You don’t have to have pockets as loaded as Lisa Vanderpump’s or Tom Cruise’s to visit Los Angeles and see what all the area has to offer. Actually, a trip to LA is often much cheaper than one to New York or Orlando and the LA one is often quite a bit more fun! LA is definitely unlike anywhere else in America, offering an extraordinary combination of beach time, urban life, celeb encounters, theme parks, and scenic hiking that is truly unsurpassable. The warm weather combined with the occasional celebrity sighting is a real treat for those who can’t seem to keep their eyes off TMZ or Vogue. Even if you don’t find yourself researching the latest gossip or watching the hippest reality shows, everyone has to visit Tinseltown at least once in their lifetime to see how the other half live, for yourself! The celebrities live here for a good reason, so step into their world for the day, for free, at these 17 amazing places from all across town!
1. See The Hollywood Sign, one of the oldest, most well known landmarks in the world. The 9 letters that spell Hollywood are high above LA in 45-foot tall white letters. It was created as an advertisement in 1923, that originally read “Hollywoodland,” and its purpose was to advertise a new housing development. This sign is known for it’s distinctive, wavy appearance, but when seen at a comparable altitude the letters appear straight-across. While visitors can’t actually touch these letters for themselves, there are plenty of hiking trails in the area, which allow you to get a good view of the sign. Before serious security precautions were put in place, the sign was actually known as a popular spot for pranksters, as people changed the letters to read things like “Hollyweed,”Holywood,” and “Ollywood.”
The view from behind the world famous Hollywood Sign.
2. Window shop on Rodeo Drive. Even if you don’t plan on spending thousands buying out the Louis Vuitton and Hermes stores, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t come and see how the upper class–and just those local wannabes who go deep into debt here as they try to keep up with the Joneses–and go for the stroll of a lifetime. Actually, the stores and restaurants just a block or two off the main road actually are somewhat affordable. I mean after all, you’ve made it all this way so you might as well get a bite to eat at their legendary Sprinkles Cupcakes, which is just two blocks off Rodeo Drive. Sprinkles is where all the A-listers go! You can read more about it (and what makes it so unique) in my post on 12 Fun Facts About Beverly Hills, which is sure to get you pumped for your next vacation! While Sprinkles originated in LA, they now have stores popping up all over the country, so those who just can’t wait or perhaps are just now finding out about this incredible chain will want to check out their official website to see if there’s one near you!
Take a walk down Rodeo Drive.
3. Visit The Hollywood Walk of Fame – It features more than 2,000 five-pointed stars with the names of celebrities to fictional characters can all be found on the Walk of Fame. It all dates back to February 9, 1960, when Joanne Woodward became the first performer to receive a star on this very walk. Under the name on each star you will see a small, round emblem which illustrates the celebrity’s category, with one of five symbols. The celebrity with the most stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame is singing-cowboy Gene Autry, who earned five different stars! While here, also take a look and get your picture in front of–arguably–the most iconic theater in America, The Grauman’s Theatre, one of the most famous theaters in the world. Look closely at it’s forecourt and you’ll see imprints from Whoopi Goldberg’s dreadlocks and even magic wands from the stars of Harry Potter.
The TLC Chinese Theater
4. Discover LA’s wilderness: Los Angeles possesses a wealth of natural wilderness, which attracts avid hikers and bikers to such sites as Topanga State Park, Malibu Creek State Park and the Angeles National Forest. Find the best hiking trails.
The panoramic view from Topanga State Park
5. Consider seeing a live TV show taping, most of which are free. Here’s a post I wrote with 6 Reasons Why You Should See A Live TV Shop Taping In LA, it’s where I tell all about what it was like seeing Chelsea Lately (and even meeting Chuy!) and Jimmy Kimmel Live. Other popular tapings include Last Comic Standing, Deal or No Deal, Wheel of Fortune, Jeopardy, Ellen, The Tonight Show, American Idol, and more.
See The Tonight Show!
6. Griffith Observatory offers a great view of the surrounding area and features the 300-seat Samuel Oschin Planetarium, where hourly screenings of a narrated 30-minute projection show called “Centered in the Universe” reveal the stars and planets that are hidden from the naked eye by the city’s ubiquitous lights and smog. Also, the observatory features 60 space-related exhibits, with the highlight being the largest astronomically accurate image ever produced, a 20*152-foot porcelain enamel dazzler that’s called “The Big Picture.” Onsite, you will find the Wolfgang Puck “Café at the End of the Universe,” and several Zeiss and solar telescopes for public use both day and night. On warm nights, with the lights twinkling below, this is one of the most romantic places in L.A. Admission to the observatory building and grounds is free.
