Free Things to Do in Los Angeles

This post covers all of the wonderful free or almost free things there are to do in the LA area and has been updated for 2020.

And be sure to check out our master things to do in LA post.

 

 

 


Top 10 Free Things to Do

This section will feature our top 10 activities to enjoy for free in LA. Where appropriate, we’ve noted what is also kid-friendly.

For tips on the most popular activities in LA, check out our posts on walking tours, bus tours and other things to do in LA.

Several of the items below are already included for free with the purchase of a tourist discount pass.




1. Explore Hollywood

Head to Tinseltown and explore the sights that you’ve always seen on the silver screen!

Before you go, read our guide on things to see in Hollywood.

 

Hollywood and highland

 

Many attractions in Hollywood like the famous Hollywood Walk of Fame, the exterior of the historic TCL Chinese Theatre, and seeing the Hollywood Sign (from afar) can all be done without paying a penny!


2. Visit Santa Monica Pier and Beach

Opened in 1909, the historic Santa Monica Pier has a lot to offer people of all ages! And the beach is always free to enjoy.

Taking a stroll down the pier will lead you through a number of souvenir kiosks, and past a number of restaurants, street performers & musicians on any given day.

 

 

For a fee, experience the rides at the lively amusement park, Pacific Park, or spend some time in the pier’s aquarium.




3. Walk the Venice Beach Boardwalk and Canals

A short distance from Santa Monica, the Venice Beach Boardwalk provides one of the most eclectic atmospheres and people-watching spots in all of LA.

Peruse the many souvenir kiosks, check out the body-builders at the open-air gym, and see who’s grinding the pavement at the skatepark.

 

 

For a quieter environment, walk a few blocks inland and stroll along the tranquil canals and footbridges that pay homage to those in Venice, Italy.


4. Enjoy the Views from Griffith Observatory

For some of the absolute best views of the mountains, city skylines, and ocean (on a clear day!) head up to Griffith Observatory in Griffith Park.

 

 

The grounds and the observatory are always free to visitors. Hours and special events vary.

You may recognize the iconic building from films like Rebel Without a Cause starring James Dean.

Tip: Check out the other things to do in Griffith Park.


5. Enjoy a Self-Guided Tour 

Take your time exploring downtown LA with a free, self-guided walking tour.

Our tour will take you past a number of historic and cultural attractions downtown and provides detailed information on each location.

Have more time? Check out our pay-what-you-want walking tours




6. Explore Downtown LA 

Downtown LA is booming and has so much to offer.

From the historic Grand Central Market to the cultural hub that is Olvera Street and the surrounds, to open green spaces at Grand Park and the teeming streets in the Fashion District, there is something for everyone!

 

 

Tip: Consider taking our pay-what-you-want walking tours of Downtown LA


7. Watch a Live Recording!

With so many shows filming in LA, there are a lot of opportunities to be a part of a studio audience – for free!

This guide shows you the best ways to secure your tickets for either a game show, talk show, or late night show.

 

 

Tell Jimmy Kimmel and Ellen we said hello!


8. Go Hiking! 

With beautiful weather nearly all year round, LA has some excellent hikes that you don’t have to leave the city to experience. 

 

 

Enjoy the sweeping views from Runyon Canyon (where everyone goes to see and be seen), hike from Griffith Observatory to the Hollywood Sign, or take a short hike to see the original Bat Cave!


9. Visit a Free Museum 

It’s true that most major museums in LA charge admission but these museums typically have at least one day a month free of charge to all visitors!

Additionally, there are plenty of other museums and attractions that offer free admission every day of the week!

See our section below to see which museums offer free admission and when.




10. Get Free Tickets with a Tourist Attraction Discount Pass

Admittedly, these passes have a cost. However, if you plan well, you will essentially get several tickets to attractions or tours each day for free.

Tourist discount passes work by bundling multiple tickets into one price, usually between 20%-50% the retail price.   

 

 

Read our post comparing the different LA tourist discount passes.  Several bus tour companies, including hop-on-hop-off buses, also offer discounts and deals.

 


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FREE MUSEUMS AND ATTRACTIONS

In addition to all of the great free attractions we list in our top 10 section, there are loads of museums and other attractions you can visit for free at least once a month. 

For a full list of great LA museums and attractions, check out our master things to do in LA post.




