One of the greatest things about LA is that there’s always something fun to do. What’s even better is many of those things are free!
During our time living in Los Angeles, we were on a quest to do as many things as we could. But as many may know, enjoying the city can get have a heavy effect on your wallet. Especially when it involves paying for parking! So we came up with a list of free things to do in LA whether you are visiting or live in or near the city.
1. Griffith Observation
Let us start with one of our favorite places, Griffith Observatory. This is the first place we take visitors because of its amazing views of the city. No matter where you look, you will enjoy it. Here you can go inside the observatory for free, sit on the grass to read a book, or hike one of the many trails surrounding it. Something even more awesome is that sometimes astronomers will set up their telescopes and help you see stars for free!
2. Hike the Hollywood Sign
A visit to LA wouldn’t be complete without a picture with the Hollywood Sign! You can start the hike at Griffith Observatory or from other trails surrounding the hill. You will get spectacular views of the city. Even better, get a view from behind the sign by hiking all the way up.
3. Venice Canals
These man-made canals make for a nice evening stroll. It almost feels like you left the city and entered a small village of beautiful houses. Since most visitors are busy checking out the more popular places in the city, you’ll be glad to get away from the crowds by going here.
4. Relax at the beach
Though the beaches are free, expect to pay for parking at most beaches. There are many to choose from, and each has its own vibe. Santa Monica and Venice Beach are popular tourist spots filled with fun activities and high parking prices. The beaches in Malibu are beautiful and there are quite a few of them that are less crowded such as El Matador State Beach, one of our favorites. On the southern end of the Pacific Coast Highway you have Huntington Beach which is a combination of local families and tourist with lots of dining options. Further south, in Orange County there are many beautiful clean beaches with easier parking and great views. Check out our guide to beaches in Los Angeles.
5. Olvera Street
It might be our heritage that makes us love this place a lot, but here you will find the most colorful little markets selling handmade Mexican crafts. You will also find entertainment such as Mariachi, Folkloric dancing, and delicious food! It’s a fun stop if you are looking for a heritage and culture experience.
6. Griffith Park
You won’t even realize you’re in the middle of the city when you visit this park. It’s covered in shade and filled with hiking trails to enjoy. You even have panoramic views of the city. No city chaos or traffic jams here!
7. Old Zoo at Griffith Park
And inside the park, you will find the Old LA Zoo. This is a great place to explore what used to be the zoo before it moved. You can go inside the cages, check out where the animals used to live, and walk the trails at the park. It looks a bit creepy, but still fun to explore.
Another way to immerse yourself in the culture, is to stroll through Chinatown. At Chinatown, we enjoyed seeing handmade crafts and trinkets. The place is also known for its food although we didn’t have a chance to try it out.
9. Little Tokyo
Chinatown and Placita Olvera aren’t the only places with much culture in the city. There is also Little Tokyo. Here we found a Hello Kitty store, some delicious ice cream, beautiful lanterns, and a great atmosphere. It’s also very near the L.A Arts district.
10. Downtown Los Angeles Art Walk
One of the coolest free things to do in Los Angeles is visit the Arts District in Downtown LA. This area holds beautiful murals and art work from local and outside artists who spread their messages on the walls around the few blocks. Many local bloggers and fashionistas come here to photograph the art and many others simply come to enjoy the cool pieces.
11. The Broad
The Broad is a contemporary museum popular in this city. It’s most known for the Infinity Mirrors display and the design of the building. It sits next to the Walt Disney Music Hall which is another free building to check out. Both located in Downtown Los Angeles.
12. Walt Disney Concert Hall
Like mentioned above, the Walt Disney Concert Hall is located in downtown Los Angeles, next to The Broad Museum. The building is mostly popular for its stainless steel exterior and beautiful design. There are free self-guided audio tours of the building, but you can also purchase tickets if you are interested in a concert. Parking can be hard to find, but most lots will charge under 15 dollars.
