25 Best Free Things to Do in Los Angeles

Los Angeles City Hall interior ceiling

TripSavvy / Kayte Deioma

With the temptation to indulge in all that Hollywood glitz and glamor, Los Angeles can be a pretty pricey destination. Luckily for visitors, there are still plenty of free attractions to keep you busy if you're traveling on a budget. Many of the most popular places of interest do not charge admission, and between all the beaches, gardens, and public entertainment options, you’ll find it's not hard to visit the City of Angels without breaking the bank. That said, parking fees can sometimes be steep, so consider buying a Metro Day Pass to get around town by bus or rail if you'd rather not rent a car.

01 of 25

Take Advantage of Free Days at L.A.'s Top Museums

LACMA Los Angeles County Museum of Art

LACMA Los Angeles County Museum of Art

If you're looking to visit two of Los Angeles' best museums—LACMA (the L.A. County Museum of Art) and The Autry Museum of the American West in Griffith Park—try and plan to be there on the second Tuesday of the month, when each is free to enter.

LACMA's permanent collection includes an impressive amount of Latin American and Islamic Contemporary Art, as well as displays on Spanish Colonial and 19th Century Art, Modern Mexican and Peruvian silver, Greek ceramics, and an in-depth look at a century's worth of fashion from 1900-2000, among others. Check the website to see what traveling exhibitions will be on display when you're visiting L.A.

The Autry Museum in Griffith Park features more than 600,000 pieces of Hollywood Western memorabilia related to the region's Native American history, expansionism, ranching and cowboys, anthropology, archaeology, California history, and pop culture. Special displays feature western-style movie posters from the silent film era, scenes from a California road trip, stories and art from the Old West, a cowboy gallery, an ethnobotanical garden, and an exhibit highlighting Pueblo pottery.

Address
5905 Wilshire Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90036, USA
Phone +1 323-857-6000
02 of 25

Enjoy the View in Grand Park

Grand Park Los Angeles

Denise Taylor / Getty Images

Address
200 N Grand Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90012-3012, USA
Phone +1 213-972-8080

If you're looking for a centralized and scenic place to take a breather during a hectic day of sightseeing, head to Grand Park, located Downtown near Los Angeles City Hall. The 12-acre green space also makes a fantastic spot for a an afternoon picnic, whether you're bringing your own food or want to take advantage of the food trucks.

Open daily from 5:30 a.m. to 10 p.m., Grand Park bills itself as "The Park for Everyone," and is usually where you'll find public events, some of which are free to the public. Check the website and its social media pages to see if there's anything fun going on while you're visiting. If anything, it's a nice spot to relax and enjoy the view—plus, the kids can unwind at the Grand Park Playground.

03 of 25

Check Out LA’s Best Markets

Original Farmers Market Los Angeles

Original Farmers Market Los Angeles

Stop by The Original Farmers Market for a stroll through stalls hawking gourmet food, homemade pies, fresh bread, seafood, meat, cheese, produce, and any number of excellent picnic-making materials if your next stop is Grand Park or one of L.A.'s incredible beaches. Opened in 1934, the market operates daily all year long.

If you're in the mood for some window shopping, head to Grand Central Market, located on the other side of town near the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, which has been operating as a public market since it opened in 1917. It's now the city's oldest and largest, housing 40 stalls featuring an assortment of ethnic food offerings from Japan, Germany, China, Italy, the Philippines, Mexico, and all over Latin America.

Address
6333 W 3rd St, Los Angeles, CA 90036, USA
Phone +1 323-933-9211
04 of 25

Watch the Surfers Do Their Thing

Surfing in Los Angeles

Kyle Sparks / Getty Images

It's no secret that the beaches in the Los Angeles area are home to some of the greatest waves on earth. All along the Pacific Coast, you'll be able to catch sight of surfers doing their thing any time of year, especially if there's a storm brewing and the waves are higher than usual. Popular L.A. surfing beaches include El Porto (Manhattan Beach), Malibu (Surfrider Beach), Redondo, Hermosa, Venice Beach, Ocean Park, Topanga Beach, Sunset Point, Zuma Beach.

