30+ Free Things to Do in Los Angeles

Los Angeles City Hall
••• Los Angeles City Hall. Photo © 2015 Kayte Deioma, licensed to About.com
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    The Top Free Things to Do in LA

    Los Angeles can be a pricey destination to visit, but there are plenty of free attractions in the city if you're on a budget. In fact, many of the most famous sights in LA do not charge admission. Here is a photo tour of lots of free things to do in LA and surrounding areas from the most famous to some lesser known options. There are actually over 100 free things included if you count every free beach, public garden and free entertainment option, but sometimes I've grouped multiple related free things on a page for ease of navigation.

    Although there is no charge to see, visit or participate in the activities on the following pages, sometimes the parking charges are steep, so consider the Metro Day Pass to get you to some of these sights if funds are tight.

    For more budget-friendly ways to save money on things that are not free, check out my guide to Los Angeles Deals and Discounts.

    For a more comprehensive list of LA attractions, check out the MEGA Guide to What to Do in LA.

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    The Beaches in LA Are Free

    Crowded Santa Monica Beach
    ••• Rebecca Emery/Digital Vision/Getty Images

    Going to the beach is one of the most popular free activities to do in LA, and with over 70 miles of beach, you can find one to suit your tastes from sandy, calm, crowded beaches to remote, scenic, rocky beaches. There are dozens of beaches, all free, but not all have options for free parking. Choose the one that's right for you from the Guide to LA Beaches, which includes information on parking (some free) and amenities at each beach.

    More Beaches:

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    Griffith Observatory in Griffith Park

    Griffith Observatory in Griffith Park, Los Angeles
    ••• Sunset from Griffith Observatory in Griffith Park, Los Angeles. Photo © 2009 Kayte Deioma, licensed to About.com

    The Griffith Observatory, located in Griffith Park, has a free astronomy museum and offers visitors a free glimpse at the cosmos through their super Zeiss telescope.
    Tip: Get in line before dark if you want a look at the night sky, especially in summer. They close the line at a certain number of people.

    Griffith Observatory Visitors Guide

    More Free Museums and Museum Free Days

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    Strolling the Venice Beach Boardwalk

    Venice Beach Boardwalk in Los Angeles
    ••• Venice Beach Boardwalk in Los Angeles. Photo © 2016 Kayte Deioma, licensed to About.com

    Take a stroll down the Venice Beach Boardwalk to check out the street performers, the hard bodies at muscle beach and the interesting characters wandering the strand during the summer and on weekends. Parking in the area ranges from $3 to $15 depending on the lot and the time of year. Limited free street parking is available in the neighborhood if you have the patience to look for it.

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    TV Show Taping

    The Jeopardy set at Sony Pictures Studios in Culver City
    ••• The Jeopardy set at Sony Pictures Studios in Culver City. Photo © 2016 Kayte Deioma, licensed to About.com

    Attend a TV Show Taping of your favorite sitcom, game show, talk show, or reality show, or even one you've never heard of, which can be just as fun. It's a great way to see celebrities in LA.  Tickets are always free. Read my Guide to Attending a TV Show Taping.

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    Forecourt of the Stars at TCL Chinese Theatre

    The Forecourt of the Stars at The Chinese Theatre in Hollywood
    ••• The Forecourt of the Stars at The Chinese Theatre in Hollywood. Photo © 2009 Kayte Deioma, licensed to About.com

    Visit the Forecourt of the Stars at TCL (formerly Grauman's) Chinese Theatre on Hollywood Boulevard to measure your hands and feet against the footprints and hand prints of Hollywood legends.

    More on the Forecourt of the Stars at the Chinese Theatre
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    Hollywood Walk of Fame in Hollywood

    Hollywood Walk of Fame
    ••• Matthew Broderick's stat on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Photo © 2015 Kayte Deioma, licensed to About.com

    Meander along the Hollywood Walk of Fame to find the stars of your favorite celebrities. The Walk of Fame runs east to west on Hollywood Boulevard from Gower Street to La Brea Avenue and North South on Vine street from Yucca Street to Sunset Boulevard.

