THIS is the way to do the concert: Blanket, wagon, folding side table, wicker suitcase for all your outdoor picnicking needs. 

Every Sunday evening in August, the City of Santa Monica holds a free jazz concert in Gandara Park. It’s free, it’s chill, and it works exceptionally well for multi-generational families.

Lets’ start with the obvious: I am a major fan of Jazz on the Lawn, this concert series organized by the City of Santa Monica  each Sunday in the month of August. The concert series started 13 years ago at the behest of a councilmember who was looking to activate Stewart Street Park, a park that used to be a dump. I started going four years ago, when I moved within walking distance of Stewart Street Park (now Gandara Park). I now plan my August weekends around these, and schedule my out-of-neighborhood excursions so I will be home in time for the concert.

Santa Monica recently relocated its swings closer to the slide. Photo by author.

Note: This is definitely NOT to be confused by the Twilight Concert Series, a world-famous concert series organized by the Santa Monica Pier Corporation that was held every Thursday each summer until this year. That one attracts thousands of people, many who travel great distances to attend. I would surmise that nobody attending Jazz on the Lawn has traveled more than four miles, and many have arrived on foot or by bike (judging by the size of the crowd relative to the number of cars parked nearby).

What excites me about more about Jazz on the Lawn than some other outdoor concerts, is the following:

Scheduling Consistency
The City has held this concert every August, for all of the Sundays in August, at the same time and at the same place for 13 years. I know I can plan around it, but the stakes are low if I miss it because the concert is free.

I also find this concert series works better for families.

Why this works for infants
I took Wilshire to three of these when he was a baby. The concerts are free, so I shamelessly bailed at at about 6pm so I could go through our bedtime routine.

This was something put together by the 4-year-olds.

Why this works for toddlers and preschoolers
This year, the City is organizing games for children and adults behind the stage. They include Cornhole, some sort of hockey, and these foam “Imagination Playground” pieces. We observed that there were enough pieces for the children to sort themselves out by age. For example, out where Wilshire (age 2) was playing, the kids seemed to have set up the pieces so they could practice rolling balls. This was Wilshire’s speed. On the opposite side of the court, a group of 5-year-olds had used their Imagination Playground blocks to create a car of sorts.

Life-sized Connect Four (Six?)

I understand that the City initially began bringing out this equipment at the Meet Me At The Reed concerts at Reed Park, and I am thrilled that they are doing the same here.

Why this works for grade school-age children
You can tell on  that there are lots of kids who haven’t seen each other all summer because school’s out who enjoy running into each other. Coming to the concert is orders easier than planning lots of one-off play dates.

Why this works for families with multiple children
There is only so much time in a day or a weekend to coordinate the social life and the social needs of families with multiple children. The concert’s format (free, recurring) makes it possible engage children of varying ages.

And why this works for multi-generational households
The concerts and their style – jazz – appeal to a lot of seniors. About a quarter of the attendees are older. Some attend on their own. I’ve seen some flip through books. Others come with age-similar companions. And, finally, I see families with young children and the grandparents around. It finally occurred to me that this would be appropriate to include my mother when we saw this last Sunday, so we invited her to join us and she has accepted.


  • Complimentary bike share! (But providing a tip is obligatory; this isn’t the place to be cheap)
  • Usually three food trucks. One of those three serves an artisanal dessert. Regard the food trucks as a nice, impromptu add on. We tried to depend on one of the trucks for an actual dinner only to discover it was running very late, and could not fire up its grill upon arrival.
  • There is limited spaces to store cars in the Agensys lot next door.

Are you also a fan of Jazz on the Lawn? Share in the comments.