Top 12 Free things to do in Los Angeles

Last Updated on February 23, 2024 by Emily Johnson

Los Angeles is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world. With its beautiful beaches, iconic attractions, diverse neighborhoods, and endless sunshine, it’s no wonder why LA draws over 50 million visitors per year.

No.ActivityDescription
1Hollywood Walk of FameExplore stars of celebrities on Hollywood Boulevard.
2Hike Runyon CanyonEnjoy city views from this popular hiking spot.
3Explore The Venice CanalsWalk along the picturesque canals in Venice Beach.
4People Watch at Venice BeachExperience the eclectic vibe of Venice Beach.
5Wander Through The Getty CenterVisit art collections and gardens with city views.
6Explore the Arts DistrictCheck out street art and galleries in Downtown LA.
7Relax at Santa Monica PierEnjoy carnival rides and beach views.
8Drive Mulholland DriveExperience scenic views of LA from this iconic road.
9Explore Union StationAdmire the architecture of this historical landmark.
10Walk the Long Beach BoardwalkEnjoy the oceanfront path in Long Beach.
11Attend a TV Show TapingParticipate as an audience member in TV show recordings.
12Explore the Queen MaryTour the historic ocean liner in Long Beach.

Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to spend a fortune to enjoy everything LA has to offer. There are plenty of free activities and attractions that will allow you to experience the best of Los Angeles on a budget. Here are the top 12 free things to do in LA:

1: Take a Stroll on the Hollywood Walk of Fame

Name and Location: The Hollywood Walk of Fame stretches along Hollywood Boulevard and Vine Street in Hollywood, Los Angeles.

History and Significance: Created in 1958 to honor achievement in entertainment, over 2,700 golden stars with celebrities’ names are embedded in the sidewalks along 15 blocks of Hollywood Boulevard.

What to Expect: This famous attraction draws tourists who enjoy spotting their favorite celebrities’ stars and snapping photos with iconic Hollywood sights along the Walk of Fame.

Visitor Information: The Hollywood Walk of Fame is a public sidewalk open 24/7. Stars can be found on both sides of Hollywood Boulevard between Gower and La Brea, as well as along Vine Street.

One of LA’s most famous landmarks, the Hollywood Walk of Fame stretches along 15 blocks of Hollywood Boulevard and Vine Street. Along the sidewalk, you’ll find more than 2,600 five-pointed terrazzo and brass stars honoring celebrities from the entertainment industry. Take a walk along the boulevard trying to spot the biggest names – you’ll pass by stars dedicated to Marilyn Monroe, Walt Disney, Elvis Presley, and many more. The Walk of Fame is completely free and open 24/7.

2: Hike Runyon Canyon

Name and Location: Runyon Canyon Park is a 160-acre dog park and hiking trail located in Los Angeles between Franklin Avenue and Mulholland Drive.

History and Significance: Once home to indigenous Tongva tribes, Runyon Canyon later became a popular off-leash dog walking spot for nearby Hollywood celebrities in the 1960s, with expansive city views.

What to Expect: Hikers and dog walkers traverse the canyon trails and meet at the park’s dog friendly water bowls and benches, with possible celebrity sightings. The Observation Point offers panoramic views of Los Angeles.

Visitor Information: Runyon Canyon Park has several free public access points, with street parking available nearby. Trail access requires climbing stairs, so wear proper footwear for the uneven terrain.

Runyon Canyon Park is one of the most popular hiking spots in LA thanks to its close proximity to Hollywood and sweeping views of the city. Located in the Hollywood Hills, this 160-acre park has several trails that vary in length and difficulty. Try the 2.4 mile loop around the canyon for beautiful views of the Hollywood sign and downtown LA. Just remember to wear comfortable shoes and bring water! There is free street parking around the canyon.

3: Explore The Venice Canals

Name and Location: The Venice Canals are located in the Venice neighborhood of Los Angeles, three blocks from the beach along Carroll and Eastern Canals between Washington Boulevard and Venice Boulevard.

History and Significance: Built by developer Abbot Kinney to resemble Venice, Italy in 1905, the original canals stretched over a mile before most were filled. The remaining Venice Canals are now lined with stylish, modern homes.

