Is anything free these days? Rarely, especially in the City of Angels. It can be hard to stay on a budget and plan fun date nights for you and your special person, especially if you’re also saving for a trip or planning to move into a new place together. But just because you don’t want to drop a pretty penny every time you two get together, doesn’t mean you have to hole up at home watching Netflix and drink Two-Buck Chuck on the couch (unless that’s actually your thing.)
So, we’ve uncovered a number of date-night gems in Los Angeles to keep your relationship fun and fresh—and the best part? All of these options cost zero dollars. Read on for 16 LA-based date ideas, which can also work well as group activities, and solo adventures.
Hike to the Hollywood Sign
When you reach the top, huddle for a selfie (and be sure to check out a map of the best places to take a photo). Trails are open every day from sunrise to sunset, and according to a Hilton Suggests Travel Blog post, the months of January/February and October/November offer the best views of the Hollywood sign. Take in the iconic scenery, bring a water bottle and your (leashed) pet if you like, pat on some sunscreen, and don't feed the wildlife!
Avoid hiking the Hollywood sign on the weekends if you can help it. Weekdays offer better parking options and less foot traffic on the trails.
Gaze up at the Stars at Griffith Observatory
Peep through one of the telescopes open to the public every night (two in the observatory, and more portable telescopes on the lawn) except Mondays, as long as the skies are clear—last call for viewings are at 9:30 p.m. Telescope demonstrators are available to assist you if needed.
For a bit of added fun, take part in a star party (they happen one Saturday a month and yes, star parties are free too!)
Explore The Getty
At the Getty Center and Villa, you'll see everything from an outdoor classical theater, gardens, art, to a building modeled after a first-century Roman country home. In 2020, peruse exhibitions including Assyria, featuring palace art from Ancient Iraq, and Artists on the Move, featuring 16th–19th century European drawings that illustrate how each artist's environment and mobility influenced their work. The Getty is closed on Tuesdays.
Have a Picnic
At Amir’s Garden in Griffith Park, getting to this hidden spot is part of the fun. Plus, the shade, gorgeous blooms, and benches are prime for picnickers. What was once devastated, barren land following a brush fire in 1971 is now a lush recreational site, largely thanks to the efforts of gardener Amir Dialameh. Dialameh left the five-acre area—considered a popular rest stop for hikers, to the city when he passed away in 2003.
Watch Shakespeare in the Park
If you're in Los Angeles during summer, Griffith Park hosts a number of rotating Shakespeare plays each season (you can even pack your own dinner to eat during the performance!) In 2019, nearly 42,000 people descended onto Griffith Park for the free summer plays; and in 2020, King Lear, and As You Like It are scheduled to show beginning in June.
Take a Trip to the Hollywood Bowl Museum
Opt for the free tour to learn all about this historic entertainment landmark where many performers got their start. The Hollywood Bowl has hosted everyone from Barbra Streisand to Lady Gaga. On select days between June and September, you can even request to sit in on a rehearsal by the LA Philharmonic or Hollywood Bowl Orchestra.
At eclectic Venice Beach, there is no shortage of graffiti art, skateboarders, and street performers to take in and while away an afternoon along the boardwalk. Also spot people fishing at the pier, surfers catching a wave, and imbibers clinking cocktails at Hotel Irwin—quite possibly Venice Beach's only rooftop bar.
Other great places to people-watch include Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica, The Grove shopping center and The Original Farmers Market in the mid-Wilshire area, and Runyon Canyon Park. Here, your odds of a celebrity sighting are quite good.
Go for a Cinematic Night Cruise
Head to famous Mulholland Drive, which winds and stretches for fifty-five miles. Note: The views are best after midnight, so rest up—there are a handful of scenic overlooks to stop at too. For the best views, a 2015 Time Out article advises sticking to the Valley side of the road, which also means one should "travel west to keep left turns to a minimum."
