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42 Fun & Free Things to do in Los Angeles and Nearby

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Written by Edith & Juan

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!

Griffith Observatory

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.

Hollywood Sign

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.

Venice Canals

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.

El Matador Beach

free things to do 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.

Olvera Street

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!

Griffith Park

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.

Griffith Park

8. Chinatown

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.

Chinatown LA

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.

downtown LA Street art

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.

Arts District

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.

Museums

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.

free things to do in LA

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.

free things to do in LA

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.

free things to do in LA

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.

free things to do in LA

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!

The Voice Finale with sister (no phones allowed inside)

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!

free things to do in LA

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.

free things to do in LA

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.

things to do on catalina island

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.

Free things to do in LA

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.

free things to do in LA

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!

free things to do in LA

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.

free things to do in LA

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.

free things to do in LA

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!

free things to do in LA

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!

fun things to do in downtown los angeles

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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fun and free things to do in los angeles

Free Things to do in Los Angeles

    California Globetrotter

About the author

Edith & Juan

From Arizona but currently traveling through Asia living only from a backpack each. Edith and her husband Juan created Life Beyond 520 to share inspiration from their travels and adventures beyond Arizona-the 520 area code. Edith is the blogger behind these posts, but together they hope to inspire couples and others to get out there and explore new places, including their own city.

23 Comments

  • This is a really nice list! There is a lot of awesome, free or affordable things to do in Los Angeles. I work surrounded by recruiters and they advertise the LA area by telling people they would not have to pay much for entertainment since there is something free going on every weekend. That is why I love the city! #TheWeeklyPostcard

  • Wow lots of great options. I didn’t realize so many museums in LA are free, that is so nice, especially for families. Thanks for sharing on #TheWeeklyPostcard.

  • I like that there are so many free things you can do! Never been to US, let alone LA. But I have been wanting to for a while now.

    How many days do you suggest you need to hit all of these places?

  • What a brilliant list! The street art looks cool, I’ll definitely try to visit that neighbourhood when I next visit LA. The city hasn’t really been on my radar but your list makes me realise how much there is to see and do. #Theweeklypostcard

  • I’ve lived in Los Angeles for 30 years now and obviously I’ve seen all these attractions many times. However, things change over time and reading your post I just realized that I knew nothing about the Miracle Mile Lights. It’s been a while since I visited LACMA and these Miracle Lights might be something new. Thanks for letting me know about it.

  • There are a lot of really fantastic ideas on here! Every time I’ve tried to make it to Griffith Observatory, we’ve given up because of the traffic and the hassle. It’s definitely at the top of my LA list though! #TheWeeklyPostcard

  • God, whenever I come across such a list I feel serious FOMO and realize how much I missed out on while I lived in Cali before I left and how much I need to do in our next visit! Pinned for later! Thanks for sharing on #TheWeeklyPostcard

  • Great list! LA is one of those places in the states that we need to visit ASAP. There’s just so much to do it’s hard to figure out how to plan an itinerary. This list really helps narrow it down some for us, thanks!

  • So many great things to do! I’ve always loved the Farmer’s Market – in the midst of modern, sometimes “fake” LA, it’s such a great, homey place. I suppose a trip to Rodeo Drive or through Hollywood balances that out. 😉 Gosh, feeling like we need a trip back to LA now! Thanks for sharing on #TheWeeklyPostcard and #WeekendWanderlust!

  • Lots of great things to do in Los Angeles. I am from LA and you have covered the best places to visit. The “Observatory” is a great place to also take a photo of the city as the sun is starting to set then, the lights of night. The Farmers Market is a must-see. Thanks for sharing! #TheWeeklyPostcard

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