What to Expect: Visitors can sightsee along pedestrian walkways on the border of the canals, wave at residents and spot birds, turtles and ducks across the waterways in this serene, hidden gem with a European flair.

Visitor Information: The canals are residential but open to the public daily. Limited street parking available with most spots timed at one hour, so walking from nearby beach parking lots is recommended.

Modeled after Venice, Italy, the Venice Canals are a quirky neighborhood in Venice Beach. Along the canals, you’ll find some of the most Instagram-worthy homes in LA. The best way to experience the canals is to simply walk along the sidewalks and admire the gardens, bridges, and waterways. It’s usually quiet in the morning, making it the perfect time for a stroll. Make sure to check out the main canal too!

4: People Watch at Venice Beach

Name and Location: Venice Beach is situated in the coastal neighborhood of Venice in Los Angeles, running parallel to Ocean Front Walk near Windward Avenue overlooking the Pacific Ocean.

History and Significance: Best known for its bohemian counterculture since the 1960s, Venice Beach attracts artists, street performers and eclectic shops along its beachfront boardwalk, known as Ocean Front Walk. Outdoor murals and Muscle Beach made it legendary.

What to Expect: In addition to sandy beaches popular for volleyball and surfing, Venice Beach delivers an energetic boardwalk scene with bodybuilders at Muscle Beach, local artists, fortunetellers, street entertainers, and vendors.

Visitor Information: Venice Beach is free, open 24 hours daily, and easily accessible by car or Los Angeles Metro bus. Parking lots line Ocean Front Walk starting at $7 per hour on weekdays and $12 per hour on weekends.

Experience the lively, funky vibe of Venice Beach as you walk along the oceanfront boardwalk. Here you’ll encounter an eclectic mix of street performers, artists, fortune tellers, musicians, and other colorful characters. Stop at Muscle Beach to watch bodybuilders workout or join a pick-up game of beach volleyball. Grab an ice cream cone and do some shopping at the local beachfront shops. The boardwalk is always buzzing with entertainers and it costs nothing to soak up the scene.

5: Wander Through The Getty Center

Name and Location: The Getty Center is an art museum and cultural center located at 1200 Getty Center Drive high on a hilltop in Brentwood/Sepulveda, Los Angeles, offering panoramic city views.

History and Significance: Designed by architect Richard Meier, the billion-dollar Getty Center campus opened in 1997 to globally house and exhibit the collection of artworks and manuscripts controlled by the J. Paul Getty Trust and Museums.

What to Expect: Visitors can immerse themselves in paintings, drawings, sculptures, antiquities, photographs and more from various eras and styles with the help of audio guides. Outdoor gardens and city views make the experience tranquil.

Visitor Information: Admission to the museum is free; parking is $20 per car. Advance parking reservations required due to limited spaces. The tram ride from the parking lot to museum is brief.

Perched in the Santa Monica Mountains, The Getty Center offers panoramic views of Los Angeles. The museum complex is home to impressive collections of art ranging from the 8th to 21st centuries. Wander through the Central Garden, photograph the amazing architecture, and take in jaw-dropping city views. General admission to the Getty Center is free, but parking is $20 per car. For a cheaper alternative, you can take public transportation.

6: Explore the Arts District

Name and Location: The LA Arts District spans across several downtown Los Angeles neighborhoods with its central hub spanning Alameda to 7th Street, and Alameda Street to the 110 Freeway.

History and Significance: Once a forgotten industrial area, the downtown LA Arts District first attracted artists in the 1970s-80s seeking affordable loft spaces and later became a popular dining and nightlife destination, maintaining its gritty-yet-hip urban feel.

What to Expect: Visitors can browse through converted warehouses showcasing contemporary art galleries and working studio spaces, interspersed with independent boutiques, cafes, bars and murals that shape this creative enclave.

Visitor Information: The Arts District is walkable and accessible via bus and Metro. Free street parking is available but limited, with paid lots ranging $5-15 for standard vehicles. Most spaces occupied quickly on evenings and weekends.