13. Hollywood Walk of Fame
This iconic street is home of the famous stars. We like to take a stroll here to enjoy the live entertainment on the streets and to people watch. We also make a stop to eat ice-cream at the famous Ghirardelli but that comes with a price tag! Check out the Chinese TCL Chinese Theater, the Wax Museum, that bars and more. Parking can be pricey unless you find a meter.
14. Miracle Mile Lights at LACMA
These Urban Lights are situated outside LACMA. Although LACMA has an entrance fee, the miracle mile lights exhibit is free. People come here for photos of the lights which look great both during day and night. On certain days, the museum has free entrance. You can check their website for more information.
15. The Original Farmers Market and The Grove
Founded in 1934, this farmers market is one where you can find fresh fruits and vegetables, delicious food and snacks, and some tasty desserts. Parking is complimentary when you validate the ticket at the market. Just next to the market is The Grove, a trendy shopping center.
16. The Ghetty Center
The Getty is a museum that holds some fine art and has a great architectural design. However, we enjoyed it here because of the city views. The museum even offers free guided tours for those interested. Parking is 15 dollars but the museum is free.
17. La Brea Tar Pits
At the La Brea Tar Pits, we got to see preserved bones of extinct animals from the Ice-Age inside the museum. However, the Tar Pits located outside the museum are free. The tar pits are gooey asphalt like pools coming out from the Earth. Animals once got stuck in this tar and it was another cause to their extinction. Admission to the museum is free every first Tuesday of the month.
18. Korean Friendship Bell
If you want to get away from the crowds and popular tourist spots, the Korean Friendship Bell is the place to go. The Republic of Korea gifted this beautiful bell to Los Angeles to mark friendship between the two countries and to honor veterans of the Korean War. We loved the detail on the bell and most of all its location with a view of the Los Angeles Harbor.
19. Grand Central Market
This is one of our favorite places in Downtown LA. Grand Central Market is a foodie heaven that started operating in 1917! This is the place to check out if you enjoy a variety of food options with a street food vibe. It has many vendor stalls with different cuisines options that represent many cultures. You can also find craft beers and desserts. Our personal favorite vendor is Tacos Tumbras where we eat some of the best and biggest tacos ever. The market can get crowded and it’s located in busy downtown, but don’t let that keep you away. This place is well worth it!
20. California Science Center
This is a big museum where you can learn about space and marine life. It’s also the place where you can find the popular Endeavour.
21. City Walk
This is the place to be if you like neon lights, entertainment, and delicious restaurant choices. Just outside Universal Studios, you’ll find stores for shopping and many are theme park related and others not. Mainly, Universal City Walk is a fun place to pass time and wander while you enjoy entertainers who come show their skills to everyone.
22. Echo Park
Sitting just minutes from downtown LA, Echo Park is the perfect place for a stroll and a picnic. For only a few dollars you can ride a pedal boat or buy tasty snacks from small cart vendors. The park also hosts free festivals in August.
23. The Last Bookstore
This is one of my favorite bookstores I’ve visited. Located in downtown Los Angeles, The Last Bookstore has an amazing labyrinth design and some cool displays that are picture worthy. My favorite is the book tunnel but I loved all the interior design. Even if you aren’t into books, this is a great stop to make.
24. Be in a Live Show
The Price is Right, Jeopardy, Conan, and The Voice. Those are only a few of the shows that you can pre-register to win tickets to be in the audience and see a live tapping for free. My sister took me to the Voice after she won tickets and we had a blast!
25. L.A Fashion District
One of the first places we explored while living in the city was the LA Fashion District. This place is not only fun for people-watching but for finding small trinkets and tasty snacks and deserts. Many come for the wholesale shopping experience and simply to purchase some of the many things found here, such as clothing, flowers, blankets, shoes, party supplies, electronics, and much more!
26. L.A River Bridge
Anyone remember the car scenes from Gone in 60 Seconds, Grease and many more movies filmed under a Bridge? They were filmed at the L.A River Bridge under at the Sixth Street Viaduct. Although the famous bridge is gone, the one viaduct is still there and so is the bridge next to it. It’s located downtown next to the Arts District. We came here to take pictures, but we saw people trying to race their cars.
