Top 15 free things to do in Los Angeles
Despite having a status as one of the most exclusive and glamorous cities in the world, there are lots of free things to do in Los Angeles.
Hollywood Walk of Fame and the Chinese Theater
Enjoy the historical TCL Chinese Theater right by the most visited section of the Walk of Fame. The theater was opened in 1927 and the building currently serves as an elaborately decorated movie palace as well as one of Los Angeles’s major attractions.
The Chinese Theater is most famous for its concrete forecourt, that bears the signatures, footprints, and hand prints of megastar motion picture personalities from the 1920s to the present day.
Hand and footprints of Marilyn Monroe, Julie Andrews, Kevin Costner and Arnold Schwarzenegger are all imprinted into the ground as well as other movie megastars.
Right on Hollywood Boulevard in the heart of the tourism is the La La Land Souvenir shop that is home to many Hollywood and LA themed souvenirs as well as Elvis Presley’s powder blue Cadillac that draws in crowds from all over the world.
The Hollywood and Highland complex is the entertainment center of Los Angeles offering world-class shopping and dining, red carpet movie premieres and celebrated live theater. Head to the viewing platform bridges at the back of the building for one of the best views of the Hollywood Sign in Los Angeles. For more information, check the Hollywood & Highland website.
The Rock Walk at the Guitar Center
The Guitar Center Rock Walk in Hollywood is a must see for music lovers. Tourists flock to Hollywood to pay homage to television and film history and stars, all along, music was the forgotten industry.
Dedicated to honoring musicians who have significantly contributed to the music industry, the Guitar Center Rockwalk was officially opened on November 13, 1985 with inaugural inductions of Stevie Wonder, Eddie Van Halen and the creator of the Gibson Les Paul guitar Ted McCarty, to name a few.
See the full list of Rock walk Inductees here. The idea was to compel the Mann’s Chinese Theatre, and the Hollywood Walk of Fame which are dedicated to mostly movie and TV.
As well as the handprints and guitar memorabilia on display, visitors can purchase world class musical instruments inside the Guitar Center.
They run music lessons all year round too, check in store for details or contact the Guitar Center Rock Walk here.
China Town and Little Tokyo
With an assortment of oriental markets and dim sum delis and restaurants Chinatown is full to the brim of culture, historic dive bars and art galleries. Wander around the huge area Central Plaza, with our guide to Chinatown.
Lucky Delhi is a notorious hang for authentic Chinese food and dim sun for under $5.
When Chinatown relocated to its current location in the 1930s, the Central Plaza was the hub of the vibrant activity. While many tourists flock there today, it isn’t as busy as it used to be. The square is full of restaurants and is home to the Chinatown Summer Nights event which is an enormous party with a collection of food trucks, cooking demonstrations, outdoor videos and cultural activities.
Enjoy the beautiful Thien Hau Temple which is a Taoist temple that acts as the central point of celebration during Chinese New Year.
Little Tokyo is an official National Historic Landmark District not far from Chinatown and it is one of only three Japanese cultural areas in the United States.
An array of Japanese themed shops, malls and restaurants can be found in the area that is home to the largest Japanese-American population in North America.
If you’re looking for a central point of Los Angeles where you can enjoy artistic flair, street entertainment and a line of quirky shops offering the likes of temporary tattoos, pet rocks, fortune telling or your name written on a grain of rice, look no further than Venice Boardwalk.
Every day, something fun and wonderful is happening on the boardwalk. Street performers and musicians gather the full length to entertain dazzled visitors. There is a large collection of colorful shops offering surf equipment, personalized T-Shirts, bike hire and even medical marijuana. Venice Boardwalk is one of our top free things to do in Los Angeles because it is so unique, there really isn’t a place quite like it in the world.
Watch your step as roller-skaters, hover-boarders and boarders weave immaculately in and out of the crowds. Take a few $1 bills to tip the world class entertainers who come from all over the world to earn a few dollars in one of the most creative and expressive areas of the world.
Santa Monica beach
Once the filming location to the Baywatch TV series, Santa Monica is home to one of many beautiful beaches on the California coast.
As well as beautiful soft sand and prime access to the Pacific Ocean, Santa Monica beach also has a pier, a funfair and bike trails in the center of Malibu to Venice.
Pop down to Santa Monica beach on a Sunday and enjoy the gathering of gymnasts who hold a 60 year tradition of practicing their routines on the grass by the beach.
The Venice Canal Historic District, commonly referred to as the Venice Canals, is a residential district built on an extensive network of man-made canals built. The area was built in 1905 by tobacco pioneer Abbot Kinney as part of his plan to bring Italian Venice to America.
