Los Angeles

12 Ways to Celebrate Juneteenth in Los Angeles This Year

From Inglewood to the valley, all of LA is celebrating.

Sip & Sonder
Sip & Sonder
Sip & Sonder

On June 19, 1865, Major General Gordon Granger arrived with 2,000 Union troops in Galveston Bay, Texas, breaking the news that the Civil War had ended and the 250,000 people who remained enslaved in the state were now free. This announcement came two and a half years after President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, but due to a small number of Union troops, his Executive Order was largely not enforced in Texas. The day became known as Juneteenth, though it is also referred to as Jubilee Day, Freedom Day, Liberation Day, and Emancipation Day.

Around the same time the following year in Texas, celebrations began to take root, mostly held by local church groups. In the decades that followed, these festivities extended across the Southern states, often involving large spreads of food, gospel choirs, and dancing. Juneteenth gained even more momentum with the Great Migration and the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s and 70s, with celebrations happening in Black communities all over America.

Yet despite being the oldest holiday that celebrates the freedom of people enslaved in the United States, outside of Black communities, Juneteenth was not a widely recognized holiday before last year. When the video of George Floyd’s murder was released just before Memorial Day 2020, it spurred a nationwide reckoning and a call for greater accountability into how racism has entrenched itself throughout American society. When Juneteenth arrived in the following weeks, many took it as an opportunity to learn more about the little-known historical event, even though lockdown orders prevented us from celebrating together in person. 

Thankfully, Juneteenth is finally getting the attention it deserves, with the Senate unanimously voting to designate it as a federally-recognized holiday. And with Los Angeles fully reopened for the first time since before March 2020, there are plenty of ways to celebrate at actual, in-person events happening all over town. But among all of these celebrations, let’s not forget the commitments we made to show up for our local Black communities and support their fight for equality and justice. We still have so far to go and we need everyone’s participation if we hope to create real and long-lasting change. 

Here are 12 ways to celebrate Juneteenth in and around LA this weekend, from a free barbeque to Black-owned marketplaces, live music, and more:

UNI Fest

Crenshaw YMCA
UNI Fest is a celebration of you and I (get it?) and our ability to come together and make great things happen. The all-day block party will include a morning yoga flow led by Walk Good LA, wellness kids fair from YogaLittle, group dance class from Old Skool Skinny, produce market from Summa Everythang Community Center, BIPOC marketplace from Our Piece of the Pie, and art installations from Halsey who teamed up with music curator Barrington Darius to create visuals for a live music stage, with sounds by Soulection. The produce market opens at 7 am, the yoga flow is at 10 am, and the block party runs from noon to 10 pm.

The Wood Urban Kitchen & Sports Lounge
The Wood Urban Kitchen & Sports Lounge
The Wood Urban Kitchen & Sports Lounge

Juneteenth BBQ

Wood Urban Kitchen BBQ (Inglewood) 
In partnership with the Inglewood Chamber of Commerce, The Wood Urban Kitchen BBQ will be giving out free barbecue to celebrate Juneteenth. Last year they fed over 1,300 people and this year their goal is to feed 2,000 hungry folks. Pull up and grab a plate beginning at 1 pm until they run out, with music by Mak-ski. To donate towards the food, cash app $thewoodbbq or venmo @thewoodbbq.

Leimert Park Rising: Juneteenth Commemoration

Leimert Park Village
Leimert’s Juneteenth celebrations have been going strong for 40 years, and in 2018 it shifted to become Leimert Park Rising, a celebration of Black freedom that honors ancestors as well as the community. It stands out as the only two-day Juneteenth celebration in the city (from 11 am–9 pm on Saturday and Sunday), featuring art, music, and discussions with community leaders, with the intention of building a more cooperative neighborhood. Volunteers are still needed and donations are encouraged

Juneteenth Heritage Festival

Watts Historic Train Station
During the Great Migration, many African Americans coming to LA from the South arrived at the Watts Train Station. Then, in 1965 after the Watts Riots, the Watts Train Station was the only structure that remained intact along 103rd St, and came to serve as a symbol of hope and resiliency to the surrounding community. Learn this history and more at this heritage festival that’s being put on by Build Plus and Black Arts Los Angeles, with live entertainment, food trucks, arts and crafts, vendors, rides, and a Kidz Corner from 10 am–6 pm. 