Museums

The Broad

(Free reserved tickets on the first of every month or a daily stand-by line)

The Broad art museum downtown LA features a vast collection of contemporary and pop art.

See pieces from the likes of Roy Lichtenstein, Andy Warhol, Jeff Koons, and Kara Walker among many others.


Los Angeles County Museum of Art

(free admission second Tuesday of every month)

LACMA houses an incredible collection of classic and contemporary art that spans multiple millennia. View paintings, sculptures, bronze pieces, photography, and much more!


Tip: Don’t forget to check out Urban Light outside the museum. This outdoor installation is fun to walk around, lights up at night, and provides a great photo opp!




Museum of Contemporary Art

Grand Avenue & the Geffen Contemporary (free admission on Thursdays from 5 pm – 8 pm)

Focused mostly on American and European art created after 1940, MOCA is a great place for modern and contemporary art enthusiasts.

Within the museum’s near 6,000 pieces, you’ll find Roy Lichtenstein, Ellsworth Kelly, Franz Kline, and Elizabeth Murray, among many others.


La Brea Tar Pits

(free admission first Tuesday of every month except July and August; free ticket reservation is encouraged)

 

La Brea Tar Pit in Los Angeles
 

Step tens of thousands of years back in time as you explore the natural tar pits on the grounds of the museum (which are always free to see) and cruise through exhibits that feature mammoths, mastodons, and more.


Natural History Museum of LA County

(free admission first Tuesday of every month except July and August)

For anyone who likes to learn more about Natural History, this is an excellent museum.

Exhibits include a dinosaur hall, ancient mammals, gem & minerals, a butterfly pavillion, insect zoo, and a comprehensive exhibit on the history of LA. 




Avila Adobe

Located on historic Olvera Street downtown, the Avila Adobe is the oldest existing residence in Los Angeles. Always free, visitors are welcome to walk through the adobe and enjoy its central courtyard.

Free tours of the adobe are offered Monday-Saturday.


Autry Museum of the American West

(free admission second Tuesday of every month)

Focused on the history of the American West, the Autry Museum is located centrally in Griffith Park. It features art, western artifacts, a cowboy gallery, and a variety of temporary exhibits.


Paul Getty Museum

With an art collection that dates back to the Middle Ages, the Getty is one of the best art museums in LA.

Enjoy artwork from classic artists like Rembrandt, Monet, Van Gogh, Renoir, and others.




FREE ATTRACTIONS IN LA

Olvera Street

Located at the birthplace of LA downtown, Olvera Street takes you back to the Hispanic roots of the city and is packed with souvenir kiosks, restaurants, taco stands, and cultural sites. 

 

Los Angeles Olvera Street

 

It’s a great place for people watching and enjoying the vibrant atmosphere.


LA Live

This lively spot next to the Staples Center downtown charges no admission fees and is loaded with restaurants, shops, a movie theatre, and often hosts special events.

It’s a nice spot to hang out if you want to watch a sporting event without actually attending it. In the winter it also hosts an ice skating rink!


Hollywood Forever Cemetery

The forever resting place to Hollywood legends like Rudolph Valentino, Douglas Fairbanks, Jayne Mansfield, and Mel Blanc, the Hollywood Forever Cemetery is more than just that.

 

 

It also hosts a number of cultural events like movies in the summer and a Day of the Dead celebration in the fall. It’s free to enter.


Forest Lawn Cemetery

Another famous cemetery in Glendale that charges no admission fees.

Celebrities buried here include Debbie Reynolds & Carrie Fisher, Paul Walker, Clark Gable, Jean Harlow, and Humphrey Bogart.




Griffith Park

You could easily spend a day in Griffith Park and not see it all!

Enjoy a number of hiking trails, the Griffith Observatory, explore the old zoo, or simply relax in the sunshine. All of these things can be done for free!

 

James Dean and Hollywood Sign from Griffith Observatory

 


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FREE THINGS TO DO AT NIGHT IN LA

Below is just a small sampling of things that can be done at night in LA and everything that’s listed here charges no admission.

For suggestions on other nighttime activities, see our post Things to do at Night in LA.




Universal CityWalk

Bursting with entertainment for people of all ages, Universal CityWalk at Universal Studios doesn’t charge any admission to enter!

There you’ll find loads of restaurants and shops, a dueling piano bar, movie theatre, much more!

