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Go ahead and book that Los Angeles family vacation even if you can’t afford Disneyland or Universal Studios.
There’s plenty to keep your family entertained for free in the City of Angels.
Here’s a start:
Make sure you visit Kidspace Children’s Museum on Free Family Night — the first Tuesday of every month — because from 4:00 p.m. until 8:00 p.m., admission to the museum is totally free.
On Free Family Nights, Kidspace promotes learning about the arts and cultural diversity.
You’ll have the opportunity to participate in various exhibits like “Discover Ceramics” where kids can make their own pottery, or “Discover Painting” where you’ll learn about painting methods and techniques.
The Autry Museum focuses on the history of the American West and offers free admission on the second Tuesday of every month.
Exhibits range from Old West artifacts to photographs of the 1906 earthquake in San Francisco to four centuries of Pueblo Pottery artifacts.
A science center where general admission is free?! Yes, please.
California Science Center offers free admission to all permanent exhibits — anytime. Visit Air & Space and learn about space exploration and planets and constellations.
Or check out Ecosystems to explore eight different “zones” that cover different ecological principles like seeing how plant and animal life adapts to different climates.
It’s all free — but you’ll have the option to pay for access to Special Exhibits and the IMAX theater.
4. Hollywood Walk of Fame and Chinese Theatre
Go see the stars in the pavement on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame.
You might feel like you’ve seen enough after just a few blocks, but be sure to stop by the Chinese Theatre before you leave Hollywood Boulevard.
It’s easy to spend up to 30 minutes looking at the unique architecture of the theatre and the sidewalk with signatures and hand and footprints of famous actors and actresses going back to the 1930s — all of this is free.
You can even see a movie inside the Chinese Theatre if you want, but it’s spendy — as much as $20 per ticket!
On the first Tuesday of every month (except July and August) and on every Tuesday in September, you can get free admission to the Natural History Museum.
Tour a hall of dinosaurs, butterfly exhibit, insect zoo, and a gem and minerals exhibit.
If you’re ready to get away from the busy pace of L.A., take a walk along the Venice Canals.
Honestly, it doesn’t look a whole lot like the actual city of Venice in Italy, but it’s worth your time because you get to see waterways and the incredible houses and gardens situated on the canals.
Make sure you go during high tide in order to see the canals full.
Tour Downtown Disney whether you are visiting Disneyland or not.
It’s free to enter and walk through, looking at shops or grabbing a bite at a restaurant.
Be sure to check out the LEGO store with its life-size (or larger!) LEGO models.
Enjoy panoramic views of the coast, port and Catalina Island from the hilltop where the Korean Bell of Friendship sits.
The bell itself was donated to the U.S. in 1976 by the Republic of Korea to celebrate the U.S. bicentennial and honor veterans of the Korean War. It weighs 17 tons, it’s 12 feet high and over 7 feet wide.
If you can plan your visit for the first Saturday of the month, you can hear the bell ring at 12:15 p.m.
9. Join a live audience TV recording
You should never pay for tickets to participate in a daytime talk show, a late show or a game show.
If it’s filmed in Los Angeles, you can find a way to get free tickets — it usually consists of applying online for tickets and waiting to see if you got them and then showing up about 45 minutes before the taping to get in line for your seat.
Depending on what type of show you want to attend, instructions for getting tickets will vary. Here’s where to find tickets for a few popular shows:
Walk along the pier and enjoy music, art and more, or join a free guided walking tour of the pier every Saturday and Sunday at 11 a.m. and noon.
Plus, if you don’t want to pay to park your car, Lyft offers a discount — $5.00 off your first ride to the pier with code: LYFT2SMP.
Don’t forget to check out the historic Santa Monica Pier carousel — it was built in 1920 and costs about $1.00 for children and $2.00 for adults to ride.
The Original Farmers Market and The Grove started in 1934 when a bunch of local farmers parked their trucks on the site of an old dairy farm in order to sell their produce and goods to the public.
It’s grown to about 100 dining, grocery and shopping spots, and it’s open daily, seven days a week.
Walk through the cemetery to see the final resting places of famous actors and musicians like Judy Garland, Rudolph Valentino and Chris Cornell.
You’ll see statues, standing tombstones and monuments. Just be sure to get a map at the visitor’s center, because the cemetery is large (and Judy Garland is challenging to find without the map).
The cemetery also hosts paid events like outdoor movies.
On the second Thursday of every month, make your way to the Art Walk Lounge on Spring St. to get a map of the Art Walk.
Exhibits and activities happen in the galleries along Spring and Main streets, between 4th and 9th streets.
Arrive early to avoid crowds — as the day progresses, the Art Walk gets more packed.
14. Guided Tour of Walt Disney Concert Hall
You can get a free, 60-minute, docent-led tour of Walt Disney Concert Hall.
With this tour, you’ll see the hall and gardens and learn about the architecture of the building. Unfortunately, the tour doesn’t include viewing the inside of the auditorium because it’s in almost constant use.
There’s also a 40-minute video walk where you’re issued an iPad and headphones to learn about the concert hall.
On the third Tuesday of every month, it’s free to visit the L.A. County Arboretum. In fact, do this and you’ll save $9.00 per adult and $5.00 per child on admission.
L.A. County Arboretum is home to 127 acres of plants, trees, wildlife and historic buildings.
You’ll see peacocks, geese, ducks and more on your self-guided tour of the arboretum. Note that guided tours are not free, even on free Tuesdays — plan to show yourself around.
16. La Brea Tar Pits
Reserve your free tickets to La Brea Tar Pits on the first Tuesday of every month except in July and August or every Tuesday in September.
The natural tar pits outside the museum are always free to see, but with your free ticket you’ll get access to indoor exhibits as well. These feature mammoths, mastodons and fossils of all kinds.
17. Avila Adobe
The Avila Adobe is the oldest home in Los Angeles, and you can walk through it whenever the home is open.
You can also get a free tour of the adobe Monday through Saturday.
It’s like a step back in time because of the total lack of modern conveniences such as a stovetop and oven. The ovens in the adobe are handmade, wood-burning structures — your kids will love it.
You can enjoy Universal CityWalk even if you don’t visit Universal Studios.
There are plenty of restaurants, shopping spots and a cinema if you’re feeling like a movie.
If you’ve got a sitter lined up for the kids and you’re looking for an affordable date night, many venues — like Howl at the Moon — offer live music and sometimes even Karaoke after 7 p.m.
19. Almost Free: Angels Flight
Angels Flight is a funicular downtown that you can ride for just $2.00 round trip.
What’s a funicular? Great question — it’s a cable-car railway built in an ascending fashion, as if it’s on the side of a mountain.
Angels Flight opened in 1901 and was built to ferry riders up to the then-fashionable Bunker Hill. Currently, it’s located between Hill Street and Grand Avenue on Bunker Hill.