Discover LA’s trendy Arts District located on the eastern edge of Downtown. Once filled with abandoned warehouses, the area has transformed into a thriving creative community. Spend an afternoon checking out the colorful street art murals painted across building exteriors. Pop into the Hauser & Wirth arts complex and browse contemporary art galleries. Don’t miss the Urban Light installation at LA’s Urban Light at the LACMA campus.

7: Relax at Santa Monica Pier

Name and Location: The Santa Monica Pier is located along Colorado Avenue overlooking the Pacific Ocean shoreline in downtown Santa Monica, Los Angeles County.

History and Significance: Constructed in 1909, this grand pier features an iconic entrance sign and landmarks like the 1922 Looff Hippodrome including a carousel, arcade games, the Pacific Park amusement park, and an aquarium.

What to Expect: Visitors enjoy the Santa Monica Pier’s carnival-like atmosphere with musicians and street performers alongside its restaurants, shops, entertainers and attractions with a beachfront backdrop perfect for catching sunsets over the Pacific.

Visitor Information: The pier is open daily; standard hours apply for individual attractions. Bike rentals, parking garages and metered street parking provide access. Peak summer months tend to be most crowded.

The Santa Monica Pier has been an iconic landmark since 1909. Strolling down the lengthy pier, you’ll find carnival rides, street performers, an arcade, shops, and restaurants. Afterward, stretch out on Santa Monica Beach and take in stunning views of the Pacific Ocean and coastline. You can easily spend hours here watching the surfers, people watching, and enjoying the laidback beach scene. The pier and beach are 100% free to the public.

8: Drive Mulholland Drive

Name and Location: Mulholland Drive is a 21-mile road along the eastern Santa Monica Mountains and Hollywood Hills bordering Los Angeles and the San Fernando Valley with scenic overlooks of the city.

History and Significance: Named after L.A. water supplier William Mulholland, Mulholland Drive opened in 1924 intended for wealthy homeowners. Its beautiful views of Hollywood and downtown Los Angeles have made it a popular location for films, TV shows, and celebrities’ homes.

What to Expect: The sinuous drive along Mulholland offers unparalleled vistas of greater Los Angeles and the valley, especially striking at night when illuminated. Key overlooks span Franklin Canyon to Cahuenga Pass.

Visitor Information: Mulholland Drive from Cahuenga Blvd to Ventura Blvd is most heavily traversed by tourists. Roadside parking access is very limited, so driver caution is urged.

If you have access to a car, driving along Mulholland Drive is a legendary LA experience with views around every turn. The 21-mile road winds and dips along the crest of the Santa Monica Mountains, connecting Woodland Hills to Hollywood. Pull over at the many scenic overlooks and viewpoints to take in panoramas of the San Fernando Valley, Universal Studios, and the Hollywood sign. Driving along Mulholland at sunset when the city lights begin to twinkle is especially memorable.

9: Explore Union Station

Name and Location: Union Station is the main railway station located at 800 North Alameda Street in downtown Los Angeles.

History and Significance: Opened in 1939, the historic Union Station building combines Art Deco, Mission Revival, and Streamline Moderne architectural styles. It remains Southern California’s premier transportation hub and gateway to LA.

What to Expect: Visitors can admire the grand halls’ distinctive architecture and vintage leather chairs while enjoying dining options likes Traxx Restaurant and Starbucks. Surrounding shops and Chinatown’s entrance provide convenience.

Visitor Information: Union Station is open daily with free admission. Paid parking lots surround the station. Metro Red, Purple, Gold, Silver Bus, and Rail Lines connect through this major transportation center.

Built in 1939, LA’s Union Station remains one of the city’s most beautiful historical landmarks. The combined train station and transportation hub blends Art Deco, Mission Revival, and Streamline Moderne architectural styles. Spend time admiring the marble floors, arched doorways, painted ceilings, and lush landscaping in the garden courtyard. Union Station is also home to restaurants, shops, and other businesses to explore.

10: Walk the Long Beach Boardwalk

Name and Location: The Long Beach Boardwalk spans 3.75 miles along the Long Beach shoreline overlooking the Pacific, located south of Ocean Boulevard from Shoreline Village to Belmont Veterans Memorial Pier.

