Free Things To Do in LA

Plus a Few Cheap LA Activities

Whether you are a long time resident of Los Angeles, or planning a vacation there soon, you'll be happy to know that there are many cool things to do in LA that are free or very cheap. In fact, this thriving city is full of family friendly and inexpensive activities. Listed here are a few popular spots that your family might want to explore.

Santa Monica PierCredit:

Spend a Day at the Beach or the Santa Monica Pier

From Malibu in the north to Long Beach at the south of the county, Los Angeles is first and foremost a beach town. It doesn't matter what time of year it is, there is rarely a day when you cannot find something to do along the coast, even if you don't go into the water. If you visit in winter, you can explore tide pools, build sand castles, and take a long walk in the sand. You can take your bikes, or rent some, and ride along the boardwalk in Santa Monica. Take a stroll on the Santa Monica pier. Go for a drive past the charming homes and magnificent beaches in Malibu. Have a lunch at a beach view café.

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Visit the Third Street Promenade or Venice Beach

The Third Street Promenade is the downtown area of Santa Monica. There are 30 blocks of restaurants, entertainment and retail stores, all within a few blocks of the Santa Monica beach and pier. This section of Third Street is blocked to traffic. Instead, you can watch live street performers, musicians, magicians and others perform for free, especially on weekend evenings. If you enjoy street entertainers, you may also want to spend an afternoon enjoying the sites in Venice Beach, as well.

Learn about the Stars at the Griffith Observatory

There is no price to visit the Griffith Observatory and see their science exhibits. They also have a free film about the history and future of the observatory. In addition, they periodically have free lectures and special events that are open to the public. The observatory also contains a spectacular planetarium theater with several different shows. Tickets to the planetarium shows sell for under $10 a person. You can get up-to-date information at griffithobservatory. org.

Los Angeles SkylineCredit:

Spend the Day at the Getty and other LA Museums

There are two Getty Museums, the Getty Center off the 405 Freeway north of Los Angeles, and the Getty Villa along the PCH in Malibu. Both have fabulous art collections, and lovely views of the Pacific Ocean. Admission to both is always free, although they do charge $15 per car to park. You can even avoid this charge at certain times in the evening. For more information on either museum call (310) 440-7300.

In addition, there are many other Los Angeles museums that offer free admission, including the Banning Residence Museum, the California African American Museum, the California Science Center, the Fowler Museum at UCLA, the Hollywood Bowl Museum, the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust and the Homestead Museum.

Discover Ocean Friends at the Long Beach Aquarium of the Pacific

In Long Beach, you can learn all about the wonderful sea life in the nearby Pacific Ocean by spending time at the Aquarium of the Pacific. There are a variety of exhibits, including the popular Shark Lagoon. The Aquarium is open nearly every day of the year, except Christmas and the weekend of the Long Beach Grand Prix in April. Although most of the time there are admission charges that can cost up to about $25 a person for adults and $13.00 for children, they do periodically offer free days for teachers, seniors, military personnel and other groups. Check their website at for details.

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Follow the Stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame

The Hollywood Walk of Fame is popular with most tourists visiting Los Angeles, as well as long-time residents. It consists of more than 2400 stars made of terrazzo and brass that have been embedded in 15 blocks of sidewalks along Hollywood Boulevard and 3 blocks of sidewalks along Vine Street, in the area of Hollywood near Grauman's Chinese Theatre. Many visitors delight in strolling the streets, looking for the stars of their favorite actors from movies, television, music, radio and live theatre. In addition, the forecourt of Grauman's Chinese Theatre has been a popular free tourist attraction since the 1920's. Nearby, you can stroll up to Madame Tussauds Hollywood Wax Museum. Out front is a wax figure of Samuel L. Jackson. Have your photo taken with him to surprise your friends back home!

Glamorous Rodeo DriveCredit:

Other Cheap or Free Things to Do in LA

Los Angeles is surrounded by a fascinating array of climates. In just a couple of hours, you can drive out to the desert around Palm Springs, and find warm weather and sunshine even on the gloomiest day in LA. On the other hand, if you miss having fun in the snow, you can take a winter day to drive up to Big Bear, Lake Arrowhead, the Angeles National Forest or the Grapevine, and let the kids throw snowballs, and build snowmen ... and still be home for dinner.

You might also want to take the kids to Union Station to look at trains, or go fishing off a pier. You don't need a fishing license to fish in the ocean off the coast of California.

Do you have teenage daughters in your family? They almost certainly will want to go window shopping on Rodeo Drive, or cruise past the nearby mansions in Beverly Hills. Although this area is known for its expensive boutiques, there are some reasonably priced shops here, too. For example, the popular Forever 21 chain currently has a store on Rodeo Drive. In the past, the Gap had one. There always seems to be a spot where you can purchase an affordable souvenir from a store along Rodeo Drive.

If you contact the television shows in advance of your trip, you may also be able to get tickets to be in the audience of a game show such as "Jeopardy!" or "Wheel of Fortune." The tickets are free; but allow plenty of time for your request to be processed.

Want to give the kids a little taste of Disneyland, but you can't afford the high cost of admission? Go have lunch or dinner at one of the many restaurants and cafes in Downtown Disney. It is located in Anaheim, California, just south of Los Angeles. Downtown Disney is an area of shops and restaurants situated between The Magic Kingdom and California Adventure. On different occasions, I have sat in a sidewalk café listening to live bands, or watching a short live show with live parrots. It's a great way to experience a little bit of Disney, without the big price tag.

No matter what Southern California activities interest you, you might also want to check out some of these articles, too:

Take a Day Trip to Huntington Beach (Surf City, USA)

Top 10 Things To Do In Newport Beach California

Top 6 Things To Do Near Disneyland

Top 10 Things To Do In Laguna Beach 

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