Planning a Los Angeles holiday? LA is famous for Hollywood celebrities and healthy living, but there are also lots of free attractions for little ones, quirky spots for photographers and wildlife havens to discover.
Photography fans will do well to visit the somewhat eerie old zoo, in the enormous Griffith Park. The zoo closed in 1966 when a new one opened, and is now a delightfully ramshackle spot complete with a hiking trail. Explore the old cages, get a zookeeper’s view of the lions’ den and take photos of the overgrown caves, now daubed with graffiti. It’s open from 6am-10pm daily, but better to explore during daylight as it feels distinctly spooky after dark!
If you’re on your own, taking a tour is a great way to meet new people and Melting Pot Tours sound pretty special. On a food tasting tour taking in different local neighbourhoods, you’ll get a glimpse into local life as well as six to eight grazing stops including some all-American favourites. Dietary restrictions can be catered
for, as long as they know in advance. Prices vary.
- Call 323 306 0131 or visi www.meltingpottours.com
With a partner
Fancy seeing some live jazz for free? Pack a picnic and head for the lawns of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, which hosts free Friday night jazz sessions throughout the summer. Dates for 2016 are yet to be released, but last year ran from April-October. All ages are welcome, so if you’ve got the grandchildren with you they can scramble around the gardens, too. Make a day of it by exploring the museum beforehand, where you’ll find all sorts of interesting exhibitions. Tickets cost $25 and children go free.
- For more information and dates, call 323 857 6010 or visit www.lacma.org/programs/music
If you’re a keen birdwatcher, head to the Audubon Center at Debs Park, north of downtown LA, for a dose of beautiful woodland and species from American pipits and hummingbirds, to Swainson’s hawks and white-tailed kite. And that’s without mentioning the raccoons, skunks and opossums! There’s plenty to see no matter what time of year and there are frequent events such as family nature walks and night hikes. It’s a perfect place to unwind after a busy day in the city. Open Tuesday-Saturday.
- Call 323 221 2255 or visit debspark.audubon.org
Catch a film at an outdoor screening – LA has lots of them to choose from. The most popular take place between May and August at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery, on the Fairbanks Lawn. You’re welcome to bring blankets, pillows, low chairs, picnic dinners and wine and there are films to suit every taste – from old-fashioned romance to sci-fi. Ticket prices vary.
- Visit cinespia.org
Film buffs will no doubt be keen to take a photo in front of the world-famous Hollywood sign, which recently celebrated its 90th birthday. It’s 45ft tall and 350ft wide, and can be seen best from Griffith Park. If you’re feeling energetic, there are various hiking trails to the sign starting from the back corner of the car park by the Observatory (also in Griffith Park). Alternatively, horsey-types are in for a treat riding a guided trail from Sunset Ranch Hollywood, located in the Hollywood Hills. Rides include a barbecue and
- Call 323 469 5450 or visit www.sunsetranchhollywood.com
With the grandchildren
LA has a wonderful selection of museums, many of which are free to visit. One of the best is the California Science Center, where you can see Space Shuttle Endeavour as well as learning about how astronauts survive in space. There are lots of interactive elements and live demonstrations to keep little ones amused. You will need a timed ticket reservation to see Endeavour over a weekend or holiday – these are also free, and can be booked online. IMAX film screenings and special exhibits
- Call 323 724 3623 or visit californiasciencecenter.org
Would-be paleontologists will have the time of their lives at the La Brea Tar Pits and Museum. It’s the site of the richest discovery of Ice Age fossils in the world, where more than 100 tonnes of fossilised bones have been unearthed – and they are still finding new items. See scientists at work excavating fossils from species such as mammoths, saber-toothed cats, giant sloths and more; watch live shows and take a 3D journey back in time. Prices start from $12 adults, $5 children.
- Call 213 763 3499 or visit www.tarpits.org
- It’s worth noting that the city is very spread out so if you’re not planning on hiring a car, talk to your hotel reception or guest house owner about the best way to navigate on public transport.
- We’ve included local phone numbers to use once in LA, but if you want to call from the UK, just add 001 to the start of each number. International call rates will be higher.
- For more travel inspiration, pick up the latest copy of Yours