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Things To Do

57 Fun & Free Things to Do in L.A. Every Angeleno Needs to Try Once (Summer 2015 Edition)

June 17, 2015 by Brian Champlin

[UPDATE: We have a brand new list of 75 Fun & Free Things for 2016. If you’re looking for more ideas, check it out!]

If you’ve followed our blog for awhile you’re probably familiar with the big 40 Fun & Free Things To Do post we did last year.

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Well, over the past few weeks I’ve spent some time re-curating that list,  pruning it, and making adjustments for a summer 2015 re-release.

In some cases, such as The Sunken City (which I know a lot of folks still go to anyway), we no longer feature it on the list because of trespassing laws (although there is a proposal out there to re-open it to the public). In other cases, seasonal events brand new to 2015 have been added for your event-seeking pleasure.

The goal, as always, is that you find the list useful and that it helps you plan your summer (or any season) in Los Angeles. And if you like what you see I thoroughly encourage you to sign-up for our newsletter so you find out about fun things happening in the city every single week/weekend.

There are, after all, so many free things to do in L.A.you’ll probably never know about (or get to do) all of them.

But that doesn’t mean you can’t try.

Enjoy the rundown (presented in no particular order).

[RELATED: The Best Way to Find Discount Events in Los Angeles]

Downtown Los Angeles Skyline from Griffith Observatory

The downtown skyline from Griffith Observatory. Credit: Amatullah Guyot via flickr

1. Capitalize on Free Museum Days

There are literally dozens of free museums and free museum days for you to explore when you’re in Los Angeles (check the link for the master list). From the Getty Center to LACMA to the Huntington Gardens to MOCA or the Norton Simon. If you can’t find at least one that suits your tastes, you aren’t even trying!

2. Walking at the Downtown Art Walk

Every second Thursday of the month see downtown Los Angeles come alive in a vibrant blend of art, community, culture and food known as the DTLA Art Walk.

3. See a Star Party at Griffith Park

One special Saturday every month the Observatory hosts a free public star party to highlight interest in observing the cosmos. The event is a great excuse to try out a variety of telescopes, check out visible objects of our solar system (Sun, Moon, and visible planets), and also speak with knowledgeable amateur astronomers and stargazing enthusiasts.

4. Admire The Chandelier Tree

A neighborhood gem in the heart of Silver Lake. Drive by during evening hours to see this incredible tree light up the night.

5. Hike to the Hollywood Sign

You can get there via Bronson Canyon like we did, or take one of several other routes. However you arrive, trekking up to above the sign is something every Angeleno should do at least once. If the sign doesn’t interest you, we’ve also documented 9 other great hikes around L.A. with NO trail fees and NO parking costs. Enjoy!

6. Taking a Free Trip to Catalina on Your Birthday

Did you know by registering online you can get a free trip on the Catalina Express on your birthday? And that’s just one of many cool birthday freebies you can enjoy in Los Angeles. :)

7. Dance the Night Away at the Music Center

For 13 Fridays in a row during the summer of 2015(starting Friday, June 5) The Music Center in downtown Los Angeles will host FREE dance parties open to the public. Some of the events even include free dance lessons.

8. View DTLA from the Observation Deck at City Hall

Get an incredible free view of downtown Los Angeles by going up to the observation deck  on the 27th floor of City Hall. If you love the view from the observation deck, you should also check out 10 other FREE spots with breathtaking views in Los Angeles.

9. Walk The Streets of L.A. at a CicLAvia

CicLAvia represents an open-streets initiative to connect angelenos with the neighborhoods they work, live and play in. A couple times a year the organizers of CicLAvia work with these neighborhoods to coordinate a day when a stretch of roadway normally dominated by cars is closed off from auto traffic, thereby opening it up cyclists and pedestrians. The result is tens of thousands of local citizens experiencing Los Angeles like never before.

10. Do a Game Night at Grand Central Market

Even if you don’t partake in the food at Grand Central Market  (and you should!), just wandering around and admiring the vibrancy and variety will be an enjoyable experience. But if you really need an excuse to head over, check out their game night (every Thursday) where you can not only grab great food at the nearby vendors but also partake in ping-pong, cornhole toss, Jenga, Uno, Cards Against Humanity, Scrabble, and more.

11. Listen to a Grand Performance in DTLA

A curated collection of seasonal musical performances in downtown Los Angeles. And totally free!

