The Best Things in LA are FREE!

As an LA native, I will be the first to admit that Los Angeles can be an expensive city for tourists and locals. However, there are actually many FREE things to see and do here in Los Angeles. Here are 15 of them:

For great Chinese food and dimsum, head downtown to  Chinatown.  Its history started as a commercial center for Chinese businesses in  Los Angeles in 1938. The area includes restaurants, vegetable and seafood markets, souvenir shops and art galleries.

1) CHINATOWN: For great Chinese food and dimsum, head downtown to Chinatown. Its history started as a commercial center for Chinese businesses in Los Angeles in 1938. The area includes restaurants, vegetable and seafood markets, souvenir shops and art galleries.

One of the oldest farmers market in the US is next to one of the prettiest malls in the US – The Grove.

2) FARMERS MARKET & THE GROVE: One of the oldest farmers market in the US is next to one of the prettiest and most picturesque mall – The Grove.

This beach is not for everyone. In many ways, it's a throw-back to the 60s and 70s. It is fascinating place to watch people. The beach itself is wide and the boardwalk is full of little stalls selling all kinds of souvenirs, products and services. On weekends, there are a few street performers that will wow you! Great fun for a sunny day! Not the ideal beach for families.

3) VENICE BEACH: This beach is quite unique. In many ways, it’s a throw-back to the 60s and 70s because not much have changed since. I love bringing guests here because it’s a fascinating place to watch people. The beach itself is wide and the boardwalk is full of little stalls selling all kinds of unique souvenirs, products and services. On weekends, there are a few street performers that will wow you! Great fun for a sunny day! However, it’s not the ideal beach for families. 

There are many hiking options. But if you are looking for sweeping views of Los Angeles, get in your exercise gear and take the Runyon Canyon route! The views from the top are incredible and definitely worth the hike. It’s the best place to see LA and go star sighting! (Shirtless Jake Gyllenhaal is a regular.) You have many hiking options available. Check out this link for a complete guide: http://hollywoodsigntrip.com

4) HIKING IN LOS ANGELES: There are many hiking options. But if you are looking for sweeping views of Los Angeles, get in your exercise gear and take the Runyon Canyon route! The views from the top are incredible and definitely worth the hike. It’s the best place to see LA and go star sighting! (Shirtless Jake Gyllenhaal is a regular.) You have many hiking options available. Check out this link for a complete guide: http://hollywoodsigntrip.com

The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center in Los Angeles houses European paintings, drawings, sculpture, illuminated manuscripts, decorative arts, and photography. The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Villa is dedicated to the study of the arts and cultures of ancient Greece, Rome, and Etruria. Admission is free at both museums.

5) GETTY MUSEUM AND GETTY VILLA: The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center in Los Angeles houses European paintings, drawings, sculpture, illuminated manuscripts, decorative arts, and photography. The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Villa is dedicated to the study of the arts and cultures of ancient Greece, Rome, and Etruria. Admission is free at both museums.

The Venice Canals are canals fashioned after the Venice canals in Italy and were built by Abbot Kinney in 1905. Beautiful place to check out if you're in the area. Relax and take a nice stroll around the canals as you people watch and admire the homes that sit right in front of the "Venice" river.

6) VENICE CANALS: The Venice Canals are canals fashioned after the Venice canals in Italy and were built by Abbot Kinney in 1905. Beautiful place to check out if you’re in the area. Relax and take a nice stroll around the canals as you people watch and admire the homes that sit right in front of the “Venice” river.

Start off at 3rd St Promenade for some window shopping and people watching, then catch the sunset at the beach on Santa Monica Pier

7) SANTA MONICA BEACH AND 3rd STREET PROMENADE: Start off at 3rd St Promenade for some window shopping and people watching, then catch the sunset at the beach on Santa Monica Pier

Referred to by many as the “birthplace of Los Angeles.” It is a Mexican Marketplace in Downtown LA that recreates a romantic “Old Los Angeles.” The area has some nice buildings housing a market with old structures, painted stalls, street vendors, souvenir vendors, restaurants and Mexican-themed gift shops.  Many of the merchants on Olvera Street today are descended from the original vendors.

