2. Check out PCH: Pacific Coast Highway is a sun-drenched road that hugs the coastline and is undoubtedly one of L.A.’s signature drives.
3. Experience the Sunset Strip: Few other roads have the multiple personalities of this legendary 1.5-mile stretch of Sunset Boulevard.
4. Step into Hollywood history: The forecourt of TCL Chinese Theatre has been one of the most popular free attractions since the 1920s, when actress Norma Talmadge accidentally stepped in wet cement during the premiere of Cecil B. DeMille’s King of Kings. Movie fans from around the world compare their hands and feet to those of stars past and present.
5. Get photographed with a star: Speaking of movie stars (and other pop culture figures), at Madame Tussauds Hollywood you never know which famous wax figure will be on display near the box office entrance off Hollywood Boulevard, a free photo opp waiting to happen. For example, in the fall of 2011, the attraction featured Robert Pattinson for a limited time, to the delight of Twilight fans everywhere.
6. Walk the walk in Venice: Chainsaw jugglers, swamis on rollerblades, street dancers…the most amazing street entertainers in the world are at Venice Beach.
7. Window shop Rodeo Drive: Treasure hunt and star gaze along famed Rodeo Drive in tony Beverly Hills, home of the rich and super rich.
8. Watch TV live: Be a part of a studio audience for your favorite television shows and game shows like Jeopardy! and Wheel of Fortune. Tickets are free, but must be obtained in advance.
9. Treepeople: This L.A.-based nonprofit organization has helped spearhead the ecotourism industry by offering numerous opportunities for visitors to volunteer. For more than 30 years, Treepeople has helped plant and care for trees, while educating people about the environment.
10. Take a walking tour of Downtown: With so many free cultural attractions, Downtown L.A. has become one of the city’s best places to see the sights for free.
11. Follow the paparazzi: Witnessing the paparazzi portion of the star-making cycle is an authentic L.A. experience, and totally free.
12. Star gaze at Griffith Observatory: To learn about stars that are truly out of this world, the exhibitions and displays in this painstakingly renovated Griffith Park landmark are all free, as is an introductory video about the building and its contents.
13. See the reality behind reality TV: Whether it’s watching the American Idol finale live, or dropping into a Top Chef restaurant, reality TV fans have plenty of places to see throughout Los Angeles.
14. Explore L.A.’s Fashion District: The people-watching alone makes the Fashion District one of L.A.’s premier shopping destinations and an experience all its own.
15. Dance, dance, dance: You don’t always have to pay a cover charge to get your groove on in the L.A. dance scene. Great clubs without covers can be found in most neighborhoods, you just need to know where to look.
16. Explore Exposition Park: Five major cultural attractions are within walking distance of each other in the USC/Exposition Park area, so be sure to take advantage of this walking tour.
17. Explore L.A.’s architecture: Los Angeles is full of architectural treasures from the late 19th and early 20th centuries, as well as more recent additions.
18. Enjoy L.A.’s murals: These city treasures tell stories of the cultural past, present and future, of the hopes and dreams of the City of Angels. Visitors can find many of L.A.’s murals in Metro Stations, or visit the Mural Conservancy of Los Angeles for complete information.
19. El Pueblo Historical Monument: Learn about L.A.’s birthplace at the site of its original settlement in 1781.
20. Olvera Street: Visitors can shop, listen to mariachi music, watch folkloric dances and dine at several authentic Mexican restaurants. Tour the Avila Adobe, the oldest existing house in L.A. Other restored historic buildings include the Old Plaza Church and the Old Plaza Firehouse.
21. Leimert Park Village: Located in the heart of the Crenshaw district, Leimert Park Village lures tourists with the distinct African American culture of its shops, art galleries, coffee shops, restaurants, and jazz clubs.
22. Downtown L.A. Art Walk: Check out the latest and hippest at the Downtown L.A. Art Walk, which occurs the second Thursday of the month.
23. Abbot Kinney First Fridays: Support locally owned businesses in Venice by stopping by what is becoming one of L.A.’s top art walks.
24. Chinatown Art Nights: Discover the modern side of Chinatown by checking out the quarterly art walks along Chung King Road. The scene is surprisingly hip and young.
25. San Pedro Art Walk: San Pedro’s 1st Thursday Art Walk has flown under the radar since its inception in 1996, but in the last few years, both locals and cruise-ship tourists from the nearby Port of Los Angeles have flocked to the area to experience San Pedro’s tight-knit artists’ community, impromptu street performances and conversation-worthy art — all classic ingredients for a great art walk.
26. Little Ethiopia: Discover the refreshingly authentic scene in Little Ethiopia, where you can smell turmeric and berebere as colorful African pop blares from store radios.
27. Little Tokyo: Lovers of all things Japanese will have to make Little Tokyo a stop. Take a self-guided tour of the National Historic Landmark District’s cultural sights.
28. Chinatown: For many, the best way to approach Chinatown is as an urban adventure — not into China, but into a distinct culture both Chinese and American. As the first established Chinatown in America, the area quivers with cultural history, woven into a now-modern and bustling community.