12. Observe Santa Monica through the Camera Obscura

A dark room inside a senior center in the heart of Santa Monica offers an artistic projection of the world that surrounds. If you’re in the neighborhood, definitely be sure to stop by the Camera Obscura.

13. Take a Stroll on The Venice Canals

The Venice Canals were originally conceived and built by developer Abbott Kinney in 1905 as a man-made homage to the city of Venice, Italy. Today it’s a perfect spot for a relaxing stroll in a part of the city unlike any other.

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14. Enjoy the Grounds at Greystone Mansion

The park and exterior garden of the Greystone Mansion is one of the most gorgeous and peaceful spots in the entire city (and on a side note, a pretty incredible wedding/event location too).

Luscious scenery at the greystone mansion in #beverlyhills #losangeles

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15. Catch a Screening at Channel 101 at the Downtown Independent

Free monthly screenings at the Downtown Independent of short “pilots” that live or die based on audience approval.

16. Meditate for a Day at the Peace Awareness Labyrinth and Gardens

When you’re seeking a little peace and serenity in your life, take a walk inside the Peace Awareness Labyrinth, a hidden gem tucked away in the heart of the middle of Los Angeles.

17. Enjoy the Free Levitt Pavilion Concert Series

A family friendly concert series featuring both award (Grammy) winning and emerging artists, mixing a variety of genres from Latin to Jazz to Americana, and more. Both local Levitt Pavilion Concert programs (at McArthur Park and in Old Town Pasadena) will feature 50 separate concert dates starting in June and ending in September.

18. Whale Watching Along the Palos Verdes Peninsula

The Point Vicente Interpretive Center (located adjacent to the Pt. Vicente Lighthouse) is one of the premier whale watching spots in the entire city, with spectacular views of the cliffs and surrounding coves as well.

19. Hike to The Wisdom Tree

One special tree at the summit of Burbank Peak survived a devastating 2007 wildfire up in the hills and today some hikers visit the spot to leave diary-style notes in ammo boxes that reside below the tree while others just meditate for awhile or simply enjoy the amazing view.

Just another day working on #welikela… #losangeles #wisdomtree #mydayinla

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20. See a Show at The UCLA Planetarium

UCLA Public planetarium shows are offered by current astronomy and astrophysics graduate students, with featured content that includes presentations about the current night sky, constellations, and other unique astronomical phenomena. Shows are free to the public, and currently take place on Wednesday evenings at 8:00pm. Be sure to check the planetarium website for updated schedules and presentation times.

21. Spend an Evening at The Silver Lake Picture Show

The Silver Lake Picture Show series closes off Sunset Triangle Square to screen outdoor movies every other Thursday during the summer. Screenings are preceded by performances by live bands and short films produced by local filmmakers.

22. Enjoy a Free Ranger-Led Hike at Griffith Park

Want the perfect guide to lead you on hikes throughout varying parts of Griffith Park? What better person to follow than a park ranger for the city of Los Angeles? Ranger Ernie Ybarra has been shepherding free guided hikes of various Griffith Park trails for years.

Ranger Ernie Hike

Taking a break while hiking with Ranger Ernie in Griffith Park. Credit: Brian Champlin

23. Watch the Planes of LAX at Clutter’s Park

The best place to watch plans take off the runway from LAX.

24. Climb the Steepest Street in Los Angeles

With an incredible grade of 33%, Eldred St. in Highland Park is L.A.’s steepest drivable street (so steep it even needs special garbage trucks just to handle picking up the trash). Hike to the top of a unique view of the city!

25. Explore the Old L.A. Zoo

Check out the ruins of the zoo before the zoo right in the middle of Griffith Park. For more info, Tom Explores Los Angeles does a great piece on this place (we embedded below).

26. Relax at the Blue Ribbon Garden at The Disney Concert Hall

Did you know there is a hidden rooftop garden at the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Downtown Los Angeles? The garden is surrounded by the curves and and exterior of the hall and decked out with lush landscape centered around an intricate mosaic blue rose fountain dedicated to the late Lillian Disney (Walt Disney’s wife).

27. Hang Out at a (Free) First Friday

Whether it’s going to an art walk, sampling delicious food trucks or checking out a free night at a museum, first Friday events (including in Venice Beach and Bixby Knolls in Long Beach) are a great way to connect to your local community and get out to do a little exploring.

