gala Celebration)
The Los Angeles Philharmonic celebrates its centennial season this year, and it opens in style with a concert and gala on Thursday, Sept. 27 at 7:00 p.m. at Walt Disney Concert Hall. In addition to the orchestra conducted by Gustavo Dudamel, performers include Coldplay’s Chris Martin, soul singer Corinne Bailey Rae and Tracy Silverman on six-string electric violin. The program California Soul salutes the state’s artistry and creativity, with an eclectic mix of works, from Jerry Goldsmith’s “Love Theme from Chinatown” to John Adams’ Harmonium: “Wild Nights” and Frank Zappa’s “G Spot Tornado.” The evening’s post-concert party features Pink Martini and KCRW DJ Jason Bentley. Individual tickets: $104-$180.

Sept. 29-30

NHMLA DINOFEST 2018 (Science)
The Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County (NHMLA) brings the world of dinosaurs to life through its third annual Dino Fest—a two-day celebration of dinosaurs big and small. Listen to and chat with paleontologists from the museum’s Dinosaur Institute as they discuss past and present fossil discoveries, and get a glimpse at some of NHMLA’s rare specimens. Throughout the weekend, there will be hands-on family activities as well as exhibitions showcasing and selling dino-related wares. The Dinofest is included with regular museum entry. Admission: $6-$14.

Sept. 29-30

OHANA FESTIVAL (Music Festival)
“Ohana” means family in Hawaiian, so expect good vibes from this music festival held at Doheny State Beach in Dana Point. Taking place over three days (Sept. 28-30), the weekend features music from Eddie Vedder, Mumford & Sons, Eric Church, Amos Lee, Liz Phair, Beck, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Norah Jones, and many others. Food and beverages will be available for purchase. A portion of proceeds are earmarked for the nonprofit San Onofre Parks Foundation. Single-day ticket admission starts at $99.75. Weekend passes start at $275.

Sept. 29

A JOURNEY THAT WASN’T, PART 2 (Art + Performance)

Your Ultimate Guide to September: 20 Awesome Things to do in Southern California
The Broad holds its final Summer Happening on Sept. 29. Photo by Iwan Baan, courtesy of The Broad and Diller Scofidio + Renfro

The Broad’s Summer Happening on Sept. 29 wraps the summer season, picking up where the season opener A Journey That Wasn’t, Part 1 left off. Part 2 continues the exploration of the manipulation of time “through memory, appropriation and repetition.” The same themes are examined by the museum’s exhibition, A Journey That Wasn’t. Performers include Kim Gordon, Laraaji, Michael “5000” Watts, Arto Lindsay, Dedekind Cut, Banjee Ball, Ranika JZ Prodigy and others. The event runs from 8:00 p.m. to midnight. Tickets are $30. Ages 21+.

Sept. 29

POP-UP MAGAZINE (Multimedia Stories)
The fall “issue” of Pop-Up Magazine returns for a night of multimedia stories, film, photography, art and music presented live on stage at The Theatre at Ace Hotel on Sept. 29 at 7:30 p.m. Participants include Ann Friedman, co-host of Call Your Girlfriend podcast); Hrishikesh Hirway, host of the Song Exploder; Jason Parham, senior writer of Wired; author Rowan Jacobsen (A Geography of Oysters); poet, dancer and playwright Marc Bamuthi Joseph; and Jenée Desmond-Harris, staff editor of the New York Times opinion section, among others. Tickets start at $39.

Sept. 29-30

MUSIC TASTES GOOD (Festival)

The Music Tastes Good festival mixes two of our favorite things: music and food. Taking place in Downtown Long Beach on Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 29-30, the lineup includes New Order, James Blake, Janelle Monae, Broken Social Scene, The Black Angels, Ezra Furman, Santigold, Princess Parquet Courts, Sun Kil Moon and The Church, among many other acts. In the expanded Taste Tent, talented West Coast culinary artists cook up offerings related to the theme, “Port Cities of the West Coast.” Featured chefs include Wesley Young of Vancouver’s Pidgin, Jeffery Vance of Seattle’s No Anchor, Aliye Aydin of Long Beach’s A Good Carrot and Nancy Leon of Tijuana B.C.S.’s Chan’s Bistro. Tickets/passes: $85–$300.

Sept. 30

CELEBRATE LA! (Street party)

Your Ultimate Guide to September: 20 Awesome Things to do in Southern California
CicLAvia teams up with the LA Phil for an eight-mile street party on Sept. 30 for Celebrate LA! Image: Cameron Yong, courtesy of CicLAvia via Facebook.

To continue its centennial celebration, the Los Angeles Philharmonic holds a free, eight-mile long block party on Sept. 30. Teaming up with the open streets event CicLAvia, a stretch of roads between Walt Disney Concert Hall and the Hollywood Bowl will be closed off to motorized traffic starting at 9:00 a.m. Approximately 1,800 performers and artists will be stationed along the route to entertain audiences. Attendees can also enjoy workshops, art activities, food, games and more. The day’s festivities culminate in a free concert at the Bowl with the LA Phil and special guests Katy Perry, Kali Uchis, Herbie Hancock and YOLA (Youth Orchestra Los Angeles). Register by Sept. 2 for the sweepstakes to win seats to the concert.

Sept. 30

THE LOS ANGELES CHOCOLATE SALON (Sweets)

Your Ultimate Guide to September: 20 Awesome Things to do in Southern California
Calling all chocoholics: The Los Angeles Chocolate Salon returns on Sept. 30 to the Pasadena Convention Center. Image: Courtesy of the Los Angeles Chocolate Salon via Facebook.

The Pasadena Convention Center becomes the center of the chocolate universe as the 12th annual Chocolate Salon returns on Sept. 30 from 11:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m., presenting dozens of artisan, gourmet and premium chocolatiers and vendors. Sample tastes from Amano Artisan Chocolate, Truffles n Toffee, MomYvonne’s Candy Company, Marco Paolo Chocolates, Michael’s Chocolates, Amella Caramels, Marti Chocolatt, Mignon Chocolate, and others. The ticket price ($10-$25) includes tastings, demos and chef talks.


Christine N. Ziemba is a Los Angeles-based arts and culture writer who loves to tell people what to do (and where to go). Check out her events columns and other musings on PopRadarLA.com, and follow her on Twitter and Instagram.