Free attractions in LA: Best places to visit for free

Make a pit-stop at these free attractions in LA—from wallet-friendly cultural centers to iconic sites in the city.

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Hollywood Forever Cemetery

The owners of Hollywood Forever have been criticized for promoting the place as a tourist attraction, but any cemetery that houses the remains of such celluloid luminaries as Cecil B. DeMille and Jayne Mansfield would probably become one regardless. It's also the resting place of Rudolph Valentino; legend has it that a mysterious "Woman in Black" still stalks the cemetery, mourning the demise of Hollywood's original loverboy. Mel Blanc's headstone says "That's All, Folks!"; Douglas Fairbanks Sr. and Jr. are in a huge tomb in front of a lake guarded by a fountain and three black swans. William Andrews Clark Jr., founder of the LA Philharmonic, has an even bigger mausoleum in the middle of a lake. Aside from popular posthumous celebs, Hollywood Forever is also home to summer outdoor movie screenings; Cinespia-hosted sleepovers with projected films, live music and games; as well as a number of unique concert events (past performers include Bon Iver, the XX, and Sigur Ros).

  1. Hollywood
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Santa Monica Pier

Considered the focal point of Santa Monica Beach, Santa Monica Pier includes Pacific Park, a traditional set-up stocked with a Ferris wheel, aquarium, fairground games and cotton candy stands. On warm weekends, the stretch is busy with families, beach bums and gym bunnies, who work out in public at the original Muscle Beach just south of the pier.

  1. Santa Monica
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Getty Center

Los Angeles's hilltop acropolis was conceived as a home for the hitherto disparate entities of the J. Paul Getty Trust, but that's the only straightforward thing about it. Architect Richard Meier was hired to build the museum in 1984, but it took 13 years, several additional designers (to work on the interior and the landscaping) and $1 billion to complete. The end result is a remarkable complex of travertine and white metal-clad pavilions that resembles a kind of monastic retreat designed for James Bond. Its relative inaccessibility is more than compensated for by the panoramic views, from the hills and the ocean in the west all the way around to Downtown in the east.

Recommended: Getty Center to-go guide

  1. Brentwood
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Grand Park

  • Free

The slow, lumbering mission to turn Downtown LA into a vibrant cultural hub got a lift when a portion of Grand Park's 12 acres officially opened to the public in July 2012. Dotted with fountains, picnic lawns, bright pink benches and plenty of nooks from which to sit and people-watch, Grand Park is a bright urban oasis that proves the city has a sense of romance. Development continues and will include the opening of performance and event lawns by the end of 2012, when the entire park will stretch from the Music Center on Grand Avenue all the way to City Hall.

  1. Downtown
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Will Rogers State Historic Park

The former home of writer, cowboy philosopher, trick-roper and the first honorary mayor of Beverly Hills has been maintained as it was in the 1930s. The 186-acre grounds give access to some good hikes; one path takes you to Inspiration Point, from where you get a breathtaking view of mountains and sea. Polo matches are held on weekends (www.willrogerspolo.org), and you can also take horse-riding lessons. Call or check online for details.

  1. Pacific Palisades
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Annenberg Community Beach House

  • Critics choice

What started as an opulent beachfront estate built by William Randolph Hearst for Hollywood star Marion Davies in the 1920s is now a modern, community beach club open to the public, thanks to Wallis Annenberg of the Annenberg Foundation, who provided $27.5 million for the transformation. Completed in 2009, the five-acre beach house accommodates a main house with a rec room for board games, ping pong and classes and events, a swimming pool, a splash pad, beach volleyball and tennis courts, soccer fields, canopies, a cafe and paddle boards rentals.

  1. Santa Monica
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The Hollywood Sign

What may be one of the biggest LA mysteries is how to get as close as possible to the iconic Hollywood Sign. Originally created in 1923, the then "Hollywoodland" sign was supposed to be up for only a year and a half, yet it has already celebrated its 90th birthday. Here's Time Out LA's insider tip on how to get to an ideal vantage point of the massive sign perched above the Hollywood Hills: Start at Franklin Ave and N Beachwood Dr. Take N Beachwood Dr up the mountain toward Hollywoodland's quaint Beachwood village. Make a left on Ledgewood Dr and continue until Deronda Dr. The streets get pretty narrow so make sure you drive extra slow and are not taking massive truckloads of people with you. Cars (mainly the ones who don't know exactly where they are going) are known to create traffic jams up the winding streets in this residential neighborhood where tourists, for the most part, are unwanted. At the end of Deronda Dr you will reach a dead end surrounded by a few homes. Park your car where it's safe and walk through the small opening on the right to get to a perfect vantage point of the iconic sign. Looking to get even closer? Lace up for a trek along the dirt road on Mt Lee Dr to where you will be standing directly above the Hollywood Sign and can experience a total 360-degree view of the cityscape.

  1. Hollywood
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