Lifestyle

62 Totally Free Things to Do in LA

free things to do in la
Ciclavia

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.

Binge-watch the best classic films and television shows at The Paley Center for Media

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.

Greystone Mansion
Greystone Mansion | City of Beverly Hills

Hit the real Lebowski's house

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.

Play it cool while listening to live outdoor jazz at LACMA

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).

Snack poolside at the stunningly renovated Hotel Figueroa in DTLA

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.

CicLAvia 2016
CicLAvia 2016 | CicLAvia

Roam, bike, scoot, and skate the streets of LA without a car in sight

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.

Forage for fruit around the neighborhood with the Fallen Fruit Collective

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).

Hear your favorite author read from their latest book

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.

Help those in need with the Burrito Project

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.

Cheer on your favorite turtle and score free pizza at Brennan’s

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.

griffith observatory
griffith observatory

Go to a star party at Griffith Observatory

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.

Check out the dude behind Community's picks for up-and-coming talent

Irreverent TV writers Dan Harmon and Rob Schrab host a monthly free screening of short pilots from new directors at the Downtown Independent and there's always plenty of yuks.

Explore a haunted zoo

The LA Zoo was abandoned years ago, but the cages/holding pens/grounds remain spookily intact (all the more spooky during the Haunted Hayride).

Go for a bike ride up the LA River 

The 7.4-mile stretch from Atwater up through the Glendale Narrows offers surprising amounts of greenery and wildlife as you ride along the river.

Get weird at First Fridays in Venice

Abbot Kinney's First Fridays events (on the first Friday of every month, duh) have plenty of galleries, occasional free swag, and lots of, uh, not-free food trucks.

Get super weird at the Downtown Art Walk 

Every second Thursday of the month, join the massive crowds to explore Downtown's galleries and special exhibits (as well as street performers and overall craziness) for free.

Meet local artists at neighborhood art walks

While the Downtown Art Walk is perhaps the most widely talked about, there are plenty of other funky (and often less-crowded) art walks around town worth scoping out. Highlights include the quarterly Mar Vista Art Walk, which features live art, music, performances, and more; the Northeast L.A. Gallery Art Night; the First Thursday Art Walk in San Pedro; the Long Beach Art Walk; and the Leimert Park Art Walk.

Check out amazing art on the Mural Mile  

LA was once considered the Mural Capital of the World, and this colorful stretch along Van Nuys Blvd in Pacoima is part of the resurgence worth checking out, especially to see Danny Trejo's likeness.

Check out the glass sculptures at Randyland in Echo Park

The super-spectacular glass sculptures in front of artist Randlett Lawrence's home in Echo Park? Mind-melters.

Visit an 1800s-era stone castle

After dropping out of Harvard in 1881, Charles Lummis walked from Cincinnati to LA, then he built this crazy home by hand in what is now Highland Park.

Art tours in the Metro

You may have heard that LA has a rail system, and you may have even ridden it to some badass bars. Well, now you can learn about all the cool artwork within many of the stops from a super-informative tour guide fo' free. 

Get educated at The Great Wall of LA

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.

Check out some great comedy at UCB

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.

Or hit more great comedy at Improv at The Clubhouse

Hilarity abounds at this "indie" improv theater in Hollywood, which is also often free (or by donation).

Head to one of the free concerts at Amoeba 

Dude, seriously, some big acts play these free gigs (Billy Idol!), along with some great up-and-comers.

View DTLA from City Hall's observation deck 

Head to the 27th floor of City Hall to scope out 360-degree views of Downtown for free (as long as you don't count your tax dollars hard at work in the building below you).

Visit the most famous building in cinema 

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.

Take a guided tour of Olvera Street 

Meander through this Mexican-styled marketplace to learn the history of the "birthplace of LA" for free from the pros, and then spend your saved cash on caramel-filled churros at Mr Churro.

Get a workout by the Santa Monica Pier

Ditch that pricey gym membership and head to the beach by the pier for the massive swing/ring/rope adult playground where you can get a free workout/watch other people get a free workout.

Relax at the Peace Awareness Labyrinth and Gardens 

While you likely won't find Bowie or Jim Henson puppets at this Labyrinth, you will find free admission to this super-super-super-chill hideaway in the heart of Mid-City.

Tour Disney Concert Hall 

Because you've always wanted to know more about Frank Gehry's crazy-ass scheme for the concert hall. Self-guided and docent-led: both free.

