27 Totally Free Things to Do in LA

Save a few bucks while you visit iconic landmarks, museums, catch live TV tapings, and more in LA.

LA is one of the most expensive cities in the U.S. and even though we’ve got plenty of year-round activities ranging from swilling at scenic rooftop bars to sunbathing on sparkling beaches and more, sometimes the cost of living can feel like a real barrier to fun.

But what a lot of people don’t know is that LA boasts an array of free attractions across the city, from spectacular museums and popular TV show tapings to iconic landmarks and even secret parks. Consult this guide the next time you want to explore the City of Angels without breaking the bank:

Venice Canal Historic District
Photo courtesy of Venice Canal Historic District

This scenic neighborhood is beloved for its man-made wetland canals, built in 1905 by developer Abbot Kinney. Find parking in the lot at the end of Venice Boulevard then take a stroll through the canal-lined blocks that are located right off 25th street.

Santa Monica pier
Unsplash/Matthew LeJune

Marking the end of Route 66, you can wander around Santa Monica Pier and take in the buskers and sidewalk artists alongside views of the Pacific Ocean. While you’ll have to pay to ride the Ferris wheel and other attractions at the on-site amusement park, Pacific Park, visiting the pier is free. Rides and attractions are priced individually and range from $5-12.

Located in Exposition Park, the California Science Center’s star attraction is the Endeavour, the final ship to be built in NASA's space shuttle program that’s on display in the Samuel Oschin Space Shuttle Endeavour Pavilion. While you’re there, learn more about the shuttle program’s connection to California and the people who made it possible with the Endeavor Together: Parts and People exhibit. No tickets are needed to see the shuttle, but timed reservations are required. Advance reservations include a $3 service fee, which you can skip if you pick up your ticket at the box office.

1iota
1iota

Request free tickets to the tapings of your favorite shows through 1iota, which offers fans the opportunity to see late-night shows like The Daily Show With Trevor Noah and Jimmy Kimmel Live! as well as daytime talk shows and select TV shows and film screenings.

LA’s main library is worth checking out even if you have no interest in borrowing books. On Friday and Saturday, they offer two free docent tours, one that covers the art and architecture of the library, including the 1926 Bertram Goodhue Building with its eye-catching sphinxes and rooftop pyramid, as well as an hour-long garden tour that provides a history of the gardens that were first designed in 1926 and reimagined in 1993. Stop by the front desk and ask the librarian about even more free classes offered at the library.

Greystone Mansion
Photo courtesy of City of Beverly Hills

Known as the Greystone or Doheny Mansion, you’ll recognize the Tudor Revival-style estate from its countless film appearances, including serving as the home of wealthy businessman Jeffrey Lebowski in the cult classic ​​The Big Lebowski. The 16-acre property is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is maintained as a city park by the City of Beverly Hills. It’s free to visit the exterior of the park, but those who want to tour the first floor of the mansion and the recently restored theater will have to purchase tickets for a self-guided tour for $8.

Urban Lights at Night at LACMA
Photo courtesy of the Los Angeles Tourism Convention Board

Every Friday evening from April through November, there’s a free outdoor jazz concert in the Smidt Welcome Plaza outside of LACMA. Performances begin at 6 pm and include well-known musicians and span a varied range of genres. As a bonus, before or after the concert, you can stroll through the free “Urban Light” installation.

​​Catch a free movie under the stars

With clear balmy nights, LA is the perfect destination for al-fresco summer films. Take advantage of a beachside venue with Long Beach’s First Friday screenings at PCH and 2nd Street, at Redondo Beach Pier every Friday, and every Saturday night at Burton Chase Park in Marina Del Rey.

CicLAvia
Photo courtesy of CicLAvia

CicLAvia hosts free, multi-mile, car-free street events where participants can run, walk, bike, or skate. These events, which also include live music and activities, take place in different parts of the city for each installation. The next event is in Hollywood on Sunday, August 21.

On the first and third Thursday of each month, Breennan’s, a decades-old sports bar in Marina Del Rey, hosts turtle races. The only optional cost is to pay for a ticket to bet on your favored turtle. If they win, your name will get put into a raffle to win free beer, gift cards, and other goodies. All of the money goes to charity.

