I’m taking a little time off this month to get my freelance taxes organized and regroup with my blog, so today Jessica is guest posting! Jessica is a freelance writer and attorney living in Los Angeles. She blogs about her journey to pay off $82,000 in student loans from law school and encourages others to live better lives through financially responsibility at Settle Your Finances.
Los Angeles is a huge city with over 10 million residents and host to around 250 million visitors every year. With the beautiful beaches, the abundant sunshine and the allure of Hollywood, Los Angeles has gained a reputation as a cool place to be.
Los Angeles also has a reputation for being expensive, which is probably because it is. I believe a lot of residents feel the pinch in their budgets from paying for housing and don’t have as much money to allocate to entertainment. I know I sure do.
Last year, I opted to save money with a staycation to enjoy some of the great things this city has to offer. Once I started researching cheap entertainment, I came away with a ton of great options.
Whether you live in Los Angeles or are just visiting, there are plenty of awesome things you can do to enjoy the city, all for $25 or less per person.
1. Bike The Strand– Los Angeles is known for it’s beautiful beaches. A great way to experience them and get in some exercise at the same time is to rent a bike. The Strand is a 22-mile bike path connecting Manhattan Beach to Pacific Palisades. The views are amazing and there are plenty of cool places to stop and rest along the way. Bike rentals are available in many beach cities.
2. Play Mini Golf at Castle Park– If you’re in the mood for a bit of friendly competition, Sherman Oaks Castle Park in the San Fernando Valley has three 18-hole courses to choose from. One round is only $6.50 for an adult with $3 replays.
3. Play a Round of Golf– If you’re a more serious golfer, you don’t have to spend very much to indulge in your hobby if you reserve a twilight tee time. The municipal golf courses in Los Angeles are beautifully landscaped and well tended. And best of all, there’s no membership fee.
4. Visit the Griffith Observatory– A landmark of Los Angeles, the Griffith Observatory boasts beautiful city views and interesting astronomical exhibits. You can attend a show in the planetarium or observe the sky using the public telescopes on clear evenings. There are also free star parties once a month where volunteers set up telescopes to allow visitors to see the Sun, Moon, and any visible planets.
5. Take a Walking Tour– Los Angeles is filled with beautiful and historic architecture. The Los Angeles Conservancy takes visitors on docent lead tours through several downtown locations for $10 or less. There are also several self-guided tours of different areas of the city available for free.
6. Check Out An Art Gallery- There are so many fantastic art galleries in Los Angeles where you can take in some art and spend time relaxing on a beautiful campus. Some are free, like The Broad and The Getty. My personal favorite, LACMA, has general admission for $15, but is free to LA residents after 3:00 PM on weekdays.
7. Watch Movies in the Park- The summertime Eat/See/Hear & Street Food Cinema events feature music, food trucks and awesome movies at great outdoor venues around the city. As a plus, dogs are always welcome.
8. Take a Hike– There are enough places to hike in Los Angeles for a whole article. If you want a hike with stress free parking and less crowded trails, try Topanga State Park, which is huge and has multiple hiking locations. If you want to hike where movies have been filmed, check out Malibu Creek and Paramount Ranch.
9. Attend a Comedy Show– I think it’s safe to say that everyone enjoys a good laugh. There are several comedy clubs in Los Angeles and the tickets are actually pretty cheap. The Upright Citizens Brigade, which was co-founded by Amy Poehler, is a great choice with two Hollywood locations.
10. Take an Improv Class– Learning improv is kind of a “thing” in Los Angeles. I’ll admit that an improv class is a great life experience that keeps you on your toes and thinking outside the box. Second City, one of the biggest improv schools, offers an intro class for $25.
11. Go to the LA Zoo– The Los Angeles Zoo is a great place to spend an afternoon. Located in Griffith Park, the zoo allows you to learn about and view a variety of animals. As a bonus, there is a botanical garden as well.
