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"Iron Man" isn't the only reason to call this the first weekend of summer

Getty Center's Saturdays off the 405.
Getty Center's Saturdays off the 405.
Christine DeLeon

When I was a kid, Memorial Day weekend usually marked the first tent-pole movie opening of the summer.  Now here we are a week into May, and IRON MAN 2 is already upon us.  But that's not the only summer tradition debuting early this weekend; in fact, you could fill all 48 Friday and Saturday hours with outings if you so desired.  Sunday, however, belongs to Mom.

Per usual, the first Friday of the month brings us First Fridays at the Natural History Museum and First Fridays at Abbott-Kinney.  For $15, you can spend an eclectic evening at the museum with Swedish folk singer The Tallest Man on Earth, who many compare vocally to a young Bob Dylan, and L.A.'s own Gamble House, which sounds like an outfit Brian Wilson might have cobbled together at his moodiest.  Live DJs keep the concert hall moving until 10:30pm.  Meanwhile, Abbott-Kinney in Venice offers free access to its garden art galleries, free booze, and even free classes at YAS Fitness Center.  This event goes year-round, but experience teaches that the drinks flow later as the weather gets warmer.

If you crawl out from under your sheets by eleven the next morning, you'll make it for the beginning of the Santa Monica Festival in Clover Park.  This annual event is particularly family-oriented, and in the past has reminded me of similarly quaint day fests in rural northern Michigan.  Booths offer art, food, and shopping while musical acts take the stage throughout the day.  The festival follows zero-waste principles and offers a bike valet for those who manage to pedal themselves over before it shuts down at 6pm.

By 6pm, however, you should already be long gone, because my favorite midsummer night's activity kicks off at the Getty Museum at that very same time.  The season's first Saturdays Off the 405 is this weekend, offering a chance to eat, drink, and dance from the museum's dramatic perch in the Santa Monica Mountains.  Veteran Getty performers Les Savy Fav provide the musical accompanyment, along with KCRW DJ Mario Cotton.  But the real attraction is the novelty of using the Getty's sprawling patio, lush gardens, and overwhelming vistas as your Saturday night playground.  The event goes from 6pm-9pm, providing a perfect close to a long westside weekend of merriment.