8) OLVERA STREET: Referred to by many as the “birthplace of Los Angeles.” It is a Mexican Marketplace in Downtown LA that recreates a romantic “Old Los Angeles.” The area has some nice buildings housing a market with old structures, painted stalls, street vendors, souvenir vendors, restaurants and Mexican-themed gift shops. Many of the merchants on Olvera Street today are descended from the original vendors.

This amazing piece of architecture was designed by Frank Gehry and it’s worth the drive Downtown. The project was launched in 1987, when Lillian Disney, widow of Walt Disney, donated $50 million.

9) DISNEY CONCERT HALL: This amazing piece of architecture was designed by Frank Gehry and it’s worth the drive Downtown. The project was launched in 1987, when Lillian Disney, widow of Walt Disney, donated $50 million.

The Historic Downtown tour provides an overview of the historical and cultural landmarks of downtown Los Angeles. Los Angeles landmarks are in this area, such as the LA City Hall, Pershing Square, LA Times Building, Music Center, Dorothy Chandler Pavillion, City of Angels Cathedral, Central Library, Angels Flight, Millennium Biltmore Hotel, Union Station, Art Deco buildings along Broadway and the Bradbury Building.

10) WALKING TOUR OF DOWNTOWN LOS ANGELES: The Historic Downtown tour provides an overview of the historical and cultural landmarks of downtown Los Angeles. Los Angeles landmarks are in this area, such as the LA City Hall, Pershing Square, LA Times Building, Music Center, Dorothy Chandler Pavillion, City of Angels Cathedral, Central Library, Angels Flight, Millennium Biltmore Hotel, Union Station, Art Deco buildings along Broadway and the Bradbury Building.

The Hollywood Walk of Fame, which runs from Gower Street to La Brea Avenue was created as a tribute to artists working in the entertainment industry. Perfect for people watching.

11) HOLLYWOOD BLVD: The Hollywood Walk of Fame, which runs from Gower Street to La Brea Avenue was created as a tribute to artists working in the entertainment industry. Perfect for people watching.

Southern California’s gateway to the cosmos! Visitors can look through telescopes, explore exhibits, see live shows in the Samuel Oschin Planetarium, and enjoy spectacular views of Los Angeles and the Hollywood Sign.

12) GRIFFITH OBSERVATORY: Southern California’s gateway to the cosmos! Visitors can look through telescopes, explore exhibits, see live shows in the Samuel Oschin Planetarium, and enjoy spectacular views of Los Angeles and the Hollywood Sign.

This is one of the most beautiful drives you can take according to many guide books. Start in Santa Monica where the 10 freeway ends, and drive towards Pt. Mugu State Park some 32 miles away. See $40 million beach houses along the coast and great seafood restaurants. Many celebrities live in the area so don’t be surprised if you run into Dustin Hoffman, Pierce Brosnan, Steven Spielberg, Halle Berry, Ellen DeGeneres, Charlie Sheen and Janet Jackson.

13) PACIFIC COAST HIGHWAY DRIVE: This is one of the most beautiful drives you can take according to many guide books. Start in Santa Monica where the 10 freeway ends, and drive towards Pt. Mugu State Park some 32 miles away. See $40 million beach houses along the coast and great seafood restaurants. Many celebrities live in the area so don’t be surprised if you run into Dustin Hoffman, Pierce Brosnan, Steven Spielberg, Halle Berry, Ellen DeGeneres, Charlie Sheen and Janet Jackson.

Start on Santa Monica Blvd at the Beverly Hills City Hall. Across the street is the beautifully restored Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts. Just around the corner is Edelweiss Chocolate. Remember that I Love Lucy episode where Lucy and Ethel were left to work a conveyor belt at the chocolate factory? Yup- it was all inspired by the chocolate conveyor belt system that still runs in the back of this charming little chocolate shop. From here, head west on Santa Monica Blvd and you’d pass by Sprinkles Cupcakes, The Academy of Motion Pictures and Arts and Sciences, Beverly Drive and the Electric Fountain on Wilshire and Santa Monica Blvd (In the 1995 movie Clueless, the fountain is where Cher had the epiphany that she is in love with Josh). Then see the Beverly Hilton, venue of the Golden Globes just across it. As you head east on Wilshire, window shop at luxes stores like Neiman Marcus and Saks 5th Ave. You’ll also see the Beverly Wilshire Four Seasons Hotel, the hotel used in the hit movie Pretty Woman.

