It's a city of big dreams and big money, but you don't have to have a fortune to have fun, writes Jane Jurgens

1. Be on TV

Many people move to LA hoping to find fame but holidaymakers can find their 15 minutes too. Apply in advance to be in the audience of a filming of a game show or chat show, like The Price is Right, Ellen, Jimmy Kimmel Live, The Voice or The Late Late Show with James Corden. Go to each show's website to find instructions for securing tickets, or go to tvtickets.com to see an extensive list of shows looking for audiences and the dates the shows are available.

2. The Getty Center

Voted LA's number one museum by Tripadvisor, The Getty Center is also one of the world's largest arts organisations. It sits high in the hills of West LA with incredible views out over the city, making it a must-visit destination for more than just its galleries filled with world-class artworks. The Richard Meier-designed building is a work of art in itself, as are the Central Gardens. Inside the five pavilions, visitors will find works from Van Gogh, Monet, Rembrandt and more. Admission is free (although if you drive, parking will set you back US$15), and there are self-guided tours and audio guides available to help you navigate your way around the huge space.

The John Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, California. Photo / 123RF
The John Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, California. Photo / 123RF

3. Venice to Santa Monica

For the best people-watching you'll find in LA, head to the coast and walk from Venice Beach to Santa Monica Pier, or vice versa. The boardwalk snakes its way from the chaos of Venice, with its street performers, fortune tellers and medical marijuana stores, to Muscle Beach, where bodybuilders show off ... ahem, we mean, work out, to the charm of Santa Monica and its iconic pier, with views of the beautiful Pacific coastline the whole way.

Advertisement

4. Get media savvy

Where better to learn more about the media, than in Los Angeles, the home of Hollywood? At The Paley Center for Media — an institution dedicated to studying the relationship
between media and society - you can access a collection of more than 160,000 TV and radio shows, covering about 100 years of broadcasting history through 70 countries. You choose what you want to watch or listen to, then enjoy it at a private console — ideal for a rare, rainy day. There are also regular screenings and public programmes with guest panels of media industry experts in discussion.

5. Hollywood Forever cemetery

With its location close to Paramount Studios, it's no wonder some of Hollywood's greats are buried at this famous cemetery. Notable burials include Looney Tunes' voice actor Mel Blanc (whose tombstone reads "That's All Folks"), Judy Garland, Mickey Rooney, Rudolph Valentino and, most recently, Soundgarden's lead singer Chris Cornell. Outdoor movies are screened here in summer and it's occasionally the site of live music performances — if you're visiting in November you can see Billy Corgan, formerly of the Smashing Pumpkins, performing four nights at The Masonic Lodge (although that show is unfortunately not free).

6. Runyon Canyon Park

In a city where everyone drives, you may be surprised to know there are a number of hiking trails in the area. Probably the most famous is Runyon Canyon, close to the Hollywood Hills. There are three different paths in the 65ha park, ranging from easy to medium to difficult so you can choose how much you challenge yourself. Runyon Canyon Road is the easiest of the three, with a gradual climb on a mostly paved road. To really go hard, and potentially spot a super-fit celebrity keeping in shape, choose the Hero's Trail which has a much steeper ascent. Views from the top are worth it though — you'll get a good vantage point of the Hollywood sign, Griffith Observatory and the LA Basin.

Los Angeles, California, USA. Photo / 123RF
Los Angeles, California, USA. Photo / 123RF

7. California Science Center

Great for families, this museum is interactive and fun for all ages. As well as hands-on exhibits, there are also live demonstrations and impressive Imax films. Permanent galleries include Air & Space, Creative Worlds, Ecosystems and World of Life, the latter being an immersive look at all living creatures "from the single-celled amoeba all the way up to 100-trillion-celled human beings". General admission is free, although some special exhibitions require advance booking and payment.

8. Griffith Observatory

Another free attraction with great city views is the Griffith Observatory, which fans of La La Land and Rebel Without A Cause will recognise from key scenes in both movies. Opened in 1935, this is now the most-visited public observatory in the world with more than 1 million visitors each year. It's home to an observatory, planetarium and exhibitions, and from its vantage point on Mt Hollywood, on a clear day you'll see out to the Hollywood Sign, Downtown LA and the Pacific Ocean.

9. La Brea Tar Pits and Museum

Built to house the more than 1 million prehistoric specimens recovered from the asphalt deposits known as the La Brea Tar Pits, this museum has 30 exhibits, including animal skeletons, a glass-walled working fossil preparation laboratory, films and interactive activities. There are more than 100 tons of fossilised bones, representing more than 200 species of mammals, birds, reptiles and fish unearthed from the pools of sticky asphalt that date back to prehistoric times.

The museum is free on the first Tuesday of every month (book tickets in advance to secure your spot), but the Tar Pits park itself is free to visit all year.

10. Walking tour of Downtown LA

Once an area best avoided, Downtown has been regenerated and is now one of LA's most up and coming areas. Walking tours take you from Temple St and end at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MoCa), along Grand Avenue and passing the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels and the Frank Gehry-designed Walt Disney Concert Hall. Do the walk on a Thursday evening and you'll be able to visit MoCa for free (from 5pm to 8pm). Inside you'll find more than 5000 works from modern artists, including David Hockney, Roy Lichtenstein and Jackson Pollock.

IF YOU GO

Getting there:

has return flights to LA from $1139, and accommodation deals including 3 nights in Santa Monica from $439pp twin share.