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The 5 Best Los Angeles Attractions That Are Completely Free

AAA/Frank Swanson
By AAA Travel Editor Frank Swanson
November 11, 2019
Looking for cheap things to do in a big, expensive city like Los Angeles might seem impossible, but it turns out there are a surprising number of free attractions—some of which are among the top things to see in L.A. Yes, it’s true. You can take in amazing city views from the hills in Griffith Park, peruse cutting-edge modern art in a world-class museum or tour an unconventional and innovative performing arts center that looks like an abstract sculpture—all without cracking open your wallet. Read on to see our recommendations.
AAA/Frank Swanson

The Bradbury Building

304 S. Broadway
(213) 626-1893
The historic Bradbury Building has nothing to do with science-fiction author Ray Bradbury, but there are sci-fi connections. First, the architect accepted the commission only after consulting a Ouija board to get advice from his dead brother, and then he based his cutting-edge (for the time) design on an early science-fiction novel that imagined people in the 21st-century (that would be us) living and working beneath glass-enclosed courtyards. The result is the Bradbury’s stunningly ornate five-story atrium, which is bathed in California sunshine thanks to a huge skylight. It’s an interior space filled with red brick, Mexican floor tiles and delicate wrought-iron grillwork.
Because this 19th-century architectural gem is still an active office building, visitors are allowed in the lobby only, but as one of the top attractions in Los Angeles, it’s definitely worth a peek. Oh, and the other sci-fi connection: Climactic scenes from the 1982 tech-noir classic “Blade Runner” (among other movies) were filmed at the Bradbury.
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The Broad

221 S. Grand Ave.
(213) 232-6200
Let’s say you were going to build a museum in downtown Los Angeles on a site across the street from the warped-steel sculpture that is the Walt Disney Concert Hall and you planned to fill it with edgy contemporary artwork. A boring, run-of-the-mill glass box just wouldn’t do, right? Clearly that’s what the designers of The Broad (rhymes with “code”) thought, and so they came up with a seriously eye-catching exterior that’s been likened to a honeycomb. This concrete “veil” filters daylight to create the perfect conditions inside for viewing all the sculptures, paintings and video installations. Among the names you may recognize are Jean-Michel Basquiat, Chuck Close, Jeff Koons, Barbara Kruger, Roy Lichtenstein, Cindy Sherman and Andy Warhol.
To avoid waiting in a long line, try to make reservations in advance. The free tickets have been in demand since the museum opened in 2015.
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Griffith Observatory

2800 E. Observatory Rd.
(213) 473-0800
An iconic part of the Los Angeles skyline since 1935, Griffith Observatory overlooks the city from the slopes of Mt. Hollywood in Griffith Park. With its three copper domes and high-profile location, the observatory looks more like an ancient Greek temple than a museum dedicated to exploring the universe. To put it simply, Griffith Observatory offers phenomenal views—through its telescopes of the heavens, within its planetarium and from the rooftop decks, which boast a panorama of L.A. spread out in all directions including the Hollywood Sign.
Admission to the exhibit halls is free; planetarium shows cost a modest fee. The parking lot is tiny, especially considering the observatory’s popularity, but you can avoid a lot of hassle by taking the cheap DASH bus that runs to the observatory from the Vermont/Sunset Metro Red Line station.
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The Last Bookstore

453 S. Spring St.
(213) 488-0599
With online retailers gobbling up more and more of our shopping dollars, brick-and-mortar stores have had to get creative to lure in customers. The Last Bookstore in downtown Los Angeles has embraced that challenge by creating a huge, far-out wonderland of new and used books that includes a second-floor “labyrinth” of shelves complete with a book tunnel. Some old-school lovers of the printed word might be disturbed to see so many vintage hardcovers sawed in half or nailed in place merely for the sake of decoration, but the effect is undeniably cool—so much so that the store has become a hot destination for Instagrammers who couldn’t care less about well-priced books.
But if you love to read, you’ve GOT to stop by this place. Just be prepared to lose track of time as you wander the well-stocked aisles. Oh, and they have an extensive collection of graphic novels, vinyl records and rare books for sale, too.
AAA/Frank Swanson

Walt Disney Concert Hall

111 S. Grand Ave.
(213) 972-4399
One of the city’s newest architectural landmarks known the world over, Walt Disney Concert Hall is an unforgettable site thanks to its curving stainless steel exterior that reflects the blue Southern California sky. Meant to remind visitors of sails stretched taut by the wind, the building’s shiny outside appears to change shape as you walk around it. The cavernous interior—all warm woods and flowing lines without sharp angles—makes an equally striking impression. A shady rooftop garden provides a quiet place to pause and appreciate a rose-blossom-shaped fountain decorated in a mosaic of shattered Delft porcelain.
One of four venues that make up The Music Center, L.A.’s renowned performing arts complex, the Walt Disney Concert Hall offers free self-guiding audio tours narrated by Tony Award-winning actor John Lithgow. Free guided tours also are available.
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