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Cheap Things to Do in Los Angeles

Even in this town—where money seems to ooze from every hill and corner—there are plenty of fun things to do that are free and appeal to everyone from kids to art-lovers to movie and film buffs. These are some of our top picks.

Be Part of the Audience. Watching one of your favorite television or awards shows being filmed is an exciting experience that will make you feel as if you're part of the entertainment industry. Audiences Unlimited (100 Universal City Plaza, Bldg. 153, Universal City 818/260-0041 www.tvtickets.com) helps fill seats for television programs (and sometimes for televised award shows). The free tickets are distributed on a first-come, first-served basis to those 16 and older.

See the Great Grunion Runs. The most popular and most unusual form of fishing in the L.A. area involves no hooks, bait, or poles, and is absolutely free. The grunion runs, which take place from March through July, occur when hundreds of thousands of small silver fish called grunion wash up on Southern California beaches to lay their eggs in the sand. The fish can be picked up by hand while they are briefly stranded on the beach. All that's required is a fishing license and a willingness to get your toes wet.

Spend the Evening on the Griffith Observatory's Rooftop Observation Deck. Known for stunning and famous views of Los Angeles, this rooftop deck is open until 10 pm every night except Monday, when the Observatory is closed.

Watch Rehearsals at the Hollywood Bowl. There's no charge to visit the Hollywood Bowl and the grounds that surround it, but an even better tip is that in the summer, from 9 am to noon on Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday, it's possible to watch rehearsals for free. Take a snack and enjoy the view. If you can't make a rehearsal, seeing stark-white amphitheater with the Hollywood sign set against the mountains in the background is worth the trip alone.

Visit the Paramount Ranch. One least-known way to experience an on-location studio set is also completely free. Just a short drive from Hollywood up into the hills of the Santa Monica Recreation Area is the Paramount Ranch (2813 Cornell Rd., Agoura Hills 818/260-0041 www.tvtickets.com), 2,700 acres of land that Paramount Pictures bought in 1927 as a real ranchland getaway for its stars. It later became used for filming, and today you can tour many of the backlots used in movies such as Oscar-nominated I Married a Witch from 1942, and from the television show M*A*S*H.

Check Out Free Days and Nights at Museums. The best freebie is without a doubt the Getty Center, but just about all the other major museums in Los Angeles have free days, including the Geffen Contemporary and the Museum of Contemporary Art, free on Thursday evenings from 5-8 pm. Also, several museums stay open as late as 9 pm some nights.

Visit the Hollywood Forever Cemetery. Inside the Hollywood Memorial Park right in the center of Hollywood, the Hollywood Forever Cemetery (6000 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood www.hollywoodforever.com) is where several of the film industry's famous are buried. Pick up a free map just inside for a self-guided tour.

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