The City of Angels is awash with the glitz and glamour of Hollywood, but not everyone has the budget of a Movie Star to enjoy it with. There are still plenty of great things you can do in and around the city that won’t cost you a cent.
You would be remiss if you visited the home of television and cinema and didn’t pay tribute to its brightest stars. Immortalized along a nearly two mile stretch of Hollywood Boulevard, the iconic brass stars actually celebrate those who have contributed to any of five different mediums – film, television (broadcast and production) as well as music and live performance arts. Each is distinguished by the emblem embossed on the brass plaque, and the list is growing. The plaza in front of Graumann’s Chinese Theatre is especially hallowed, and hosts only the biggest names in entertainment. Extending west, the walk of fame is stretching as new stars are born and new features are added, such as the silver gazebo at the corner of Hollywood and La Brea, with its four life-sized statues of screen goddesses.
Not far from here one only has to look up to see the iconic Hollywood sign. It was actually built in 1923 as an advertisement for ‘Hollywoodland’ – an upscale residential development, and the ‘Land’ section wasn’t removed until refurbishments in 1949. The sign itself is not accessible, but a good view and photo opportunities can be had from Tahoe Drive and the Upper Hollywood Reserve. Still, the best place to see the landmark is from within Griffith Park.
Griffith Park is named for its founder, G.J. Griffith, who bequeathed over 3000 acres of land to the city for recreational use at the close of the 19th Century. That land has expanded and been developed to provide a fantastic spot for all sorts of leisure activities. It hosts walking, biking and horse-riding trails that explore the park’s natural beauty, as well as the Los Angeles Zoo, an Observatory, historic carousel and Greek Theatre. For those not wanting to tally up admission costs, on the eastern side is an extensive children’s playground, and around to the north the free Travel Town Museum allows little train enthusiasts to get up close to the enormous steam locomotives of yesteryear.
Out of the central city, a visit to Venice Beach and the adjacent Santa Monica Pier is a great idea. Venice Beach gained a reputation in the 1970’s as a bohemian home for artists, performers and hippies. It actually got its start at the dawn of the 20th century when a local tobacco mogul had a vision for a Coney Island type amusement park on the West Coast. It now is a combination of both, retaining its laid back atmosphere and the fairground feel out on the pier. There is an extensive promenade which is frequented by cyclists, in-line skaters and tourists, and in the warmer months is lined with street performers of all kinds. The beach itself is broad and golden, and visitors can fill a day just enjoying the sun, sand and diverse sights.
Up on the Santa Monica Pier, things really start to happen at sundown when the lights come on for the various fairground rides and attractions. They are well worth visiting just to see and bask in the atmosphere, and for no charge there are still fish to be caught off the end of the pier, and various landmarks to take in. There is also a historic carousel that children can ride for just $1.00. Santa Monica Pier marks the official end of America’s iconic Route 66 and the route marker is just one of numerous and ever-changing landmarks and oddities to see there.
For something slightly more intellectually stimulating, the California Science Center is a must-see. Found in the heart of historic Exposition Park, it houses a fascinating variety of permanent and special exhibits year-round. While some visiting displays have an admission cost, entry to the Centre’s usual exhibits is free. From interactive science and environmental displays to the children’s Discovery Rooms, there are activities for all ages, both inside the Centre complex and in the surrounding grounds.
Los Angeles does not have to be an expensive place to enjoy. While the theme parks and movie studios are the headline attractions, the city has more than a few gems waiting to be discovered that will suit any family and not do permanent damage to the budget. With a little research, you will easily be able to find many more than are mentioned here.