Los Angeles Travel Guide

USA  #5 in Best Nightlife Scenes in the USA
Credit

Courtesy of Az Jackson/Getty Images

Free Things To Do in Los Angeles

If you have extra time, Santa Monica Pier and Beach is worthwhile.
  • #1
    Things to do in Los Angeles
    View all Photos
    #1 in Los Angeles
    Hiking, Museums, Parks and Gardens, Recreation, Sightseeing, Free
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Hiking, Museums, Parks and Gardens, Recreation, Sightseeing, Free
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    Griffith Observatory sits on the south face of Mount Hollywood and overlooks the Los Angeles basin. Its location gives visitors impressive views of the surrounding area. But there's more than just a pretty photo-op here. The observatory hosts fascinating exhibitions and features a top-notch planetarium.

    Most recent visitors cited the beautiful setting as Griffith Observatory's main draw, though the free entry was certainly a bonus. However, you will have to pay between $3 and $7 to see the planetarium shows. Griffith Observatory is open from noon to 10 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, with extended hours on weekends. Free but limited parking is available along the winding roads leading up to the property, or visitors can park in the small lot by the observatory for $4 per hour. A gift shop and cafe can be found on-site as well. For more information, check out Griffith Observatory's website.

  • #2
    The Getty Center
    View all Photos
    #2 in Los Angeles
    Museums, Free
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Museums, Free
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    The Getty Center is one of the most impressive architectural achievements in the United States – and it also contains some of the finest works of art in the world. The circular concrete-and-steel structure was designed by renowned architect Richard Meier, and it houses an abundance of art from various ages and nations. Here you'll find Renaissance paintings, 20th-century American photography, Baroque sculptures, historic manuscripts and more, all housed inside a sprawling, modern campus amid the Santa Monica Mountains. The museum also offers spectacular views of Los Angeles on clear days.

    Recent travelers loved the museum for its value and beauty, highlighting the contrast between the art center's subtle refinement and the over-the-top glitz of Hollywood. Many visitors suggest taking a guided tour, noting that the tour highlights interesting parts of the museum they wouldn't have stumbled upon on their own. Free 45-minute guided tours are provided at 11 a.m. or 2 p.m. for groups with 15 to 30 people, while complimentary headsets can be borrowed for self-guided audio tours.

  • #3
    Santa Monica Pier and Beach
    View all Photos
    #3 in Los Angeles
    Beaches, Entertainment and Nightlife, Free, Neighborhood/Area
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Beaches, Entertainment and Nightlife, Free, Neighborhood/Area
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    Just west of downtown Los Angeles, Santa Monica contains one of the most legendary beach scenes in the United States. Santa Monica also boasts an abundance of great restaurants and excellent nightlife spots. The 3 miles of shoreline are renowned as some of the best in the area thanks to the soft sands, ideal weather and bevy of attractions. "State Beach," as its known, averages about 340 days of sunshine a year and acted as the backdrop for the popular television series "Baywatch."

    Santa Monica is a very walkable part of town, and many recent visitors suggest you explore the area by bicycle. One of the most scenic rides is along the 26-mile bike path, which runs parallel to the Pacific Ocean and is the longest beach bike path in the world. Travelers also recommend riding the Ferris wheel at the pier and people-watching at the Third Street Promenade.

  • #4
    Hollywood Walk of Fame and TCL Chinese Theatre
    View all Photos
    #4 in Los Angeles
    Entertainment and Nightlife, Sightseeing, Free
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Entertainment and Nightlife, Sightseeing, Free
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    One of Hollywood's most iconic and memorable sites, the TCL Chinese Theatre (originally Grauman's Chinese Theatre) opened in 1927 and represents the excess of Hollywood's Golden Age. You can tour the theater for $18 (kids tour tickets cost $8 and senior tickets are $14 each); tours are offered from 10 a.m. to 9, 9:30, 9:45 or 10 p.m. every day except Monday. Because of this attraction's popularity, it's best to reserve your spot online in advance. This working theater also shows various newly released films throughout the year.

    Overall, previous travelers said the tour guides' passion for the subject was evident, making their experiences special. However, some wished the area offered a glitzier atmosphere. Parking can also be challenging to find in Hollywood. Additional information about the attraction's tours and movie showtimes can be found on the TCL Chinese Theatre website.

