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Note: All travel is subject to frequently changing governmental restrictions—please check federal, state and local advisories before scheduling trips.

When you visit Los Angeles, there are a few obvious tourist boxes to check—Grauman’s Chinese Theater and the Walk of Fame, Griffith Observatory, Rodeo Drive and the Santa Monica Pier to name a few. But, the city is filled with quirky and lesser-known spots to make your visit one to remember—and you won’t go broke because all of these are free!

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Drive the Pacific Coast Highway


Hit the ocean-hugging Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) with the windows down, take in the fresh air and sunshine and make some stops along the way. There are plenty of pull-over areas in Malibu where you can admire the views, buy fresh fruit from vendors and find some hidden gems. El Matador State Beach and the shops at Malibu Country Mart are two of our favorites.

Discover hidden entrances to Malibu’s best beaches

The entire California coastline is free and open to the public, but Malibu beaches are mostly behind private homes and parking is often expensive. Not to worry, though: Along PCH there are little hidden walkways down the cliffs that offer free access and very beautiful. Dan Blocker County Beach and Big Rock Beach are two good ones to try.

Revel in the magic of the movies

Flickr CC: Joe Wolf

A trip to Los Angeles wouldn’t be complete without taking in a little Hollywood history. You’ll have to head underground to experience this hidden Hollywood gem: The Metro station at Hollywood and Vine has two original film projectors from Paramount Pictures and tiles that symbolize the Yellow Brick Road from the Wizard of Oz. Movie reels cover the ceiling. Best of all, the subway stop offers easy access to attractions like Universal Studios and Downtown Los Angeles (DTLA).

Explore Pepperdine University’s campus


Driving north along PCH through Malibu, you’ll come across an expansive, impossibly green lawn–that’s Pepperdine University. Take a quick detour through the clifftop campus to find magnificent views of the coast. You can also visit the Heroes Garden built in memory of 9/11.

Tour the Arts District

Flickr CC: Sean Davis


Art lovers should head to Hauser & Wirth art gallery where they’ll find a chicken coop, public garden, bookstore, education lab–and, of course, plenty of art. The gallery serves as an anchor the bustling Arts District, a walkable ‘hood boasting all kinds of cool little shops, galleries and eateries like Blue Bottle, Pie Hole and Wurstküche.

Chill in Topanga State Park

Flickr CC: Neeson Hsu


Topanga State Park is a free-admission desert mountain area for hiking and exploring (there’s also a state beach). It’s mostly an artists community with a cool history—Bob Dylan and others used to record music in Topanga and the Kravitz family also lived here. There is a quirky vintage shop called Hidden Treasures and a Balinese café and gift shop called Topanga Living Café worth checking out.

Walk the Santa Monica Incline

Flickr CC: Jonathan Wilson


The Santa Monica incline is an urban “hike” via a very windy and steep walkway from the beach over the highway and to a park offering and overlook with views of the cliffs and ocean. You can also drive up it.

Celebrate Mexican heritage

Flickr CC: Neon Tommy


There is a deep-rooted Mexican heritage in Southern California and Mariachi Plaza celebrates it. Located about a mile from DTLA, the small plaza has served since the 1930s as a place for Mariachi bands in full traditional garb to gather, play music and wait to be hired for parties.

Admire Echo Park Lake


The Eastside’s Echo Park neighborhood has long been a scruffy place. But in recent years, the neighborhood has been cleaned up and Echo Park Lake has gotten a makeover. Take a stroll along the lake, take in the LA skyline and visit the Art Deco-style statue, Lady of the Lake.

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Snap a few Insta-worthy pics

No trip is complete without a few good grams, and Los Angeles is full of cool street art that serves as a great backdrop. Here are a few of our favorites:

Culver City Love Wall


Artist Curtis Kulig created this public art on Higuera Street in Culver City as part of his “Love Me” campaign, which includes walls like this in major cities around the world. No filter needed here.

Paul Smith Pink Wall

Flickr CC: ccharmon

The single-toned bubble gum pink wall on one side of the Paul Smith store on Melrose is another Instagram sensation. For 2017 Pride weekend, one wall of the building was painted over in rainbow stripes (pink still remains) and is just as Instagram-able.

Micheltorena Stairs

Flickr CC: Shinya Suzuki, photo has been color corrected


Strike a pose in front of the heart painted onto these rainbow steps on Sunset Blvd in the Silver Lake neighborhood, and then be sure to check out the neighborhood’s trendy hangouts. Hit the farmers’ market to browse vintage clothing, records and, of course, produce. Head to The Satellite (formerly Spaceland) to see up-and-coming band. Or hit the Chandelier Tree, a 100-year-old sycamore decorated with about 30 illuminated chandeliers. It’s such an attraction that food trucks gather nightly to feed gawkers.

California Dreaming Wall


Located at the Chinese Laundry headquarters on La Cienega Blvd, a photo of this dreamy pastel wall will beckon you back to the city long after you’ve departed.

Tagged: California, Destinations, L.A.

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Lidia Ryan

Lidia Ryan

Lidia Ryan

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