12. Search for Treasures at a Flea Market– If you love to find hidden gems at flea markets, then LA has you covered. The Rose Bowl Flea Market is probably the most well known, but the Melrose Trading Post markets at Fairfax and Taft High Schools as well as the Long Beach Antique Market are pretty awesome too.
13. Watch Filming of a TV Show– So many great television shows are filmed in Los Angeles and tickets to these shows are free. If you want to be a member of a live studio audience or even become a contestant, sign up online ahead of time to reserve your seat. Also check out 1iota.com.
14. Check Out Some Street Art– One of my favorite things about Los Angeles is the amazing murals that add visual interest to the urban landscape. The Mural Conservancy of Los Angeles and the Los Angeles Street Art Gallery have an amazing database of public art throughout the city.
15. Rent Pedal Boats at Echo Park– Echo Park is always popping up in movies because of its large lake and gorgeous views of downtown. You can enjoy the scenery from a pedal boat on the lake for just $10.
16. Visit the Science Center– The California Science Center has exhibits that will interest children and adults alike. Many of the exhibits are interactive, giving a more hands on experience than most museums. General admission is free, but tickets to see the space shuttle Endeavor and the related exhibit are less than $10 for an adult ticket.
17. Get Centered with a Meditation Session– If you’re feeling stressed and want to add a little calm to your life, hit up a meditation session presented by the UCLA Mindfulness Awareness Research Center. They’re held at various locations on campus and are absolutely free.
18. Enjoy an Outdoor Concert– With the gorgeous weather we have, outdoor concerts are popular events in Los Angeles. During the summertime there’s so many free concerts to choose from. The Levitt Pavilion’s two locations are very popular, as is the Twilight Concert Series at the Santa Monica Pier. Editor’s Note: I saw Morris Day & the Time last year at the Santa Monica Pier & it was awesome!
19. Take a Scenic Drive– If you have access to a car and don’t mind a little traffic, a scenic drive is a great way to see more of the city. Mulholland Drive, the Pacific Coast Highway and Sunset Boulevard are some of the most popular.
20. Get Close to Nature at the Arboretum– The Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanical Garden is located in beautiful Arcadia and features several landscapes. The gardens are perfect for a relaxing afternoon. Plus, they have peacocks wandering around their grounds!
21. Indulge at a Food Truck Festival– While food trucks are starting to pop up all over the country, the recent popularity began in Los Angeles. There are several food truck festivals throughout the year where different vendors will gather, allowing customers to sample a variety of cuisines. Come hungry and bring friends so you can sample more things!
22. Sample Local Vino at Malibu Wines– If you enjoy a glass of wine and beautiful scenery, Malibu Wines has the best of both. I recently celebrated my birthday here and I think it may be one of my favorite places in LA. Try a tasting flight or take a picnic and split a bottle of wine with your friends.
23. Learn About Craft Beer at Angel City Brewery– If beer is more your style, then you’re in luck. Angel City Brewery offers free tours to the public so you can learn how a craft beer is, well, crafted. They also have a variety of small batch IPAs on tap to sample.
24. Check Out a Farmers’ Market– Farmers’ markets are known as the place to get fresh produce, but also offer other goods as well. I love to indulge in the prepared food and sample gourmet ingredients like infused olive oils and local honey. There are tons of famer’s markets all over the city. I can vouch for the Santa Monica market as well as the Mar Vista one for having a great atmosphere and product selection.
25. Go See the Watts Towers– The Watts Towers are a series of structural sculptures, one as tall as 99 feet, that on man built by hand over the course of 33 years. It has been preserved by the city and is truly an amazing sight to see.
I hope this list has given you some great ideas for cheap things to do in Los Angeles. With so many options, there’s no reason to spend a lot of cash to have a good time.
Did I miss anything that you’d like to add? What’s your favorite form of inexpensive entertainment in Los Angeles?
Editor’s Note: Aside from watching the sunset from the beach and playing beach volleyball (both free!), I also love Grand Park, which often has free events, especially in the summer!