    More on the Hollywood Walk of Fame

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    Hollywood Sign

    Hollywood Sign
    ••• Hollywood Sign. Photo © 2016 Kayte Deioma, licensed to About.com

    Take a look at the Hollywood Sign from the viewing area at the Hollywood & Highland shopping and entertainment complex next to Grauman's Chinese Theatre. Another good viewing point is looking up Gower Boulevard. The sign itself is fenced off from the public, so there is no legal access to it.

    Check out photos the Best Places to View the Hollywood Sign, which also includes some Hollywood Sign history.

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    La Brea Tar Pits

    La Brea Tar Pits in Los Angeles
    ••• La Brea Tar Pits in Los Angeles. Photo © 2009 Kayte Deioma, licensed to About.com

    The La Brea Tar Pits in Hancock Park next to the LA County Museum of Art is the greatest source of prehistoric fossils ever excavated. These fossils have made their way into museums around the world, but the largest collection is here at the Page Museum. It's free to wander the park and look at the tar pits and outdoor exhibits. During the summer, you can watch the excavators at work. Hancock Park is on Wilshire Blvd. Between Curson and Fairfax. There is metered street parking or pay lots.

    More About Visiting the La Brea Tar Pits
    More Attractions Near the La Brea Tar Pits on Museum Row

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    El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historic Monument - Olvera Street

    The Mexican Marketplace at Olvera Street, El Pueblo de Los Angeles
    ••• The Mexican Marketplace at Olvera Street, El Pueblo de Los Angeles. Photo © 2016 Kayte Deioma, licensed to About.com

    Explore the Mexican marketplace at El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historical Monument at Olvera Street. Explore on your own or join a free walking tour Wednesdays through Saturdays 10 a.m. to noon. A self-guided tour brochure describing the historic buildings is available at the Information Desk in the Plaza or at the El Pueblo Visitors Center. Entrance to LA Plaza Museum of Latino history at Olvera Street is also free. There's a parking Lot at Main Street and Cesar Chavez or more budget friendly lots and metered street parking available a couple blocks away in Chinatown. El Pueblo is right across the street from the Metro Red Line stop at Union Station.

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    The Getty Center

    Getty Center in Los Angeles
    ••• Getty Center in Los Angeles. Photo © 2009 Kayte Deioma, licensed to About.com

    The Getty Center, a modern hilltop fortress in Brentwood, houses one of the finest art collections in the world. The building and view are worth a visit even if you're not interested in the art. The Museum is free, but there is a hefty fee for parking. Bike and motorcycle parking is free. Groups of 15 or more motorcycles must reserve parking. Metro Bus 761 stops at the main gate.

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    Getty Villa

    Getty Villa
    ••• Getty Villa in Pacific Palisades, Los Angeles. Photo © 2006 Kayte Deioma, licensed to About.com

    The Getty Villa is the permanent home of the J. Paul Getty Museum's Greek and Roman art collection. Located on Pacific Coast Highway north of Sunset Blvd. The Museum is free, but advance, timed tickets are required. There is a fee for parking. Bikes park free. Motorcycles pay full rate. Metro Bus 434 stops near the Getty Villa Gate on PCH. You might also find free parking on Pacific Coast Highway if you're willing to walk up the hill to the museum.

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    The Broad Museum of Contemporary Art

    The Broad Museum, Los Angeles
    ••• The Broad Museum, Los Angeles. Walter Bibikow/Getty Images

    The Broad, a museum of contemporary art, was created by philanthropists Eli and Edythe Broad to house their extensive collection and visiting exhibits. Located in Downtown LA next to the Disney Concert Hall and across from the Museum of Contemporary Art, the Broad is completely free to visit except for the pesky parking fee.