Griffith Observatory
Photo courtesy of Los Angeles Tourism Convention Board

One of the most emblematic buildings in LA, the Griffith Observatory is free to the public. Located on the​​ slope of Mount Hollywood in Griffith Park, this three-domed, art deco building offers gorgeous views of downtown Los Angeles, the Hollywood sign, and the Pacific Ocean. Check out the observatory’s Roman Sundial, the Foucault Pendulum, and take a look through one of the telescopes.

While the Pacific Ocean gets most of the attention, there’s another worthwhile body of water on the east side of LA that can be explored via walking, biking, or even a kayak or by horse. If you’re up for an adventure, check out the 7.4-mile stretch from Atwater up through the Glendale Narrows that offers picturesque views of the LA River and natural landscape.

The 27th floor of LA City Hall rivals any rooftop bar and offers sweeping vistas of Downtown LA with no admission fee.

Olvera Street
Unsplash/Catalina Johnson

Known as ​​​​the “birthplace of LA,” Olvera Street is a tree-shaded, brick-lined, Mexican-style market with heritage buildings, vibrant stalls, restaurants, and gift shops. Take a free guided walking tour of the street and learn some fascinating facts about LA.

Amoeba Music has a new location along Hollywood Boulevard, where you can catch free live shows and get records signed by touring artists. Drag queen Trixie Mattel is hosting an LP signing on Monday, July 25 at 5 pm, or celebrate the debut vinyl release for The Linda Lindas with a live show Wednesday, July 27 at 4 pm.

lake shrine temple
divanov/Shutterstock

The Lake Shrine Meditation Gardens is a ten-acre retreat in the Pacific Palisades. It’s open free of charge, Wednesday through Sunday, but advance reservations are required.

Abbot Kinney's First Fridays has returned on the first Friday of every month, offering free art galleries, occasional free swag, and wildly popular food trucks (not free).

This spacious art gallery in the heart of Hollywood showcases international modern art exhibitions with no admission fee.

grand park los angeles
Flickr/Slices of Light

This park in Downtown LA has free events throughout the summer, including live music concerts, dance performances, yoga classes, and art sessions.

​​​​Lummis House, also known as El Alisal, is a stone castle that was hand built by Charles Fletcher Lummis in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Located in Northeast LA, you can visit the 4,000-square-foot Historic-Cultural Monument for free on the weekends from 10 am to 3 pm.

Runyon Canyon
Unsplash/Tomás Sala

Runyon Canyon is a 160-acre park located at the eastern end of the Santa Monica Mountains. While its hiking trails are very popular, not many people know that it's also a venue for free yoga classes a few times a week.

Known as the Marvin Braude Bike Trail, this charming 22-mile seaside stretch is ideal for a relaxed bike ride. Check out the trail map online to plan your route.

Murphy ranch trail
Flickr/J Jakobson

When in doubt, go for a hike!

If you’re looking for a free workout, it doesn’t get better than hiking in LA. Here are some of our favorite hikes with the best views.

California African American Museum
California African American Museum

LA is home to a number of impressive museums that are free year-round, showcasing exquisite works of art and featuring one-of-a-kind architecture. Some favorites include The Broad, California African American Museum, the Getty Center and Villa, and the Hammer Museum. If you plan ahead, you can visit other museums for free, such as LACMA on the second Tuesday of each month and the Natural History Museum, which is free for LA residents from 3–5 pm daily.

Dodger Stadium
Unsplash/Alessandro Porri

On non-game days, people can visit the top deck of the stadium without a ticket. This section is kept open daily from 10 am–5 pm as the team store is located here.

For people who are looking to learn archery, the Pasadena Roving Archers offers free Saturday morning classes for first-timers.

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Pallavi is a Los Angeles and Mumbai-based freelance journalist. She writes about design, travel, food and lifestyle for leading publications. An avid traveler and design enthusiast, she finds inspiration in everything she encounters, be it her immediate environment or her travels around the world.