When you think of California, you may picture large Hollywood mansions, I-can’t-afford-those theme parks, and high-end retailers on Rodeo Drive. While those are amazing sights to see, there are seven stellar free things to do in LA (or nearly free) in this diverse and sprawling city, especially if you are on a budget but ready to explore this iconic city.
7 Free Things to do in LA
When you first arrive in Los Angeles and navigate your way out of the LAX airport, it’s always beneficial to plan your expeditions. In this article, you will find 7 free things to do in LA (or they are really low cost) in and around the city.
Beach Day & Free Aquarium Manhattan Beach Pier
Starting near the airport, first head to the beach at Manhattan Beach Pier. Going to the beach is one of the most popular free things to do in LA. Manhattan Beach Pier offers a two-mile-long, wide sandy flat beach with a pier and small aquarium, the Roadhouse Aquarium, which is free to the public. Beach parking starts at 1st Street in the south and ends at Rosecrans Avenue.
Insider Tip: A shopping complex (including a Target and CVS) is nearby if you need to grab some beach items, drinks, or snacks. Parking is metered and charged hourly for up to two hours. Bring quarters for meter parking.
Bikes and Scooters in Venice Beach
After a day at the beach, take a coastal drive north to Santa Monica and Venice Beach. Several parking lots are near Venice Beach Boardwalk, available for a small daily free. After parking, you can walk the paved walking and bike path betw een Venice Beach and Santa Monica, passing by the popular Muscle Beach areas, where locals exercise. Why not join them for a quick set? After all, exercising is one of the healthiest free things to do in LA (or anywhere else, for that matter).
Insider Tip: Weekends are very busy at Venice Beach and Santa Monica. Try visiting during a weekday.
Hourly bicycle rentals are available, as well as scooter rentals. Don’t forget to ask for a helmet. You’ll also see the Santa Monica Pier, where ice cream is a must. This is one of those spots that offers mostly free things to do in LA, while only needed some pocket change to enjoy the area.
Insider Tip: Sand that blows onto the paved walking and bike paths may reduce traction for riders. Try to steer away from blown sand.
Read More: Guide to Bike Tours for your Next Trip
S’mores at Dockweiler State Park
For an evening wind down, plan ahead, bring along some supplies, and head to Dockweiler State Beach. Dockweiler State Park offers access to almost four miles of beach and firepits to watch the sunset and enjoy an evening of smores on the beach. Pack a lighter, wood, marshmallows, graham crackers, and chocolate. You probably have most of these things on hand anyway, so here’s one of those tasty and memorable free things to do in LA.
Read More: 5 Days on the Dark Side of California
Hiking to the Hollywood Sign
Insider Tip: The Hollywood Sign is hard to see at night. No lights are turned on. So, plan your visit during the daylight hours.
When you visit Los Angeles, don’t leave without a hiking experience. Couple your hike with a trail that has views of the Hollywood sign to cross two free things to do in LA off of your list. The Hollywood sign can be viewed from several locations, but one of the easiest trails, which also offers free parking spots, is the Bronson Caves in Griffith Park.
Insider Tip: If you are movie or television fan who watched the Batman classics, the Bronson Cave was the site for filming the old Batman television series.
You never know how long you’ll be out hiking, so bring plenty of water when in and around Los Angeles. At Griffith Park, many of the trails offer very little shade. Hydration and sunscreen are a must if you plan on being here for some great selfies and photo ops while exploring free things to do in LA.
Strolling down Rodeo Drive, Beverly Hills
Walking in and around Rodeo Drive may be one of your most memorable experiences. Hourly parking garages are available, on Beverly Drive, with many offering the first two hours free. After window shopping in and around Rodeo, located within walking distance is Beverly Gardens Park. The park is open to the public and has great photo opportunities near the iconic Beverly Hills sign. Watch out, though. This is one of those free things to do in LA that can turn costly if you do more than window shopping!
Read More: An Afternoon in Wilshire
Renting Swan Boats at Echo Park Lake
Echo Park Lake is a mile-long, man-made lake where you will find ducks, geese, blackbirds, rainbow trout, turtles, a water fountain, and much more. For a small hourly fee, up to four people can fit into a swan boat rental, paddle around the lake and enjoy great views of the Los Angeles skyline. This is truly an easy date idea that can turn into something more (got a proposal?) with the romantic scenery surrounding you.
Insider Tip: Locals call Echo Park Lake a hidden gem in Los Angeles.
Eating at the Iconic LAX In and Out Burger
Wrap up your adventure in Los Angeles, by visiting the famous LAX In and Out Burger located on S. Sepulveda Blvd. Enjoy the 100% beef burgers, hand-cut fries, and ice cream shakes at this iconic family-owned chain. You may find it odd that we added this to our list, however, once you dine there, you’ll thank us later. It’s not completely free, but you DO have to eat sometime, so you might as well give LAX In and Out Burger a go.
Insider Tip: Check out the In and Out Burger Secret Menu ahead of time.
With so many exciting sites that offer free things to do in LA, a trip to Los Angeles can include hiking, swimming, sunsets at the beach, a boat ride, and so much more. You don’t have to always go the expensive route to explore or spend time with someone special. Los Angeles has a lot to offer, and you don’t even have to spend your whole paycheck to enjoy it!
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