  • #5
    Zuma Beach
    View all Photos
    #5 in Los Angeles
    Beaches, Recreation, Free
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Beaches, Recreation, Free
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    Malibu has a reputation for excessive wealth and exclusivity, yet all of the town's beaches are public – everyone's welcome. If you're seeking an LA beach spot for sunbathing and swimming, look no further than this part of town. The beaches here are far cleaner than those at Santa Monica or Venice Beach.

    Malibu's Zuma Beach is considered one of the finest beaches in the Los Angeles area. Locals and tourists laud Zuma for its awesome waves, ample parking and easy access to beachside snacks. Plus, there are a plethora of lifeguard stations and bathroom facilities.

  • #6
    Third Street Promenade
    View all Photos
    #6 in Los Angeles
    Shopping, Free, Neighborhood/Area
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Shopping, Free, Neighborhood/Area
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    The Third Street Promenade, popular with shopaholics, has an eclectic vibe similar to its Santa Monica locale. This open-air shopping mall is filled with major chain stores like Urban Outfitters and H&M, as well as more unique boutiques like the Kenneth Karmiole, Bookseller Inc. rare books shop and the toys-focused Puzzle Zoo. You'll also find that outdoor dining options – many of which use local ingredients – are plentiful. And if you're in the mood to cook your own meal, you can find fresh produce at the farmers market every Wednesday and Saturday morning, from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.

    Despite all the tempting spending options, the promenade's atmosphere is the main draw for many recent travelers. Unexpected extras like the sculptured shrubs and talented street performers are particularly popular with visitors. The pedestrian-friendly layout reminded some of shopping in Europe, though others were turned off by the large crowds and noisy atmosphere at night.

  • #7
    The Original Farmers Market and The Grove
    View all Photos
    #7 in Los Angeles
    Shopping, Free
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Shopping, Free
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    Sitting south of West Hollywood is one of LA's most beloved landmarks: The Original Farmers Market. Founded in 1934, this cream-colored facility reels in both residents and tourists with the promise of fresh produce and the aroma of ready-to-eat snacks. You can visit throughout the week, although hours vary depending on the day. Entry is free, but you'll want to have some cash on hand should any of the treats whet your appetite. Complimentary parking (when a ticket is validated at the market) is also provided for up to 90 minutes of parking at the market's two lots.

    Though some previous visitors wished this market had more produce and meat stalls, most appreciated the tasty dishes sold by many of the prepared food vendors. But keep in mind that this market is often crowded and has limited tables, so expect to eat outside the market area or wait for a table to become available. Find out more by visiting the market's website.

  • #8
    Sunset Boulevard
    View all Photos
    #8 in Los Angeles
    Free, Neighborhood/Area
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Free, Neighborhood/Area
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    One of the most iconic thoroughfares in the United States, Sunset Boulevard continues to live up to its legends. In the old days, it represented the classic and glamorous Hollywood lifestyle and became the setting of several famous films, including the obvious classic "Sunset Boulevard." Today, the palm-lined street (which connects downtown LA to Hollywood, Beverly Hills and the Pacific Coast Highway) retains its cinematic appeal, and the Sunset Strip portion has become a popular nightlife spot. The strip is also home to many classic music venues, including the Rainbow Bar & Grill and The Roxy Theatre.

    Recent visitors loved driving along this famous boulevard, adding that gorgeous sunsets can be enjoyed during late afternoon drives. But like other parts of LA, this thoroughfare gets congested once rush hour hits, so plan accordingly.

  • #10
    Runyon Canyon Park
    View all Photos
    #10 in Los Angeles
    Hiking, Parks and Gardens, Free
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Hiking, Parks and Gardens, Free
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    Just two blocks from Hollywood Boulevard, Runyon Canyon Park is an often overlooked urban park that offers some great views. Atop the canyon, you can glimpse views of the San Fernando Valley and the Pacific Ocean, as well as the Hollywood Sign and Giffith Observatory. The park also boasts several hiking trails and is a popular spot for celebrities to exercise.

