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Budget-Friendly Activities and Experiences in Los Angeles

My darlings, Guest Contributor Odette Viola wrote this article. She is a passionate traveler and a writer who put together this great article about budget-friendly activities in Los Angeles. Please do enjoy! 

The City of Stars

The City of Angels–immortalized in countless novels, songs, and movies–truly is a treasure chest sitting and waiting for you to discover.

Los Angeles has no shortage of treats to cater to every soul. From the glamour of Hollywood to surfing in Venice Beach or long, peaceful drives through the Santa Monica mountains, there will always be something for you.

With the rise in tourists these past few years, there has been an increase in accommodation options as well. You can pamper yourself at five-star hotels such as The Ritz-Carlton or you can find a place to crash for the weekend with the help of Airbnb Los Angeles. Either way, you can find an LA vacation tailor-made for you.

The rich Los Angeles scene might cast doubt or fear upon first-time tourists. Fortunately, there are ways you can enjoy this wonderful city without driving your wallet into the ground.

Frolicking in the Hollywood and Highland District

The LA Fashion District is a hundred–block section of Downtown Los Angeles. It serves as the center stage for the West Coast apparel scene. But you know what? Skip the district and head straight to Hollywood & Highland. It is a shopping mall and entertainment complex where Highland Avenue and Hollywood Boulevard intersect. The complex offers views of the iconic Hollywood Hills and the Hollywood Sign.

You can window shop all you want for free. Also, you can meander along the Hollywood Walk of Fame and check out more than 2,600 brass stars placed as testaments to members of the entertainment industry. If you’re feeling lucky, you can even get a chance to be a part of a live audience for free. Such shows include Jimmy Kimmel Live and The Late Show with James Corden.

Another treat available at Hollywood & Highland is the Dolby Theater. Take one of their guided tours and experience the glamour surrounding the Academy Awards. You can see an actual Oscar awards statuette and watch videos and photos from the previous ceremonies.

Hike to the Hollywood Sign and Sightsee at the Griffith Observatory

For those who are up for a little physical challenge with a reward, try taking a hike up to the instantly-recognizable Hollywood Sign. More than the physical nine white letters stand on the hillside; the sign is often equated to ambition and glamour. There are three trails to choose from: The Mt. Hollywood Trail, the Cahuenga Peak Trail, and the Brush Canyon Trail, all with varying difficulty. The easiest is the Mt. Hollywood trail, which starts at the Griffith Observatory. This is another budget-friendly, must-see destination in the area.

The Griffith Observatory is often touted as Southern California’s gateway to the cosmos. Aside from its extensive displays, exhibits, and programs that are mostly space-related, the observatory is a perfect setting to view the Hollywood Sign and Downtown LA. Access to the observatory and its grounds are free and open for most of the week, except on Mondays.

Learn Prehistoric and Contemporary History at Local Museums

There are cultural and historical museums throughout Los Angeles, most of which are free of charge or require a minimal admission fee. Start with the La Brea Tar Pits and Museum, where you can find fossils of animals from the Ice Age. These animals were trapped and preserved in the natural tar pits, making the trip naturally educational.

You can find out more in their Excavator Tours, where visitors are taken to the fossil lab to see exhumed samples, as well as actual paleontologists working. The nearby George C. Page Museum displays and catalogs these fossils after excavation, dating, and studying them. Visiting the tar pits is free while the museum charges $5 – $29 for admission.

On the other end of the museum-spectrum are outdoor exhibits such as “Urban Light.” This installation by Chris Burden is a collection of classic cast iron lamps mostly from the 1920s and the 1930s. While the lamps are authentic, the bulbs are now switched to LED lamps for better energy efficiency and a reduced environmental footprint. It’s a great place to take a selfie!

Lastly, the Hammer Museum showcases classical artworks by world-renowned masters such as Rembrandt, Van Gogh, and Monet. For something a little more specific, check out the Travel Town Museum. It showcases historic steam locomotives and passenger cars, which used to roam the roads of Los Angeles and other major cities in the United States.

Enjoy Music, Movies, and Live Performances

A taste of the show-business life exists virtually everywhere in Hollywood.

Have a great night of fun and go see up-and-coming comics at the UCB Theater. Upright Citizens Brigade is an improvisational theater with two locations along Franklin Avenue and Sunset Boulevard. Tickets can be as low as $5! See the stage where famous entertainers and comics such as Jason Matzoukas, Aziz Ansari, Tina Fey, and even Donald Glover once performed. Most of the time, aspiring stand-up comedians come here to hone their talents and perform in front of a live audience. While the performers might be new to the scene, be sure to look around–you may find a celebrity sitting next to you.

For a firsthand experience of music and film history in the United States, check out Amoeba Music in LA.

The two-story building traces its roots back to Berkeley, CA. It is now one of the most recognized independent music stores. The LA branch has a dedicated jazz room that offers rare CD or vinyl finds. As well, the store also hosts free music events open to everyone.

Another musical treat is the Grammy Museum at LA Live. An interactive museum devoted to Grammy Award winners as well as its history, the exhibits include interactive touch screens and artifacts from previous events such as costumes, musical instruments, and even handwritten lyrics. Admission is only about $12 for an afternoon of fun and music.

Have you traveled to Los Angeles? What are your favorite budget-friendly travel spots? Join the conversation in the comments below! 

Odette Viola is a passionate traveler and a writer of She’s always looking for the hidden gems of the world, looking for new adventures and experiences.




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  1. It should be noted that the Urban Light Exhibit is on the grounds of Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), and also visible when driving down Wilshire Boulevard just east of Fairfax Avenue.

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