Los Angeles—the City of Angels—is renowned for being the center of celebrity, with the Hollywood sign looming over the hustle and bustle of the city. For many, L.A. encompasses the glittery, magical splendor of success and fame, and natives to the city also know that this major metropolis also is renowned for high-dollar sites, stores and restaurants. From elite boutiques lining Rodeo Drive to the clubs on the Sunset Strip that once hosted Guns N Roses, Motley Crue and other massive bands of the 80s, Los Angeles is the epitome of excess, glam, fashion and exclusivity. But, for those strapped for cash or those just trying to save money to pay down loans, this city also hides some inexpensive gems that are destined for exploration.
You don’t have to be a movie star, a rock star or a model to become enraptured with the City of Angels or to enjoy its many cultural and entertainment offerings. If your name isn’t written in lights, fear not, because this is your budget-friendly insider’s guide to the city of Los Angeles.
Whether you’re an L.A. native or venturing to the city from another part of the state, get ready to visit amazing museums, check out local hot spots and, yes, retreat to fun (and free) rec spots in the city. Who knows, you may even spot a celebrity or two!
Touring L.A. on a dime? Be sure to visit these museums—and they are all free! Be sure to plan out your day so you can see them all! Or stay for the weekend since you’re saving so much money on admission prices!
If you’re a fan of modern and contemporary art, then the Broad is for you! So where did the name come from? The Broad was founded by Eli and Edythe Broad, and this museum houses thousands of pieces of artwork. Plus, exhibits are constantly rotating, so you are likely to see something new! While admission is free of charge, you need to reserve your tickets before your visit.
A visit to The Getty Center allows you to view artwork, tour the garden and gaze upon the amazing architecture. Depending on your interest, you can walk through the art galleries or take an architectural tour of the grounds. The gardens include the Central Garden, a cactus garden and sculpture gardens. While admission is free, parking is $15 but drops to $10 after 3 p.m.
According to its website, this museum “champions the art and artists who challenge us to see the world in a new light, to experience the unexpected, to ignite our imaginations, and inspire change.” Hours on Saturday and Sunday are from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Be sure to check out the vast number of exhibits and stroll through the sculpture garden. Parking amounts vary, but the daily rate maximum is $20.
If you have kids, you need to pay a visit to the California Science Center. This museum is filled with amazing exhibits, demonstration and hands-on exploration. Learn about ecosystems, life science, and even space exploration. Watch live demonstrations and jump into the world of science and discovery with exhibits that encourage interaction. They even have dinosaur fossils! Yes, admission is free every day!
This is the place to visit for a great view of the city, but it really shines at night. Explore the stars and the sky at the observatory with telescopes available for visitors. The planetarium also hosts star and sky shows. And, of course, the observatory lets you view the entire city—even the Hollywood sign—from an amazing vantage point. The observatory’s website notes that kids under age 5 are only allowed to see the earliest planetarium show each day (tickets to the shows do cost a fee). However, general admission is free to all.
Explore art, history and culture through exhibits from all media, including “paintings, photographs, film, sculpture, historical documents, and artifacts.” Kids can participate in programs like “Playing-Card Art,” “Dress Up and Figure Drawing Workshop” or even listen to stories at story time events. You will need to pay for parking if you’re driving—the price is $12 (daytime) and $15 (after 5 p.m.).
While somber in nature, this museum is an important history lesson for ages old enough to comprehend the grim events of Adolf Hitler’s quest for power. The museum serves as “a primary source institution, one that commemorates those who perished, honors those who survived, and houses the precious artifacts that miraculously weathered the Holocaust. Parking is available at the Pan Pacific Park lot, or visitors can park at available meters.
Need a bit of fresh air after all those museum tours? Check out the many free public parks in Los Angeles. Don’t forget to pack a lunch and maybe even your skateboard for an afternoon of outdoor fun!
South Beach Park Playground
If you want to spend the day on the beach, head to South Beach, which houses one of the best playground’s in the city (according to the site Red Tricycle). Kids will have a blast playing on the boat-shaped structures and splashing in the water, too.