If you happen be in town when there's a major surfing competition going on, head to the beach and spend the day cheering along with the fans as some of the world's most talented surfers take on the waves. About an hour south of Downtown L.A., the U.S. Open of Surfing takes place in Huntington Beach in late July or early August. Closer to the city, the International Surf Festival happens in early August about 35 minutes away in Manhattan Beach.

Address
Huntington Beach, CA, USA
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05 of 25

Go On A Self-Guided Walking Tour

Man walking in Venice Beach, Los Angeles

Alexander Spatari / Getty Images

Address
Los Angeles, CA, USA

If you're not too familiar with Los Angeles and don't want to shell out money for a professionally guided tour, try doing a self-guided walking tour with the GPSMYCITY app, available on the App Store or Google Play.

Whether you sign up for a three-day trial or splurge on an annual subscription, you'll have access to dozens of self-guided itineraries around the city, including Downtown L.A., Hollywood Boulevard, West Hollywood, Chinatown, Korea Town, Little Tokyo, La Cienaga Design Quarter, Beverly Hills, Angelino Heights, Historic Olvera Street, Westwood, Venice Beach, and Culver City, among other themes and locales.

06 of 25

Take in L.A.'s Most Iconic Sights

Santa Monica Pier
Verity E. Milligan / Getty Images
Address
200 Santa Monica Pier, Santa Monica, CA 90401, USA
Phone +1 310-458-8900

While it does cost money to ride the famous Ferris wheel and other attractions at Santa Monica Pier's amusement park, Pacific Park, visiting the pier itself is free of charge and worth doing even if you don't get on any of the rides. Santa Monica Pier is such an iconic piece of Los Angeles that you really can't miss it, not to mention it's within walking distance of downtown Santa Monica and the Venice Beach Boardwalk, which are also worth checking out if you're in the neighborhood. Not only is it a great place for people-watching and photography, Santa Monica Pier is also the western terminus for Route 66, one of the most famous roads in the U.S., and a popular route for epic road trips to the West Coast.

Nearby, whether you're a fan of classic cinema or just want to traverse one of the most popular thoroughfares in the city, Sunset Boulevard’s iconic 22-mile stretch takes you from the Pacific Palisades neighborhood along the coast to Downtown Los Angeles. This particular section passes through Beverly Hills and West Hollywood, with its recognizable palm trees and magnificent Bel Air mansions on full display. A word of warning should you decide to take this scenic drive: check the traffic conditions before you go, as Sunset Boulevard tends to get busy and L.A. traffic can be intense.

07 of 25

Pay Your Respects at Hollywood Forever Cemetery

Hollywood Forever's Dia De Los Muertos
Araya Doheny / Getty Images
Address
6000 Santa Monica Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90038, USA
Phone +1 323-469-1181

Hollywood Forever Cemetery is the final resting place of many of the film industry's biggest stars, including those from the Golden Age of Hollywood, as well as legends like Judy Garland, Cecil B. DeMille, Fay Wray, and George Harrison. There's also a plaque commemorating the work of Oscar-winning "Gone With the Wind" star Hattie McDaniel, who requested to be buried here but wasn't allowed at the time due to California’s segregation laws. The grounds are also used as a cultural center and feature a lineup of special events throughout the summer.

08 of 25

Fly a Kite at the Korean Bell of Friendship

Korean Friendship Bell, San Pedro
Ron and Patty Thomas / Getty Images
Address
3601 S Gaffey St, San Pedro, CA 90731-6969, USA
Phone +1 310-548-7705

The Korean Bell of Friendship sits in a picturesque pavilion overlooking the water in Angels Gate Park in Los Angeles’ San Pedro neighborhood. Here, you’ll find a replica of a bell in South Korea called the Emille Bell, which was cast in the year 771 and is still one of the largest in existence. The L.A. version was a gift from South Korea to the U.S. government and has been designated as a Cultural-Historical Monument. The pavilion and surrounding park are great spots to have a picnic, fly a kite, or just enjoy a warm, sunny day. If you happen to be around on the first Saturday of the month, come by at noon to hear the bell ring.

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09 of 25

Visit L.A.'s Best Contemporary Art Museums

Infinity Mirrored Room by Yayoi Kusama

Corbis / Getty Images

Address
221 S Grand Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90012, USA
Phone +1 213-232-6250

Two of California's most important contemporary art museums are located across the street from each other and best of all, they’re both free to enjoy. The Museum of Contemporary Art, or the MOCA, has been a staple of the L.A. art world since 1979, featuring a permanent collection that focuses on paintings, photographs, and sculptures from the 1940s to the present, including big names such as Rothko, Pollock, and Basquiat.

