25 Free Things to Do on Your Next Visit to Los Angeles
Tourists flock to Los Angeles for a behind-the-scenes peek at the glitz and glamour of Hollywood, but there’s so much more to this SoCal city beyond the Walk of Fame, stargazing on Sunset Strip, or window shopping the designer boutiques on Rodeo Drive. The best part is, it doesn’t have to break the bank. Here, a bevy of our favorite free outings in the City of Angels.
1. Immerse yourself in art and music at LACMA, where during the summer they offer open outdoor jazz concerts on Friday nights, as well as gratis access to the museum on the second Tuesday of every month (read our full guide to the museum here). Chris Burden’s Urban Light exhibition in front of the museum is free to access daily, as is the sculpture garden.
2. Indulge your inner birder and take a complimentary bird walk with the L.A. Audubon Society in the city’s many woodlands, lakes, shrubs, and salt water marshes. Added bonus: binoculars are provided on some trips, too.
4. Ears will be happy and wallets will be full thanks to the countless free concerts offered during the summer. There’s the indie-inspired Twilight Concerts in Santa Monica on Thursdays, electronic dance-infused Sunday Sessions in Downtown L.A.’s Grand Park, Saturdays Off The 405 at The Getty museum, and more.
5. Work off all those famous Angeleno street tacos with a stroll or bike ride down a portion of the Marvin Braude Bike Trail, also known as The Strand—a mostly-flat, well-paved 22-mile beach path running along the Pacific from Will Rodgers State Beach to Torrance.
6. If seeing all the fit girls roaming the city in their Lululemons has you inspired, hit up one of the many donation-based yoga classes around the city, like those at Runyon Canyon or Bryan Kest’s Santa Monica studio.
7. It’s a feast for the senses at the Downtown L.A. ArtWalk, where the blossoming community convenes on the second Thursday of the month to showcase art, music, and more. The events take place mostly within the galleries on Spring and Main streets between 2nd and 9th streets.
8. You can help counteract the effects the local car culture has on the environment by planing trees with the folks at Tree People, then spend the afternoon hiking Fryman Canyon, a lesser-known trail that’s plenty more invigorating than being stuck on a star-seeking tour bus.
9. Head over to Venice for Abbot Kinney First Fridays, to support locally owned businesses and peruse one of the city’s top art walks in one of its hippest neighborhoods.
10. Crane your neck at the historic Watts Towers, a series of 17 interconnected sculptural structures built over 33 years by Italian immigrant Simon Rodia. An iconic symbol of Los Angeles, the tallest of the towers reaches a height of over 99 feet, all of it made from ceramics, bottles tiles, shells, and other scraps contributed by the local community.
11. Though L.A. isn’t known for its public transit system, one does exist. There are even free Metro Station art tours put on by the department of transportation called Metro Art Moves, which highlight murals, architecture, digital installations, and more.
12. Zen out at the donation-based morning meditations at Zenshuji Soto Temple in Little Tokyo, then stroll the 120-year-old neighborhood’s streets and alleyways, which are bustling with restaurants, galleries, and indie clothing shops.
13. Capitalize on the complimentary, docent-led tours that take visitors through the interior space and gardens at the architecturally stunning Walt Disney Concert Hall, designed by Frank Gehry.
14. Take a self-guided tour of the up-and-coming galleries in the unassuming alleyways of Chinatown’s Chung King Road on various Saturday nights, when they fling their doors open to the public. Be sure to check their site for event dates.
15. One of the city’s most-filmed commercial buildings is also one of its oldest. The Bradbury (pictured) is recognizable by its open cage elevators, marble stairs, and ornate iron railings all illuminated by ample natural light that spills in from the skylights above. The best part: it’s free to poke around.
16. The Los Angeles Conservancy blows apart the idea that no one walks in L.A. Their website offers plenty of maps for self-guided walking architectural tours of the city, from locations spotted in “500 Days of Summer,” to the DTLA Arts District and more.
17. Built in 1899, the Hollywood Forever Cemetery is the resting place for some of Hollywood’s greats, like Johnny Ramone, Cecil B. DeMille, Jayne Mansfield, Rudolph Valentino, Douglas Fairbanks, and more. Walk the grounds and admire the intricate headstones and mausoleums of these luminaries.
18. The Annenberg Space for Photography—itself designed to mimic the many elements of a camera—showcases digital and print photography from some of the world’s most renowned photographers alongside up-and-comers. Past exhibitions have shed light on the likes of Helmut Newton and a retrospective on the 125 years of National Geographic.
19. Angelenos love to climb the city’s staircases—originally designed to connect steep-streeted communities in the 1920s—to fit in a workout. Use the Secret Stairs app to get sweat like the locals in Echo Park, Silverlake, Santa Monica, and beyond.
20. The sights and sounds at the Original Farmers Market are a feast for the senses, and though entry is free, we can’t guarantee you’ll be able to resist forking over some dough for tacos from Loteria Grill or succulent Spanish-style skewers from Moruno.
21. Overlooking the California coastline and the L.A. skyline, the Getty Center boasts a world-class collection of European paintings, contemporary photographs and decorative arts. The stunning Malibu property at the Getty Villa, which focuses on Greek, Roman and Etrurian art, is also free to visit.
22. The La Brea Tar Pits in Hancock Park are home to the largest discovery of Ice Age fossils in the world. Wandering the outdoor grounds and checking out the pools of sticky asphalt is free, and on the first Tuesday of the month, they also offer free museum and active archeological site visits.
23. Griffith Park is the largest municipal park with urban wilderness area in the country, and the 4,210 acres of natural, chaparral-covered terrain make for a great place to hike, picnic, and play. They offer free access to the building and grounds, as well as complimentary entry to their star parties and guided sunset walks.
24. The Broad Museum in Downtown L.A. plans to make art democratic by extending complimentary general admission access to Eli and Edythe Broad’s personal collection of nearly 2,000 pieces of contemporary art from the 1950s to the present. The museum opens September 20.
25. Get a dose of local Latino culture and history at Olvera Street while shopping, listening to mariachi music, and watching traditional folkloric dances. There are plenty of restaurants where you can indulge in affordable Mexican dishes with the money you’ve saved by partaking in the free tours of Avila Adobe, Old Plaza Church, and the Old Plaza Firehouse.
Krista Simmons is a culinary travel writer and native Angeleno; she covers the Southern California beat for Travel + Leisure. You can follow her adventures bite-by-bite on Instagram.