 

Universal City Walk Los Angeles


DTLA Art Walk

Taking place once a month in the historic core of downtown LA, the DTLA Art Walk welcomes visitors to a number of art galleries, studios, and cultural establishments that keep their doors open late.

 

 

It’s an excellent opportunity to see what the thriving artists in LA have to offer! 


Sunset Strip

Taking a cruise down the Sunset Strip in West Hollywood at night is an exciting adventure.

This stroll will take you past larger than life billboards and a large assortment of legendary music venues, comedy houses, bars, restaurants, and other institutions that have made their mark on Hollywood.

 

Carney's Sunset Strip Los Angeles

 

See everything come alive after the sun goes down! 


Hollywood & Highland

This centrally located shopping and dining center in the middle of Hollywood Boulevard offers a number of stores and restaurants as well as frequent special events and an excellent view of the Hollywood Sign from the upper breezeways.

It’s a great place to relax with a bite after a day in Hollywood or before seeing a show at one of the nearby theatres!

Tip: For even more ideas on what to do in LA at night, check out our guide here.

 


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Family-Friendly

Los Angeles has a number of free family-friendly activities and attractions to take advantage of!

Some of the items we’ve listed above, like exploring the Santa Monica Pier, or spending some time at Universal CityWalk, are great for families.

Here are a few more free things to do that are kid-friendly.

For even more family-friendly ideas, check out our master family-friendly things to do in LA post.




Grand Park

Located across from City Hall in DTLA, Grand Park offers families a great place for a respite in between activities.

Look for a children’s playground, Starbucks Coffee Shop, open grassy areas, and water installations.

On the weekends, the park often hosts special events or free entertainment.


KidSpace Museum

(free first Tuesday of each month from 4 pm – 8 pm)

If you’re in the Pasadena area, swing over to the KidSpace Museum where you can spend hours letting your child’s imagination take the lead!

The museum features a number of outdoor and indoor playing and learning zones and caters to kids up to ten years old.

Tip: For more ideas on how to spend your time in Pasadena, check out our Things to do in Pasadena post.


Hit the Beach

It’s not a trip to California without a stop at the beach!

While there are loads of different beaches to choose from in the LA area, some of the most family-friendly beaches include Zuma Beach, Seal Beach, and Marina Beach aka Mother’s Beach for its roped off swimming area.

 

Los Angeles Beaches

 


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ALMOST FREE THINGS TO DO

Most of the items below charge no admission fee but it’s hard to enter a food hall or go shopping without purchasing anything!

The below food options are great for people who are on a budget so if you’re visiting LA and are conscious of your spending, you might want to consider one of these.




Stroll the Food Stalls at Original Farmers Market

Located adjacent to The Grove shopping complex, the Original Farmers Market offers a large variety of food stalls and small shops to visit.

Enjoy plates that include tacos, empanadas, French crepes, breakfast all day, ice cream. and much more!


Grand Central Market

In the heart of downtown, the historic Grand Central Market has evolved from its many produce stands.

Today, visitors can try ramen, artisan peanut butter & jelly sandwiches, a variety of ethnic cuisines, or sample craft beers and gourmet coffee.

 

Grand Central Market Los Angeles

 

Tip: Grand Central Market is the ending point on our downtown pay-what-you-wish walking tour!


Go Window Shopping (or more!)

There are countless places to shop till you drop in Los Angeles, from high end to flea market finds. 

Some of our favorite places to window shop (and make purchases!) include Rodeo Drive, The Grove, Westfield Century City (where LA’s Eataly is located), and the wholesaler’s heaven that makes up the fashion district in DTLA.


Angel’s Flight

This historic funicular has been taking commuters up Bunker Hill in downtown LA since 1901.

Now more of a photo opportunity and fun ride, the railway costs just $1.00 per ride or $.50 if you have a Metro card!

Look for it across the street from Grand Central Market.

 

Los Angeles Angels Flight

 


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FREE SEASONAL THINGS TO DO

There are so many free events throughout the year in LA that we’ve separated them by month, as many events occur in conjunction with holidays or seasons.




If you want to learn more about seasonal free events and activities click on one of the links below.

 


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About the author

Manager | Chicago & Los Angeles

Mel loves to be a tourist in her own city. With a background in performing arts, tourism, and photography, giving tours and being a story-teller comes naturally to her. She loves traveling, food, and theatre. Mel splits her time between Chicago and Los Angeles (#theatrelife) and leads tours and manages both cities!