Free attractions to visit in L.A.
Back in 1875, a group of amateur paleontologists discovered animal remains in the pits at Rancho La Brea, which bubbled with asphalt from a petroleum lake under what is now Hancock Park. Some 140 years later, the pros are still at work here, having dragged millions of fossils from the mire in the intervening years. Though the Page Museum and excavation tours will cost you, it’s free to explore the tar pits.
Three words: Infinity Mirror Rooms. Downtown’s persistently popular contemporary art museum has two of Yayoi Kusama’s immersive, mirror-laden rooms (and the standy queue to prove it). Elsewhere in the free museum, Eli and Edythe Broad’s collection of 2,000 post-war works includes artists like Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, Ed Ruscha, Cindy Sherman, Barbara Kruger and Jeff Koons. Find out more in our complete guide to the Broad.
Tucked between the grimy Venice Boardwalk and the posh Abbot Kinney, the Venice Canals offer a completely different side of the famed beachfront neighborhood. Take a stroll through these three canal-lined blocks—hence the name, Venice—and you’ll discover an idyllic scene: arching pedestrian bridges, charming beach houses, bunches of ducklings and the occasional paddle boarding bulldog.
The grand, white concrete tower has stood tall as a city icon since 1928, and today it’s the easiest way to take in an elevated view of Downtown and beyond. If you’re ever passing through the Civic Center during public hours—weekdays 9am-5pm, enter on Main Street—then you owe yourself a visit to the 27th floor observation deck. While you’re there, walk around the surrounding park and look for the 1984 Olympic torch near the Spring Street exit.
Industrialist Armand Hammer founded this museum in 1990, primarily to house his own collection, and it opened just three weeks before he died. Now, the free, UCLA partner institution stages fascinating shows of modern art, photography and design, often with an epmhasis on local artists. The shows are supplemented by the Hammer’s public events calendar (arguably one of the best in the city), chock full of free lectures, concerts and screenings.
The iconic amphitheater doubles as a semi-secret county park. As long as the venue isn’t holding a performance (an admittedly rare occurrence from July to September), you’re welcome to park for free and stroll about the grounds as you please. Hike all the way up the hilly environs to admire the views or walk into the seating area where, chances are, you’ll see people working out on the stairs or, if you’re lucky, an open LA Phil rehearsal during the summer (these days vary, so call 323-850-2000 for a schedule).
The vista here is stunning, particularly at night when Los Angeles twinkles below. Inside you’ll find a bevy of exhibits, including a Foucault pendulum, Tesla coil and planetarium show. Give yourself plenty of time before the 10pm closing to gaze through the 12-inch refracting telescope on the roof, otherwise you can look through the far less crowded modern, reflecting telescope on the front lawn. Just a heads up that parking now costs $8 per hour.
This 160-acre park at the eastern end of the Santa Monica Mountains has one main loop, plus a bevy of dirt hiking trails. The sea of buff trainers and their sleek, sweaty clients can get to be too much during the busy morning and weekend workout traffic, but you’ll be rewarded with some of the best views of the city (and, if you’re lucky, a chance to gawk at power-walking celebs).
A four-block pedestrianized stretch that runs down Third Street from Wilshire Boulevard to Colorado Avenue, Third Street Promenade is a pleasant (but sort of bland) parade of mostly familiar brand names. The restaurants are ordinary, but the Wednesday morning farmers’ market is legendary. At the Promenade’s southern end is the revamped Santa Monica Place shopping center.
The real attraction at this kid-friendly museum is the Space Shuttle Endeavour, which was very pubicly paraded through L.A. to reach its temporary home at the Samuel Oschin Pavilion—a permanent structure slated to display the ship upright is in the works. While the rest of the museum is free, Endeavour requires $2 time tickets on weekends, a bargain to come face to face with one of this country’s most iconic engineering marvels.