They say the best things in life are free. And while we can think of a few exceptions, it’s undoubtedly true. It just takes a little creativity, and we’re here with some helpful tips to get you started. Tucked away amongst the luxury cars, world-class boutiques and high-end hotels, Los Angeles offers a range of deals and free fun for people of any income bracket.
We’ve rounded up some great ways to enjoy LA without breaking the bank…
Benefit: Catch a sunset at Palisades Park, literally the best place to see the sun disappear behind the Earth (aside from the International Space Station). There’s a lovely winding path along the cliff over the beach, and plenty of people-watching with joggers, sunbathers, and dog-walkers all around. Keep an eye out for the rose garden and sculptures.
Benefit: There are Farmer’s Markets with the best produce around everywhere in Los Angeles. Lots take place on Sundays, but you can find one pretty much any day of the week. Our favorite is the Hollywood market at Ivar and Selma, and the West Hollywood market on Monday at Plummer Park. If you find yourself up in Eagle Rock, it is on Friday evenings. And the Sunset Strip Market has to be seen to be believed: amazing food trucks, craft beer and wine, and lots of live entertainment.
Cost: Reasonable prices on high-quality produce. Pack a healthy picnic lunch on your way to the beach.
Benefit: Catch a show! Lots of TV shows need live studio audiences to roar with laughter at jokes that start with a setup like “Does this dress make me look fat?” For exactly zero dollars and zero cents, you can chuckle at Mystery Girls (starring Tori Spelling), Let’s Make a Deal, and Instant Mom. Remember to dress wacky if you’re going to The Price is Right.
Cost: Did we say zero?
Hostels Over Hotels
Benefit: You can save some serious cash by staying at a hostel instead of a hotel. Check out the Banana Bungalow if your needs are modest. And if you really don’t need much space, you might like Podshare: beds are stacked in stylish bunk-style nooks, with outlets and reading lights. Or head over to StayON Beverly, where the rooms are tidy and the staff polite. Just don’t spend too much time in the shower unless you want to become public enemy #1.
Cost: Less than $100 per night; share room with a friend for $120.
Benefit: Kayak the LA River. Yes, that’s right. You can actually kayak the LA River. The city is experimenting with a system in which people enjoying paddling on this misunderstood body of water. For most of its length, the LA River is a cement canal, but the city is remaking it, mile by mile, by opening trails and greening it with native plants. In parts it is absolutely gorgeous: lush green plants, no concrete to be seen, just fish and birds and nature. Plus, this is a unique way of seeing a city that few others can boast. From the point of view of water, from the point of view of urban habitat, and a startling look at the native environment before it developed into the thriving metropolis of today.
Bike & Hike
Benefit: Stay away from cars. LA is surprisingly easy to navigate without a rental car. It boasts a comfortable subway (really!) that whisks you from downtown to Universal City, or to Pasadena, to Long Beach, or to the world’s largest LGBT historical repository, the ONE Archive. (There’s also a stop near the historic KLYT bath house.) Given the beautiful weather, it’s fun to explore on bike — just make sure you prepare with the regular LA boy cute accessories: tight biker pants, lights and, of course, a helmet, stylish of course.
Cost: $25 per day
Benefit: There’s no better way to spare your wallet than enjoying the great outdoors while simultaneously staying fit. Griffith Park is packed with gays, absolutely free, and the perfect spot for a little picnic under the trees. We like the Griffith Park Observatory ($7 for tickets) for enjoying the starry sky. Or you can rent a paddleboat on Echo Park Lake for just $10. For a quieter time, you can stroll through the graves at Hollywood Forever Cemetery, where tickets are $12 on week days or $14 on the nights when they screen movies outdoors near the mausoleum.
Cost: Less than the price of a movie ticket.