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    California Science Center

    California Science Center at Exposition Park in Los Angeles
    ••• California Science Center at Exposition Park in Los Angeles. Photo © 2009 Kayte Deioma, licensed to About.com

    The California Science Center in Exposition Park is fun for adults and kids. In addition to all kinds of science exhibits, they have the Endeavor Space Shuttle on display. General Admission is free. There is a fee for parking. There is also a fee for the IMAX Theatre and special attractions. The Science Center is open 10 to 5 except holidays. Weekday mornings are crowded with school groups, so afternoons and weekends are better to visit. Exposition Park is on the Expo Line of the LA MetroMetro Bus 445.

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    Free Disney Concert Hall and Music Center Tours

    Climbing on the Walt Disney Concert Hall
    ••• Climbing on the Walt Disney Concert Hall. Photo © 2006 Kayte Deioma, licensed to About.com

    Performances at the Los Angeles Music Center and Disney Concert Hall may be on the pricey side, but you can tour the Music Center campus including Frank Gehry's metallic masterpiece sailing down Grand Avenue. The inside of the Walt Disney Concert Hall is great, but my favorite thing is climbing up on top among all that metal, and you can do that even if there's no tour. The stairway to climb up from the outside is on Grand Avenue, to the right of the side entrance, behind a wave of metal.

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    Travel Town at Griffith Park is Free

    Travel Town Train Museum at Griffith Park
    ••• Travel Town Train Museum at Griffith Park. Photo © 2005 Kayte Deioma, licensed to About.com

    The Travel Town Train Museum in Griffith Park is a great place to take the kids. Some trains you can only look at, but other's you're free to climb around on.

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    The Annenberg Space for Photography

    Annenberg Space for Photography
    ••• Annenberg Space for Photography in Century city, Los Angeles. Photo © 2009 Kayte Deioma, licensed to About.com

    The Annenberg Space for Photography is a free high-tech photography museum in Century City with temporary exhibits of photography by world renowned photographers. They also have a free speakers series.

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    California African American Museum

    California African American Museum in Los Angeles
    ••• California African American Museum in Los Angeles. Photo © 2011 Kayte Deioma, licensed to About.com

    The California African American Museum at Exposition Park in Downtown LA is free to visit, but donations are accepted. There is a fee for parking, but you can get there on the Expo Line of the LA Metro.

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    Bergemot Station

    Bergemot Station Art Center in Santa Monica, CA
    ••• Bergemot Station Art Center in Santa Monica, CA. Photo © 2008 Kayte Deioma, licensed to About.com

    Bergemot Station is an complex of art galleries in a former trolley turnaround station in Santa Monica. It's also the home of the Santa Monica Museum of Art. The galleries are free to visit. Parking is free and there's a Metro Station nearby.

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    Tour LA City Hall for Free

    Los Angeles City Hall
    ••• Los Angeles City Hall. Photo © 2015 Kayte Deioma, licensed to About.com

    Los Angeles City Hall is free to visit during normal business hours. In addition to the rotunda that you can see from the 3rd and fourth floor, there's a 27th floor observation deck that's also free to visit. The Bridge Gallery at City Hall showcases art created in various city-run programs or exhibits related to the City's various Heritage Month Celebrations.

    200 North Spring St.
    Los Angeles, CA 90012
    (213) 485-2121

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    The Library is always Free in LA

    Los Angeles Central Library
    ••• Los Angeles Central Library. Photo © 2008 Kayte Deioma, licensed to About.com

    The Downtown LA Central Library is worth a visit for its architecture, public art, gallery shows and public programs, but it's not the only interesting library around. West Hollywood Library also has some interesting art, including a molded wood ceiling installation and numerous murals by well-known artists. They also have a full calendar of family programming, including literary events, music, staged readings and theatrical performances. 

