I’ve been living in Los Angeles for just a little over 8 years now. I think that’s long enough to call myself an Angelino, despite the fact that I’m currently thinking of moving away. I still love this city, but I just think that it’s time for me to take my adventures elsewhere for a bit.
When I first moved to LA I made a bucket list of things to do in Los Angeles County. I’ll definitely post that on here one day. A lot of it I accomplished. A lot I didn’t. What I didn’t realize at the time was that a considerable amount of that list was about free things to do in Los Angeles.
There is just so much to do in this expensive city, but you really don’t have to spend money to do something. I’ve often had more fun and seen more interesting things for free, or close to free than I have dropping money.
I’ll admit there are some of the “cheesy” touristy things on this list. This list of things to do was written for locals and visitors. Even if you are a local, I highly recommend getting out and doing the tourist things. Read more about how and why to be a tourist in your own city.
Follow a Tour Bus
There are so many tour buses driving around Los Angeles. They are the short buses with the top cut off making them convertibles. Walk down Hollywood Boulevard and you’ll get 5 brochures from TMZ, “The Original” Tour, haunted tours, etc before you even get to Highland. The driver gives information to everyone on the bus on his loudspeaker that you can hear from outside on the street. I’ve learned a lot about the city while driving next to these buses or standing on the side of the road. You can try and keep up with one of them to get some free knowledge. I might even try using the Bird scooters while they are still around to follow them.
Go To A Beach…Any Beach
This one is sort of a given, but I had to mention it. I’m personally as pale as the background behind this text, so I don’t see a lot of beach time. I have still made it to the beaches up and down the coast from Malibu down to Playa del Rey. Each beach has its own vibe and personality. Malibu has a ritzier crowd and good surfing. Santa Monica is super crowded and full of beautiful people. Venice is a little grungier. Go a little more south and you’ll get more of a party feel with great beach volleyball.
Street Art…for the Gram
If you don’t have an Instagram picture in front of the pink wall or the wings on Melrose, have you actually been to Los Angeles. LA is full of a lot of great street art whether it’s done by local artists for fun or put there for commercial reasons. Regardless you’ll find some beautiful and interesting artwork around town. An easy walk is starting on Melrose and La Brea heading west towards La Cienega. The Mural Conservancy of Los Angeles has a great directory of murals across the city.
Los Angeles is a huge metropolis. It’s one of the biggest and most diverse cities in the world. There’s a huge variety of museums thanks to that. Some museums are free all of the time, while others have special free days or free admission based on specific criteria. I’m working on a post with all of the free museum days in Los Angeles, but here are a few examples in case clicking more links isn’t your style:
- California Science Center – Always free with some amazing exhibits for a fee
- Hammer Museum – Free for everyone at 11am-8 pm Thursdays. Always free to students with ID and children under 17
- Natural History Museum – Free admission with fees for temporary exhibits. If you run through all of the free exhibits, the Science Museum is also free and about 100 yards away.
- LACMA – Several free days including the 2nd Tuesday of every month, Federal holidays on Mondays, first full weekends of every month, and also free to all LA County residents after 3 pm on weekdays
OK, technically I’m already repeating something. I’m really not though, but I am sort of. You can go down to Venice and not have to cover yourself in the sand to enjoy some of the unique qualities of the area. The Venice Boardwalk is a one of a kind place. Every time I go down there I’m just in awe at the people I see there. It’s always a high energy area where there are plenty of places to stop and watch anything from an intense street basketball game, skateboarders in a skate park, meatheads at Muscle Beach, or a guy dressed as the devil dancing to a bongo player. I’m pretty sure that you’ll also find a few people that might still be on an acid trip that they started with Jim Morrison in the 60’s.
The Options and Griffith Park
I feel like Griffith Park is an incredible place that most of us in Los Angeles don’t take advantage of. It’s basically the Central Park of Los Angeles, but with more to do and all of it is free. If you ask most people about what there is at Griffith Park they’ll likely either tell you the Observatory or a hike with a great view of the Hollywood Sign. I’m shocked how many people don’t realize there is even a zoo on the park grounds! The zoo costs money to enter, but free things to do at Griffith Park include:
- Visit Bronson Cave aka The Bat Cave from the 1970’s Batman show
- Hike any of the dozens of trails and look for some of the beautiful wildlife in the middle of the city
- Visit the Autry Museum of the American West on Tuesdays for free
- Look at the stars in the Griffith Park Observatory at night OR wander and geek out on the free science exhibits and live shows during the day. They also have a monthly star party
- Ride a tiny train at the Los Angeles Live Steamers Railroad Museum (LALSRM)
- Have a picnic at any of the designated picnic areas. You can even have a picnic at the Old LA Zoo to have some unique surroundings
Fun note – I just learned that the person this park is named after is Griffith J. Griffith. I love and respect his parent’s bold naming abilities.
Take a Hike
Did you seriously think you’d find free things to do in Los Angeles guide without going for a hike listed? Jeez, I bet this guy is going to tell you to go to the beach too! Oh wait, already did that.