Juneteenth Virtual Live Concert

Online
If you’re still feeling a little hesitant about celebrating Juneteenth in person, you can take part in the closing reception of this year’s African American Composer’s Series that will be held on Juneteenth from 3–6 pm at the William Grant Still Arts Center and live streamed online. Bandleader and musician Marcus L. Miller is organizing a retrospective concert that will highlight musicians from the past while inducting new talent, featuring Kamau Daáood, Dwight Tribble, Gregg Wright, Maiya Sykes, Dexter Story, Mark Broyard, Derf Reklaw, Dale Williams, Sandra Booker, and many more. To watch, RSVP to [email protected] and await further instruction.

Maroon Arts and Culture
Maroon Arts and Culture
Maroon Arts and Culture

The Juneteenth Jubilee

Maroon Arts & Culture (Burbank)
This outdoor fest isn’t just a Juneteenth celebration, it’s also the anniversary of Maroon Arts & Culture, an arts organization that celebrates the culture, history, rituals, and traditions of the African diaspora. The theme this year is “Performing Heritage,” and they’re kicking off the day at 10 am with yoga and a guided meditation where they’ll sit in gratitude for their ancestors. Afterwards, they’ll be hosting a Black-owned marketplace with vendors, live music, and art installations from 11 am–4 pm, and will close their jubilee with an open mic event that begins at 5 pm. If you need a boost of confidence before taking to the stage, rest assured that they’ll have an open bar from 4:30–5 pm. Performers of all types are encouraged to sign up. All of the activities will be streamed on YouTube for those who prefer comfortable joining at home. 

Juneteenth Heritage Celebration

Calvary Baptist Church (Santa Monica) 
Celebrate Juneteenth at the oldest African American Baptist church in Santa Monica, with live entertainment, a drum line, step show, spoken word, gospel line dances, West African drumming and dancing, plus other vendors and food trucks. The event runs from 11am–3 pm, but food trucks are only available from 12–2 pm.

Comfort L.A
Comfort L.A
Comfort L.A

Soulful of Noise Juneteenth Concert

Comfort LA (DTLA location) 
This Juneteenth concert is a celebration of the past, present, and future of Black culture, with live performances from indie artists and a marketplace featuring Black-owned businesses. Plus, it’s hosted by Comfort LA, so you can grab some of their famous fried chicken wings or cornbread to munch on while you listen and shop. They’re also encouraging attendees to bring packs of unworn socks that will be donated to the nonprofit Sock It To Me. The concert and pop-up runs from 2–6 pm.

Black on the Block Juneteenth Pop-Up Market

1921 Blake Ave, 90039 (Frogtown) 
This pop-up features over 70 Black-owned vendors ranging from candles and crystals to clothing, cosmetics, and more, plus a photo booth, games, and music by DJ Looney and Toney Handsome. Three fully-stocked bars are available, along with Jamaican food, soul food, tacos, and gourmet burgers to help fuel your shopping.

Sip & Sonder
Sip & Sonder
Sip & Sonder

A Juneteenth Celebration

Sip & Sonder (Inglewood) 
Black-owned Sip & Sonder coffee shop is hosting a Juneteenth celebration that highlights four Black entrepreneurs: Chef Rashida of Bridgetown Roti with freshly prepared Caribbean street food, florist Amber May with flower bouquets, For the Love of Us with mind and body essentials, and DJ Big Baby Ash providing the tunes. The event is sponsored in part by the Los Angeles Lakers and LA Rams and ongoing from 9 am–3 pm.

