So you’re coming to Hollywood!
Or Beverly Hills, or Southern California or Disneyland…
What are my favorite spots in LA and the surrounding areas? For over 25 years, I’ve been asked this question. I have picks that were on that list then and are still on it now. I’m doing series of posts with the first segment below: TOP FREE THINGS TO DO IN LA! Stay tuned for TOP THINGS TO DO WITH KIDS and FAVORITE RESTAURANTS AND SHOPPING SPOTS coming very soon. I’d love to keep this an updated, ongoing post, so PLEASE give me insight in the comments below and I will add it to the main post. This in no way is sponsored, just a post I have been asked to do time and time again. Really hope some of you get some use out of it.
TOP THINGS TO DO FOR FREE
So you spent a pretty penny to get all the way west. You’re spending another pretty penny to stay in a hotel, airbandb or whatnot. Let’s find something that’s not gonna break the bank, shall we?
Also, these ideas are free to an extent, but there may be parking fees. If you are up for it, consider a metro day pass or even try uber! Pro Tip: Google and map out your location ideas each day. LA traffic can be a real chore.
HOLLYWOOD SIGN. You may not want to hike all the way up to the sign, but you’d probably like to see it. Griffith Park is a great option. From the main parking lot at Griffith Observatory, you can take a walk to see it well. If you’re a movie buff, it’s fun to see the location where they filmed such gems as LALA LAND, REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE and JURASSIC PARK.
I find adventures like this so much more fascinating when you know the history behind it… did you know the sign used to say “HollywoodLAND?” From many streets in Hollywood, you can see it quite clearly, so keep an eye out. Matter-of-fact, you find the right angle, you can see if from Hollywood Blvd and Vine (read more on that below).
HOLLYWOOD BOULEVARD Walk the blvd to see the crazy sites (people dressed like look-a-likes of your favorite stars dead and alive!) There’s a huge shopping area at Hollywood and Vine. Make sure you walk around and compare your hand print and foot print to the celebrities immortalized in front of the TCL Theatre. Then, the WALK OF FAME — don’t forget to find my best friend’s STAR THERE!! (Kaley Cuoco) NBD. LOL. If you decide to spend some time and wonder around, have a bite at Miceli’s- there’s great wall art outside.
There’s also the WAX MUSEUM which is worth walking passed. They always have someone outside worthy of a photo. Disclaimer: in my opinion, Hollywood Blvd. is chaotic and crowded and a lot to deal with. You may want to just drive it and decide if you’re up for parking and experiencing it all. Most of my out of town guests enjoy taking that Hollywood tour once in their lives, though. It’s definitely a sight to see!
SEE A LIVE TAPING- it’s always fun to try and see something LIVE. THE PRICE IS RIGHT is still a hot ticket at Television City. If you do score tickets, keep your eyes out for BOLD AND BEAUTIFUL STARS or YOUNG AND THE RESTLESS or THE TALK, as those film year round at the studio. There are live tapings all over town, but if you choose TV City, you are adjacent to….
THE ORIGINAL FARMER’S MARKET AND THE GROVE I love the outdoor shopping experience here. Fun patio restaurants, or walk and sight see for free, of course. You pay to park, but you can get validated.
LA BREA TAR PITS next to the L.A. County Museum of Art is the most significant source of prehistoric fossils ever excavated. These fossils have made their way into museums around the world, but the largest collection is here at the Page Museum. It's free to wander the park and look at the tar pits and outdoor exhibits. During the summer, you can watch the excavators at work.
HOLLYWOOD BOWL While the Hollywood Bowl concerts are not free, REHEARSALS ARE! If you are traveling with kids and want a fun “private” concert without any of the hassle of horrific parking, consider calling to see if any performances are rehearsing during the day. Bring a picnic- the kids will love it.
THE GETTY VILLA If you’re making your way to Malibu and want to make a day of it, stop at the Getty Villa. You won’t be disappointed. Pro Tip: reserve parking and tickets. It’s free, but you’ll want to plan ahead. There is a cafe there on the property, but if you make a day out of it, go on down to Cross Creek in Malibu. Or enjoy Gladstones on the beach.
GREYSTONE MANOR GREYSTONE MANOR AND GARDENS- it’s a piece of Old Hollywood located in Beverly Hills and location for some of your favorite tv shows and films. I love walking the grounds. Parking and tours are free. The Manor is only open for special events. I added photos below from my last visit with my family.
BEACHES If you’ve come all this way, you need to see the ocean, especially if you don’t live near water. If you make the Malibu trip, you’ll see it. There’s specific places where you can access the beach, so google where you’ll be. If you wanna walk the boardwalk, I have always loved Zuma Beach. If you wanna drive a bit more North, there’s El Matador (Joel proposed here!- pictured). It’s stunning with cliff views. You pay to park here, FYI, but it’s reasonable.
I moved to Malibu in 1994! Hard to believe. At seventeen my dad dropped me off at Pepperdine! It’s changed a great deal, but I still love the downtown area at Cross Creek. Even if you don’t buy anything, it’s fun to walk around and window shop, site see and people watch and walk on the beach. THESE PHOTOS from a post about my girlfriend’s baby shower were taken on the beach in Malibu!
SANTA MONICA PIER and OCEAN BLVD. To get on the Pier and walk around is free. Of course, there’s a charge to ride any of the rides or play the games and park. Warning: it makes for fun, great pictures, but be patient. It can get very crowded. I find it slightly overwhelming. Nearby is the famous SHUTTERS AT THE BEACH (this is not free, but an alternative). If you don’t mind spending money on parking and food, it’s a stunning hotel with a gorgeous views. I like to park there and walk down to the pier with out of town guests. There’s metered parking if you enjoy driving and looking. If you do make it down to the Pier, or even to the sidelines, have your phone batteries charges or cameras ready. It’s an iconic shot. Fun Fact: take a list of just a few of the movies and shows that have been filmed here! SOME LIKE IT HOT, CRIME AND PUNISHMENT, FALLING DOWN, HER, IRON MAN and of course, FORREST GUMP. And Ocean Blvd. is one of my favorite stretches to walk and sit on a bench overlooking the Pacific. We shot these photos in that park.
Fun fact: If you’re watching GOLIATH starring Billy Bob Thornton, you’ll recognize much of this location. Primarily Chez Jay’s that is a Santa Monica staple.
OLVERA STREET- If you’re a history buff and enjoy authentic, inexpensive Mexican food, this is a real treat.
HIKING- Los Angeles has some of the most beautiful hiking spots! And HIKING IS FREE! (Sometimes parking is not free, or hard to come by, but do your research and know in advance). Google LA hikes to find the perfect fit for your trip. HERE is a good resource. I will say it’s fun to spot a celebrity or two on your workout. I’ve spotted Reese Witherspoon and Jennifer Aniston (separately) on Runyon Canyon. Depending on difficulty level of the hike, the part of town you are in, and how much time you’d like to devote, you can find a way to experience a bit of our beloved natural elements in the City of Angeles.
So… lemme know if you have questions, or specific questions the other posts I’m still working on!
Also— lemme know if you’ll be visiting LA soon!!