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    Free Concerts at Amoeba Music

    Amoeba Music in Hollywood
    ••• Amoeba Music in Hollywood. Photo © 2004 Kayte Deioma, licensed to About.com

    Amoeba Music in Hollywood, a Mecca for fans wanting to actually buy music - from cds to vinyl and cassettes - regularly hosts free in-store concerts. Space is limited, so it's good to be there early. There's plenty to keep music fans busy with free listening stations around the store. www.amoeba.com/live-shows/upcoming

    The Record Parlor is another Hollywood used music and memorabilia store that hosts free concerts.

    Fingerprints music store in Long Beach, another destination for vinyl seekers, also hosts free in-store performances.

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    The Rock Walk at the Hollywood Guitar Center

    The Guitar Center Rock Walk in Hollywood
    ••• The Guitar Center Rock Walk in Hollywood. Photo © 2012 Kayte Deioma, licensed to About.com

    The Forecourt of the Stars at the Chinese Theatre has the hand and footprints of famous actors. The Rock Walk in front of the Guitar Center on Sunset Blvd in Hollywood has the hand prints of famous rock musicians. 

    While you're there, you can check out Guitar Center's schedule of Free Classes.

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    There Are Free Art Walks All Over LA

    Downtown Los Angeles Art Walk
    ••• Downtown Los Angeles Art Walk. Photo © 2010 Kayte Deioma, licensed to About.com

    There are galleries and art districts around LA that you can visit and explore for free any time, but during monthly and quarterly art walks, all the galleries have receptions at the same time, music and food are added to the mix, and throngs of people come out to enjoy.

    Guide to LA Art Walks and Studio Tours 

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    Visit the GRAMMY Walk of Fame

    GRAMMY Walk of Fame 2008 Medallion in front of the GRAMMY Museum at L.A. Live
    ••• GRAMMY Walk of Fame 2008 Medallion in front of the GRAMMY Museum at L.A. Live. Photo © 2015 Kayte Deioma, licensed to About.com

    Like the Hollywood Walk of Fame, the GRAMMY Walk of Fame is a pavement exhibit, this one at L.A. Live in Downtown LA, commemorating the winners of the GRAMMY Awards. There's no tour, but if you take along my Guide to the GRAMMY Walk of Fame, you can be educated and entertained as you explore. 

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    Check out Famous LA Architecture

    Bradbury Building Interior
    ••• Bradbury Building Interior. Photo by Luke Jones licensed under CC by 2.0

    Some of LA's most interesting architectural sights are either not open inside or charge a fee, but you can admire the exterior of all of them, and some, like the Bradbury Building in this photo, you can walk in admire free of charge.

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    Free Public Gardens in LA

    Exposition Park Rose Garden
    ••• Exposition Park Rose Garden, Los Angeles. Photo © 2011 Kayte Deioma, licensed to About.com

    Many of the most beautiful gardens in Los Angeles charge a fee, but there are also lots of gardens you can visit for free. The ones below are always free.

    The Rose Garden at Exposition Park near Downtown LA is always free.  The California Science Center and California African American Museum at Exposition Park are also free.

    Greystone Mansion Gardens is owned by the City of in Beverly Hills is open to the public daily unless is is booked for a private event.

    The Mildred E Mathias Botanical Garden at UCLA is a teaching garden. It is free to visit. Free docent-led tours are offered the first Saturday of the month at 1 pm. Free group tours for 10 or more can be arranges with 2 weeks notice.

    The James Irvine Japanese Garden at the Japanese American Cultural and Community Center (JACCC) in Little Tokyo is free to visit. The JACCC also has free exhibits on Japanese, Japanese-American and multi-ethnic art. 

    The Earl Burns Miller Japanese Garden at Cal State University Long Beach is free to the...MORE public when school is in session. 

    The Self Realization Fellowship Lake Shrine Meditation Gardens in Pacific Palisades, dedicated by  Paramahansa Yogananda in 1950, is a 10-acre garden around a spring-fed lake. It is free to visit. The Self-Realization Lake Shrine Temple is also open to visitors, with free guided tours on Sundays at 3.