The development saw Kinney bring authentic gondolas to the area as well as the construction of arched bridges, just like those in the Italian city.
The beautifully lit canals and elite housing developments have gave the area widespread publicity making it one of the most expensive areas to live in Los Angeles.
Kinney’s idea didn’t take off as planned and when cars were introduced, the canals were viewed by many as outdated. Most of the canals were filled in 1929 to create roads. By 1940, the remaining canals had fallen into disrepair and the district remained in poor condition for over 40 years.
The canals were eventually renovated in 1992 and attractive new sidewalks and walls were built as part of the renovation. Walking the Venice Canals is now one of the best free things to do in Los Angles as the landscape changes around every corner. A contract of quirky and elegant housing can be found right along the waterways. The pathways are free to walk but be sure to be respectful to property owners.
The area is a peaceful retreat away from the nearby Venice boardwalk offering visitors a tranquil walk in a beautifully unique area.
Look out for artistic garden features at the Venice Canals that include a giant gorilla in the center of a love heart.
The chilled out hipster feel of the whole of Venice can be felt here. The slogan of the Venice Canal sign ‘May Peach Prevail On Earth’ is definitely a reflection on the peace and calmness of the area.
Enjoy the collection of kayaks and canoes, some of which are home to families of ducks and keep an eye out for the distinctive pink flamingo boat belonging to one of the residents.
There have been many plans to redevelop the area of the Venice Canals, all of which were met with harsh opposition. The area has its own calm and creative character and it is way up on the list of the top free things to do in Los Angeles.
Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels
Informally known as COLA, the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels is a Latin cathedral of the Roman Catholic Church that has served locals since its opening in 2002.
Located in the heart of downtown Los Angeles, the cathedral is known for its modern design and enshrining the relics of Saint Vibiana and tilma piece of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
Pop inside and enjor the free entry, admire the beautiful relics on display and the beautifully maintained chapel.
Crossroads of the World
This unique building dating back to 1936 is located right by Hollywood Boulevard and has been referred to as America’s first outdoor shopping mall.
The exact location is on Sunset Boulevard and Las Palmas and is around a 10-15 minute walk from the Chinese Theater and the Walk of Fame on Hollywood Boulevard. The building is uniquely designed to resemble an ocean liner that is surrounded by a small village of cottage-style bungalows.
Though the building is no longer a mall, Crossroads now hosts private offices, mainly for the entertainment industry. It is a creative base for music producers, film companies and novelists as well as LA’s famous casting agencies. The Crossroads of the World has been used in many films, including L.A. Confidential, The Adventures of Ford Fairlane, and Café Society, in TV shows, including Dragnet and Remington Steele, and in commercials by McDonald’s, Ford, and Mattel.
Hollywood Forever Cemetery
If you’re looking for something different to do in the city, walking around one of the oldest cemeteries in the area may seem spooky but it is one of our top free things to do in Los Angeles.
The Hollywood Forever Cemetery is not only home to passed celebrities and public figures, the grounds offer a beautiful quiet park away from the hustle of the city.
The Abbey of the Psalms Mausoleum is a spectacular building that is home to crypts and memorials dedicated top the likes of Charlie Chaplin Jnr and Darla Hood.
The 40 acre land of the Hollywood Forever Cemetery is actually the only cemetery site in Hollywood.
The cemetery is packed with wonderful plants, palm trees and water features making it a peaceful retreat for mourning visitors.
The cemetery is divided into unique areas including the Garden of Legends that inspired the award-winning film An Ordinary Couple.
Beautiful peacocks roam the area, you may hear them before you see them.
You can spend hours in the cemetery enjoying the peace and quiet as well as picturesque scenery and a small lake.
Walk around the central lake and see beautiful water creatures such as gold fish, turtles and water lilies.
It really is a beautiful spot to rest in the city, the caretakers and staff are really helpful if you need directions or want to find a specific grave to pay tribute.
Mel Blanc’s tombstone can be found within the grounds with a fitting slogan of ‘That’s All Folks’. He was the voice of many Looney Tunes characters and was most known for the voice behind Bugs Bunny.
Other wildlife can be found enjoying the rural landscape of the park, keep an eye out for a variety of birds and squirrels.
Look out for the incredible collection of high end tomb stones dedicated to the deceased rich and famous such as the half a million dollar crypt dedicated to Pete Stanley, the ‘Piano Man’.
And punk legend Johnny Ramone’s life like replica complete with a guitar. See the tribute items that are left in honor such as cans of beer and cigarettes.
