You can easily find plenty of fun ways to blow your hard-earned paycheck around LA, but the real skill is knowing how to make the most of the city without spending a red cent. And no, we’re not talking about the “free stuff” section of Craigslist -- though you can find some pretty sweet deals there (free dirt anyone?). From concerts and beer to art classes and archery, here are our favorite free things to do in LA.
Forget Netflix, at The Paley Center for Media in Beverly Hills you have access to a massive library of the best television and radio shows from decades past -- all for free (or a suggested donation if you’re feeling generous). You can also check out historic news coverage, weekend film screenings, and special media exhibits highlighting popular shows like American Horror Story, South Park, and Survivor.
OK, it actually belongs to oil tycoon Ed Doheny, but the 18-acre Greystone Mansion and Park acts as the millionaire Jeffrey Lebowski's digs in the eponymous Coen brothers movie -- and admission to the stunning estate and parking are totally free. Park ranger-led tours of the grounds and mansion are offered December to April, but those will cost you, El Duderino.
Impress your date or just get your regular jazz fix at these free outdoor concerts, which take place Friday evenings from April through November in front of the museum. Performers include local legends and world-renowned musicians, and span a huge range of styles. For more free jazz, head to The Living Room of the W Hollywood on Sundays at 9pm where you’ll catch music from America’s Got Talent semifinalist Nikki Leonti featuring sultry performances from Brooke Lynn's Burlesque along with special musical guests each week (including some big names).
On Saturdays and Sundays from 3 to 10pm, unwind beside the pool at the recently reopened historic hotel, nibbling passed complimentary bites like zucchini and potato-leek flatbreads from the wood-burning oven of Veranda, award-winning chef Casey Lane’s new spot. Of course, it’s encouraged that you order up a coastal-inspired cocktail from Rick’s, but as the palm trees sway and the DJs play, you’ll find it was worth it.
At events throughout the year, CicLAvia invites you to run (or walk or bike or skate) free through the streets of LA along a multi-mile, car-free street party while enjoying live music and activities along the way. The free event takes place in different parts of town each time, like the upcoming 8-mile route that will connect Disney Concert Hall in Downtown to the Hollywood Bowl.
Pick avocados, figs, oranges, and more for free all over the city (and the world), thanks to maps created by this LA-based art collective. They’ve also planted orchards of fruit trees in parks around town, and have created an interactive map that lets you add the location of trees in your neighborhood.
Catch a free flick under the stars
MoviePass may be folding like an empty bag of popcorn, but you can still see tons of movies all over LA at outdoor screenings -- many of them for the low cost of nothing. Whether it’s Front Porch Cinema on the Santa Monica Pier or the Silver Lake Picture Show, all you have to worry about is stocking that cooler (and arriving in time to grab a seat).
Let’s face it: As much as you may like the idea of reading, most of your literary journeys take place while stuck in traffic listening to Audible. Take the book-on-iPhone experience to a new level by actually hearing (and seeing) the author in person as they read from their latest at bookstores around the city. ALOUD at the Central Library is also a great chance to do that, but good luck getting a seat if you’re not a member.
For all the burritos that you’ve consumed in your lifetime, maybe it’s time you shared a few with others. Join hundreds of other generous folks in making and distributing burritos (and other supplies) to homeless individuals around Los Angeles.
That’s right, Brennan’s famous turtle racing has returned to the decades-old Marina del Rey bar on the first and third Thursday of each month following a snappy renovation. Cheer on Rudy, Cooper, Lady Grace, and the rest of the heroes in a half shell, sip cold beer, and enter the raffle where you can win free beer, gift cards, and other swag. Then return on Fridays from 4-7pm to chow down on gratis cheese and pepperoni pizza, alongside bands and DJs in the beer garden.
Sure, the views from the Observatory are just absurd during the day, but, once a month, you can take in some truly stellar (!) sights when amateur astronomers set up their telescopes for the curious public.