Freedom + Unity Celebration

Martin Luther King, Jr. Park (Long Beach)
The Juneteenth festivities will continue on Sunday, June 20, from 1 to 4 pm with this educational event that serves as a dual celebration of fathers and Juneteenth. Co-sponsored by the Cultural Alliance of Long Beach, Love Beyond Limits, and the Port of Long Beach, this celebration will educate attendees about the history of Juneteenth and will highlight Black elected officials and Civil Rights leaders. You can expect gospel performances, art displays, prizes and giveaways, as well as health education about the COVID vaccine to help combat hesitancy. 

101th Anniversary Celebration of the Negro League

San Manuel Stadium (San Bernardino) 
The Inland Empire 66ers will face off against the Lake Elsinore Storm this Juneteenth in a minor league baseball game that will also commemorate the 101th anniversary of the formation of the Negro League, which gave us baseball legends like Jackie Robinson and Satchel Paige, plus scores of other players who never got the major league recognition they deserved. The event will include fireworks and special on-field jerseys and hats. The game begins at 7 pm.

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Danielle Dorsey is the Los Angeles Editor at Thrillist. 

Los Angeles

How to Spend a Weekend in Topanga Canyon

Nature and the arts collide in this beloved canyon community.

Hanan Isachar/Corbis Documentary/Getty Images
Hanan Isachar/Corbis Documentary/Getty Images
Hanan Isachar/Corbis Documentary/Getty Images

Situated in the Santa Monica Mountains and known for its vibrant creative community, Topanga is one of Los Angeles’s most prized destinations for art and outdoor enthusiasts alike. And while LA boasts its own sprawling landscape of fun to tap into, you’d be remiss to miss a chance to explore this tucked-away collection of state parks, and cafes, and restaurants-especially when it all rests just 20 minutes away from the city. From a quaint caf√© with dazzling canyon views to a world-renowned, open-air theatre, here are the best ways to pass some time in Topanga now.

Photo courtesy of Inn of the Seventh Ray
Photo courtesy of Inn of the Seventh Ray
Photo courtesy of Inn of the Seventh Ray

Friday

Book dinner at Inn of the Seventh Ray
Owner Lucille Yaney opened this iconic restaurant in 1975 after spotting the property on a drive through the canyon with her late husband Ralph, and it’s safe to say she had a good eye. The land perfectly fits into Yaney’s vision of a romantic, alfresco dining space with tables tucked into cozy nooks and gazebos, all beneath canapes and fairy lights. Today, Yaney co-owns the venue with executive chef consultant Brad Miller. Together, they continue to fulfil the restaurant’s original mission to serve pure, natural foods reflective of the season’s best. That approach appears in dishes like 8-Hour Black Vinegar Braised Short Rib with creamy rosemary polenta, duck bacon Brussels sprouts, and caramelized onion and fig jam; Roasted Mushroom Toast with oyster mushrooms and sherry tarragon cream; and Beets & Whipped Black Pepper Creme Fraiche. Consider the carbs here. Pastas and sauces are made in-house and from scratch, as is the bread (available regular or gluten-free), an order of which you won’t want to miss. Check out the wine list, too, which offers a robust organic and biodynamic selection that has helped the restaurant garner some impressive accolades in recent years.

Check into Topanga Canyon Inn
In addition to plenty of excellent Airbnbs available to rent in the Canyon, there’s Topanga Canyon Inn, a charming bed and breakfast comprised of two Mediterranean-style buildings-Casa Blanca and Casa Rosa-both built by the owners. Guests can enjoy bespoke design details in each room, along with gorgeous mountain views from their own private balcony. Come morning, join other travellers for breakfast, served daily at Casa Rosa.

