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Nickel Tours: California Dreamin’ on the Cheap in Los Angeles

Joanie.Demer

Los Angeles is home to hotels, movie stars, sunny beaches and great weather (and, if we’re honest, a little bit of smog).

Still, the city of angels makes a great vacation destination any time of the year. It is a tourist Mecca. So L.A. can be expensive.

Find a great airfare to L.A. and save some serious travel dollars with plenty of free, very interesting things to do.

One caution: finding free parking in L.A. is notoriously difficult. Bring along a little cash for parking and plenty of change for the meters.

  • Soak Up the Sun at the Beach: Los Angeles is famous for its sunny beaches and any trip to the city wouldn’t be complete without a day lounging in the sand. This article on CBS Los Angeles’ website will direct you to the many free beaches in the area. Parking close to the beach can be expensive, so make sure to ask about rates before parking in any paid lots.
  • Take  a Walking Tour: Put on some walking shoes and see the best of Los Angeles on foot. The Los Angeles Conservancy offers a variety of free self-guided walking tours: Locations from the movie “(500) Days of Summer,” 7th Street and Historic Pico Union. This free audio podcast tour from the Conservancy will show you great downtown destinations on its 11 stops.
  • Catch Dinner Fishing from a Pier: If you love to fish, try your hand  from one of the many public piers in the area. In California you don’t need a fishing license to fish from a public pier; just bring your own pole and bait and get started. The Santa Monica Pier is one of the largest fishing piers in the state. Even though you don’t need a license, all other fishing regulations like bag limits and catch sizes still apply.
  • Learn Something New at the California Science Center: The California Science Center  delights adults and children alike with its ever changing array of exhibits. Through Dec. 31, 2012, the museum offers an amazing Cleopatra exhibit along with their permanent exhibits on ecosystems, creativity and more.
  • Score Free Stuff (If You Win) at The Price is Right Tapings:  Want to meet Drew Carey and win amazing prizes (maybe)? Attending a Price is Right taping is the ticket. Tickets are free. Print them from home. Make sure you book early; taping is only done on select days, and spaces fill up quickly. Even if you don’t win a prize, it is a lot of fun to watch one of America’s favorite shows in the making.
  • Walk with the Stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame:  Los Angeles is just a short drive from the star studded streets of Hollywood. Walk down the Hollywood Walk of Fame and look for big time stars’ names. Don’t forget to stop by the forecourt at Grauman’s Chinese Theater to see the celebrity handprints. Do a bit of shopping at the nearby Hollywood & Highland mall.
  • See Great Museums on a Free Admission Day:  Many of Los Angeles’s best museums offer free admission on select days and times. This is a great way to save a bundle while getting to enjoy paid attractions. Check out this list of free museum days on the Discover Los Angeles webpage.
  • Explore Art and History at the Getty:  The Getty Center hosts an impressive collection of European and American art as well as beautiful gardens and stunning architecture. The views from this hillside museum are nothing short of breathtaking. The museum is free; just pay for parking (which is also free if you come by bike or motorcycle). The Getty is huge; don’t plan on seeing everything in a couple of hours.
  • See How the News is Made:  Twice a month, Los Angeles Times offers free public tours of their offices in the historic Times building and their printing facility. Reservations are required for this hour-long tour. Parking is free. Older kids love this tour, but be advised: all children must be at least 10 years old. Check out the details here.
  • Take a Walk Through Time at the La Brea Tar Pits: More than 3.5 million fossils from the ice age have been recovered from the La Brea Tar Pits and more are still being found. See the outside area and the tar pits for free. There is a fee to go inside, (adults are $11) except on the first Tuesday of the month (no free admission during July and August). If you haven’t seen them, the tar pits are definitely worth a visit.
  • Check Out Old TV at The Paley Center:  Watch one (or many) of the more than 150,000 TV or radio programs in The Paley Center’s collection. Choose a program from the library and then head to a viewing console to watch alone or with a group of up to 4. In their theaters you can enjoy their daily selection. Admission is free every day they are open, but donations are appreciated. Learn more here.

Los Angeles is filled with fun and free attractions for your family to enjoy. So pack your swimsuit, sunglasses and camera, and head out for some free adventures in the home of the stars.

Other Cities

Free tourist sites are available in almost every city across the country. Here are some tips for finding free tourist attractions:

Travel/Tourist Websites: The official tourism site for the city or state you are visiting is a great resource for fun and free things to do. Call or send an email. These cities want you to come visit and will happily provide you with all the information you need.

Local Visitor’s Bureau: Make the local visitor’s bureau your first stop. Tell them you are interested in free local activities, and see what they come up with.

Ask Locals: Who knows better than residents the best of free things to do. Every town has a few hidden gems, and if you don’t ask, you might not find them.

Call Before You Go: Before you head out to a tourist site, pick up the phone and ask a few questions. Many places offer reduced prices or free tickets on certain days and times or have free exhibits available. Don’t be afraid to ask for discounts and specials.

This has been a guest post by Jackie from Ridgecrest, CA
Find out more about the KCL Contributor Network!

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