28. Enjoy the Art at the Regen Projects

A massive gallery on Santa Monica Blvd. that features an amazing stable of artists on exhibit. Get more info about Regen via their Yelp page.

29. See an Old Western Set at Paramount Ranch

This national park tucked away in the Santa Monica Mountains near Agoura Hills offers a variety of scenic hiking trails and an old Western set you may have spotted in various Western flicks and television shows. Plenty of parking, and it’s free!

30. Enjoy Free Shakespeare in the Park (or By The Sea)

If theater is your thing, every summer there are free performances of Shakespeare by the Sea and Shakespeare at the Park that make for a perfect evening of picnicking and culture. Here is the complete 2015 schedule for all the free Shakespeare in Los Angeles.

#shakespearebythesea getting staged while the sun dips in the background. #shakespeare #losangeles #sanpedro

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31. Learn Something New at the Jet Propulsion Labratory

The Jet Propulsion Laboratory (or JPL) is a federally funded research and development center and NASA field center located in La Cañada Flintridge, just northwest of Pasadena.

JPL does an open house once a year in October with free admission to the public. The open house includes an insider’s view in their machine shop, the microdevices lab, lifesize 3-D models, and more! They also have a weekly lecture series that takes place twice a month on consecutive days with industry experts discussing relevant topics to the space and technology field. The lecture series is also free!

2015’s open house takes place October 10th and 11th.

32. Roam with Rover at Rosie’s Dog Beach

There is only one legal, off-leash dog beach in all of L.A. County and this is it! Even if you don’t have a fido of your own, it’s still kind of fun to check out Rosies to see all the pups at play. Parking along Ocean Blvd. is free, but competitive, so make sure to bring some quarters for a metered lot as a backup.

33. Bathe in the Moonlight While Watching Classic Films

Watch some of the best films of all-time right on the beach while bathing in the sweet summer moonlight at the Moonlight Movies on The Beach film series. Event runs from June-August down in Belmont Shores. Here’s the complete 2015 schedule.

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34. Receive a Free Docent-Led Tour of the L.A. Public Library

Explore the architecture of the Bertram Goodhue Building and learn about the history of Los Angeles through the lens of the Central Library in downtown.

Docent tours are free and meet in front of the Library Store in the main lobby. Tours run about 1 hour long. Walk-ins are welcome (no reservation required) for groups of 6 of less.  Tour times are as follows:

Monday – Friday:  12:30 pm
Saturday:  11:00 am & 2:00 pm PLUS a 12:30 pm – Art-in-the-Garden Tour
Sunday: 2:00 pm

35. Appreciate the Works at the Gagosian Gallery

Rubins, Warhol, DuChamp, Twombly… these are just a few of the names whose art has been exhibited at the Gagosian. It’s a top shelf gallery, located in the heart of Beverly Hills. And FYI, somebody on Yelp even mentioned something about free wine from time to time…

36. Hangout at the Last Bookstore

The Last Bookstore is the largest (so they say) independent used bookstore in the state of California, and most definitely one of our 12 best bookstores in Los Angeles. Located in downtown’s historic core, it’s worth the trip just to see the amazing labyrinth of used books!

First in our hearts 👍 #lastbookstore #dtla #losangeles

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37. Check Out The Bradbury Building

One of the most unique architectural interiors in the entire city. As a visitor you can only go up to the second floor, but really that’s all you need.

38. Explore Our Transit System through Metro Art Tours

Did you know that Metro offers free, regularly scheduled docent led group tours of the artwork in the Metro Rail system?

39. Receive Free Archery Training at Woodley Park

Woodley Park Archers offers free introductory archery instruction to the community, designed specifically for the beginner / novice who has no previous experience handling a bow. Classes are held every Saturday from 9am to 11am and on Wednesdays from 6pm to 8pm. There is absolutely no cost to join, and all equipment is provided.

40. Walking along the Great Wall of L.A.

This incredible mural runs over 2,700 feet long (one of the longest in the world) and illustrates California history from 20,000 B.C. to 1984. It was recently restored and is more vibrant than ever.

41. Traverse a Trail to an Old Shipwreck

Hike down a cliff side in San Pedro and see the wreckage of a beached ship from more than 50 years ago.

42. Stargaze at the Glendale Planetarium Shows

When school is in session they offer a free, open to the public astronomy presentation called “Afternoon with the Stars.” You can check out the schedule here.