The Griffith Observatory
7. Take a stroll down Venice Beach Boardwalk to check out the street performers, the hard bodies at muscle beach and the interesting characters wandering the strand during the summer and on weekends. Parking in the area ranges from $3 to $15 depending on the lot and the time of year. Limited free street parking is available in the neighborhood if you have the patience to look for it.
Ladies… how about some people watching at Muscle Beach?
8. In 2009, the Santa Monica Pier celebrated its first hundred years. Walk to end of the pier, passing artists along the way; meander through Pacific Park, the pier’s amusement park featuring a solar-powered Ferris wheel; and step into the Santa Monica Pier Aquarium, where children 12 and younger are free.
Santa Monica Beach
9. California Science Center is the West Coast’s largest hands-on science center, with features including a 50-foot animatronic woman whose muscles, bones, organs, and blood vessels are revealed, demonstrating how the body reacts to a variety of external conditions and activities. The Air and Space Gallery is a seven-story area where real air and spacecraft are suspended overhead. You can pedal a bicycle across a high-wire suspended 43 feet above the ground or get strapped into the Space Docking Simulator for an extra fee.
California Science Center
10. The La Brea Tar Pits in Hancock Park next to the LA County Museum of Art is the greatest source of prehistoric fossils ever excavated. These fossils have made their way into museums around the world, but the largest collection is here at the Page Museum. It’s free to wander the park and look at the tar pits and outdoor exhibits. During the summer, you can watch the excavators at work. Hancock Park is on Wilshire Blvd. Between Curson and Fairfax. Metered street parking or paid lots.
La Brea Tar Pits
11. The Getty Center, a modern hilltop fortress in Brentwood, houses one of the finest art collections in the world. The building and view are worth a visit even if you’re not interested in the art. The Museum is free, but there is a hefty fee for parking. Bike and motorcycle parking is free. Groups of 15 or more motorcycles must reserve parking. Metro Bus 761 stops at the main gate.
12. Explore the Mexican marketplace at the Pueblo de Los Angeles Historical Monument at Olvera Street. Explore on your own or join a free walking tour Wednesdays through Saturdays 10 a.m. to noon. A self-guided tour brochure describing the historic buildings is available at the Information Desk in the Plaza or at the El Pueblo Visitors Center. Entrance to LA Plaza Museum of Latino history at Olvera Street is also free. Parking Lot at Main Street and Cesar Chavez. Metro Red Line stop: Union Station.
See the incredible Pueblo de Los Angeles Historical Monument!
13. Disney Concert Hall and Music Center Tours – Performances at the Music Center and Disney Concert Hall may be on the pricey side, but you can tour the Music Center campus including Frank Gehry’s metallic masterpiece sailing down Grand Avenue. The inside of the Disney Concert Hall is great, but my favorite thing is climbing up on top among all that metal, and you can do that even if there’s no tour.
Disney Concert Hall
14. Hunt Down Some Culture! – In the 1970s, Hee Deok Lee’s grocery store on Olympic and Harvard Boulevards was one of the first shops in the community to make up Koreatown, also known endearingly as K-Town. Meander through the area’s shops, and if you work up an appetite, stop for Korean barbeque. About ten minutes from Koreatown in the Miracle Mile area, you’ll find the Korean Cultural Center, where many of the programs and exhibitions are free to the public. Visit the center’s 2,700-square-foot gallery, which houses traditional and contemporary art, or attend a film screening. Screenings are free and feature contemporary and classic Korean films with English subtitles.
15. In 1999, a section of East Hollywood was designated America’s first Thai Town. Some refer to the area as Thailand’s 77th province. The Thai New Year falls in early spring, and in L.A., much of the celebrating is done at the Songkran Festival. Attend the festival for free. Taste Thai curry, sit in on the Miss Thai New Year Pageant Show, or watch a boxing competition or a traditional folk dancing session. In the early morning, a ceremony commences to gently bless respected elders with water.
16. Walk the grounds of the Hollywood Forever Cemetery, where many of Hollywood’s early directors, writers, and performers are buried. The cemetery opened in 1899. Rudolph Valentino is buried here, as is Harvey Wilcox, the founder of Hollywood, and Victor Fleming, director of The Wizard of Oz and Gone with the Wind.
17. Follow the paparazzi: Witnessing the paparazzi portion of the star-making cycle is an authentic LA experience, and totally free. Check out the top places to celeb watch.
For the ultimate guide to all of LA, be sure to check out our travel guide to Los Angeles!
And, now that you’ve saved all this money on attraction costs, why not splurge a little and dine where the stars go! For starters, be sure to check out our post on 16 LA Restaurant Recommendations From Top Hollywood Celebrities!
What’s your favorite free attraction in LA? Let us know in the comments section below. We’d love to hear from you. 😉