Photo: KC Slagle/Shutterstock

40 Free Things to Do in Los Angeles

Los Angeles Student Work
by Matador Creators Sep 12, 2015

1. Abbot Kinney First Friday Art Walk

It’s easy to get lost in the sidewalk chalk, reflective statues, and kinetic sculptures. Best part? Snagging free samples from the food trucks that line the boutique storefronts on the ‘First Friday’ of every month.

2. Serenity Sunday at Gladstone’s

Free morning yoga flow at the classic Gladstone’s restaurant on the beach. Don’t worry about your inexperience because other beginners line the walls too. If you can’t focus, just go to your happy place thinking of the Bloody Mary after class.

3. The Downtown Independent

Open screenings of witty pilots and slap-stick short films. Bring your questions, because sometimes the director hosts a surprise Q&A.

4. Venice Walk

Live music, skateboarding dogs, and a rainbow of Ray Bans and board shorts. Just watch out for chainsaw jugglers.

5. The Last Bookstore

Full of vintage typewriters, hidden rooms, burnt pages to set a very 1970’s-scary-movie tone.

6. Shakespeare in the Park (or by the Sea)

Beware the resurfacing of high-school memories of you reciting Shakespearian classics. But this set is modern, and you know every monologue. Wine, juice and snacks all around — it’s a literary picnic — and the actors aren’t afraid to draw you into the action.

7. Hollywood Forever Cemetery movie

The lawn chairs are out, it’s dusk, and The Goonies is on the Jumbotron at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery. After the movie, fireworks erupt over Santa Monica Blvd.

8. Twilight Concert at the Santa Monica Pier

9. Olvera Street strolling

Free tours shuffling through the original LA, circa 1781. You’ll know you’ve arrived when you hear the slapping sound of fresh tortillas.

10. The Brewery Artwalk

This bi-annual open studio weekend at the world’s largest art complex features more than 500 artists in residence and over 100 open studios. Check out new work, speak directly with the artists and purchase artwork right from their studios. The ArtWalk takes place in the spring and fall and the Brewery Artwork Association (BAA) is a not-for-profit organization.

11. Swing, climb, and bounce at the original Muscle Beach (beach park)

This beach park is the best playground around — parallel bars, ropes, swings, rings, and tight ropes help you swing, climb, and jump before floating in the waves.

12. Free Improv in the alleyway off Vermont Ave.

Seems intimidating, with just a faint light coming from the basement-style Clubhouse. The skits, stand-up, and monologues are unbearably funny. Enjoy some local artists and remember: Tina Fey was once in free improv clubs. Just saying.

13. Downtown Art Walk

Eccentric street performers play around 9pm. Their rhythm keeps pace with local wanderers poking their heads into painter’s galleries on Spring St. and sculpture galleries down Main St. between 2nd and 9th.

14. Catalina Island for free on your B-Day

Catalina is better on your birthday. Promise.

15. SUP the Bay

In the mornings, the dolphins head north up the bay, and in the afternoon they meander south just off the shoreline. Join them on a paddleboard near El Porto beach. No paddleboard? Hop in, they’ll swim right past you.

16. Archery lessons in Pasadena

The hay barrels are set and it’s your first time with a bow and arrow in hand. No worries, the Pasadena Roving Archers instructor will be there to raise your elbow and steady your stance.

17. Venice Canals

The arching bridges, beach houses, antique canoes, and occasional ducklings make for a calm afternoon on the 5 blocks of Venice Canals. Between Venice’s raucous boardwalk and hipster Abbot Kinney. Ideal setting for a picnic or mid-afternoon stroll.

18. Santa Monica Pier

Explore the amusement park, go surfing or take a peek inside the aquarium. Keep an eye out for the Python man at the front of the pier — he’s well worth an Instagram post.

19. Manhattan Beach Strand

Professional volleyball players flock to the public courts along the Strand.

20. Bonfire at Dockweiler State Beach

Ok, maybe not free if you don’t have wood, but close. Spare a few bucks for wood and head to Dockweiler where the bonfires burn until 10pm. Bring the blankets, warm clothes, and Frisbees, and set up camp up-wind. Warning, the seagulls will definitely steal your snacks.

21. Picnic at Echo Park

The restoration of Echo Park resulted in an oasis of lotus plants, nature walks, fountains, and a boathouse — all surrounding Echo Park Lake. It’s the perfect place for some time away from it all, or a game of pickup basketball, soccer, or tennis.