Nearby, 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 L.A. next to the Disney Concert Hall and across from the MOCA, The Broad is completely free to visit, but you're better off reserving tickets in advance, especially if you want to see the museum's most popular permanent exposition, The Souls of Millions of Light Years Away by Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama. This Instagram-famous exhibit only permits a limited number of people per day, so try to arrive early to ensure sure you can enter.

10 of 25

Pick a Beach, Any Beach

Lifeguard house on a beach in LA

TripSavvy / Christian Hundley

Spending a sunny day at the beach is perhaps the quintessential Southern California activity, and one of the most popular free things you can do in Los Angeles. There are more than 70 miles of beaches in the L.A. area and thanks to the region's year-round balmy weather, you'll see people sitting out on the sand even in the middle of January.

While the beaches are always free, parking sometimes isn't. Even if there is a free parking lot, you'll need to arrive early to get a spot since many of them will fill up before noon, even on weekdays. Will Rogers State Beach and Point Dume State Beach both have free parking lots in addition to nearby paid lots in case you arrive and the free one is full. If you want to ditch the car altogether, L.A. public transit brings passengers directly to Downtown Santa Monica, which is within walking distance of Santa Monica Beach as well as nearby Venice Beach.

Address
Santa Monica Beach, Santa Monica, CA 90401, USA
11 of 25

Enjoy the View From Griffith Observatory

View from the Griffith Park Observatory

TripSavvy / Christian Hundley

Address
2800 E Observatory Rd, Los Angeles, CA 90027, USA
Phone +1 213-473-0800

Griffith Observatory, located in Griffith Park, is home to a free astronomy museum, offering visitors a glimpse at the cosmos through its super Zeiss telescope. Get in line before dark if you want a look at the night sky, especially in the summer since the line closes once it reaches a certain number of people.

Even if you aren't particularly interested in the museum itself, Griffith Observatory is considered to be one of the best scenic lookout points in all of L.A., with incredible panoramic views of the entire city below. For a real treat, arrive around sunset.

12 of 25

Stroll the Venice Beach Boardwalk

A mural on the side of the building that says Venice

 TripSavvy / Christian Hundley

Address
Venice Beach, Los Angeles, CA, USA

Take a stroll down the Venice Beach Boardwalk and have a gander at the street performers, hard bodies of the Muscle Beach Gym, and a host of other 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 time of year, while some free street parking is available throughout the neighborhood if you have the patience to look for it. Even though the area is a bit on the touristy side, it's one of the most iconic places in all of Los Angeles and an obligatory stop for any first-time visitor.

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13 of 25

Catch a TV Show Taping

The Jeopardy set at Sony Pictures Studios in Culver City

TripSavvy / Kayte Deioma

If you've ever dreamed of attending a live taping of your favorite sitcom, game show, talk show, or reality show, a trip to Los Angeles is a chance to make that dream a reality. Many of the most popular television shows are filmed in L.A. and virtually all tapings are free—as long as you snag a ticket.

The ticketing process depends on each show, with some unveiling them online up to 30 days in advance and others releasing them on a first-come-first-serve basis the day of the taping. Even if it's a show you've never heard of, seeing the behind-the-scenes process and getting up close to celebrities is an Angeleno experience all in itself.

Address
6925 Hollywood Blvd, Hollywood, CA 90028, USA
Phone +1 323-461-3331
14 of 25

Wander the Hollywood Walk of Fame

A star on the walk of fame

 TripSavvy / Christian Hundley

Address
Hollywood Boulevard, Vine St, Los Angeles, CA 90028, USA
Phone +1 323-469-8311

Meander along the Hollywood Walk of Fame to find the star tributes to all your favorite celebrities. The Walk of Fame runs east to west on Hollywood Boulevard from Gower Street to La Brea Avenue and north to south on Vine Street, from Yucca Street to Sunset Boulevard. There are more than 2,600 stars so finding a specific celebrity can be a bit of a scavenger hunt. While you're there, diehard movie buffs can pop into the TCL Chinese Theater—formerly known as Grauman's Chinese Theater—and the adjacent Dolby Theater to learn about all things related to the Academy Awards.

