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Los Angeles travel guide

Perfect Free Things in Los Angeles to do for People on a Budget

July 2, 2018
by Joanna Ramirez

I know we’ve heard it a lot, that visiting the City of Angels is an expensive affair. We think of the price of a cocktail, an Uber ride, a trip to an art gallery, or a visit to a theme park with the family. The price of everything, basically.

With that said, it bears mention that whatever the "city of Hollywood stars" take, they give back in free stuff for ordinary folks and tourists. Apart from boasting of countless taco trucks, miles upon miles of white, sandy beaches, an endless coastline and scenic byways, the city of celebrity has much to give even when you’re watching your wallet. The fine diners and star-studded bars may be enticing, LA has bargain buys, cheap eats, affordable budget hotels, reasonable charter bus rides, gratis yoga classes, free admissions into museums, and budget-friendly events. Not everyone’s living the life of Riley.

Although many magazines would point you toward celebrity-worthy bars, gyms, and restaurants, often, if you looked hard enough, affordable alternatives could be right under your nose. Going on the cheap could also involve some investigative work. With the help of the internet and guide of locals, you'll find budget-friendly options just a little off the common radar in no time. Beaches like El Matador State Beach, Zuma Beach, Leo Carrillo State Park, El Porto Beach and Abalone Cove Ecological Reserve are all free. Getty Center, The Broad, LACMA, Annenberg Space for Photography, Huntington Library, Art Collections & Botanical Garden, and MOCA Grand Avenue are amazing places to pop by for a full free day of activities. You can also sign up for donation-based yoga classes, hike up Griffith Park, take pictures of toned abs and muscled bodies of LA locals at Runyon Canyon, or enjoy free live entertainment at a local club or bar like Bootleg or Satellite.

The following list will get you started on your quest for budget travel around Los Angeles.

free things to do in summer in Los Angeles

Santa Monica Beach and Pier

200 Santa Monica Pier, Santa Monica, CA 90401
(800) 544-5319
Most of the beach areas appear like scenes out of a Hollywood movie (“Baywatch” to be more precise), with people on skateboards, sunbathing, picnicking, smashing a volleyball around a sandy beach, and groups of happy people lounging around in a cafe. The 3-mile worth of shoreline at Santa Monica beach and pier is renowned for its cotton-soft sand, an abundance of restaurants and a nice selection of night spots to pop up. With the year-round amazing weather, it’s no wonder the people of LA have a deep attachment to their coastlines.

It has, after all, over 420 public beaches and Santa Monica has repeatedly made it to the top of the list over the years via polls and surveys.

It goes without saying that visiting the public beach, “State Beach” as they call it, is absolutely free. Whether you trudge your way around a 26-mile long hiking trail, go on a walking tour, enjoy a bar crawl deep into the wee early morning hours, or rent a bike to explore the curious crevices of Los Angeles, the attraction is the most popular in Los Angeles for a variety of reasons. In fact, many recommend catching a ride on the world-renowned Ferris Wheel or make a trip to the eclectic 3rd Street Promenade for shopping, window-shopping or people-watching. It has everything you could ever ask for as a tourist - food vendors offering local delights, fine diners for celebrations, fun carnival games for kids, thrilling roller coaster rides, trendy local businesses, and live entertainment.

When you sign up for a local tour, a trip to Santa Monica beach and pier is most probably already on the list. But with an organized tour, you’re accorded less time to properly prance around on your own. Because the trip to the beach is gratis, making the most of your time here is ideal. It's your trip, your call. Either way, we're pretty sure you will be having a splashing good time either way!

Venice Canals

Dell Avenue, Venice, CA 90292

It’s free, open 24 hours a day, and is a far cry from what the sun-kissed everyday scene is like at the boardwalk. Located along Dell Avenue, there’s a boat launch ramp to use from 9am to 6pm daily but if that is not your cup of tea, just hang around! Surf the internet, post Instagram pictures, hike and try blending in with the locals.

Unlike the bustling boardwalk of Santa Monica, Venice Canal is the kind of place that makes you feel like your time here is interwoven into the daily lives of the locals. The canals weave itself around some of the most expensive neighborhoods between Venice Boardwalk and Abbot Kinney, its aesthetic value is invaluable. What with their overarching pedestrian bridges, beach-side homes, and families of ducklings paddling their way along the canals.