Listen to Live Jazz
Grab a grassy patch at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) on Friday nights between April and November. Take a peek at the schedule to see who’s up next, including 2020 performances by Roy Gaines and the Tuxedo Blues Orchestra, and jazz quartet Yellowjackets.
Kayak Along the Venice Canals
Remember, BYOK (bring your own kayak) or another non-motorized vessel. You'll see a different side of Los Angeles—think arched pedestrian walkways and well-appointed beach houses. Get to them on 25th Street in Venice Beach. From land, you can also follow the walking paths and cross the canal's bridges to enjoy them without having to lug any oversized equipment.
Stroll Along the Strand
LA's beach cities including Torrance, Redondo, Hermosa, and Manhattan beaches offer miles of paved recreational path to absorb eye-catching beachfront views; and a separate walking and biking lane mean you won’t have to worry about getting hit by a cyclist. We recommend stopping for a photo at each pier. At the Manhattan Beach pier, for example, you might recognize the "surf shop" where Keanu Reeves buys his surfboard in the '90s film, Point Break.
Sit in the Audience at a TV Show Taping
Scour 1iota to find complimentary tickets to everything from Jimmy Kimmel Live! to The Late Late Show with James Corden. According to Visit California, remember these tips when sitting in on a TV show taping: Arrive early, expect to stay at least three hours, and bring a cover-up if you get cold easily—studios keep their spaces on the chilly side to buffer the hot stage lights.
Take a Driving Tour of Celebrity Homes
We’re not suggesting you get super close or invade anyone’s privacy, but taking in the sights of some celebrity abodes is always a fun excursion. You can also go by foot; plot your route using these suggestions from Free Tours By Foot, which curated a list of celebrity homes (living and no longer with us) in Beverly Hills; from Diane Keaton to Lucille Ball, Michael Jackson to Madonna.
Peruse a Weekend Flea Market
We’re partial to Artists & Fleas in Venice every Saturday, which has no cover charge and whose vendors sell everything from vintage band tees to handcrafted jewelry. Find the flea market on the corner of Abbot Kinney and Westminster Avenue and discover more than 50 merchants, including West Valley Forge and Vintage Vlad for vintage clothing and jewelry, Made in Claremont for handmade coasters, and The Crystal Madre for smudge sticks and crystals.
Browse Contemporary Art at The Broad
Excluding special exhibits, browsing contemporary artworks at The Broad museum is free, thanks to philanthropists Eli and Edythe Broad. The geometric-shaped building houses an expansive collection of art from the 1950s to present, including works by Kara Walker, Andy Warhol, and Jeff Koons. A rotating exhibition of new and emerging artists is also worth a look. Don't miss the infinity room mirrors; Yayoi Kusama's The Souls of Millions of Light Years Away (2013).
The Broad is open Tuesday through Sunday, though museum hours vary a bit so be sure to check the website before your visit. Note that convenient, museum parking will run you at least $17, so if you can, opt to take the Metro—get off at Civic Center/Grand Park Station, or take a ride-sharing service over.
Ride the Angels Flight at Grand Central Market
Ok, so this activity isn't completely free, but it's a cool way to explore LA's oldest public market. For $15 every Friday beginning in spring, get a flight of food or drink from Grand Central Market's vendors, plus a free ticket to ride the Angels Flight Railway. In 2020, participating food vendors include: DTLA Cheese, Golden Road brewing (choose from a flight of chicken wings, fried artichoke, or a beer), Horse Thief BBQ, La Tostaderia, Lucky Bird, Oyster Gourmet, and Sari Sari (hot wings, peanuts, and a beer).
Angels Flight Railway is a century-old funicular that opened in 1901 and transports passengers between Hill Street and Grand Avenue on Bunker Hill. Begin from the Railway’s Top Station at California Plaza, 350 South Grand Avenue, or from its Lower Entrance at 351 South Hill Street, across from Grand Central Market.