15 of 25

See a Collection of Prehistoric Fossils

Exterior of the La Brea tar pits

TripSavvy / Christian Hundley

Address
5801 Wilshire Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90036-4539, USA
Phone +1 213-763-3499

The La Brea Tar Pits and Museum in Hancock Park, located next to the L.A. County Museum of Art, is home to the most significant source of prehistoric fossils ever excavated. While these fossils have made their way into museums around the world, the largest collection is here at the Page Museum.

It's free to wander the park and see the tar pits and outdoor exhibits, where paleontologists can be seen actively working to uncover further discoveries, though you'll have to pay to enter the museum itself.

16 of 25

Visit El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historic Monument

A cross at the entrance of a mexican market in LA

 TripSavvy / Christian Hundley

Address
125 Paseo De La Plaza, Los Angeles, CA 90012, USA
Phone +1 213-485-6855

Explore the Mexican marketplace and El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historical Monument at Olvera Street. While the entire block full of historic buildings makes you feel like you're stepping into a Mexican town, it's the street market through the alleyway of Olvera Street that is the biggest draw for visitors and locals alike.

Pick up crafts and souvenirs from all over Mexico at the outdoor street stalls, and make sure you arrive hungry, as it's nearly impossible to resist the smell of grilled carne asada, Mexican-style corn on the cob, or freshly fried churros sprinkled with cinnamon sugar. To get a full overview of the history of Olvera Street and Mexican culture in Los Angeles, complement your visit with a free walking tour.

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17 of 25

See World-Class Art at The Getty Center

A garden outside the Getty Center

TripSavvy / Christian Hundley

Address
1200 Getty Center Dr, Los Angeles, CA 90049, USA
Phone +1 310-440-7300

The Getty Center, a modern hilltop fortress in Brentwood that locals simply call "The Getty," houses one of the finest art collections in the world, sporting manicured gardens and stunning views of the city below. The building's architecture and panoramic views of the city alone are worth a visit even if you're not interested in the artwork inside. While the museum is free to enter, parking can be expensive, although the city bus stops at the gate if you're arriving from Downtown L.A.

18 of 25

Tour the Getty Villa

A garden in the courtyard of the Getty Villa

TripSavvy / Christian Hundley

Address
17985 E Pacific Coast Hwy, Pacific Palisades, CA 90272, USA
Phone +1 310-440-7300
4.7

The Getty Villa, located along the Pacific Coast Highway north of Sunset Boulevard, is the permanent home of the J. Paul Getty Museum's Greek and Roman art collection, housed in an impressive Malibu mansion that was modeled after the partially excavated Villa dei Papiri in Italy. While the museum is free to enter, timed tickets must be booked in advance and parking is pricey at $20 per vehicle.

19 of 25

Visit the California Science Center

Planes hanging in the California Science Center

 TripSavvy / Christian Hundley

Address
700 Exposition Park Dr, Los Angeles, CA 90037, USA
Phone +1 323-724-3623
4.4

Located within Exposition Park, the California Science Center is a fun and educational place for all ages, though its interactive exhibits are especially geared toward younger guests. Kids can touch, play with, and get involved with the items in the Science Center instead of just strolling along or reading information cards. Outer space enthusiasts will love seeing the Space Shuttle Endeavor on display.

While general museum admission is free, the IMAX theater and some special exhibitions do charge a fee to enter. Weekday mornings are crowded with school groups, so afternoons and weekends are better to visit.

20 of 25

Explore Disney's Incredible Concert Hall

The arched architecture of the Disney Concert Hall

TripSavvy / Christian Hundley

Address
111 S Grand Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90012, USA
Phone +1 323-850-2000

Performances at the Walt Disney Concert Hall may be on the pricey side, but the dreamy exterior of the building is just as impressive as the shows happening inside. Frank Gehry's metallic masterpiece is one of the most iconic buildings in all of Los Angeles, and free self-guided audio tours let guests roam the entire venue, including all the nooks and crannies the artist designed to be explored. Don't forget to climb up the stairways outside the building for an above-ground perspective as well.

