While Los Angeles can seem like a grandiose adventure, you don’t have to break the bank to see the side that locals enjoy. Los Angeles can be a chill, laid-back experience, and here’s our guide to exploring the scene on a budget (including attractions that are completely free to check out). You can choose to spend hours or an entire day at any one of these places: perfect for spontaneous weekend fun.
Here’s our guide to the TOP COST-FRIENDLY THINGS TO DO in LA:
1. Visit one of the many beaches Los Angeles County has to offer. They’re entirely free; the only cost is parking! Down south we have Venice Beach, home to the World-famous Venice beach boardwalk that features road-side attractions, local vendors, and an assortment of people like you’ve never seen. North of there is Santa Monica beach, a more traditional beach with it’s own attraction-filled pier. Looking for a beach that will let you sprawl out? We would suggest taking the Pacific Coast Highway a little north to Malibu. You can enjoy the sounds of the ocean with a lot less chatter in the background. When you’re looking for a bite up there, check out the fine Japanese dining at Nobu or grab a “farm-to-table” burger at the Malibu Farm Pier Café. Last but not least, If Malibu isn’t your scene, try going south of Venice to Manhattan Beach. You’ll have plenty of beach space to meander, and can usually find a good volleyball match to join for those that are looking for a little more action.
2. Get cultured at one of L.A’s fine-art museums. From LACMA to the Broad, we’re sure you’ll find something that ‘fits’ your fancy. Here are some of our Los Angeles favorites and how you can enjoy them for free:
The Broad: Free with reservation, or you must wait in line. A new museum near downtown LA featuring one of the largest collections of post-war and contemporary art pieces in the world.
The Getty: Free admission; $15 parking. The Getty museum is a work of art on its own; a large art museum nested on a hill overlooking all of LA.
LACMA: Free admission every second Tuesday of the month & free after 3pm Monday through Friday (for LA County residents). LACMA is LA’s most popular contemporary art museum, and a great place to take kids or just chill.
The Getty Villa: Free admission; $15 parking. Located north of Los Angeles in Malibu, the Getty Villa is a beautiful art-focused estate owned by the Getty Trust.
MOCA Grand Ave: Free admission every Thursday from 5 to 8pm. A beautiful contemporary art museum in downtown Los Angeles.
3. You’re on the best coast, so enjoy a breath-taking SoCal sunset. These are the best places to see that perfect pink color-way in the sky:
Griffith Observatory: Located atop Griffith Park, the Griffith Observatory has been a Los Angeles landmark since 1935. It overlooks Los Angeles, offers an up-close and personal view of the famous Hollywood Sign, and on a clear day you can see the Pacific Ocean and Catalina Island.
Any one of Los Angeles’s beaches or piers, from South Bay to Malibu, you can enjoy a picturesque sunset from any beach or pier. If you’re looking for smaller crowds, check out Hermosa Beach, Manhattan Beach or Malibu. If you want to submerge yourself in the hustle and bustle, check out Venice Beach or the Santa Monica Pier.
El Matador State Beach: If you want a post-card beach, then this is the place for you. Not only are you going to be able to see some of the best coastline California has to offer, but you’ll be able to explore some of the hidden sea-caves found on the beach.
Ascot Hills Park: All of the Southern California charm, minus the crowd. Ascot Hills Park is one of Los Angeles hidden gems that you can have all to yourself (well almost). Take the 2-mile loop while you enjoy the great outdoors.
4. Pick your favorite rooftop. LA offers some impeccable roof tops to loosen up with a libation, while enjoying impeccable Cali weather. Our top spots would be:
Hotel Erwin’s High Rooftop Bar: Located in the heart of Venice with views that expand from Manhattan Beach to North County, the Hotel Erwin is a great place to mingle with locals and tourists alike. There’s a good chance you’ll be listening some some groovy tunes offered by a local DJ.
Looking for something with a downtown city vibe? Check out The Standard Downtown, our favorite LA rooftop pool. Located in the financial district of Downtown, The Standard rooftop is legendary among locals and offers some of the better pool parties in all of Los Angeles.
Upstairs Rooftop Lounge at Ace Hotel. What was once the United Artists building has since been converted into a swanky, vibrant hotel with a one-of-a kind rooftop lounge. Once the sun goes down, stay and enjoy a beautiful view of Downtown LA’s city lights.
5. The Pacific Ocean. Although it may not be the tropical body of water you were looking for, you can be sure to have a blast playing in the waves or riding them on a board. If you didn’t bring your surf gear, most beaches offer affordable rental options. If you don’t want to pay for a rental, try body surfing one of LA’s beach breaks.
Tip: Make sure you stay off the locals’ waves. Tempers can flair really fast out there.
It doesn’t matter what your plan is while visiting LA, but most ‘tourist’ traps are going to be packed with people. Our suggestion to you is to visit busier destinations earlier in the morning or later in the evening. Los Angeles also offers some of the best cuisine in the country, so make sure you head out with an open belly and palette.
Whatever you decide to do in Los Angeles, we hope we enlightened you to some of the budget-friendly options around. We wish you the best in exploring this incredible city!