Although most of the eye-catching homes in the neighborhood are private and off limits, public walkways are accessible and free for all. Because Venice Canal rarely makes it into the list of top tourist hotspots in Los Angeles, visitors often consider it “off the beaten path”, an idyllic, calm, quiet and relaxing getaway from the wild buzz of wild city life. While it can't compare to the eminence of the real Venice, it definitely is a nicely designed tucked-up corner of LA.

Griffith Observatory

2800 E Observatory Rd, Los Angeles, CA 90027
Hours : Tue - Fri 12pm - 10pm, Sat and Sun 10am - 10pm, Closed on Mon

Griffith Park

4730 Crystal Springs Dr, Los Angeles, CA 90027
(323) 913-4688
Griffith Park is a large municipal park found at the eastern end of the Santa Monica Mountains, in the Los Feliz neighborhood of Los Angeles, California. The park covers 4,310 acres of land, making it one of the largest urban parks in North America.

The Griffith Observatory and Park are twin wonders of LA, both serving as gateways to a day filled with free things to do. The observatory is home to a smorgasbord of exhibits which includes telescopes (one example would be the Zeiss telescope) of all shapes and sizes, live shows, and offers unprecedented views of downtown LA and the world-famous Hollywood sign. The observatory and planetarium are established within the grounds of the park, and it pays to get there early so you can enjoy everything they offer (for free) right down to the last activity! Summer months are busy months so if you wish to max your time here, get there early.

History of the observatory goes all the way back to the time when it was used to train WWII pilots in star navigation and the launching of Apollo 11 and you’ll learn about it all when you sign up for their tours. Guides are always ready to you around the attraction to view both hillsides and the stars, planets, and moon. The attraction is also home to Autry Museum of the American West, Bronson Caves, Fern Dell, Greek Theatre, LA Equestrian Center, Ranger Station, a golf course, offers pony rides, and is where you can visit the famous LA Zoo.

In the meantime, the park, lying just off the west side of Golden State Freeway, encompasses over 4,300 acres worth of terrain and parkland and remains one of the largest urban wilderness (plants includes sages, toyon, sumac, oak, mahogany, and lilac) areas in the country. With natural terrain ranging from walnut woodlands to deep canyons to explore and learn about, what’s not to love about the park?

The Broad

221 S Grand Avenue, Los Angeles, 90012
(213) 232-6200
Hours: Tue and Wed 11am - 5pm, Thu and Fri 11am - 8pm, Sat 10am - 8pm, Sun 10am - 6pm, Closed on Monday
Some people like to put the pedal to the metal to thrill their pants off to call it a good day, others like to languidly stroll along an inspiring art museum to find their mojo and call it well-spent. Everyone’s boats float differently and if you belong to the latter category, pencil down a trip to The Broad.

A relatively young museum compared to other more established ones in Los Angeles, the contemporary art museum was founded and funded by Eli and Edythe Broad who were philanthropists, and it offered free entrance, active art-related programs and rotating exhibits that promote audience engagement and education. At the time of writing, The Broad has about 2,000 works of art exhibited and they range from classic ones to contemporary paintings from various far-flung corners of the world. With 2 floors and 120,000 square feet of space to explore, its popularity as a tourist attraction is as much a surprise to those who visit as it is to the owners. With the support of Leading Partner East West Bank, over 1.8 million visitors have stepped foot on the premise. Designed by Diller Scofidio and Renfro, The Broad was a nice addition to LA’s already massive roster of art attractions. It has an encyclopedic collection of art that are bold, specific and acts as talking heads about culture, traditions and human life. When you’re done poking around the museum, there's a plaza with its inviting olive tree groves sitting on the lawn to unwind.

Tip: reserve your spot ahead of time. Since admission is free, everyone else has got the same memo too so, the wise thing to do would be to reserve a spot online before visiting. Those who reserve a spot have a shorter waiting time and visiting during weekends might prove challenging. The good news is that they’re active on social media, so, if the line gets too long, check their Twitter account and you can decide for yourself whether to leave or continue waiting in line. It’s, however, a good thing that there’s a coffee cart right next to it offering a good brew to soothe the nerves.

Taking a Drive along a Scenic Byway

You’re sitting right here, next to the Pacific Ocean, and if you have a car or a rented charter bus, there is no reason not to enjoy a scenic drive along the countless byways and coastline routes of California! The roads into Mulholland and Hollywood Hills are the very same ones you see in movies and TV series so, get out there and take tons of pictures!

