Latest Best of LA

Best Free Tours In Los Angeles

April 19, 2014 6:00 AM

(credit: Lucy Nicholson/Getty Images)

(credit: Lucy Nicholson/Getty Images)

(credit: Federico Zignani)

(credit: Federico Zignani)

The City of Angels has such an expansive urban sprawl that comprehensive tours of the city, gratis or not, would take several days in order to enable the uninitiated to gain a minor grasp on the hundreds of major sites, landmarks and special opportunities not to be missed in this magical place many refer to generically as Hollywood. With that in mind, plenty of the best of Los Angeles’ sightseeing can be absorbed through tours that are free for the taking. Following are five of the very best.
(credit: Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

(credit: Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

California Science Center
700 Exposition Park Drive
Los Angeles, CA 90037
(323) 724-3623

Anyone who has any interest in space and the new frontier will get goosebumps at the sight of Mercury, Gemini and Apollo mission spacecraft on display at the California Science Center. And anyone who has a hankering for a fisheye view of a variety of species will be keen to make eye contact with such stunning sea creatures as horn sharks, sea bass and wolf eels. The latter takes place in a long transparent tunnel that mimics a kelp forest much like those found on the coast. And the biggest bonus: although IMAX theater presentations charge patrons, admission to the exhibit halls and more than 100 interactive exhibits is absolutely free.

(credit: GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP/Getty Images)

(credit: GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP/Getty Images)

Hollywood Walk of Fame
Hollywood Chamber of Commerce
7018 Hollywood Blvd.
Hollywood, CA 90028
(323) 469-8311

You can take as long or as little as you want touring the 2.4 miles that make up the Hollywood Walk of Fame. If you’re limited on time or if you just want to know where you’re going before you get there, use the Hollywood Chamber’s star finder by clicking on the link above. That way you can choose your favorite celebrities commemorated in the 2,400 terrazzo and glass sidewalk squares that belong to these legends. If the person you want to “visit” is not there yet, don’t despair. Every June, a new group of upcoming inductees is announced so more are added every year. Meanwhile, if you’re lucky enough to hit this legendary place at just the right time, you’ll get to take part in one of the many ceremonies welcoming new members to the Hollywood Walk of Fame. And yes, the right to participate is free.

(credit: Elise Crane Derby)

(credit: Elise Crane Derby)

TCL Chinese Theatre
6925 Hollywood Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90028
(323) 461-3331

Anyone who wants to can roam the famous Forecourt of the Stars at the TCL Chinese Theatre (formerly Grauman’s) for free. However, if you’ve never been to this world famous venue made of cement, you may want to take a look at the forecourt map found at the link above to map out your adventure. Although this isn’t a large place to cover, it is almost always crowded so to get an idea of where to find the right hands on which to press and the right footprints on which to stand, take the time to do some research before your visit. Of particular interest is Judy Garland’s tiny shoe prints and R2D2’s mighty robot prints. And that’s just for starters. That said, this is one of the best free (self-guided) tours in Hollywood.

Related: Best Tourist Attractions In Los Angeles Worth The Hype

(credit: LA Phil)

(credit: LA Phil)

Walt Disney Concert Hall
111 S. Grand Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90012
(213) 972-7483

Docent-led tours of this architectural masterpiece and its surrounding gardens are worthwhile in downtown Los Angeles. The tour schedule is intermittent so be sure to check in at the link above to get ready for 60 minutes of entertainment and design that begins in this imposing outpost’s Grand Lobby. By way of background, Frank Gehry was the man behind this striking edifice that bowed in 2013 and has since become a symbol of pop culture, having been spoofed on “The Simpsons” and having its trademark stainless steel curves serving as the backdrop for the promotion photo for the cast of “Shark.”

(credit: JPL)

(credit: JPL)

Jet Propulsion Laboratory
California Institute of Technology
4800 Oak Grove Drive
Pasadena, CA 91109
(818) 354-9314

In case you need to brush up on your JPL knowledge, when this place was run as a NASA lab in 1958, Jet Propulsion Laboratory gained bragging rights as the outlet that launched the first American satellite. Oh, and then there was that initial robotic spaceship that was sent to the moon by the scientists who worked here. More recently, JPL’s great minds are behind some of the Mars rover journeys as well as the minds who sent a telescope into space to look for planets that are akin to Earth. Tours of this amazing place where you’ll get to visit the Space Flight Operations and the Spacecraft Assembly Facilities are free, take about two to two and a half hours to finish and must be booked in advance.

Related: Best Sightseeing Tours In Los Angeles

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TEST Los Angeles freelance travel writer Jane Lasky, contributes to publications such as Travel + Leisure, Vogue and Esquire. Her weekly sojourning column ran in 40 newspapers for 20 years. Jane is anything but an accidental tourist. Check out her articles on


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