Los Angeles is a dreamy wonderland of sunshine, beaches, celebrities, and culture. Thanks to our local expert’s tips, the city can be yours without having to gush out loads of cash. In fact, here are our favourite things to do in LA for free.
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Walk the Boardwalk from Santa Monica to Venice Beach
A trip to LA isn’t complete without at least a view of the wooden Santa Monica Pier including the iconic Ferris wheel. You may want to avoid heading out to the pier itself since it’s usually packed with tourists, but a walk, skate, or bike ride from Santa Monica to Venice, along the beach promenade is LA beach life at its best.
There are beautiful hotels on the Santa Monica side, and in Venice, you’ll be stimulated by street performers, vendors, and the iconic public gym, “Muscle Beach”. Venice Beach is a unique, bohemian side of LA not experienced in Beverly Hills or West Hollywood. Detour your stroll to the Venice Canals, modeled after the canals of Venice, Italy.
See the city from above at Griffith Observatory
Los Angeles is a large, sprawling city, and a view from above can definitely help you understand the city’s layout. Griffith Observatory is the ultimate city lookout.
Wait for a clear day and make your way up the Los Feliz hills. You can either hike from Fern Dell Drive (use Trails Cafe as your starting point) or drive Vermont Avenue directly to the Observatory. Once you’ve arrived, you’re free to explore this LA icon.
You’ll recognize this landmark from films such as Rebel Without a Cause and, most recently, La La Land. Duck inside the Observatory and enjoy the free exhibits of the Planetarium.
Drive the iconic Mulholland Drive
When you imagine Los Angeles, you probably imagine celebrity homes, palm trees, and Hollywood – you can experience them all on Mulholland Drive. Stretching from Cahuenga Pass in Hollywood to Sepulveda Pass in Sherman Oaks, Mulholland Drive sits atop the city with views of the Valley to the north and the city to the south.
Many of the gorgeous houses along the road are home to celebrities. Toward the east section of Mulholland, there are views of Downtown Los Angeles and the Hollywood sign. The Hollywood Bowl Outlook is also a worthy pit stop. Pack the car, turn up the music, and enjoy Mulholland Drive. Convertibles encouraged.
Enjoy the exhibits at The Broad
Having opened in 2015, The Broad is one of LA’s newest museums and one of very few that are free (with advance reservation). While the exhibits are often rotating, The Broad is home to amazing contemporary art collections.
The exterior design of The Broad is a treat in itself. Not to mention, the next door neighbor is the architecturally stunning Walt Disney Concert Hall. If you love architecture and art, The Broad is a must stop in Downtown Los Angeles. Make reservations online at thebroad.org to get free entry.
Warm up with a bonfire at Dockweiler Beach
The majority of Los Angeles beaches are public; however, Dockweiler is the only one permitted for bonfires. Grab supplies of your own or hope to make friends, arrive before nightfall to secure a space and execute your setup in light, and enjoy. Dockweiler is located near LAX Airport, so in addition to the sounds of crashing waves, you’ll see planes take off over the Pacific Ocean. Beach bonfires are a California cliché, so pack a blanket and live out your teenage dreams.
Explore the Hollywood Farmers’ Market
On Sunday mornings, the heart of Hollywood shuts down for an old-fashioned farmers’ market. It’s a great time to taste fresh California produce and experience a calmer, more approachable side of Hollywood. You’ll even see celebrities doing the same.
Unlike many LA destinations, the Hollywood Farmers’ Market is easily accessible by Metro light rail, so take advantage of the convenience and put it on your Sunday schedule.
Hike local favorite Runyon Canyon
When in LA, do as the Angelenos do. Hiking is unquestionably a favorite activity amongst Los Angeles locals, and Runyon is the most popular trail. Start your morning the right way and set up the Santa Monica Mountains.
Don’t worry – you have your choice of easy or difficult paths. Many use the easy path as an opportunity to stroll and catch up with friends. The harder path provides a more active, physical workout. There are several viewpoints along the way, but push toward the top for the most rewarding view.
Take a walk around Echo Park Lake
Recently redeveloped, Echo Park Lake is the latest gem of Los Angeles. Gorgeous palm trees surround the lake and lily pads fill the waters. Not to mention, there’s a picture perfect view of Downtown at one end of the lake. Take a few strolls around the walking path or throw a blanket on the grassy hills.
There are also pedal boats available to rent at the marina for a small fee. Echo Park is located in the heart of the Eastside, so visiting puts you in perfect proximity to explore the nearby communities of Silverlake and Angeleno Heights.
Explore the grounds at LACMA
While the interior exhibits at Los Angeles County Museum of Art are free only the second Tuesday of every month, the outdoor grounds and sculptures are ready to be enjoyed at no cost. The Levitated Mass and Urban Light installations are citywide favorites and iconic photo opportunities. Levitated Mass allows you to walk under an unimaginably large rock structure during daylight while Urban Light is best experienced around nightfall.
Cruise along the PCH from Venice Beach to Malibu
It truly doesn’t get better than the Pacific Coast Highway. Even the worst of LA traffic can’t dampen your spirit as you drive right along the West Coast of the United States.
Drive south from Malibu to Venice Beach to be on the oceanside of the highway. You’ll see the Malibu Pier, countless beachfront homes, surfers waxing their boards and ringing out their wetsuits, beachgoers pitching umbrellas, and the like. It’s quintessential California. Known as the PCH or “The 1,” it is a legendary component of Southern California.