Check out a one-of-a-kind view at Camera Obscura 

Located in what is probably one of the coolest senior centers ever, this 113-year-old optic device gives you a 360-degree view of the building's surroundings using an Aristotle-era pinhole camera.

lake shrine temple
divanov/Shutterstock

Explore the gardens of Lake Shrine Temple 

Whether you're looking for spiritual enlightenment or just a quiet place to relax without spending a dime, this 10-acre retreat in the Palisades is your spot.

Check out some art at the Regen Projects 

This massive gallery in the middle of Hollywood hooks you up with views of steadily rotating contemporary artwork, all for the low, low cost of nothing at all.

Get your sculpture garden on at UCLA 

Stroll through five acres of manicured grounds to check out more than 70 sculptures from the 19th and 20th centuries, then take your date to one of the nearby UCLA-friendly bars.

Throw a bonfire at Dockweiler State Beach

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.

Imagine what LA looked like before the Ice Age at the La Brea Tar Pits

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.

Explore the Brewery Artwalk

Twice a year, more than 100 artists open up their studios for this free art walk in the former PBR brewery. There's a beer garden, and though it ain't free, it does serve more than PBR.

Check out all sorts of $0 events in Grand Park 

The newest Downtown park presents an ongoing slate of free live music, dance performances, yoga classes, art classes, people-watching, and bright-pink chairs.

Go to an actually good open mic at Tuesday Night Project

Head to Little Tokyo every first and third Tuesday (spring through fall) for free, actually interesting performances from all sorts of local artists. 

Do some downward-facing dog at Runyon Canyon

Sure, Runyon is totally overcrowded, but if you're looking to get your yoga on for free (donations encouraged), there are three to five classes on the daily.

Play some games at Grand Central Market

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.

Head to the beach and bike The Strand 

Officially known as the Marvin Braude Bike Trail, this 22-mile stretch is perfect for a mellow cruise with a badass ocean view, especially after hitting some of the many beachside bars along the way.

Climb the Music Box steps

If you're feeling ambitious/idiotic/ambitiously idiotic, head to Silver Lake to climb the steep 133 stairs made famous by Laurel and Hardy. Just leave your piano at home.

Hang at the James Irvine Japanese Garden in Little Tokyo

This little hidden garden is prime midweek lunch date material, if you can swing such a thing.

Head to Mariachi Plaza to hear musicians auditioning for potential gigs. 

Then go eat some sadly-not-free-but-still-insanely-delicious tacos.

Win a trivia night with Geeks Who Drink

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.

MURPHY RANCH trail
MURPHY RANCH trail | Flickr/J Jakobson

Hike all over town

You're probably familiar with at least some of the many places to hike around this fair city, but in case you need some more inspiration, here are our picks for the best.

Catch tons of totally gratis concerts through the spring, summer, and fall

Pack a picnic and bring the crew to free shows at KCRW's Summer Nights, Grand Performances, and Twilight on the Pier at the Santa Monica Pier.

Sneak into the Hollywood Bowl to hear the LA Philharmonic rehearse

OK, technically a lot of the morning rehearsals are open to the public, but it still feels sneaky to be at the Bowl when it's virtually empty. Call 323.850.2000 for the latest deets.

Soak up all the culture you can handle at LA's biggest museums

Many great LA museums are actually free year-round, including The Broad, the Getty Center and Villa, and the Hammer Museum. As a bonus, on certain days each month, you can scope out other museums for free, including LACMA, MOCA, and the Natural History Museum.

angel city brewery
Sarah Bennett/Thrillist

See how beer is made (and drink it too!) at Angel City Brewery

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...

Enjoy the view from the top deck of Dodger Stadium. Yes, for free.

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).

Play classic arcade games without spending your laundry quarters

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.

Practice your archery skills

Live out your Game of Thrones fantasy (well, the G-rated part, at least) by joining the Pasadena Roving Archers in their free Saturday morning classes for first-timers.

Ciclavia
Ciclavia

Learn to draw classic works of art

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.

Learn to sip coffee like the best baristas

At its stylish training center in Silver Lake, Counter Culture Coffee offers free coffee tastings to the public every Friday from 10-11am.

Watch sea life up close at San Pedro's Cabrillo Marine Aquarium

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).

Learn to dance like a real cowboy

Put a little bit of country in your rock 'n' roll and learn how to line dance like a pro, for free, at Cabo Wabo Cantina in Hollywood, or the Cowboy Palace Saloon in Chatsworth.

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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).