    Travelers say that the canyon is reminiscent of Old Hollywood with several old mansions and estates scattered throughout the park – keep your eyes peeled as you follow the trail. Because of the hot, dry climate, the hike can be rough (even for those in great physical condition), so bring plenty of water.

  • #12
    Hollywood Bowl
    View all Photos
    #12 in Los Angeles
    Entertainment and Nightlife, Museums, Free
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Entertainment and Nightlife, Museums, Free
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    If you can catch a gig at the Hollywood Bowl, LA's beautiful outdoor amphitheater, don't pass it up. Since its inaugural season in 1922, this unique stage, set in the Hollywood Hills, has entertained thousands of fans and hosted some of the biggest names in music, including the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Madonna, Elton John and Tina Turner.

    Many travelers praise the Hollywood Bowl, touting everything from the sound quality to the scenic overlook. Several also add that all of the seats offer great views and suggest arriving early with a bottle of wine and a picnic basket. Also, save time for the on-site Hollywood Bowl Museum and the Hall of Fame. The museum highlights Hollywood Bowl history with special exhibits showcasing artists who have put on shows at the venue, while the Hall of Fame celebrates performers who embody the meaning of being a "true superstar," according to its website. Inductees range from Stevie Wonder to Frank Sinatra to Gloria Estefan. Admission to both venues is free.

  • #13
    Rodeo Drive
    View all Photos
    #13 in Los Angeles
    Shopping, Free
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Shopping, Free
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    Immortalized by Julia Robert's "Pretty Woman" shopping spree, Rodeo Drive is an upscale shopping street in Beverly Hills that features designer stores and small private boutiques. The area is popular with wealthy shoppers, sunglass-wearing celebrities and tourists hoping to see fashion icons.

    Don't be afraid to browse. Most shop owners are used to sightseers walking the area with little intent to purchase anything. That said, many recent visitors cautioned that some stores require appointments for entry and are generally off limits to tourists. Others said the thoroughfare can be a bit boring if you don't plan on shopping, although past travelers with a passion for cars enjoyed looking for expensive vehicles parked along Rodeo Drive's curb.

  • #14
    Venice Beach
    View all Photos
    #14 in Los Angeles
    Beaches, Free, Neighborhood/Area
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Beaches, Free, Neighborhood/Area
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    Developed in the early 20th century, Venice Beach is modeled – canals and all – after its namesake city in Italy. Admittedly, the experiment didn't live up to its Italian inspiration, but the neighborhood has become distinctly Californian, embodying the spirit of the wealthy, the alternative and the just plain bizarre. Rather than towering churches and intimate pizzerias, you'll find canalside mansions near funky boutiques and restaurants.

    Venice Beach's claim to fame is its boardwalk. Hosting a daily procession of eclectic characters and scantily clad beachgoers, the boardwalk never fails to impress out-of-towners. Past visitors loved checking out the area's unique scene (including the open-air Muscle Beach and the Hotel Erwin's High Rooftop Lounge), although some cautioned that the parts away from the pier were not appropriate for younger children. Also, remember that Venice Beach can get crowded on sunny days and is better suited for sunbathing, not swimming.

  • #15
    Hollywood Forever Cemetery
    View all Photos
    #15 in Los Angeles
    Sightseeing, Free
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Sightseeing, Free
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    As morbid as it may seem, your best chance of spotting a celebrity in LA is at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery. Here, you'll find the final resting places of Rudolph Valentino, Douglas Fairbanks, Jayne Mansfield, Cecil B. DeMille and other stars who once worked at the adjacent Paramount Pictures Studios. You can pick up a free map at the entrance to the cemetery (where you'll also have a great view of the famous Hollywood Sign).

    Recent visitors described the cemetery's quiet grounds as "peaceful and serene," adding that the grounds are well-maintained. Many also appreciated the informative caretakers and the on-site flower shop's friendly staff.