When I first moved to LA everyone who invited me for a hike would either go to Runyon or Griffith Park. I thought that was cool, but that didn’t really sound like a hike. It was just walking outdoors. Then I started going off on solo hiking adventures and found some incredible locations. The first hike that got me excited about exploring new trails was Solstice Canyon which is an easier hike where you can see the remains of a burned down mansion and a waterfall further along. Check out SoCal Hiker or Modern Hiker when you want to get really adventurous or start with some of my favorite hikes in Los Angeles:
- Dawn Mine – there is an abandoned gold mine along this trail
- Mount Baldy – you’ll get bragging rights for reaching the highest peak in LA County
- Echo Mountain – there are ruins of a ritzy hotel and a railroad that transport you to an “ancient” Los Angeles
- Runyon – ok I’ll talk trash about this all the time, but I live in West Hollywood so this is just insanely convenient and a great workout
- Nazi Hike at Murphy Ranch Trail – see the remains of a 1930’s community of Nazi sympathizers who holed up in the Pacific Palisades
- Malibu Rindge Dam – more of a destination than a hike; make it to the bottom of the old dam and you can do some cliff diving when the water is deep enough
Los Angeles has a pretty diverse music scene with roots going back to the rock scene of the Sunset Strip in the ’60s and ’70s and the explosion of rap in the ’80s and ’90s. The music scene is still thriving in this city, even with all of the free shows going on. There are plenty of year-round free shows like the Monday night residencies at The Satellite and The Echo, but the best free concerts are usually in the summer.
Free Hollywood Bowl Concerts
This is worth mentioning on its own because it is a special experience. The Hollywood Bowl is open to the public during the day. The LA Philharmonic rehearses their shows there during the daytime to make sure they give the paying guests at night a perfect show. That means you can stop by during the day and get a more intimate concert for free. Sure they’ll start and stop more, and you won’t have the crazy light shows and fireworks, but you’re not exactly paying for that, are you? During the summer you can even see special performers for free like 2018’s lineup of Kenny Loggins, John Williams, Jennifer Hudson, and Harry Connick, Jr. Always make sure to call ahead though since sometimes they like to keep special surprises for their main show that they can’t let leak for free during the day.
Free Yoga Classes
Why sign up for an expensive membership at a boujee yoga studio when you can take a free class in one of the most yogi friendly cities in America? You can get access to plenty of free yoga classes with gyms offering free trials, new trainers looking to practice, and just people looking to do something kind. Most of these classes accept donations, so that’s completely up to you. Here are a few of the free yoga classes I’ve heard of around Los Angeles:
- Runyon Canyon yoga – Yogi Steve and his friends offer several free outdoor yoga classes every day of the week at Runyon
- Yogalution at Bluff Park – Free outdoor classes overlooking the Pacific everyday and evenings during the spring and summer
- Lululemon Athletica – Odds are if you’re already doing yoga, you’re wearing Lululemon already. Each store in LA has at least one free yoga class per week
- Yogaworks – This yoga studio has almost 20 locations across Los Angeles and offers a free week for new students
Crash a Hollywood Celebrity Party
Easier said than done, but totally worth a shot. If you have any connection whatsoever, call it in. I’ve been lucky enough to get myself into a few industry parties and they are so much fun. If you don’t have an in, you’ll have to be a little sneakier. Keep an eye out for a bar/restaurant/club setting up something big earlier in the day. Any real Hollywood party will have one of those “step and repeat” walls set up outside. Also, think about awards nights in Hollywood. There are after-parties all over the city after awards shows like The Oscars, Emmys, Golden Globes, and Grammys. Just make sure you dress the part and show confidence as you belong and sometimes you’ll get in. If you just want to find a celebrity in the wild, I have a post for that too.
Go to an Award Show
Maybe you don’t have the guts to sneak into a Hollywood party, but you can get free tickets to award shows and sit among the celebrities. They may even invite you back to those after-parties I mentioned before. You don’t have to be nominated or actually in a movie/tv show to go to an award show. You just have to know how to sit still and laugh on demand. Award shows need to make sure the seats are always full so it looks like a packed house whenever the camera points to the audience. The show hires “seat fillers” to either sit in the empty seats in the back where the celebs aren’t set up, or they pull you to temporarily sit in a person’s seat up front when they get up to make a call or go to the restroom. That means you can get a free ticket to the Grammy’s and potentially sit next to Beyonce when Jay-Z gets up to take a leak.
Live TV Show Tapings
This is easier to do during a workweek day. There is obviously a ton of filming going on all over Los Angeles every single day, but there are plenty of shows that have a regular schedule and need people to fill their audience seats. To keep the seats filled they offer them up for free. You can even get a chance of being on TV if you get lucky enough to get picked as a contestant on a game show. There are even some shows that will PAY YOU to sit in the audience, though those are the shows you’ll less likely want to attend. Here’s some show that film in Los Angeles you can get free tickets to:
- Late Night TV – Jimmy Kimmel Live, Conan, Real Time with Bill Maher, The Late Late Show with James Corden
- Daytime Talk Shows – The Ellen DeGeneres Show, Dr. Phil, Jerry Springer
- Game Shows – Jeopardy!, The Price is Right, Wheel of Fortune
- Competitions Shows – The Voice, America’s Got Talent, Lip Sync Battle, Dancing with the Stars
- Sitcoms/Comedy – Tosh.0, Big Bang Theory, Fuller House, The Conners