Even in this town—where money seems to ooze from every hill and corner—there are plenty of fun things to do that are free and appeal to everyone from kids to art lovers to movie and film buffs. These are some of our top picks.
Check Out Freebies at Museums. Though high-profile Angelenos have elevated conspicuous consumption to an art, you can still spend time here without dropping a dime. Visiting culture vultures will be relieved to learn the Getty Center and Getty Villa offer complimentary admission. Just about all the other major museums in Los Angeles have free days, including the Geffen Contemporary and the Museum of Contemporary Art. Also, several museums stay open as late as 9 pm some nights.
Be Part of the Audience. Watching one of your favorite television or awards shows being filmed is an exciting experience that will make you feel as if you're part of the entertainment industry. Audiences Unlimited (100 Universal City Plaza, Bldg. 153, Universal City 818/260–0041 www.tvtickets.com) helps fill seats for television programs (and sometimes for televised award shows). The free tickets are distributed on a first-come, first-served basis to those 16 and older.
See the Great Grunion Runs. The most popular and most unusual form of fishing in the L.A. area involves no hooks, bait, or poles, and is absolutely free. The grunion runs, which take place from March through July, occur when hundreds of thousands of small silver fish called grunion wash up on Southern California beaches to lay their eggs in the sand. The fish can be picked up by hand while they are briefly stranded on the beach. All that's required is a fishing license and a willingness to get your toes wet.
Spend the Evening on the Griffith Observatory's Rooftop Observation Deck. Known for stunning and famous views of Los Angeles, this rooftop deck is open until 10 pm every night except Monday.
Watch Rehearsals at the Hollywood Bowl. There's no charge to visit the Hollywood Bowl and the grounds that surround it, but an even better tip is that in the summer, from 9 am to noon on Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday, it's possible to watch rehearsals for free. Take a snack and enjoy the view. If you can't make a rehearsal, seeing the stark-white amphitheater with the Hollywood sign set against the mountains in the background is worth the trip alone.
Walk in Famous Footsteps. Frugal movie fans can get reel on Hollywood Boulevard's star-paved Walk of Fame or in the forecourt of TCL Chinese Theatre where celebs have been pressing hands, feet, and other body parts into cement since 1927 (time it right and you may catch a premiere, too). Music buffs can view memorabilia from past headliners at the free Hollywood Bowl Museum.
Visit the Hollywood Forever Cemetery. Inside the Hollywood Memorial Park right in the center of Hollywood, the Hollywood Forever Cemetery is where several of the film industry's famous are buried. Pick up a free map just inside for a self-guided tour.