27. Free Catalina Express
If you register online, you can get a free ride to Catalina Island on your birthday. Catalina Island is the perfect getaway from the city and one worth visiting for at least a day.
28. Santa Monica Pier
This is not only where you will find the iconic Ferris wheel in Santa Monica but also where you can enjoy fairground games, an aquarium, restaurants, and entertainment by aspiring artists. Throughout the summer, special events such as concerts are held.
29. Venice Board Walk and Skate Park
There is no better place in the city to people-watch than the Venice Boardwalk. This is Juan’s favorite beach because he easily gets entertained by the many aspiring artists and the people here. There’s also many shopping and restaurant options. Just towards the beach you can watch skateboarders do their special tricks.
30. San Juan Capistrano
Only a short drive from Los Angeles is the city of San Juan Capistrano where you can take a stroll to see the many art related stores. For a minimal fee, you can check out the San Juan Capistrano Mission where you can learn a little bit of history about California. This is definitely worth a visit in Orange County.
31. Downtown Disney
Sometimes a trip to Disneyland is simply not possible, but the next best thing is walking Downtown Disney just outside the park. Parking is free for three hours here, saving you money. Just good luck not being tempted to buy something in this fun area. However, it must be hard to visit Downtown Disney without wishing to go into the theme park!
32. Old Town Pasadena
Also a short drive from Los Angeles is the beautiful city of Pasadena. We enjoy it here because there are great dining options and great establishments. If you are here during New Years, you can catch the famous Rose Parade.
33. Rose Bowl in Pasadena
And if you find yourself in Pasadena, you can visit the Rose Bowl where you can check out the lockers or attend the flea market. However, you can also catch a UCLA game, concerts, and other events here for a charge.
34. Free Gardens and Libraries
In Pasadena three great option for beautiful gardens are the Descanso Gardens, Arlington Gardens, and the Huntington Library. All have beautiful scenery and are great options for walking. I enjoyed these places a lot!
35. Free Museums. Free Concerts, Free Tours
There are many events in the city that can be attended free. Just research the area during your time of visit, and you’ll probably find events to go to.
36. Explore Downtown LA
Downtown LA is one area that we really enjoy and there is so much to do. This is a must visit area of the city! Food, bookstores, museums, and more!
Other Free Things to do In L.A
Despite living near Los Angeles for a little over three years, we didn’t have a chance to see it all. There is so much to do. Here are some free things we missed or that we quickly passed and had no pictures of. Perhaps you can share with us if we should visit them next time!
37. Runyon Canyon
Only a few minutes by car from Hollywood Boulevard you can find Runyon Canyon where you can get a glimpse of the city and the Pacific Ocean. The hiking trail is mostly a popular spot for celebrity spotting since many own homes nearby and use the trail to exercise. But many people also come for the beautiful views. You can visit the park free anytime from dawn to dusk. Early is best since there is limited parking.
38. City Hall Observation Deck
Want a free view of the city from the 27th floor? The Observation Deck is open on weekdays until 5pm. You can catch a gorgeous view of downtown.
39. Rodeo Drive
Luxury shopping heaven. If you’ve seen the movie Pretty Woman, this is where Julia Roberts goes shopping for a new dress. Most stores are high-end, but still fun to walk around and explore the area.
40. Sunset Boulevard
Where you’ll find the famous street of Hollywood palm trees! We’ve only passed but never stopped.
41. Culver City Stairs & City
These colorful stairs are a quick stop, but there is other art work you can explore in Culver City too.
42. The Bradbury Building
This building is famous for its gorgeous Victorian design and its beautiful architecture. Located in Downtown L.A, you’ll be able to explore other free things to do nearby.
I’m sure we missed many spots that are also free in Los Angeles but these are just a few for you to enjoy in the city. Los Angeles doesn’t always have to be so expensive.
What great places have you visited free of charge? Or what places would you like to visit from this list? Let us know in the comments.
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