Saturday

Get coffee at Café on 27
Ready your camera for a coffee date at this AM eatery and caf√©, where ample (and busy) outdoor seating offers some of the Canyon’s best views. A full breakfast and lunch menu is available (complete with hearty orders like eggs Benedicts, soups, and club sandwiches), but for lighter morning fare, spring for a pastry and any of their specialty drinks, such as the turmeric latte or Moroccan mocha.

Bradley Allen Murrell/Shutterstock
Bradley Allen Murrell/Shutterstock
Bradley Allen Murrell/Shutterstock

Hike Topanga State Park
Spanning 11,000 acres and 36 miles of trails, Topanga State Park is the largest state park within the Santa Monica Mountains and one of the world’s largest parks within city limits. Visitors can access the grounds via more than 60 entrances. Once on the trails, enjoy sweeping vistas while exploring the region’s range of plants, habitats, and wildlife, including several resident bird species.

Grab lunch at Topanga Living Café
Guided by their Topanga upbringing and need for a community gathering spot with great eats, sibling team Agustina Ferguson and Bayu Suryawan opened this daytime eatery in 2016. Ever since, locals and visitors have found refuge in the caf√©’s warm, airy space and nourishing, hyper-fresh fare-all California-inspired with global influences. Check it out in plates like the Island Style, a breakfast salad with Balinese corn fritters, a poached egg, and house-made chilli jam, or the tacos (Baja Fish or Baja Shrimp, Carne Asada, or Kabocha Squash), made-to-order and served on handmade tortillas. If you’re seeking something shareable, try the Farmers Market Crudite, a seemingly humble order whose bright beet hummus reminds us that eating your vegetables is, indeed, very cool. And take a drink to-go. The team here takes great pride in their coffee (organic espresso, courtesy of their iconic pink La Marzocco machine) and a lineup of made-to-order smoothies, juices, and teas. Shop your way through town
Visitors can stroll through the town centre’s most popular shops for various fun finds, including Moona Star, Pebbles, and Topanga Homegrown. Be sure to stock up on specialty, local snacks at Canyon Gourmet and satiate your sweet tooth while you’re at it. The organic soft-serve there is a must. Pro tip: Top it with any of their artisanal syrups for a winning combo, namely, the vanilla with cardamom.

Photo courtesy of Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum
Photo courtesy of Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum
Photo courtesy of Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum

Catch a show at The Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum
This beloved open-air theatre has hosted productions for decades and is recognized worldwide for its Shakespeare interpretations. In addition to its annual summer season, which includes works like Macbeth and A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the venue hosts concerts, rehearsals, and classes throughout the year for budding actors and playwrights of all ages.

Snag a slice at Endless Colour
This family-run pizza joint specializes in from-scratch pies with clever topping combinations (think purple potatoes, fontina, and truffle oil in the Purple Molly Potato or spinach, leeks, and goat cheese in the Super Greens). Bring some friends, order a pie or two, and check out the drinks list, which includes offbeat options like orange wines and hard kombucha.

Photo courtesy of The Canyon Bakery
Photo courtesy of The Canyon Bakery
Photo courtesy of The Canyon Bakery

Sunday

Check out The Canyon Bakery’s “Sunday Funday”
Situated on the grounds of the aforementioned Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum, this bakery specializes in naturally leavened breads, pastries, cakes, and cookies using locally sourced, whole grain flours. There’s a takeout window on Sundays, from 9:30 am until the bakery sells out. A strong following lines up for favourites, such as whole grain croissants and gluten-free pizza, so be sure to arrive early to get your fill.

Try tacos to-go at La Chingona
On your way out of town, grab some tacos at La Chingona, where a team puts forth fresh, organic, gluten- and dairy-free tacos. Orders range to include options like grass-fed beef (carne asada), shrimp (wild-caught), and soy chorizo and can be fashioned into plates beyond tacos, too (think tostadas, salads, and bowls). Open only on Tuesdays, Fridays, and Sundays; this taco stand sees good demand. Plan accordingly, pending your travels, especially to savour an order or two of the churros.

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Nicole Schnitzler is a contributor for Thrillist.

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