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The best free attractions in L.A.

Make a pit-stop at these free attractions in L.A., including wallet-friendly cultural centers and iconic locales

Venice Canals
Photograph: Michael Juliano
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If you’re looking to explore the many free attractions in L.A.—including museums, iconic landmarks and lesser-known sites—we’ve listed the best places to visit on a budget. Whether you’re looking to get outdoors, spot celebs or explore a new neighborhood, read on for must-see L.A. attractions. Plus, you can even get some post-eating and drinking ideas for your next wallet-friendly date night.

RECOMMENDED: More free things to do in L.A.

Free attractions to visit in L.A.

The Annenberg Space for Photography
Photograph: Courtesy the Annenberg Space for Photography
Museums, Art and design

Annenberg Space for Photography

icon-location-pin Century City

Specializing in photography, this privately funded space takes an innovative approach to displaying its digital and print works. More than just images on a wall, exhibits at the Annenberg often incorporate videos and/or music, creating a more dynamic experience for the visitor. The free admission and $1.50 parking ($4.50 on weekday afternoons) attract a younger crowd to the otherwise more corporate neighborhood.

Marciano Art Foundation
Photograph: Michael Juliano
Museums, Art and design

Marciano Art Foundation

icon-location-pin Central LA

The Marciano Art Foundation has taken over an old Masonic temple on Wilshire Boulevard and turned it into a massive contemporary art museum. Guess co-founders Maurice and Paul Marciano have birthed a free museum that balances traditional white-walled gallery spaces with cavernous halls whose only limitation is an artist’s creativity.

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Bradbury Building.
Photograph: Michael Juliano
Things to do

Bradbury Building

icon-location-pin Downtown

The Bradbury Building’s nondescript, brick exterior belies any sense of significance. Walk through the archway entrance on Broadway, though, and you’re greeted with a stunning, light-flooded alley of wood, iron and brick. You’ll have to do all of your gawking from the ground floor (and half a flight of stairs) as the rest of the building is private office space.

Attractions, Parks and gardens

Self-Realization Fellowship Lake Shrine

icon-location-pin Santa Monica

Just inland from the Pacific Coast Highway and easy to miss when you’re rushing to catch the sunset, the mystical, mysterious Self-Realization Fellowship Lake Shrine is run by a non-denominational order that welcomes visitors but doesn’t proselytise to them. Set on a 10-acre site that was used as a film set during the silent era, the lovely gardens evoke old Hollywood: look out for the Dutch windmill chapel, the Mississippi houseboat and a number of gliding swans. The East, meanwhile, is represented by a gilded lotus gate enclosing a shrine that contains some of Gandhi’s ashes.

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Museums, History

Getty Villa

icon-location-pin Pacific Palisades

In 1974, oil magnate J. Paul Getty opened a museum of his holdings in a faux villa in Malibu, based on the remains of the Villa dei Papiri in Herculaneum. There are roughly 1,200 artifacts on display at any one time, dating from between 6,500 BC and 500 AD, and organized under such themes as Gods and Goddesses and Stories of the Trojan War. Admission is always free (with a timed reservation), though you’ll have to pay for parking (10am–3pm $15, after 3pm $15, after 6pm $10)

Korean Bell of Friendship
Photograph:
Things to do

Korean Bell of Friendship

icon-location-pin San Pedro

Perched over the Pacific sits one of the most idyllic spots in all of LA: the Korean Bell of Friendship. The mighty metallic bell’s rusty green finish complements the ornately painted hipped roof—its paint job has seen better days, but that doesn’t detract from the beauty of the 1976 goodwill gift from South Korea. The exposed, grassy bluff is an ideal spot to fly a kite or just lounge in the grass of Angels Gate Park.

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Griffith Park
Photograph: Jakob N. Layman
Things to do

Griffith Park

icon-location-pin Los Feliz

Spanning an impressive 4,210 acres, it’s easy to get lost in L.A.’s largest public green space, much of which remains unchanged from the days when Native Americans settled here. For more activity-minded folks, there are myriad attractions (Griffith merry-go-round, L.A. Zoo, the Observatory, Travel Town), plus hiking routes and horseback riding trails.

L.A. Central Library
Photograph: Michael Juliano
Things to do, Literary events

L.A. Central Library

icon-location-pin Downtown

The city’s main library is worth a look even if you’ve no interest in borrowing books. The exterior is an Egyptian and Mediterranean beauty, topped with a dramatic, tiled pyramid tower and decorated with bas-reliefs. The most stunning features, though, reside in the second floor rotunda, with its deco-meets-arabesque dome, California history mural and globe chandelier.

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Hollywood Sign
Photograph: Michael Juliano
Attractions, Sightseeing

The Hollywood Sign

icon-location-pin Hollywood

Originally created in 1923, the then “Hollywoodland” sign was supposed to be up for only a year and a half, yet here it is almost a century later. Getting close to the Hollywood Sign, though, is an often contentious issue thanks to pressure from local homeowners. You can catch a dead-on glimpse of the sign on Beachwood Drive, or farther up the hill near Lake Hollywood Park.

Attractions, Cemeteries

Hollywood Forever Cemetery

icon-location-pin Hollywood

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. Consider this Hollywood’s most lavish public park, and also home to summer outdoor movie screenings as well as a number of unique concert events.

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Looking for free museum days?

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