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:
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?