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    Metro Art Tours

    Art at Pershing Square Metro Station
    ••• Neon art by Stephen Antonakos at Pershing Square Metro Station. Photo © 2005 Kayte Deioma, licensed to About.com

    The Metropolitan Transit Authority invested a lot of money and effort to identify and contract talented artists to create art installations for the Metro transit stations. You can take a free Metro Art Tour of of art along the Red Line Route between Hollywood and Downtown LA, including a tour of the historic Union Station. Some tours start in Hollywood, others start Downtown. 

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    Free Comedy is Easy to Find in LA

    Westside Comedy Theater
    ••• Westside Comedy Theater in Santa Monica. Courtesy of Westside Comedy Theater

    Lots of Comedy Clubs around LA have free comedy shows. Some, like The Comedy Store, still require a minimum drink purchase at free shows, but others, like the Upright Citizen's Brigade or M.i, Westside Comedy, don't. If you get on their email lists, or follow them on social media, especially Twitter, you'll get announcements of free shows. Some have free advance tickets, but many are first come or lottery. You can also check Goldstar.com for free comedy tickets, but there's a processing fee that is sometimes more than the $5 admission charged at some other shows.

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    Free Music in LA

    A Band Performing at Hollywood & Highland Center
    ••• Pancho Sanchez Performing at Hollywood & Highland Center in Los Angeles. Photo © 2012 Kayte Deioma, licensed to About.com

    LA has free music playing all year long, from the Santa Monica Pier to Downtown LA, Pasadena and Long Beach. During the winter, more of the music is indoors, at shopping centers, coffee houses and of course, bars, but there is also still music regularly in winter on the Santa Monica Pier, Third Street Promenade and Venice Beach, as well as other special events. During the summer, free music is everywhere, with many public plazas and outdoor amphitheatres offering free concerts all summer long.  Not all of the summer music series in Los Angeles are free, but lots of them are. Check the full list of Summer Concert Series in LA for lots of opportunities to hear free music around the Southland. 

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    Free (and Donation-Based) Yoga

    Yoga class at Grand Park in Downtown Los Angeles
    ••• Yoga class at Grand Park in Downtown Los Angeles. Photo © 2015 Kayte Deioma, licensed to About.com

    Free Lunchtime Outdoor Yoga at Grand Park in Downtown LA
    Wednesdays at 11 am and Fridays 12:15 - 1 pm
    grandparkla.org

    Donation Yoga at Runyon Canyon
    2000 North Fuller Ave. Los Angeles, at the Fuller Avenue entrance.
    10:30 am daily
    www.facebook.com/pages/Runyon-Canyon-YOGA/128176273877039 

    Yogalution Free Yoga at Bluff Park in Long Beach
    Ocean Blvd and Junpero Ave on the bluff under the trees above Junipero Beach
    Daily 11 am - noon
    www.yogalutionmovement.com

    Free Yoga on the Beach in Belmont Shore in Long Beach
    Ocean Blvd and 54th Place on the inland beach known as Horny Corner
    Daily morning and afternoon sessions
    www.meetup.com/Free-Yoga-on-the-Beach/

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    Hiking in LA is Free

    Hiking in Griffith Park, Los Angeles
    ••• Hiking in Griffith Park, Los Angeles. Photo © 2012 Kayte Deioma, licensed to About.com

    With 4000 acres of mountains and canyons right in the middle of the city, and a couple more mountain chains surrounding the Greater Los Angeles area, there is no shortage of places to hike in LA.

    If you don't have a lot of time, the busy trails of Runyon Canyon are withing walking distance of Hollywood Boulevard. The many trails in Griffith Park, including the Hike to the Hollywood Sign are just a short drive from Hollywood or Downtown LA, and parking is free. 

    Beyond the city, the Santa Monica Mountains and Angeles National Forest offer an abundance of terrains and trails for hiking, but unlike in Griffith Park, parking in the National Forests and Recreation Areas is not free. Check out some of the top Hiking Trails Near LA.