43. Take a Photo at the Korean Friendship Bell

The Korean Friendship Bell is the perfect place to hang out, enjoy the view, and take some gorgeous photos on a sunny afternoon at a park by the sea. Bring a picnic, fly a kite, or play some hoops at the nearby basketball court.

Hanging out at the Korean #friendship Bell aka the ultimate #friendzone … #sanpedro #losangeles

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44. Spend an Afternoon in Grand Park

Grand Park bills itself as “the park for everyone” and with good reason. It’s not just the open green space and gorgeous setting surrounded by the DTLA skyline, but also a commitment by the park to provide Angelenos with a host of awesome free activities, including a massive 4th of July block party.

45. Catch a Free Live Show at Amoeba Music

Amoeba Music is a Sunset Blvd music store that hosts boatloads for free concerts, DJ performances, and artist signings. It’s a unique space that’s worth checking out at least once. Check here for upcoming shows.

46. Meet-up to Exercise!

Meet people? Get your weekly exercise? Don’t like gyms? Might we suggest joining a running group. Specifically, the DTLA Running Group is one we’d heartily recommend. The Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday mornings to run along different routes in and around Downtown, using different routes to accommodates different runnings levels. To join in, check out their page on MeetUp.com

Another favorite is the Runyon Canyon Yoga series, which has a huge slate of weekly, free / donation based classes you can check out via their Facebook page.

47. Explore the Stairways of Los Angeles

You can check out 10 of our favorite secret (and not-so secret) staircases in a roundup we’ve written about, but there are dozens more small stairwells an locations to explore in Los Angeles for the truly intrepid. Here are a few helpful resources:

Stairwalksla.com

Secret Stairs of Los Angeles Website

Stairclimbers of L.A. Meet-up Group

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48. Attend Free Events at the Hammer Museum

Every month the Hammer Museum offers tons of great free events including talks, tours, and discussions lead by artists by and educators from local universities.

49. Listen to USC Thornton School of Music Free Performances

Did you know every month USC puts on free recitals that are open for public attendance (all you need to do is make a reservation online). If classical is your thing, these might be right up your alley. Event listings on their official website.

50. Receive a Dose of Culture at Blum and Poe

Some call it the ‘original’ big name gallery in Culver City. This is the first place to feature Takashi Murakami and Yoshitomo Nara (and if you know who those artists are, this will no doubt seriously excite you).

51. Stay in Touch with Current Events at Zocalo Public Square

The Zocalo Public Square is a non-profit ideas exchange foundation that offers a free lecture series where you can go to get informed about the issues of the day and discuss them in an open forum.

52. Experience KCRW Summer Nights

KCRW’s free signature outdoor event series that’s awesome for all-ages. Here’s the complete 2015 schedule of concerts.

Chinatown Summer Nights 2013

Chinatown Summer Nights 2013. Credit: Eric Chan via flickr

53. Check Out Free Polliwog Park Concerts in Manhattan Beach

An annual, summer-long free concert series held in Polliwog Park held from the first weekend in July through the first weekend in September.

54. Take an Art Walk at the Brewery

Twice a year, more than 100 artists open up their studios for this free art walk in the former PBR brewery. There’s a beer garden, and though it ain’t free, they do serve more than PBR.

55. Revel at the Beauty of Randyland

Not a theme park, but rather a massive glass installation built in the front yard of an Echo Park residence. The installation consists of of thousands of bottles filled with water and strung together using wire and rebar. A sight to behold.

56. Explore a Very Odd Market

UPDATE: Looks like the last one of these was June 29th, 2015 and haven’t seen them update the calendar since then. Too bad!

Every week on Monday nights starting at 530pm at All-Star Lanes, Eagle Rock’s Odd Market features gourmet food trucks, 20+ pop-up shops hawking their wares, a DJ spinning tunes, and of course bowling!

57. Laugh for Less at at a Free Comedy Show

From UCB’s ASSSCAT to Sleepaway Camp to Power Violence to Mi’s Westside Comedy Theater, there are always tons of free comedy shows going on in Los Angeles. Here’s a list of 10 of the best we put together last year.

Did we screw up anywhere in our list? Miss something free and fun in L.A. you think deserves mention? We know we can’t get them all, but we always love suggestions. Let us know in the comments below!

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