Free attractions to visit in L.A.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.