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21 of 25

View Art in an Old Trolley Station or On an Art Walk

Hidden trolley center with plants growing on the exterior

 TripSavvy / Christian Hundley

Address
2525 Michigan Ave, Santa Monica, CA 90404, USA

Even though there are plenty of free art museums to visit around Los Angeles, there's something uniquely appealing about art galleries. Not only are they much more intimate, but sometimes the artists themselves are on-premise to explain their work. Head to the Bergamot Station Arts Center, located inside a former trolley turnaround station in Santa Monica. Admission to the galleries is always free, as is parking. If you're arriving by public transit, you'll find the galleries adjacent to the 26th Street / Bergamot Station.

While there are many galleries and art districts around L.A. that you can visit for free any time, during monthly and quarterly art walks, all of them have receptions at the same time, typically with music and food for people to enjoy. Laguna Beach hosts an art walk on the first Thursday of the month, while others, like Abbot Kinney's in Venice, are held on the first Friday of the month.

22 of 25

Tour Los Angeles City Hall

Exterior of the Los Angeles City Hall

TripSavvy / Christian Hundley

Address
200 N Spring St, Los Angeles, CA 90012, USA
Phone +1 213-473-3231

One of the few classically Art Deco buildings on the West Coast, Los Angeles City Hall is free to visit during regular business hours but you must request a tour in advance via email. In addition to the dome you can view from the third and fourth floor, the 27th-floor observation deck is also free to visit—and one of the best places in town to get a great view of the city. Don't miss the Henry P. Rio Bridge Gallery at City Hall, which showcases art created in various city-run programs and exhibits related to L.A.'s various Heritage Month Celebrations.

23 of 25

Stroll Through L.A.'s Public Gardens

Greystone Mansion Gardens in LA

TripSavvy / Christian Hundley

While many of the most beautiful gardens in Los Angeles charge a fee, there are a few you can visit for without paying entry fees. The Rose Garden at Exposition Park, located near Downtown L.A., is always free, as are the beautiful Greystone Mansion Gardens, which are owned by the City of Beverly Hills and open daily to the public.

The Mildred E. Mathias Botanical Garden at UCLA, which bills itself as the only free botanical garden in the L.A. area, is a teaching garden, with free docent-led one-hour tours offered the first Saturday of the month at 1 p.m., and occasional events such as plant sketching workshops.

The James Irvine Japanese Garden at the Japanese American Cultural and Community Center (JACCC) in Little Tokyo is also free to visit. You can also catch free exhibits highlighting Japanese and Japanese-American artists to complement your trip to the gardens.

Address
700 Exposition Park Dr, Los Angeles, CA 90037-1267, USA
Phone +1 213-744-2294
24 of 25

Enjoy a Free Comedy Show

Westside Comedy Theater in Los Angeles, CA

TripSavvy / Christian Hundley

Lots of comedy clubs around L.A. offer free comedy shows. While some, like The Comedy Store, will require a minimum drink purchase at free shows, others like the Upright Citizen's Brigade or Westside Comedy Theater do not. Sign up for their email lists or follow them on social media, especially Twitter, to stay on top of free show announcements. Some places offer free tickets in advance, though many venues operate on a first-come-first-served basis or via a random lottery drawing.

Note that even the comedy clubs that do charge admission usually only cost about $5, unless you're seeing a celebrity comedian. Check Goldstar for free comedy tickets, although there is a processing fee that sometimes costs more than the $5 admission.

Address
1323-A 3rd St, Santa Monica, CA 90401, USA
Phone +1 310-451-0850
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25 of 25

Take a Hike

A pathway up to the Hollywood sign

TripSavvy / Christian Hundley

With 4,000 acres of mountains and canyons right in the middle of the city and more surrounding the Greater Los Angeles area, there is no shortage of places to hike in L.A. If you don't have much time, Runyon Canyon's trails are within walking distance of Hollywood Boulevard, while many trails in Griffith Park, including the hike to the Hollywood Sign, are just a short drive from Hollywood or Downtown L.A. (and parking is free). Beyond the city limits, the Santa Monica Mountains and Angeles National Forest offer an abundance of hiking trails, however parking in the national forests and recreation areas is not free.

Address
Los Angeles, CA 90068, USA
Phone +1 323-258-4338
Article Sources
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  1. La Brea Tar Pits. "History." Retrieved April 5, 2021

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25 Best Free Things to Do in Los Angeles