In 2017, Wizard of Oz star, Judy Garland (1922-1969) was moved from her original burial spot in New York to the new “Judy Garland Pavilion” at Hollywood Forever.
Click here for an interactive map of the Hollywood Forever Cemetery.
The Getty Center
This is one of our top free things to do in Los Angeles because of the views of Los Angeles, the art and the beautifully kept gardens.
Located in the Brentwood area, the Getty Center is a campus of the Getty Museum that cost over $1.3 billion. The Center sits on top of a hill that overlooks Brentwood and downtown LA.
Visitors get to the top by means of a modern three-car, cable-pulled hover train funicular.
The Getty Center is not to be confused with the J. Paul Getty Museum which is located in the hills of Malibu. The Getty Center draws 1.3 million visitors annually and the exhibitions inside include pre-20th-century European paintings, drawings, illuminated manuscripts, sculpture, and decorative arts.
On the outside of the Getty Center, there are outdoor sculptures and a beautiful garden offering unique vegetation and colorful flora.
The trees are something to compare to the light garden in Singapore and a paved walkway allows visitors to enjoy the garden in all of its glory without it being spoiled.
There is even a cactus garden that can be appreciated with a backdrop of the wonderful LA skyline. Visitors can see Brentwood as well as the skyscrapers of downtown LA.
Enjoy the free viewing platforms and take pictures of what is probably one of the best views in Los Angeles.
Houses in the hills of Brentwood can also be seen, admire the architecture of the surrounding residential properties and see as far as Bel Air.
Spend time enjoying the wide selection of European artwork.
Pick up a set of headphones for a full audio tour of the artwork and the building.
Click for more information about the Getty Center.
Walk the Road to Hollywood
The ‘Road to Hollywood’ is located within the Hollywood and Highland Center. The paved walkway can be found on entry to the first level.
Each tiled section of the walk way provides a story of how the rich and famous got into Hollywood Showbiz. Take some time out to read them as they lead you to the best part of the Hollywood and Highland Center.
The sories from the quoted actors/musicians and producers are all anonymous and each story allows you to imagine how tough it really is to break into the industry.
The Road to Hollywood path leads to the back of the Hollywood and Highland Center where the funniest part awaits, a statue of a luxurious bed and tat’s how some people got into Hollywood!
From the end of the pathway, you can also enjoy one of the best views of the Hollywood Sign within Los Angeles.
Explore Melrose Avenue
Melrose Avenue is a famous shopping, dining and entertainment district that starts at Santa Monica Boulevard, at the border between Beverly Hills and West Hollywood.
Part of the Avenue is home to the Melrose District. As well as being home to the Paramount Pictures Studios, Melrose Avenue is also a popular area for independent clothes stores.
Celebrities flock here to buy unique clothing and accessories as well as healthy cafes all with a quirky and unique theme. There are hardly any chain stores located here, just graffiti covered independent vendors.
One of the most famous landmarks located on Melrose Avenue is Paramount Pictures.
As a tradition, every Sunday 250+ local vendors, collectors, artisans, and artists gather in the parking lot on the corner of Melrose and Fairfax Avenues to celebrate the culture of Melrose Avenue. Food vendors and live music can be found here are well as vendors offering stylish clothing and accessories.
Wander around Melrose Avenue for a quirky mix of stores and a it’s own hip vibe.
Wander Universal City Walk
Univeral City walk in Los Angeles is located right beside Universal Studios in Hollywood. The City Walk is a line of shops, restaurants and entertainment buildings and it is completely free to enter.
Enjoy indoor parachuting,world class cinemas, international cuisie in the many restaurants and an official LA dodgers store.
The Dodger’s store at Universal City Walk even has it’s own walk of fame where players past and present have lay their hand prints and signatures.
Click for more information on Universal City Walk Hollywood.
Amoeba Music Store Hollywood
Pop inside the world’s largest independent record store and window shop around the vast collection of CDs, Vinyls and music memorabilia.
Located at 6400 Sunset Boulevard, the Ameoba Music Store has locations at Berkley and San Francisco as well as Hollywood.
Many music megastars have attended live performances and record signings in store, check the Ameoba Music Store event page for upcoming listings.
The Hollywood Sign
If you’re wondering where to see the Hollywood sign from Los Angeles, the Hollywood and Highland Center offers a perfect view.
You cannot see the Hollywood sign from the beaches. The best place to see the Hollywood sign in Los Angeles is via the official Hollywood Sign Hike. The hike is free for all and is moderate in terms of terrain and incline. Hikers are rewarded with one of the best views in Los Angeles after a 2 hour uphill trek and a viewing platform is available right behind the sign.
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