15 Totally Free Things to Do in LA
Leave your wallet at home when you check out these museums, castles, concerts, and comedy shows.
In case you hadn’t noticed, Los Angeles is expensive. Rent is ridiculous, homeownership is impossible, cocktails are insane, and parking costs as much as your car payment. So give your credit card the day off and do something both fun and free, for once. Here are 15 fantastic no-cost activities around LA County to get you started, and to get your mind off moving to Austin.
Kick off the weekend at a First Friday
Venice’s fabled First Friday on Abbot Kinney is the best-known of the bunch, with retailers open late, special store goings-on, occasional free swag, crazy crowds, and lots of food trucks. But for an alternative option, try Bixby Knolls in Long Beach, where First Friday features an art walk, live music, specials at the neighborhood’s many restaurants, breweries, and bars, and even a free shuttle bus to get you from place to place. If you’re up for crossing the border into the OC, Huntington Beach’s massive First Friday offers a Night Market, outdoor games, live music, and a photo booth.
Do some good
Last we checked, volunteering is free and it feels really good. The coolest part is, whatever you’re into, you can find a task or non-profit that’s a good match. Start by looking here for inspiration, or choose your own adventure: want to spend a morning in the fresh air? Join a beach or LA River cleanup. Working on your guitar skills? Play at a hospital. Want to pet all the dogs? Volunteer at a shelter. Seriously, just do it. No one has ever volunteered and regretted it, we promise.
Laugh it up at a killer comedy show
In LA, one out of every three humans has performed or will someday perform standup comedy, so yeah, there are a lot of comedy shows every night of the week. If you want to see the household names, you’ll probably have to pay, but there’s often no cover to laugh at up-and-coming comics. Look for open mic nights at bars, or student shows at improv hotbeds like The Groundlings. There are also regular free shows at clubs and venues around town, including the Sunday Showcase at HaHa Comedy Club in North Hollywood, Chocolate Sundaes at Hollywood’s The Laugh Factory, Microdose at The Fable in Eagle Rock (also home to one of our favorite burgers), and The Oaks Comedy on Monday Nights at The Oaks Tavern in Sherman Oaks.
Sure, you could hit one of the city’s many rooftop bars, where you’ll have to fight the crowds for the privilege of shelling out a small fortune for an aperol spritz. Or you can just visit LA City Hall. The 27th floor has a 360-degree observation deck, which offers sweeping vistas of Downtown LA, with no admission fee. The only thing it’s missing is the alcohol.
Play like a kid at the Santa Monica Pier
You can wander around Santa Monica Pier and check out 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 Pacific Park, visiting the pier is free. Take a stroll after dark if you can, when the wheel is all lit up in neon lights, sometimes in special colors for holidays and other occasions, and the crashing waves are extra gorgeous under the moonlight. You can also catch free events throughout the year, including monthly yoga classes and concerts in the summer.
Yes there are plenty of other free museums listed above, but this one’s worth calling out on its own because it has an actual space shuttle inside. The shuttle Endeavour is the California Science Center’s star attraction, the final ship to be built in NASA's space shuttle program and a veteran of 25 successful space flights that’s on display in the Samuel Oschin Space Shuttle Endeavour Pavilion. While you’re there, find out more about the 122-foot-long Endeavour’s endeavor across the country and through the streets and freeways of LA to its current home via the photo exhibit Mission 26: The Big Endeavour. The center’s permanent galleries are free and don’t require reservations.
Request free tickets to the tapings of your favorite shows through1iota, which offers fans the opportunity to see late-night shows taped in LA, likeJimmy Kimmel Live!And The Late Late Show With James Corden as well as daytime talk shows and sitcoms. Time to start practicing your cackle, so you can recognize your own laugh when the show airs.
LA’s landmark library is worth checking out even if you’re committed to your Kindle and haven’t borrowed a book in decades. Every Saturday at 11am and Sunday at 2pm, a docent leads an hour-long tour through the architecturally significant building that dates back nearly a century, sharing scoop on the library’s history, art collection, and design.
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. The inside isn’t open to the public, but it’s free to stroll the grounds and see the impressive mansion from the outside.
The Griffith Observatory, an LA icon, is gloriously free to the public every day it’s open, Tuesday to Sunday. Located on the slope of Mount Hollywood in Griffith Park, the three-domed art deco building offers impressive views of downtown, the Hollywood sign, and the ocean. Check out the observatory’s Roman Sundial, the Foucault Pendulum, or catch a show in the state-of-the-art Samuel Oschin Planetarium theater, currently showing Signs of Life, which takes viewers through the solar system and Milky Way in search of extraterrestrial life.
Despite the fact that it has been open for more than 60 years, Lake Shrine Temple flies below the radar for many Angelenos. It was founded by Paramahansa Yogananda, a monk and yogi who helped launch the yoga movement in America, as a part of his Self-Realization Fellowship. Lake Shrine Temple is located right off Sunset in Pacific Palisades, and it’s free and open to the public when you reserve an arrival time for your car (which includes entrance for up to six people). Then take advantage of the welcome quiet in the lakeside meditation garden or explore the shrines, waterfall, and hilltop temple, all meant to encourage reflection and inner peace. Hopefully you can find it.
Lummis Home and Gardens, also known as El Alisal, is an actual stone castle that took Charles Fletcher Lummis—a journalist and Native American activist—13 years to build by hand more than a century ago. You can visit the 4,000-square-foot historic monument, now operated by LA’s Department of Parks and Rec, for free Saturday and Sunday from 10 am to 3 pm.
When in doubt, go for a hike
This is why you live here. Seriously. You can hike every day of the year, even in winter, when your friends anywhere else in the country are stuck inside freezing cold, or stuck in Florida. If you’re looking for a free workout, free views, free losing-yourself-in-nature for a few hours, it doesn’t get better than hiking in LA. Here are some of our favorite hikes with the best views.
We know everybody gushes over a certain East Coast city’s museums, but Los Angeles is home to a slew of impressive cultural institutions. (And also, yes you can walk here, there is public transportation, not everyone is in the entertainment industry, and the pizza rules) Better yet, many of our museums are completely free, including The Broad, California African American Museum, the Getty Center and Villa, and the Hammer Museum. Even those that do typically charge admission often waive it certain days and times, including LACMA and the Natural History Museum, which are both free for LA residents from 3pm on during weekdays. And on Sunday, February 5, more than 30 venues, from the Museum of Tolerance to Descanso Gardens to the Japanese American National Museum, will participate in SoCal’s Free-For-All Day, and allow no-cost entry all day.
Just knowing there’s a group of people who love archery so much that they volunteer their time to teach other people archery for free, kind of makes you want to learn archery, right? Well, you can thanks to the Pasadena Roving Archers, an organization dedicated to the “art of the bow and arrow.” Whether you’re a beginner or an expert archer, you can sign up for a Saturday morning class that’s offered throughout the year.