22. LA Central Library

One-hour tours explore the historic Los Angeles Central Library every day with Saturday art-in-the-garden tours too. Sweet five-times-your-size lanterns and massive chandeliers.

23. 3rd street promenade dancing

Every Sunday from 4-9pm the north end of the 3rd street promenade is buzzing with salsa, tango, and meringue dancing.

24. Walk of Fame/Chinese Theatre Walk

Street actors clamor through the herds of tourists eyeing each and every star on the walk of fame. Spiderman bumps into you and Elvis runs to his next gig. They’re probably shooting a commercial or movie around the corner.

25. Drop-In Beach Volleyball at Will Rogers

The vibe is laid back, so you can run into the water for a quick dip, then get back in the game.

26. La Brea Tar Pits

Visit the old-fashioned museum and excavation site at the La Brea Tar Pits on the first Tuesday of every month. The walking-tours highlight 3 million year-old fossils, taking you on a prehistoric adventure.

27. Free Wine Tour and Tasting

The urban crowd mingles with historic flavors at the San Antonio Winery. Sign up for the free tour (and free tasting!) through the visual history and tasting room containing massive barrels dating back to the winery’s opening in 1917.

28. LA City Hall (Observation Deck)

Whether or not you have an interest in the local political scene, LA City Hall is worth a stop just for the killer views from the Observation Deck. You can get everything from the US Bank building to Grand Park in one panorama (find the 1984 Olympic Torch while you’re there, too).

29. CA Science Center

Exposition Park is abuzz. The museums are swapping patrons from open to close, most of them headed for the main attraction, The Endeavour. The shuttle is gargantuan. Staring up at the underbelly of the ship and envisioning it in outer space sparks memories of a younger version of yourself dreaming of life in space.

30. Peruse Little Ethiopia

A small strip of South Fairfax Avenue rings with the sound of drums and begenas. Clothing stores, vintage furniture shops, and family-owned restaurants all sport the same vibe of everyone’s family hospitality. Find the patriotic red, yellow, and green patterns and you know you’ve arrived.

31. Bradbury Building

It’s important not to give up on this Downtown structure. The lackluster exterior is not inviting, but down the brick ‘n wood alleyway you’ll be gawking at the architecture you thought no longer existed. Bonus: you may just recognize the interior from Blade Runner.

32. Hike Runyon Canyon

Runyon Canyon is full of walkers, hikers, runners, sprinters, impressively dressed personal trainers, and offers the occasional DJ on the hilltop.

33. Hollywood Bowl Museum

The Bowl is home to one, if not several, of your most memorable of concert experiences. You go around back, to an area you’ve never visited, and see the heart of the venue in the Latin, Rock & Roll, R&B, Classical, and Jazz hall of fame. The vintage posters make you a firm believer that you may have been born in the wrong decade.

34. Griffith Observatory

The views from the top of the hill are epic day or night. The city is painted orange, the layer of smog tucking the city in at night, followed by planets, solar systems, galaxies. It’s all freakin’ sweet.

35. Tour the Jet Propulsion Laboratory

Did you know the JPL launched the first American satellite in 1958? And now they’re up to bigger things, like sending rovers to Mars. The free tour tells all (and might even let you take a glimpse of what’s goin’ down on Mars that day).

36. Self-Guided Tour of Walt Disney Concert Hall

Ok, the sparkling steel exterior of the Walt Disney Concert Hall is stunning. It glistens and is red hot to the touch (do not attempt). But there are lush gardens inside that no one really knows about — and access is free.

37. The Getty Center (and Saturdays off the 405) + Getty Villa

You survived traffic on the 405 North. Congratulations. You pay the parking fee (as you do everywhere in the city) and enjoy the only monorail in LA (Disney aside). The history exhibits keep your attention, but not quite like the city-scape paired with live music at ‘Saturdays Off the 405’.

38. Jazz at LACMA

The Brooklyn city lamps is but a faint backdrop. The bright red-and-white scene at LACMA is all about Jazz during the summer concert series. Forget what time it is and kick back every week.

39. Be on a game show

It’s not only free, but most shows will pay you to be on TV as you to try to win some cash. The energy level is real high and the potential for a big win is tangible. You’re nearly begging Wayne Brady to invite you up for the deal of the day.

40. Drive PCH

The windows are down, music blaring, and the roadside strawberry stand with fresh produce from the San Fernando valley is chock full of free berry samples. All the while, surfers are out in droves for your entertainment.

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