The best things in life are free, especially in an expensive city like Los Angeles. Whether you’re planning a vacation or call LA your home, check out these cheap things to do in Los Angeles while you’re in town. They’re just as fun as expensive entertainment venues or shows and you won’t have to stress about fitting them into your budget.
1. Visit The Broad
People often do a double-take when they pass by The Broad. Thanks to its modern collaborative architecture, it looks like no other building on the planet. Everyone can walk through its halls for free. The operators and curators believe art shouldn’t exist behind a paywall, so you can get inspired by its diverse exhibitions and contemporary artwork.
The Broad currently has a special exhibit called the “Infinity Mirrored Room — The Souls of Millions of Light Years Away.” You’ll have to book a ticket through the online reservation system, but it’s still free to see. As you explore the room, you’ll find yourself surrounded by mirrors and LED lights that make you feel like you’re floating in space.
Open Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Thursday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Sunday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
2. See Stars at the Griffith
You can also feel immersed in space by going to the Griffith Observatory on Mount Hollywood. There are plenty of grounds where you can stretch your legs before going inside for a free show. Locals know it’s one of the best free things to do in LA at night because you can see the stars typically hidden by the city’s light pollution.
Gazing into the universe at the Griffith Observatory is also great if you’re having a bad day or your partner is feeling low. Being present in the moment is part of being mindful, which treats many depression symptoms that would otherwise ruin your day. Focus on the vast beauty of the universe while centering yourself to feel more at peace.
Open Tuesday – Friday from noon to 10 p.m.
Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.
3. Fly Kites at the Korean Bell
Visitors stop by the Korean Bell of Friendship to see a breathtaking piece of art for free. A massive stone and wood pavilion houses a bronze bell that weighs 17 tons. It’s silent on most days, but participants ring it for ceremonial purposes on the first Saturday of every month. Visit at noon to hear its deep chimes and reflect on South Korean culture.
The bell first rang in 1975 as a gift representing the friendship between the U.S. and South Korea. People visit it to see a historic work of art and lounge on the grounds surrounding it. Bring a kite for a bit of extra fun. The wind is often strong enough to support a sky full of kites because the bell sits on top of a hill.
Open daily from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
4. Walk the Santa Monica Pier
You might not think of popular attractions when you think of piers, but the Santa Monica Pier is like no other. It has theme park rides, an arcade and trapeze classes for curious visitors. There’s also an aquarium if you want to escape the sun.
Anyone can walk the pier and see everything for free, but tickets for attractions are affordable, too. Locals often recommend it when discussing cheap things to do in Los Angeles because there’s something for everyone. Slather some sunscreen on your skin and leave with your favorite hat to protect yourself during the many hours of fun that await you at Santa Monica Pier.
Open daily from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.
5. Take Selfies on Hollywood Boulevard
Hollywood Boulevard is one of the most famous locations in LA. It’s the heart of downtown and the entertainment world. You can see the Chinese Theatre that’s been in numerous TV shows and movies. Take selfies by your favorite celebrity’s star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and see if you can spot any famous people on the street.
After finishing a delicious meal at one of the many restaurants within walking distance of the Boulevard, take your kids to the splash pad in the Babylon Courtyard outside the Hollywood Highland Center. Don’t forget to pose for a picture on the Dolby Theatre’s steps. It’s where the Academy Awards hosts the world’s most famous people every year.
This location has some of the best free things to do in LA at night because so many people visit daily. Stores, restaurants and pop-up events continue long into the night under the Boulevard’s many neon lights. You’ll want more than a few pictures to prove that you visited such a famous destination before returning home.
6. Attend a Live Taping
If you’ve ever spent time watching “American Idol,” “Dancing With the Stars,” “Jeopardy” or “Jimmy Kimmel Live!,” you’ve seen jaw-dropping, hilarious moments filmed right in LA. Drop by the various studios throughout the city to see them tape new episodes for free. You may need to book your tickets before your arrival, but it will be worth it.
One thing surprises people when they add this free activity to their Los Angeles itinerary — how much time it takes to film an episode. The 30-60 minute content you watch on TV can take multiple hours to get just right. Prepare yourself with extra patience and money for in-studio snacks to have the best experience possible.
Open during each studio’s unique taping hours
7. Hang Out on Zuma Beach
Los Angeles has endless beaches, but Zuma Beach is a local favorite. It is west of the city, and you should come prepared for a day in the sun. After finding a spot among the 2,000 parking spaces, you can spend the day swimming, playing volleyball or surfing. Arrive as early as possible to set up your chairs or unfold your blanket while there’s still room on the sand.
The beach is also perfect for anyone who likes scuba diving. There are gorgeous underwater locations to explore and marine life that thrives in the area. Keep an eye out for gray whales, as they sometimes make a spectacular appearance in the distance.
Zuma Beach is also one of the most fun free things to do in LA because it’s a quiet getaway. Neighborhoods surround the area, so you won’t deal with city traffic noise. Bring a pair of binoculars to gaze at the stars after watching the sun set on a perfect day.
Open daily from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.
8. Explore The Last Bookstore
Everyone knows The Last Bookstore because it’s one of the biggest bookstores in the country. It also houses rare volumes you can see on display if you’re interested in first editions and the history of bookbinding.
The store is open daily, so add it to your list of cheap things to do in Los Angeles. Walking through the store’s maze of shelves and creative decor could take your entire afternoon. Just be aware that the owners may have to section off parts of the store occasionally. They rent the venue for weddings and events, which may take up entire sections of the property.
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