100 Free Things to Do in Los Angeles: Free Recreation

Picnic near Crystal Springs Drive in Griffith Park   |  Photo:  Tuan Lee

Picnic near Crystal Springs Drive in Griffith Park

 |  Photo:  Tuan Lee

By definition, recreation should be free. Getting outside is one of the best ways to discover Los Angeles. Check out this list of free recreational activities to enjoy during your L.A. vacation.

Sunbathe at the beach

Take your pick, whether it’s to show off your tan or to relax in solitude. From Malibu to the South Bay discover the perfect beach for you.

Wander around Griffith Park

With more than 4,210 acres of both natural chaparral-covered terrain and landscaped parkland and picnic areas, Griffith Park is the largest municipal park with urban wilderness area in the country and provides a mix of free activities for the whole family. Picnic on one of the broad lawns or hike one of the park’s many free trails.

Go Surfing

Whether you’re getting on a board for the first time or you’re a seasoned rider searching for L.A.’s best breaks, there’s something for everyone. 

Birdwatching at Audubon Center at Debs Park

The Audubon Center at Debs Park was the first LEED Platinum-certified building in the United States, which alone might be reason enough for a visit, but it's also great for just getting away from the hustle and bustle of the city and reconnecting with nature.

Hike the urban trail

At any given time of day or night, the renovated walking path around the Silver Lake Reservoir is filled with joggers, walkers, strollers, and dogs on leashes. With a crushed granite surface, the flat, two-mile path has become an outdoor gym for residents of the artsy neighborhood.

Relax on L.A.’s own “Riviera”

The Marina del Rey harbor offers spectacular views and many outdoor activities, including jogging, roller skating, bicycling or just relaxing in the park.

Explore a historic park

Will Rogers State Historic Park was the private ranch of the legendary Will Rogers. The park includes the iconic Western Ranch House, a historic stable, polo field, riding arena, roping area, numerous corrals, horse pastures, and golf course. The famous Inspiration Point Trail provides visitors with fantastic 360-degree vistas, and offers access to the Backbone Trail.

Stop and smell the roses

On UCLA's campus you can enjoy two beautiful gardens for the price of nothing. Check out the Mildred E. Mathias Botanical Gardens and the Franklin D. Murphy Sculpture Garden, as well as Exposition Park’s Rose Garden near USC.

Point Fermin Park and Lighthouse

Perched above the Pacific Ocean, Point Fermin is often overlooked by visitors. But the 37-acre park and its coin-operated telescopes offer some of the best views along the coast, while the 1874 lighthouse makes for picture-perfect photo ops. Picnic, go for a jog or just sit and lose yourself.

Free archery lessons in Pasadena

Bet you didn’t think of this one. Pasadena Roving Archers offers a free Safety & Orientation class for first-timers every Saturday (a small donation applies to subsequent classes).

Sepulveda Basin Wildlife Reserve

Located in Van Nuys, the Sepulveda Basin Wildlife Reserve debunks the myth that L.A. is a concrete jungle. In the reserve, it’s difficult to tell that you’re in the city at all. Groves of trees fill out the landscape, while a variety of wildlife — waterfowl, ducks, herons and more — go about their day.

Discover L.A.’s Wilderness

Los Angeles possesses a wealth of natural wilderness, which attracts avid hikers and bikers to such sites as Topanga State Park, Malibu Creek State Park, and the Angeles National Forest.