14) WALKING TOUR OF BEVERLY HILLS: Start on Santa Monica Blvd at the Beverly Hills City Hall. Across the street is the beautifully restored Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts. Just around the corner is Edelweiss Chocolate. Remember that I Love Lucy episode where Lucy and Ethel were left to work a conveyor belt at the chocolate factory? Yup- it was all inspired by the chocolate conveyor belt system that still runs in the back of this charming little chocolate shop. From here, head west on Santa Monica Blvd and you’d pass by Sprinkles Cupcakes, The Academy of Motion Pictures and Arts and Sciences, Beverly Drive and the Electric Fountain on Wilshire and Santa Monica Blvd (In the 1995 movie Clueless, the fountain is where Cher had the epiphany that she is in love with Josh). Then see the Beverly Hilton, venue of the Golden Globes just across it. As you head east on Wilshire, window shop at luxes stores like Neiman Marcus and Saks 5th Ave. You’ll also see the Beverly Wilshire Four Seasons Hotel, the hotel used in the hit movie Pretty Woman.

If you’re a sports fan, visit the Staples Center to see all the athlete statues. Statues outside the building are all in excellent condition and offers a great photo opportunity. Across the street is the Nokia Center and there are plenty of shops and restaurants in the surrounding area. It’s nice, clean, safe and easy to get to. (Last time I was there, I ran into Mark Cuban at the Marriott! He was super nice!)

15) STAPLES CENTER: If you’re a sports fan, visit the Staples Center to see all the athlete statues. Statues outside the building are all in excellent condition and offers a great photo opportunity. Across the street is the Nokia Center and there are plenty of shops and restaurants in the surrounding area. It’s nice, clean, safe and easy to get to. (Last time I was there, I ran into Mark Cuban at the Marriott! He was super nice!)

How many of these places have you visited?

Maui’s Best Beach … No Swimsuits Required

I met a guy at our hotel who suggested I visit Makena Beach. “Let’s put it this way,” he said, “I’ve been on Maui for 20 days and have spent time on this beach almost every single day.” With an endorsement like that, I had to see it for myself.

Having been around the entire island of Maui, I have to say that I agree with him. It’s become my favorite beach as well.

The sand is so pure, you sink as you walk through it.

The sand is so pure, you sink as you walk through it.

The beach is very easy to find. Once you park, you will walk through a nice wooded area for about a third of a mile to get to the beach. From the woods, your first sight of the blue waters is stunning. This is what locals refer to as “The Big Beach” and it is about a mile long and has pure golden-white sand. In this area, there are several huge trees that you can use as shelter from the sun if you need a refuge. Because of the massive waves, there is a lifeguard on duty. This beach is not ideal if you want to snorkel or if you’re with small children – the waves are too unpredictable.

At the end of the north side of the beach is big lava rock that is ideal for taking photos. For the adventurous, there’s a path that goes over to the other side that will lead you to “The Little Beach.” This section of the beach is clothing optional. And if you walk further, you can get away from the crowd and discover a hiking path that leads to a rocky beach and a dramatic cliff. (Sorry folks, but no photography allowed!)

While this may not be the best “swimming” beach on Maui, it is definitely the best walking, lounging and hiking beach on the island. Come see for yourself!

The walk through the wooded area can be a refreshing break from the heat

The walk through the wooded area can be a refreshing break from the heat

It's quite easy making friends with the locals

It’s quite easy making friends with the locals

Your first sight of the ocean

Your first sight of the ocean

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Making my mark on the beach

Making my mark on the beach

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50 Shades of Brown

Almost every travel guide will tell you that the best time to visit Napa and Sonoma Valley is in the Summer. Yup, that’s about as right as saying that the best time to go to Toys R Us is a week before Christmas. It is chaotic, packed, and good luck on getting note and restaurant reservations.

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A summer trip to Napa means standing in lines, fighting for a parking spot, waiting for your order for 30-40 minutes and sky high hotel rates.

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