The Santa Monica Mountains form the backbone of the state’s most beautiful (and expensive) estates. Mulholland Drive swerves through sweeping deserts, vast cityscapes, mind-boggling woodlands, gorgeous overlooks, past the homes of the rich and famous, and rewards you with amazing views of the Pacific Ocean. It’s one of the most popular inland rides ever in California!

You can cruise along the 20 miles of sun-drenched road along Pacific Coast Highway, also known fondly as PCH, where winding roads take you around to beautiful beaches with cliffs and coastlines dominating its signature scenery. All around, you’ll see picturesque backgrounds not dissimilar with those you see on the pages of travel magazines. Even without the help of GPS or a map, it can be a sunrise-to-sunset ride with stopovers to surf the waves at Surfrider Beach, enjoy the compilation of art at Getty Villa or search for precious seashells along Point Dume.

For something right out of a Disney movie, head over to stretch from Palos Verdes to San Pedro. So mesmerizing are the sights you would find it hard not to stop for pictures, a quick walk or make a trip to Vincent Thomas Bridge. In the distance, however, you might catch sight (or capture on film) the stunning sight of jubilant migrating whales near Point Vicente Lighthouse and Wayfarers Chapel. If time permits, ask the charter bus driver to stop by SS Dominator or the Korean Bell of Friendship. There’s an even longer scenic route along San Gabriel Mountains via the Angeles Crest Scenic Byway.

Join a Game Show

Game shows and late night shows are not just filmed in New York City because LA’s gives many stars their platforms and continues to launch new boldfaced comedians and hosts all the time. And when you are in the City of Angels and it is your dream to be a part of your favorite show, we strongly recommend visiting their official websites or social media accounts for FAQs. Many shows make use of their social media platforms to gather studio audience for their shows, be it Jeopardy!, The Price is Right, or Wheel of Fortune.

Most shows bring their audience in quite randomly by offering them free seats during taping. The offer of prize money, just remember, is just a bonus. Simply be zealous with your “online booking” if you really want to get in. Your effort will pay off with a casting call or invitation to be a guest or part of the audience. The procedures, however, vary from show to show as long as you’re enthusiastic, spontaneous and funny. If you have enough zest, you’ve got a shot. Just be ready for long lines of similarly fanatical fans.

If you've looked at some of their Twitter or Facebook accounts, you’ll find them posting casting calls for audience and participants. Worry not if you're in a group because you might get lucky with the group selection to fill up empty seats during a recording session. It will be nothing short of an adventure!

Celeb-watching Like a Papp

The paparazzi don’t necessarily have the best of reps, but they’re out there looking for the perfect shot making a quick buck here and there. And if you’re trying to spot a celebrity, you can literally take a page (or two) from a paparazzi’s book. It’s the fastest way to catch sight of your favorite reality TV star, watch an American Idol session in action, or take a selfie (if they’re willing) with one of the stars of Hollywood.

Some say witnessing the paparazzi in action forms a part of the whole authentic L.A. experience as they criss-cross streets, make beach runs, and scout out buzz-worthy shots and interviews. Although the rich and famous would go the extra mile to be covert about their daily lives, a chance encounter with them while they are walking in the park or having a romantic date at their usual stomping ground would make your LA experience an incredibly meaningful one. The stars sometimes try their hardest to be surreptitious about their whereabouts, but the paparazzi will find them at Terminal 3 and baggage areas of LAX, as they wait for their rides at The Ivy (a favorite celeb-friendly haunt), having a day-out at Carbon Beach (which is known as Billionaire’s Beach by the locals), grocery shopping on a bright Sunday morning at Studio City Farmers Market, or when they’re partying the night away at hotspots like Chateau Marmont or The Hollywood Roosevelt. The locations are hardly secrets anymore so if you feel guilty about stalking your favorite celebrity, don’t. They may be out and about gifting people the perfect magazine cover shot to promote their next project. Tourists are, however, urged to stay behind the lines and remember that the Hollywood stars themselves, as famous as they are, are human too and there ARE bad days.

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With 21,000 events every year nationwide under our belt, it is a proven fact that Bus Charter LA is committed to bringing you screened drivers and dispatchers, insurance coverage, trained admin and ground personnel, consulting services, and value-for-money packages for your trips around Los Angeles, California, and its surrounding neighborhoods. Call us today to find out how we can work with you to ensure that your next event in LA is flawless!

You can call 1-800-304-1993 right now or contact us by completing this simple online form. Our personnel will get back to you shortly. Please also stay in touch with us by liking or following us on Twitter, Facebook or our blog on Wordpress, Blogger and Google Plus. We hope to hear from you soon!

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