Yes, L.A.'s home to the rich and famous, but that doesn't mean that the penniless can't experience the city of angels at its blessed best. Here are the 10 best things to do without having to spend a dime.
1. The Getty Center is a world-class museum and travertine architectural monument which houses some of the planet's most important artworks. Where else can you see Van Goghs, Gauguins, Goyas, gorgeous gardens -- and a spectacular view across the city -- for absolutely no George Washingtons?
2. Strolling the Hollywood Walk of Fame is a perfect way to connect with Hollywood history. The names of more than 2,300 entertaining honorees tile Hollywood Boulevard's star-studded sidewalk, which passes in front of Grauman's Chinese Theatre, where you can compare your footprints to those of John Wayne, Shirley Temple, or Tom Hanks.
3. Watch your favorite TV show: live. Ever wanted to be in the studio audience on the set of The Tonight Show, The Price is Right, or Dr. Phil? To score free tickets, call in advance or pick tickets up in person, since some studios offer first-come-first-served tickets daily. Information: Paramount Television Audience Shows, tel. 323/956-1777; Fox's Audiences Unlimited tel. 818/506-0043; Audience Associates tel. 323/653-4105; www.tvtix.com.
4. The Griffith Observatory recently reopened after an extensive renovation. Its educational astronomy-related exhibits inspire kids and adults, while its public spyglasses, including the 9,000-pound Zeiss telescope, allow visitors to view comets and other galactic phenomena. Every hour, a 20-minute film recounts the observatory's history.
5. Get your fill of modern art at Westwood's Hammer Museum; while the rotating exhibits here emphasize works in all media by underrepresented artists, a permament collection includes works by old masters like Monet, Cassatt, and Pissarro. Check the website's calendar to hit live music performances, film series, and readings.
6. Experiencing Rodeo Drive is free unless you whip out your credit card. Beverly Hills offers free parking, so you can window-shop and people-watch to your heart's content on what's arguably the world's most famous shopping street.
7. Yes, shows at the Hollywood Bowl cost -- but three mornings a week (9am to noon) during its regular summer season, upcoming acts rehearse in the world's largest natural amphitheater, and anyone is free to come watch. Bring breakfast and sit in the front row.
8. L.A.'s original Farmers Market is a mecca for foodies. Grocers, bakers, confectioners, and butchers compete for your attention at this local staple that's existed since 1934. In summer, there's a free concert series; across the way, another outdoor shopping plaza, The Grove, offers free trolley rides and water shows every half hour
9. The Venice Beach Boardwalk is always a scene: what with the one-of-a-kind street entertainers, eccentric local characters, and flexing musclemen, you might not even notice the mighty Pacific.
10. Take a hike. The two quintessential L.A. treks are Runyon Canyon, where you're most likely to run into a celebrity, and the hike to the Hollywood Sign. Just don't touch the sign -- and wear comfy shoes. Information: Hollywood Sign trailhead: Enter Griffith Park through the Bronson Canyon entrance (2800 Canyon Dr.); follow Canyon Drive until it dead-ends in the trailhead parking lot.
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