29. NoHo: The NoHo (short for North Hollywood) Arts District is a square-mile area that is quickly turning into one of L.A.’s artsier communities, with galleries, public art, theaters, boutiques, vintage clothing stores, ethnic restaurants and outdoor cafes.
30. Watts Towers: Watts Towers represent 33 years of work by an Italian immigrant construction worker who made the project his life. Similar in many ways to the style of Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí, the 17 interconnected structures represent a striking example of the American Naive art movement.
31. Hike near the Hollywood sign: Feeling uninspired? Try changing your perspective on a familiar sight. While the Hollywood sign’s grounds are barred from public access, some great nearby hikes allow for great angles for photos. From Franklin Avenue in Hollywood, go north on Beachwood Drive; turn left at Ledgewood Drive and twist and wind uphill. Then go right at the three-way intersection onto Deronda Drive.
32. Tour the Los Angeles Central Public Library: The Los Angeles Central Public Library reflects the Egyptian-style architecture mania that swept the country in the 1920s, after the discovery of King Tut’s tomb.
33. Discover fossil fun: At La Brea Tar Pits in Hancock Park, the site of the richest discovery of Ice Age fossils in the world, more than 100 tons of fossilized bones representing 200-plus species of mammals, birds, reptiles and fish have been unearthed from pools of sticky asphalt dating back to prehistoric time.
34. Stroll the historic Farmers Market: The Original Farmers Market opened at the corner of Third and Fairfax in 1934 and retains much of its original flavor — the freshest produce, made-to-order peanut butter, gourmet meats and cheeses, and hot donuts — while adding a few extra touches (gluten-free pizza, gumbo, authentic Mexican food).
35. Hollywood Walk of Fame: Since the 1960s, more than 2,400 terrazzo and brass stars have been unveiled on Hollywood’s major sidewalks.
36. Korean Bell of Friendship: Intricate relief patterns represent spirits and goddesses of liberty, victory and peace, while architectural details impart the colorful nature of Korean culture. Best visited on a clear, sunny day for a picnic and a stroll, the area features pristine views complemented by the yachts and charter boats of the harbor below.
37. Visit the Cathedral of Our Lady of Angels: One of L.A.’s most innovative buildings and the largest Catholic cathedral in the country, it inspires visitors with its inviting grounds and museum, perfect for introspection.
38. Take a self-guided tour of Walt Disney Concert Hall: Though the stage and concert hall itself are usually off limits to even paid tours (due to rehearsals), the interior public spaces and garden are still quite spectacular to explore.
39. Venice canals: Winding through quaint, little (and very expensive) houses, the canals feature arched bridges and beautiful landscaping. It’s a great place to cruise along on a bike. Start between Washington Avenue and Venice Boulevard.
40. Visit Hollywood Forever Cemetery: At this Hollywood landmark, fans still gather every August 23 to pay homage to Rudolph Valentino. Cecil B. DeMille and Douglas Fairbanks, Sr. also rest here. Catch outdoor movies during the summer for a fee.
41. Step back in time 100 years: The Victorian era had its influence on local architecture, as evidenced by the homes in the 1300 block of Carroll Avenue in Angelino Heights.
42. Bradbury Building: The one-of-a-kind interior features a five-story atrium finished with glazed bricks and wrought-iron grillwork (including the cage elevator that will be familiar from the many movies filmed here).
43. Watch the ceremonies on Hollywood Boulevard: The best way to see your favorite celebrities up close and personal is to check out the star-dedication ceremonies. They are typically held twice a month.
44. Keeping up appearances: Sephora’s stores offer Express Service, a free, quick makeover. It’s a nice stop while you’re experiencing some of L.A.’s quintessential shopping malls, such as Americana at Brand, the Beverly Center and Hollywood & Highland Center.
45. Neat market: The network of free farmers markets throughout Los Angeles has helped bring fresh-from-the-field produce to urban neighborhoods. One of the most popular is the famous original Los Angeles Farmers Market at Third and Fairfax. Other great markets include the Hollywood Farmers Market (Ivar and Selma Avenue), the Hermosa Beach Farmers Market (Valley Drive and 11th Street), the Studio City Farmers Market (Ventura Place and Laurel Canyon Boulevard) and the Santa Monica Farmers Market (2640 Main Street).
46. Start “stairing:” The hills of Los Angeles inspired early housing developers to connect streets via sets of stairs, which often led to now-defunct trolley car stops. An online search with keywords “Silver Lake Stairs” connects you to several online communities that share tips and locations of favorite climbs.
47. Get fit with Fido: The city of Los Angeles operates nine dog parks where your canine friends can roam off leash. These fenced areas within parks offer a variety of facilities for humans and animals.
48. Ramp it up: The city also operates 21 skate parks that are a haven for skateboarders seeking challenging terrain.
49. Build your beach body: Venice Beach is world famous for its funky folks, but it’s at least as well known for Muscle Beach, home to amateur and professional bodybuilders alike.
50. Night hike: For years, the Angeles Chapter of the Sierra Club has been leading guided hikes through the many trails of Griffith Park.
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