  • #16
    Walt Disney Concert Hall
    View all Photos
    #16 in Los Angeles
    Entertainment and Nightlife, Sightseeing, Free
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Entertainment and Nightlife, Sightseeing, Free
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    This Frank Gehry-designed concert hall has helped revive downtown Los Angeles, which was once dominated by mundane office buildings and lackluster entertainment options. Now, nightlife and culture burgeon in the area, and the concert hall is at the forefront. The curvaceous, stainless steel exterior is worth a visit alone, but travelers will also want to catch one of the Los Angeles Philharmonic's performances at the hall. (For ticket and price information, visit the Los Angeles Philharmonic's website.)

    But you don't have to invest in concert tickets to experience this performance venue: You can follow a docent-led tour or a self-guided audio tour of the exterior and interior (though the actual concert auditorium is off-limits). Hour-long guided and audio tours are both free; audio tours are offered Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. or 2 to 5 p.m., while guided tour hours vary by day and are generally available on Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. For a full tour schedule, visit The Music Center's website.

  • #18
    Greystone Mansion and Park
    View all Photos
    #18 in Los Angeles
    Historic Homes/Mansions, Parks and Gardens, Free
    TYPE
    Less than 1 hour
    TIME TO SPEND
    Historic Homes/Mansions, Parks and Gardens, Free
    TYPE
    Less than 1 hour
    TIME TO SPEND

    Greystone is one of the largest mansions in Beverly Hills and an important landmark for American cinema. Originally built by oil tycoon Edward L. Doheny in 1927 as a gift to his son, Ned, Greystone now represents a golden age in American cinema. Many films, including "The Big Lebowski" and "Ghostbusters," and television shows like "General Hospital" and "Gilmore Girls" have been shot on these gothic-inspired grounds.

    Today, the interior of the mansion is closed, but visitors are free to walk around the property. Many visitors call Greystone Mansion a "hidden gem" within LA, saying that it offers respite from the city's hustle and bustle. Travelers describe the park grounds as spectacular, with expertly manicured lawns, a variety of flowers, artful fountains and even a koi pond.

  • Grand Central Market
    View all Photos
    Cafes, Shopping, Free
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Cafes, Shopping, Free
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    Grand Central Market, or foodie heaven according to visitors, is located in downtown Los Angeles by the Walt Disney Concert Hall. The venue features high ceilings and an open layout, with food vendor stalls offering different cuisines that represent cultures from the Los Angeles area and beyond. The market has been in operation since 1917 and serves everything from craft beer, coffee and pressed juices to deli fare, egg sandwiches, falafel, tacos and chow mein.

    Visitors love this market's lively atmosphere, where LA's diversity shines. However, this foodie paradise is popular, so expect lines, especially at popular vendors like Eggslut, Sticky Rice and Bombo. You'll also find that meals here are considerably cheaper than those served in other parts of the city.

Explore More of Los Angeles

Recommended

The 5 Best Kauai Helicopter Tours

See the Garden Island's far-reaching beauty from the air.

Holly JohnsonJune 14, 2019

The 6 Best Las Vegas Helicopter Tours

Get a thrilling look at the lights and sights of Sin City and its surroundings with one of these tours.

Holly JohnsonJune 13, 2019

20 Road Trip Essentials for Your Vacation

These road trip must-haves can help you save money, travel more comfortably and ensure you stay safe on the open road.

Holly JohnsonJune 13, 2019

13 Top Charlottesville Wineries to Visit

Sip a glass of Virginia's signature viognier as the sun sets over the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Gwen PratesiJune 12, 2019

The 16 Best Seattle Tours

Explore the Emerald City's natural beauty and urban offerings with these guided excursions.

Lyn MettlerJune 12, 2019

The 24 Best London Tours

Whether it's your first time in London or you're a repeat visitor, you'll experience a side of the city you've never seen with these tours.

Kim Foley MacKinnonJune 6, 2019

The 21 Best Paris Tours

Enhance your visit to the City of Love with one of these top tours.

Claire LawtonJune 5, 2019

The 20 Best New York City Tours

These guided tours help make the most of your time in the Big Apple.

John RodwanJune 4, 2019

The 24 Best Rome Tours

Enjoy the efficiency of an organized tour led by experts who bring Rome's history to life.

Kyle McCarthyMay 31, 2019

The 8 Best Savannah Ghost Tours

Prove you're not afraid of the dark by taking one of these terrifying tours.

Gwen PratesiMay 31, 2019