Surprisingly free or cheap: Ten things to do in LA that won’t bust your budget

Los Angeles taco trek

Visit five of the best places to get tacos in Los Angeles.

Go to a TV show taping 

One of the most LA things you can do in Hollywood to see a live taping of a television show, and the best thing is it won't cost you a dime. Admittedly, not every show up for grabs is comedy gold, but every Tuesday Jim Jeffries tapes at 11.45am. He'll treat the audience to fifteen minutes of stand-up which, he admits, is the least stressful part of the show, before the series business of recording begins. The show taping usually runs for a pleasantly short 45 minutes. Follow it up with Lights Out with David Spade (four days a week),

Hang with Jim Jeffries in LA.

Hang with Jim Jeffries in LA.

Ride Angel's Flight 

Angel's Flight.

Angel's Flight. Photo: Kylie McLaughlin

Sinai and Olivet are the two historic cars on this miniature funicular that used to assist wealthy shoppers from the Grand Central Market carry their groceries to their hilltop Victorian mansions. The world's shortest railway opened in 1901 and was permanently shelved in 1969. Recently hailed as a forgotten LA icon, the streetcars were dusted off and revived and now everyone can take a one way ride for $1 (or 50 cents, if you have a metro TAP card).

Eat tacos

Tacos 1986.

Tacos 1986. Photo: Kylie McLaughlin

From the humble taco truck which you'll find everywhere in LA to some of the more established restaurants, tacos are ubiquitous with LA culture. Try Tacos 1986, who have just opened a bricks and mortar downtown following rave reviews of their roaming food truck, selling Tijuana-style tacos in standing-room only space. Michelin-approved LA darling Guerilla Tacos were catapulted to fame when food critic Jonathan Gold hailed their tacos "revolutionary".

Hike Hollywood Hills

Griffith Observatory.

Griffith Observatory. Photo: Kylie McLaughlin

With superb weather and close proximity, the Hollywood Hills are an endless treasure trove for those keen to explore, exercise, and take some respite from the city for a few hours. Best thing of all, it's free. There's great views of LA to be had, and sunset and sunrise are prime time. Some of the best hikes include the old abandoned Los Angeles Zoo, the "Batcave" in Bronson Canyon, (which has been a filming location for many things including the 1960s TV series), and from there, you can take the famous hike that leads behind the Hollywood Sign for the perfect photo opportunity overlooking the city.

See a concert at Amoeba Music

A shrine to music lovers everywhere, this stalwart on Sunset is the world's largest independent music retailer, occupying an entire city block. Gawp in amazement at the sheer size, where you could spend days flipping through vinyl, or pop in for a live - and free - show. Events happen almost daily with artists such as Kim Gordon and Ride recently swinging by for album signings. Check their website for details.


Find LA's secret staircases

Michelterona Stairs.

Michelterona Stairs.

Stairs were a way of climbing LA's hills when streetcars were the primary mode of transport. Some disappeared behind shrubbery and forgotten; however, there are some that have been preserved in hipster neighbourhoods such as Silver Lake, painted by artists and rocketing to fame courtesy Instagram. The most well-known of these is the Micheltorena stairs, painted in the colours of the rainbow; and Laurel and Hardy's Music Box steps, which saw them carry one up a flight in the 1932 short film.

Wander Row DTLA

Smorgasburg, LA.

Smorgasburg, LA.

The burgeoning Arts District is growing rapidly, and now ROW, a former fresh food market, is at its forefront, home to unique brands, secret stores and restaurants. Here, San Francisco's Tartine Manufactory has its biggest venture yet, with a bakery, marketplace, bean roasting facility and two restaurants spread over its huge space. Paramount Coffee Project have also stakes their claim, churning out great Australian-standard coffee, gourmet breakfasts and bowls. On Sundays, you can grab a cheap eat at Smorgasburg, where popular food trucks gather at the weekday site of the Alameda Produce Market.

Olvera Street and Union Street Station

Lines with stalls selling Mexican arts, crafts and traditional food, little Olvera Street is like Little Mexico in the heart of LA and is the true birthplace of this city. It's also believed its taco craze started right here when family-run stand Cielito Lindo threw open its doors in 1934. Just a little further on is the historic Union Street Station, a heady mix of art deco, Spanish colonial and mission revival with a rich history to rival New York's Grand Central.

Admire modern art at The Broad

Los Angeles' ode to contemporary art is no ordinary museum. More in line with Tassie's eclectic MONA, the Broad hosts an ever-rotating list of artists as well as cult favourites like Andy Warhol. There's fun to be had with Robert Therrien's giant table and chairs (Under the Table), neon signs and interactive exhibitions such as Yayoi Kusama's Infinity Mirror Rooms (perfect for LA's selfie culture). Entry is free, book a reservation online to avoid queuing.

Take a tour of Walt Disney Concert Hall

The Frank Gehry designed building was a gift to LA from Walt Disney's widow, but her dream of adding a cultural landmark to the skyline was not realised until 2003. While the performances here may not be for everyone, the interior is worth a stroll. John Lithgow narrates the audio tour which leads you to a hidden garden on the rooftop.

The writer was a guest of Discover LA and United Airlines



United Airlines flies to Los Angeles daily from Sydney and from Melbourne three days a week. See


Hotel Figueroa is a his new hotel with beautiful common spaces in the heart of downtown LA. See

The writer was a guest of Discover LA and United Airlines

See also: Twenty things that will surprise first-time visitors to Los Angeles

See also: Seven fun things in LA you definitely haven't done before