With beautiful weather (nearly) year-round, a backyard of ocean and mountains and hundreds of cultural institutions, it’s easy to be a tourist—or a curious local—on a budget in Los Angeles. Sure, Tinseltown boasts plenty of glitz and glamor, but for a more low-key day or night, check out our guide below for the best free things to do in LA.
Gallery Hop in Culver City
Some of the world’s most cutting edge contemporary artists live in LA. And with galleries hosting rotating exhibitions of their work every month, you’ll never get bored. Spend a couple of hours gallery hopping in Culver City gallery hopping at the best spaces like Blum and Poe and Honor Fraser. Tip: Drop by during the openings, for complimentary beer or wine.
People Watch at SLS Beverly Hills
It’s no secret that Los Angeles is an epicenter for some of the globe’s most beautiful people to live and visit. And that translates into fabulous people-watching. Pull up a chair in the elegant lobby of SLS Beverly Hills for an insider seat.
Take a Hike
There are countless options for stellar hikes offering a great workout and unparalleled views of Tinseltown. We love Topanga Canyon Loop, Malibu Creek State Park, or one of our other faves!
Hear Literary Legends Read Their Work
Poets, Pulitzer Prize winners, and literary heavyweights like A.M. Homes, Jonathan Lethem, and Michael Chabon have all appeared in the Hammer Readings series. The events occasionally include book signings and courtyard receptions, and if you come early, Hammer’s excellent exhibitions are also free.
Bike to the Ocean
Most people in LA drive, but one of the best ways to see the city is by bike. One of the best rides you can do is The Ballona Creek Bike Path, a seven-mile stretch separated from street traffic. It runs from National Boulevard in Culver City to the Pacific Ocean at Marina del Rey, where it finally turns into a beachfront path.
Visit the Getty Villa
Get a taste of what the good life looks like at The Getty Villa, once home to industrialist J. Paul Getty, who modeled it after an ancient Roman country house. The building is an architectural wonder, and the antiquities on display, along with the property’s lush gardens, will also inspire. It’s all free, but advance, timed tickets are necessary.
Since the 1930s, mariachi musicians dressed in vibrant charro suits have gathered here, to be hired for parties, restaurants, or community events. These professional performers belt out traditional Latin songs for the public to hear while they enjoy the area’s other attractions like the Friday farmers’ market.
Check Out a Star Party at Griffith Observatory
Colonel Griffith J. Griffith once said, “If all mankind could look through that telescope, it would change the world!” This sentiment has inspired free monthly star parties, where local astronomy groups school the curious public on celestial points of interest.
Party at First Fridays in Venice
Abbot Kinney‘s First Fridays are a mix of gallery openings, live music, free swag, beautiful people and food trucks—although the latter is where you have to bust out your wallet. Perfect timing, the next event kicks off this Friday, March 6!
Tour Disney Concert Hall
Starchitect Frank Gehry meets Walt Disney in a mind-blowing architectural experience. While the classical music concerts and symphonies held here are not free, viewing where all the magic goes down, and the docent-led tours, are.