This park is dubbed “an urban wilderness” and is dog-friendly. Ideal for all levels of hiking, this is the park where you can retreat from the big city…while still being near the big city. Take the kids for a little outdoor exercise, and don’t forget your favorite furry friend (or the leash!). The summit offers a beautiful view of the entire city.
Take a hike on Portola Trail or just enjoy the amazing views from the area’s oldest park. Elysian Park offers a quick getaway from the city and spans 575 acres.
Timeout Magazine notes that all visitors of this park need to see the Lady of the Lake statue! However, you also need to jump into one of the pedal boats and soar through the lake. Or just take a leisurely trip around the lake on the walkways. Kids will love the boats and exploring the entire park!
LA Magazine notes that Palisades Park is one of the best parks in the area. The views are insane, and many notable publications advise you to bring your yoga mat for a breathtaking yoga session. Or just take in the scenic views and let your thoughts go!
World famous Venice Beach is a must see stop when you come down to Los Angeles. Take an afternoon to see the myriad of street performers and artists selling their work, people watch all the crowds visiting from around the world, visit muscle beach, or just catch some rays by the water. According to the Venice Chamber of Commerce Venice is the second largest tourist attraction next to Disneyland!
While, yes, L.A. is home to many celebrity hot spots that are high-dollar, there also are many local restaurants and diners that offer amazing eats for a low budget. Here are a few of the best places to eat around Los Angeles.
Almost everyone in the state of California knows In-N-Out Burger. The burgers are classic, and the prices are perfect. Even the late great chef Anthony Bourdain had a fondness for this fast food chain! If you’re a local, then you should be well-versed on the restaurant’s secret menu.
According to Eater, The Munchbox is a must-eat eatery in L.A. So what’s on the menu? Chili cheese fries, burgers, floats and more.
If you happen to be in East LA, you should consider trying La Azteca. This family owned Mexcian restaurant makes there own flour tortillas everyday. Try the chile relleno burrito!
Do you feel like trying some authentic Thai Cuisine? Sapp Coffee House is located in Thai Town in East Hollywood. Although Thai Town feature many delicious restaurants, Sapp offers many dishes that are touted by many to have a taste straight out of Thailand. While the ambiance and décor may not be spectacular, the food will take your taste buds to far distant lands!
Another rec from Eater, Sonoratown won L.A.’s favorite taco of the year at the Taco Madness Tournament. This Mexican eatery features carne asada tacos (the winner!), quesadillas, lorenzas and more. Plus, the price is right—tacos are only $2!
Feeling like a carnivorous canine? Head to The Dirt Dog, which specializes in—what else!—hot dogs! These well-topped hot dogs range in price at around $6.25 to $7.25. And there is a dirt dog for everyone!
In the mood for something sweet? Stick your hand in the cookie jar over at Milk Jar Cookies. This sweet bakery offers freshly baked cookies, ice cream and coffee (or tea!). Of course, you also can grab a small jug of milk, because dunking is a must! This is a great stop for kids and adults, and their cookie menu offers flavors like Rocky Road, Mint Chocolate, Chocolate Peanut Butter and Birthday Cookie (rainbow sprinkles!).
While Los Angeles is stereotyped as a city for celebrities, exclusive events and high-dollar luxury, the City of Angels also offers many must-see locales for visitors on a budget. This city is home to many free museums, amazing parks and many delicious restaurants. So, whether you wish to observe the stars, participate in hands-on science experiments, gaze upon artwork or grab your yoga mat for a quiet solace up on the cliffs of Palisades Park, there is something and someplace for everyone! While many sites and museums are free to the public, you may have to pay for parking—so don’t forget meter change and extra cash. Of course, you also should remember to snap many pictures on your trip, because L.A. is filled with breathtaking backdrops, quirky sites and ocean views that make for a memorable selfie, family photo or even the next holiday card. Who knows…you may even be able to snap a photo with a celebrity. Because in L.A., you never know who will be around the next corner!