10 tips for visiting L.A. on a budget

I know that budget doesn’t rhyme with Los Angeles but you don’t have to spend a fortune to enjoy the city. Here are a few tips for soaking in the best the city has to offer even if you’re on a tight budget.

1. Cheap Accomodation

Rent a room on Airbnb or look for affordable hotels in Koreatown, Fairfax District, or Studio City. Freehand in downtown is a hip hostel located at walking distance of the subway, restaurants, bars, and shopping. They offer trendy dorms and private rooms at affordable rates. Shared rooms accommodate four, six or eight. Female only rooms are also available.

2. Tap and Go Metro

Did you know you can go all the way by subway from downtown L.A. to Hollywood or to the pier of Santa Monica? No traffic, no parking hassles. With Metro – the agency that operates buses, subways, and light rail- you can enjoy the city’s famous attractions and its multicultural neighborhoods by purchasing a reusable TAP card on which you add cash. Metro’s base fare is $1.75. Just tap each time you board a bus or train. www.metro.net

3. Visit these top-notch cultural venues for FREE

  • The Getty Center offers world-class art, impressive gardens and awesome views from its hilltop location. Also free docent-led tours.
  • The Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) has an ambitious program of exhibitions and educational programs. Free admission on Thursdays from 5 pm to 8 pm.
  • The Broad is located across from MOCA and showcases a dazzling selection of 2,000 post-war modern works, collected by philanthropists Eli and Edythe Broad.
  • LACMA: The L.A. County Museum of art is free every second Tuesday but you can enjoy Chris Burden’s Urban Light outside at the entrance any day or night for free. This installation is made up of 202 cast-iron street lamps gathered from around L.A. It has become one of the city’s most photographed landmarks. LACMA’s sculpture garden is also free to wander in.
  • The Hammer Museum hosts fascinating shows of modern art, photography, and design. Check their public events calendar for free lectures, concerts, and screenings.
  • The Annenberg Space for Photography offers temporary exhibits of photography by world-renowned photographers.

4. Going to the beach

The beach is one of the most popular free activities in Los Angeles, though car parks can be expensive. To save money (and time), take the metro to Santa Monica. Rent a bike and ride to beautiful Venice Beach nearby. I found the cheapest rental bikes at Santa Monica Bike Rentals. Or take a ride with Uber or Lyft to Venice. Watch the street performers on its famous Board Walk, have fun on the skate dancing plaza and stretch your muscles in the outdoor gym of Muscle Beach.

5. Watch the real stars at Griffith Observatory

Forget the Walk of Fame and look through the telescopes, explore the exhibits, see the shows at the planetarium, and stay for the sunset. From here you’ll enjoy one of the best views of the city.

6. Cheap eats and drinks

  • For breakfast grab a donut and a coffee (it’s part of the L.A. way of life). Philippe The Original in Chinatown has the cheapest coffee in town: 45¢.
  • Head to the nearest food truck or taco stand for a cheap lunch. L.A. is taco heaven. You’ll find tacos on almost every street corner. On Taco Tuesday many restaurants and bars offer discounted Mexican food and drinks. One of L.A.’s premier food truck events is held every first Friday of the month at 5 pm on Abbot Kinney Boulevard in Venice. This is a fun event, often paired with music and sidewalk sales.
  • Drink and dine out during happy hour when many bars and restaurants offer deeply discounted drinks and foods, usually between 4 and 7 pm (hours may vary). At Michael’s in Santa Monica, you’ll probably find the best deal in town with a daily cocktail for as less as $179. Only available between 5.30 and 6 pm though! I also love the $1 oysters and $5 beers in the beautiful art deco décor of the Imperial Western Company in downtown. In West-Hollywood Italian restaurant Cecconi’s 3 to 6 aperitivo offers $3-$6 bites and drinks from 3-6pm (easy to remember!). Santa Monica Seafood market has quite an extensive happy hour menu ranging from $2 oysters, $4 scallops, $5 ceviche and chowder to $6 fritto misto.
  • A few restaurants have special deals on distinct weekdays such as Le Petit Paris in downtown which hosts Jazz Wednesdays with a $39 three-course menu accompanied by live music. Monday Supper at Los Feliz’ Little Dom’s gets you an $18 three-course dinner.

7. Check the event calendars of these venues for free music and dance

  • The world’s largest independent record store Amoeba Music in Hollywood hosts regular free in-store concerts. www.amoeba.com
  • Learn to dance with famous choreographer Debbie Allen every second Sunday of the month at The Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts in Beverly Hills. http://www.thewallis.org/dancesundays?gc
  • Jazz at Lacma on Miracle Mile: jazz legends as well as emerging artists at the museum’s outdoor concert series. www.lacma.org

8. Explore L.A.’s flourishing art scene through self-guided Art Walks

Even if you’re not into art, come for the entertainment (and the food trucks!). A few popular ones are Downtown Art Walk every second Thursday of the month (www.downtownartwalk.org), San Pedro’s First Thursdays (www.1stthursday.com/) and Long Beach’ First Fridays. (www.firstfridayslongbeach.com). Spoke(n) Art Ride is a free bike tour that takes you through all the galleries in Northeast L.A. on Second Saturdays. It is part of North East LA’s Art Gallery night. No worries if you don’t have a bike: you can still explore the galleries on foot. (http://bikeoven.com/spokenart/, www.nelaart.org). The most colorful art walk is undoubtedly the one held every last Sunday in Leimert Park where art exhibitions are mixed with music, fashion, food, drumming, spoken word, and local shopping.

9. For first-class views of downtown L.A.

Go to the lobby of the InterContinental hotel which is located on the 70th floor. It offers more or less the same view as its rooftop bar on the 73rd floor where non-hotel guests have to pay an entry fee of $20.

10. Do the Bowl Walk!

The Hollywood Bowl is one of L.A’s iconic places. This outdoor amphitheater has hosted some of the biggest names in music. Few tourists know this is also a public park with several picnic areas, a (free) museum that highlights the Hollywood Bowl’s history and a self-guided Bow Walk that features photographic displays throughout the property. You can walk the ground for free during the day and if you are lucky, you can even catch a rehearsal from time to time. www.hollywoodbowl.com