You could spend a lot of money in Hollywood going on movie star homes tours, visiting Ripley's Believe It Or Not, or purchasing pricey tickets to one of the many wax museums along Hollywood Boulevard. But you don't have to. Skip those expensive guided tours, walk right past all those ticket counters and cheesy attractions, and still have a great time in Hollywood.
Take a Walk on Hollywood Boulevard
There's a lot to do and see on the boulevard, and most of it is free. That includes the stars on the Walk of Fame, the handprints and footprints at the Grauman's Chinese Theatre, and strolling around Hollywood and Highland. You can also see the famed Dolby Theatre, formerly known as the Kodak Theatre, and the popular Hollywood & Highland shopping complex.
When celebrities get a star on the Walk of Fame or get their handprints and footprints cast in cement at the Chinese Theatre, they have to show up. And a few of their glitterati pals usually come along with them. These events don't happen every day, but there's no charge to watch when they do.
Be in a Studio Audience
You can be in the studio audience of some popular television shows for free. All you need to do is make a reservation and have enough time to stay until they're done, and you can be in the studio audience for selected sitcoms, talk shows, and game shows. While this is free (and fun!), it can be time-consuming: A taping for a 30-minute show can run two hours or longer.
Stalk the Hollywood Sign
You can see the world-famous Hollywood sign from all over town. You could probably spend a whole day just driving around to all the places where you can see it.
Even though you can't get close enough to touch it, and it's getting harder to access the hiking trails that take you closer to it, you can still see the sign from a lot of places, either from your car or your own two feet. Whatever you do, don't try to access the sign by going over the fence—it's heavily guarded.
See a Free Performance at the Hollywood Bowl
To enjoy an evening concert at the Hollywood Bowl, you'll have to buy a ticket. But if you want to hear the music and see the place for free, some of their morning rehearsals are open to the public. The Edmund D. Edelman Hollywood Bowl Museum is also free to visit. If you'd rather buy a ticket and go to the Bowl in the evening (which is a fun thing to do), some concerts have tickets for less than $20.
Pay Your Last Respects to Departed Celebrities
Hollywood Forever Cemetery, which is just behind the famous Paramount Studios, is visitor-friendly and free. They even offer maps of the stars' final resting places.
Other cemeteries where lots of celebrities are buried are also free to visit. Legendary Forest Lawn also holds the remains of famous people from all eras, while Marilyn Monroe's remains are hidden away in the Westwood Village Memorial Park.
Take a Self-Guided Driving Tour
Simply driving around Hollywood is one of the best ways to see the neighborhood's many sites.
A few hours spent in the car can take you past landmarks like Jim Henson's Muppets studio, the unique Capitol Records building, Hollywood High, the Magic Castle, and more. If you want to add a cheap lunch stop to your drive, visit Pink's Hot Dogs, a famous hot dog stand which opened in 1939 and still attracts crowds today. You might see a celebrity outside chowing down on a dog or watch as a limousine pulls up to pick up some snacks for its occupants.
Check out the Farmers Market
The Farmers Market may not be in Hollywood proper, but it feels like it belongs there.
The market began in 1934 at the corner of Fairfax and Third Street, with farmers driving in from surrounding areas to sell their goods from the back of their trucks. Today, the market stays true to its origins, housing stalls for butchers, bakers, and produce sellers, as well as offering other goodies like candies, nut, and cheese. There are more than 100 stands and over 500 employees working in the market.
You'll pay to park (unless you buy something and get free parking validation), but walking around the market is free and so are the samples that some of the food stalls hand out.
Visit the Hollywood Heritage Museum
This quaint museum is a tribute to the humble beginnings of Hollywood. Housed in a famous yellow wooden building that movie buffs will know, the Hollywood Heritage Museum is filled with artifacts, photos, and other unique pieces of memorabilia detailing the rise of Hollywood.
About that yellow building: It's the old Lasky-DeMille Barn, where famous director Cecil B. DeMille and producer Jesse Lasky made several of their acclaimed films. When it was built in 1895, it initially served as a barn for one of the many Southern California produce farms that existed in the area at the time.