Thanks to the glistening, glamorous world of Hollywood, the City of Angels has never been too far away from the center of the world’s spotlight.
While a few of its mainstay attractions might cost an arm and a leg to visit, like the so-called ‘Happiest Place on Earth’ (more like the ‘Most Expensive Place on Earth’), Disneyland, and the always-popular money-grabber, Universal Studios, that doesn’t mean that the rest of LA needs to break the bank.
There is an abundance of low-cost, or better yet, free things to do in Los Angeles - all you need is someone who can point you in the right direction.
Kicking off the list of cheap-as-chips Los Angeles attractions is the locally beloved Original Farmers Market, and its adjacent shopping and entertainment strip, The Grove. Not too far away from the hustle and bustle of Hollywood, the farmers market has been welcoming both residents and tourists since way back in the 1930s.
While it’s completely free to visit, a few bucks on hand won’t go astray, as there’s a plethora of fresh produce that’ll have you licking your lips and begging for more as soon as you’ve been lured in by the free sample.
It wouldn’t be a proper visit to ever-sunny Calfornia if we didn’t work at least a few hours on the sand into the itinerary. One of the best places to do so, without a doubt, is in Santa Monica.
While it can become a little chaotic during peak tourist times, generally it’s a wonderful way to take in the views of pacific, ice-cream in one hand and camera in the other, before taking a whirl on one of the old-school arcade games or coasters. The visit doesn’t have to come to an end as the sun sets though, after dusk the nightlife kicks off, with welcoming restaurants and bars galore.
While we’re in a bit of a beach mood, let’s take a short stroll from Santa Monica down to Los Angeles’ other prime spot of sand - Venice. With its picturesque canals, the area is actually modeled and named after the infamous floating Italian city, so make sure that the camera batteries are fully charged.
As lovely as the shore is, never a dull moment passes on the Venice Beach boardwalk either. The open-air Muscle Beach draws in looks for passerbys on the regular, while the regular roster of street performers is sure to put a smile on the face of any visitor.
From the chaotically eccentric sandy beaches out west, we’re heading a little further inland in search of a change of scenery and a much-needed breath of fresh air. On the south face of Mount Hollywood, nestled among the hills is the widely regarded Griffith Observatory. With a stellar view over the LA basin, the Griffith Observatory offers a combination of intriguing exhibitions, great photo-ops, and its very own planetarium (that part isn’t free, however, so make sure to have a few bucks on hand.)
It’s one of the Los Angeles points of interest that often gets pushed aside by the more popular touristic areas but don’t let that dissuade you - it’s a great way to spend an afternoon.
While we’re over at the impressive Griffith Observatory, taking in the top-notch views of the basin below, why not explore a little more of the massive, urban Griffith park? At 4,210 acres, massive isn’t an understatement by any means.
Aside from the world-famous Hollywood Sign and the Los Angeles Zoo & Botanical Gardens, there are also plenty of waterfalls and lagoons waiting to be photographed, plus a handful of hiking and biking routes ready to be explored. Entry to the park is completely free, however, make sure to check the opening hours, as it usually stops welcoming visitors at around 10pm.
After exploring the four-thousand-plus acres of Griffith Park, if your thirst for nature is yet to be fully quenched, then it’s Runyon Canyon Park to the rescue! Just a couple of blocks away from the iconic (yet somewhat overrated) Hollywood Boulevard, RCP offers views of the populated San Fernando Valley and the shimmering Pacific Ocean beyond it.
Even though there’s an abundance of hiking trails in the area, experts recommend taking extreme caution in the summer month due to the high chance of heatstroke.
If the earlier Famers Market made your ears prick up, then the Grand Central Market in downtown Los Angeles, adjacent to the Walt Disney Concert Hall, is another surefire hit. The open-layout venue has been serving up different Los Angeles cuisines (which, let’s face it, is an amalgamation of pretty much everywhere in the world) since it opened back in 1917.
From tacos to sandwiches, falafel, cured meats, and chow mein, there’s no shortage of tasty snack to choose from. The Grand Central Market presents itself as a perfect place to stop for lunch in between a couple of Downtown LA activities.
It might arguably be the most overhyped and overrated attraction not only in the USA but on the entire planet, however, that doesn’t mean that we’re going to overlook a quick visit to the star-studded Walk of Fame. Regardless of the influx of scammers and tacky souvenir shops, there is still a number of interesting things to see. The historic TCL Chinese Theatre, for example, is one of them.
Would you catch a local walking down Hollywood Boulevard? Absolutely not. Is it worth a sneaky afternoon visit for a couple of photos next to our favorite actor’s star? Sure, why not.
If you were lucky enough to catch a hasty glimpse of one of the celebrities emerging from their house up in Beverly Hills, then perhaps you’ll bump into someone rich and famous on Rodeo Drive as well. Is a ‘regular’ shopping area, there are no costs to walk up and down the high-end shopping strip. What will set you back an arm and a leg, however, is literally anything that you buy.
Since so many people come and go without actually purchasing anything, some local stores have recently implemented a ‘by appointment only’ shopping rule. Apart from those uptight institutions, wander till your heart’s content, Julia Roberts-style!
We’ve had a blast so far and our wallet has been thankful, but we’re not quite finished yet. Capping off our budget-friendly trip to the City of Angels is a visit to the world-famous Getty Center. With some of the world’s finest works of art, the Richard Meier-designed area offers everything from 20th-century American photography to Renaissance paintings and some of the most dazzling gardens in the state.
Not only is it free to enter but there is also a range of free 45-minute guided tours. Just watch out for that parking fee.