History and Significance: Flanked by parks, gardens and downtown attractions, the breezy Long Beach Boardwalk has been a popular spot for walking, cycling, in-line skating and taking in views of the Pacific since the early 1900s when Long Beach emerged as a seaside resort town.

What to Expect: In addition to miles of pedestrian and bike paths with oceanfront views, the Long Beach Boardwalk offers shops, restaurants and seasonal beach festivals alongside designated surfing and swimming beaches.

Visitor Information: The 3.75 mile Boardwalk is open daily with no admission fees, stretching from Shoreline Village to Belmont Veterans Memorial Pier south of Ocean Blvd. Limited metered parking exists along the beach roads.

Stretching along the Long Beach waterfront, the beachside boardwalk offers over 2.5 miles of space to walk, jog, bike, and rollerskate while taking in refreshing ocean breezes. As you make your way from Shoreline Village to the Belmont Veteran’s Memorial Pier, you’ll pass several green spaces, play areas, volleyball courts and other recreational facilities. There are also restaurants, beach shops, and concession stands when you need a quick bite or refreshment.

11: Attend a TV Show Taping

Name and Location: TV show tapings are recorded before a live studio audience at venues throughout Los Angeles. Popular locations include Warner Brothers Studios, NBC Studios, Sunset Bronson Studios, CBS Studio Center and more.

History and Significance: As the entertainment capital of the world, Los Angeles audiences have fueled laughter, drama and reactions captured for television since the early days of sitcoms and variety shows in the 1950s built around in-studio spectators.

What to Expect: Attending a TV show taping lets audiences observe the production process first-hand with chances to see celebrity guests. Ticket requests are recommended weeks in advance with arrival times 30+ minutes early.

Visitor Information: Tickets are typically free but required, available through websites like 1iota and Audiences Unlimited up to a month in advance, whether for daytime/late night talk shows or primetime comedies/dramas. Ages vary.

Many popular TV shows film in Los Angeles and offer free audience tickets. It’s a fun, behind-the-scenes experience to see the set, stars, and production in action. Shows known for tapings include America’s Got Talent, Wheel of Fortune, Jeopardy, The Price is Right, and Jimmy Kimmel Live. You can search online for show taping tickets directly through the show’s website. Just remember to arrive early to secure a seat, as standby lines fill up quickly!

12: Explore the Queen Mary in Long Beach

Name and Location: The Queen Mary ocean liner is permanently docked in Long Beach, California as a hotel and museum, located at 1126 Queens Highway across the harbor from downtown.

History and Significance: Constructed in Scotland during the 1930s for Cunard-White Star Line, the Queen Mary famously ferried soldiers during WWII before retiring from transatlantic service in 1967 to its Long Beach mooring as a historic icon.

What to Expect: Visitors can stay overnight, take historical tours of the ship’s restored staterooms, corridors and decks or explore exhibits showcasing the Queen Mary’s Art Deco design through dining, entertainment and immersive special events year-round.

Visitor Information: The Queen Mary offers self-guided audio tours or guided tours daily, alongside evening programs, attractions and seasonal offerings. General admission tickets $30+; lodging packages $179+.

Permanently docked in Long Beach, the RMS Queen Mary ocean liner is now a floating hotel, restaurant, and museum complex. You can freely walk the Promenade and Sun Deck to admire the ship’s art deco details and get a real sense of 1930s style. The self-guided ship walks allow you to see many areas aboard the ship without paying an admission fee. However, if you want to access the entire ship and additional exhibits, combo tour tickets start at $20.

Conclusion

With these 12 free activities, you can have an amazing time experiencing the best of LA without going broke. From beaches and hikes to museums and modern architecture, the options for free things to do are endless. Just bring some comfortable walking shoes, sun protection, water, and your camera to capture iconic LA views and memories.

The sunny Southern California weather means outdoor options are available year-round. But if visiting in winter, be sure to check opening hours and weather conditions in case of rain or chance of mudslides in the hills.

To get the most out of your trip, consider combining paid attractions like theme parks and museums with these free options to get a complete Los Angeles experience on a budget. Wherever your interests lie – whether it’s celebrity culture, the arts, sports, dining, nightlife, or the outdoors – you’re sure to find plenty of free entertainment with a little planning.

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