Whether you’re a Westside local or are simply looking to step outside your everyday L.A. bubble, there are plenty of unique, fun and most importantly free things to do in the neighborhoods that surround the western terminus of the 10 freeway.
So if you’re feeling adventurous but don’t want to break the bank, take a look at the list below!
NOTE: Because the ‘Westside’ of Los Angeles is a little nebulous in terms of geographical borders, this list primarily tries stay mostly within the bounds of the Westside definition as encompassed by this Wikipedia map. Included in this definition are the cities/neighborhoods of Westwood, Culver City, Santa Monica, Venice Beach, Marina Del Rey, and Brentwood. One notable exception is that there are a few to-dos in El Segundo, which becaues it’s so close to LAX, was hard to resist including (and so we did!) Hope that makes sense.
1. Visit the Getty Center and Getty Villa
Well… duh. Let’s start with the obvious! The Getty Center and Getty Villa offer beautiful art, fascinating history and breathtaking views all without an admission free. Located within the hills of Westwood and Santa Monica, both museums are feee of charge to the public but they do, however, charge for parking in their lots. The rate is $15 per vehicle both campuses ($10 after 3 p.m. at the The Getty Center). Definitely consider ride-sharing, or going with a group to avoid or share high parking costs.
2. Enjoy Fresh Produce Samples at the Santa Monica Farmers Market
Arguably L.A.’s best Farmers Market, the Santa Monica version takes place every Wednesday and Saturday mornings on Arizona Ave. and 2nd St. Early birds can browse the wide assortment of produce, fresh ingredients and trendy foods from local restaurants (you’d be amazed at how many free samples you can get!). The Santa Monica Farmers Market is also known to host a variety of seasonal events for adults and kiddos alike (hello all-you-can-carry pumpkin patch)
3. Free Thursdays at Skirball Cultural Center
The Skirball Cultural Center hosts a variety of performances, readings, talks, film screenings and more. This cool cultural institution normally charges $12 admission — however, visitors can get in free on Thursdays, with tickets available on a first-come, first-served basis.
4. Free Performances and Programs at the Hammer Museum
If you’re looking for some year-round cultural experiences, look no further than the Hammer Museum. Unlike most museums in LA, admission to all exhibitions is free, and their calendar is filled with movies, lectures, workshops and performances, many of which are free of charge. Parking starts at $6 at the museum’s underground lot, but keep in mind that there are convenient public transportation options available to avoid paying this fee.
5. Summer Tunes at the Twilight Concert Series
The Santa Monica Pier’s Twilight Concert Series is a must-see during the warm summer nights. Held every Thursday during the peak months of summer, attendees can claim a spot on the pier or beach, lay out a blanket, bring a picnic and listen to live music from various artists. Parking can be expensive in surrounding areas, but there there are multiple public transportation options available.
6. People-Watch at the Santa Monica Pier
Santa Monica is an international tourist destination and as such, leads to great people-watching opportunities. The pier attracts a wide assortment of tourists, locals, street artists and more. Don’t forget to head on over to the Camera Obscura (located within the senior center) for a view of the entire surrounding area.
7. Explore the Venice Boardwalk
If you’re searching for even more unique people watching, look no further than the Venice Boardwalk. Stretching over one and a half miles, pedestrians pass by street artists, Muscle Beach, unique vendors and an overall eclectic neighborhood.
8. Browse Unique Goods at the Artists & Fleas Market
One of the newer activities on the Westside is the Artists and Fleas Market in Venice. Occurring every second and fourth Saturday, this is a great spot to find unique buys, or simply inspiration, among the local artists, designers, vintage collectors and food trucks. It’s also kid- and pet-friendly, so feel free to bring the whole family.
9. Enjoy a Taste of Downtown Culver City’s Third Wednesdays
If you want to explore the increasingly popular downtown Culver City area, visit during their summer happy hours where you can get a taste of some of the best local restaurants and bars. Every third Wednesday during Summer, downtown Culver offers free drink samples from local vendors. Technically, the event requires a five cent payment for each sample — this, however, is a small price to pay for such a unique experience.