Recently renovated, this vibrant half-mile mural along the Tujunga Wash drainage canal in the SFV depicts the history of LA from 20,000 BCE to 1984 -- after that, you'll have to figure out what happened.
If you can't afford the exorbitant $5 fee for the later shows, Sunday night’s excellently named ASSSSCAT show is totally free at the newer second location on Sunset, and typically features comedians you’ll recognize from TV and film.
Duck into the Bradbury Building, one of the oldest commercial buildings in Central LA and the home of glass skylights, ornate iron railings, and elegant staircases that you may remember from Blade Runner, and, OK fine, 500 Days of Summer, too.
Gather some free firewood on Craigslist and head to one of the few places in LA County where you can legally have a bonfire on the beach. Save more cash by parking on the street for free to avoid the parking lot fee.
Get prehistoric wandering around these gurgling pools of tar for $0.00, and check out the museum when admission is free on the first Tuesday of every month (except July and August), and summer Fridays from 5pm to 8pm until August 31.
Every Thursday night until 9pm, hit up Grand Central for free rounds of pingpong, cornhole, board games, and more. Plus, check the schedule for other free events throughout the month, including trivia on Wednesdays, live jazz and DJs, and more.
Test your nerd power at these "multimedia" trivia nights at bars around town. You were probably going to buy drinks anyway, so might as well throw some free trivia in there too, right?
See a soon-to-be-famous band on Monday
Nearly every major Eastside venue -- The Satellite, The Echo, Bootleg, and the Silverlake Lounge -- has a free residency show on Mondays, which many major bands (Grouplove! Cold War Kids! Local Natives!) have worked their chops up at.
Head to this Arts District stalwart -- one of the first in the recent tidal wave of new LA breweries -- where you can go on a free behind-the-scenes tour (see where their famous Avocado Ale is made!) that concludes with complimentary tastings. You'll also find free comedy, bingo, and trivia there on most nights.
Play pingpong on a hidden rooftop oasis in the middle of West Hollywood
One of the neighborhood's best-kept secrets (until now) can be found on the rooftop of Restoration Hardware, where you'll find a sprawling 10,000-square-foot terrace complete with shady trees and canopies. Bring a picnic, lounge on comfy outdoor furniture, enjoy the free Wi-Fi and music, or pass the time playing pingpong or pool. Also, shhhhh...
Another little-known rooftop oasis -- until now (sorry, Jesse!) -- can be found at the Top of the Park, where on non-game days you can enter the top deck of the stadium without a ticket. The section is kept open daily from 10am-5pm to allow access to the team store just inside the gate. Grab a seat and enjoy the peace and quiet of a completely empty stadium (and a killer view).
The One Up bar in Studio City hooks you up with arcade legends like Pac-Man, Galaga, and Burger Time, all for free. Sure, it'll want you to buy a drink and maybe some food (mini-corn dog pops! Cap'n Crunch wings!!), but still: FREE ARCADE GAMES.
On the first and third Sundays of the month, The Getty invites artists of all experience levels to join free drawing classes, where you'll learn to sketch the works of the masters. The Getty Villa holds a similar free class one Saturday out of the month; just don't forget to bring your sketch pad.
Navigate the hidden staircases of LA's historic neighborhoods
The Secret Stairs guides allow you to explore winding staircases -- once used for the city's long-defunct streetcar system -- and enjoy stunning views of the city that most people miss. You can download some of the maps for free or purchase the app or books if you want to splurge.
This under-the-radar aquarium often hosts free events, including docent-led tours, and free tide-pool walks, where you'll learn about marine wildlife and enjoy a bit of fresh air. The Aquarium itself is technically free as well, though donations are encouraged (and no, sand dollars don't count).
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Danny Jensen is a regular Thrillist contributor who is convinced that free food and drinks just taste better. Follow him on Instagram @dannyseamus and order up a copy of his new book, 100 Things To Do in Los Angeles Before You Die, which is full of cool, free things (and not free things that are totally worth it).