10. Experience Sawtelle Japantown
Located in the heart of West L.A., Sawtelle offers Japanese-inspired culinary experiences, fun gift shops and a rich historical background. You can easily spend an afternoon or evening exploring this unique L.A. gem.
11. Stroll Through the Venice Canals
There are six water canals in between Venice and Washington Boulevard. within this historic district. Pedestrians can stroll along the various walking paths and bridges while taking in gorgeous architecture and lush landscaping. You’re likely to spot some familiar views and homes from various movies and TV shows.
12. Reach a New Level of Zen with Yoga on the Beach
Yoga instructor Rose Pelosi offers free beach yoga classes from June through October. Located on Thornton Ave. and Ocean Front Walk in Venice, yoga enthusiasts and beginners alike are invited to achieve a moment of zen while going through various flows.
13. Bike from Santa Monica to Palos Verdes
Officially named the Santa Monica Bike Path, bikers and pedestrians alike can follow the concrete trail for 26 miles alongside the Pacific Ocean. Begin your journey in Santa Monica and end at the Palos Verdes Peninsula. Bonus Tip: Pack a lunch and some water to enjoy one of the picnic-worthy spots along the way.
14. Enjoy a Bonfire at Dockweiler Beach
During the warmer months, beachgoers can claim a bonfire pit to use for free. This option is great for large groups who can bring bonfire necessities, potluck-style. Dockweiler Beach is open until 10 p.m. and though their parking lot does require a fee, that’s easily avoidable via street parking.
15. Visit the Santa Monica Airport Observation Deck
The Santa Monica Airport Observation Deck is a hidden gem near the coast. From the two viewing decks, the public can watch planes take off and land, snap a few photos and listen to activity from the broadcast control tower. Both viewing areas are easily accessible and provide a unique activity for lazy afternoons.
16. Explore the Annenberg Community Beach House
Spanning five acres, the Annenberg Beach House offers year-round tours to guests who’d like to discover the rich history behind this Santa Monica community center, the onetime beach house of Hollywood star Marion Davies. There are also frequent cultural events including art exhibits, live music, vintage fashion lectures and film screenings. What better way to get cultured than on a beautiful oceanfront?
17. Investigate the UCLA Meteorite Collection
The UCLA Meteorite Collection houses over 2,500 samples from about 1,500 different meteorites, making it one of the largest collections in the US. Space fans can browse this large collection in the geology building on UCLA’s campus.
18. Watch the Planes Come and Go at Clutter’s Park
For a calming yet intriguing activity, visit Clutter’s Park near LAX. Daily visitors can observe planes as they come from and go to destinations both exotic and familiar. Located in El Segundo, the park includes an assortment of benches and tables for your convenience.
19. Get Creative at the El Segundo Museum of Art
The ESMoA is a creativity lab where people of all ages can experience exhibits, participate in workshops and expand their creative outlooks on life. If you’re looking to get out of your comfort zone and immerse yourself in a unique experience, this is the destination for you!
20. Catch a View at the Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook
If you find yourself in Culver City and are itching for some outdoor activities, head on over to the Balwin Hills Scenic Overlook. Climb the Culver City stairs to reach the top of the hill for an awesome view from West LA to downtown LA, and even to the South Bay.
21. Watch the Turtles Race in Marina Del Rey
Every Thursday evening, Brennan’s Pub hosts turtle racing. Bring your own turtle, rent one or simply sit back and watch the race unfold. Brennan’s also offers drinks, food and other bar games for your amusement.
22. Enjoy Art Exhibits at the Bergamot Station
The Bergamot Station is a gallery complex located in Santa Monica. Originally a Red Line trolley stop, this warehouse hosts various one-of-a-kind art exhibits that are open to the public.