Los Angeles can be quite an expensive city to vacation in, despite the low cost airfare from Vancouver to LA (my flight cost me only $275 in October!) It was tricky to find an affordable hotel option as well, however there are various fun activities and dining options that were cheap and budget friendly that I discovered which made for an economical trip still. Here are 8 affordable fun things to do in LA for your next visit
#1: Free art museums
If you’re on a budget, but want to check out some of the latest art that’s in LA, try to get free tickets to The Broad (Downtown LA) and Marciano Art Foundation (Central LA/Mid-Wilshire). Both are free to the public, and tickets are generally released the first day of the month prior (i.e. November tickets are released October 1). You can also try to go in the morning for standby entrance, however the wait time during peak season will be significant, so best to try for the free tickets online. Both museums feature the latest in modern art installations, including Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Rooms (now on at The Broad).
#2: Spa experiences in Little Osaka and Koreatown
Walking all day while on vacation means sore feet. Check out some of LA’s foot reflexology spas in Santa Monica and Little Osaka (Sawtelle), or check into a Korean relaxation spa in Koreatown. I loved my $25 one hour foot massage at Pampered Foot Massage in Sawtelle), where not only was I treated with a soothing foot massage, but also back, shoulder, and head massage all within the hour. If you haven’t tried staying at a Korean spa for an afternoon or evening, I highly recommend it. Watch Conan O’Brien’s more comical spa experience at LA’s Wi Spa here. I tried another spa in Koreatown called Spa Palace and enjoyed all the different resting and sauna rooms (i.e. Himalayan salt room). You can pay for a daypass or a night pass (this spa is 24/7 so you can stay overnight), or additional spa services like massages, body scrubs, facials, and more. This is a great experience to try in LA, and the overnight option may save you money if you don’t want to pay for an extra night in a hotel!
#3: Ramen and Daiso in Little Osaka (Sawtelle Blvd)
An affordable sit-down dinner is hard to find in LA depending on the neighbourhood. A local friend referred me to check out Sawtelle Blvd, also referred to as Little Osaka by some, where the streets are lined with ramen bars, other Asian restaurants, dessert shops, bubble tea stores, and small retail shops. On my visit I tried Tatsu Ramen, a small ramen bar that had smaller wait times than Tsujita. Be prepared for long wait times – however you can pre order your noodles in advance using their iPad system at the front of their restaurant and select from dine-in or take-out. While waiting for your table, you can also shop the stores around the restaurant or across the street at Daiso. This Daiso is smaller than the one in Vancouver, however has a lot of unique Japanese products not found at Canadian Daiso locations. Check it out for cheap Asian snacks, toiletries you might have forgotten, and more.
#4: Bicycle / Scooter Rentals around Santa Monica
An affordable activity to do in LA is to rent a bicycle for the day and ride along the beach. Hit up Santa Monica Pier and enjoy the beautiful sunset. Grab a quick bite along Santa Monica’s famous Third Promenade. Bike down to Venice Beach and back. There are a lot of affordable options in Santa Monica to take advantage of such as renting bikes from Perry’s Cafe and Beach Rentals. Alternatively pick up a Lime or Bird scooter and take it for a ride down the streets of Santa Monica to check out local boutiques, bars, and restaurants. Note: scooters are not allowed on the Santa Monica Pier Boardwalk. More affordable ideas of fun things to do can be found at Santa Monica Travel & Tourism.
#5: Budget shopping near West Hollywood
LA shopping can be dangerous for the wallet. However, there are some great deals to be found still. The Beverly Center may offer some really expensive shopping with stores like Louis Vuitton, Prada and Gucci, however across the street, you’ll find more affordable shopping. The Beverly Connection offers more budget friendly stores like Nordstrom Rack, Saks Off Fifth, Marshalls, TJ Maxx, and Ross Dress for Less. There’s also a Target and Old Navy, along with affordable food options such as healthy salad and soup buffet company, Souplantation. Stop by and do a little shopping here while window-shopping across the street afterwards.
#6: Instagramable art mural hunting
I love LA for their outdoor murals. The city is full of beautiful original art creations painted throughout. Mural Map LA (www.muralmapla.com) was created to highlight on a map of where the city’s various murals are located, so you could be spending days in search of various photos you can pose with and find the one that’s great for your next Instagram profile or Tinder pic!
#7: The Last Bookstore in Downtown LA
For the ultimate book-lover, The Last Bookstore in Downtown LA is a must. Not only do they carry a large assortment of new and used books, as well as rare editions of books you might not find elsewhere, the bookstore has second floor dedicated to Instagram-worthy book displays to enjoy taking photos of. You could spend hours in this bookstore just perusing all their collections or taking photos of their displays.
#8: Tacos at Grand Central Market
Before spending the day at The Last Bookstore, make sure to stop off in the morning at Grand Central Market. Since 1917, Grand Central Market has offered the downtown locals a place for international cuisine, an indoor food fair that offers some of the best Mexican food around. On my visit, I stopped off at Villa Moreliana, known for their freshly stewed Pork (Carnitas) tacos. They offer their meat in various cuts such as pork skin, fried pork belly, pork butt, and more. Go with their mixed carnitas (Surtido) for the full gourmet experience of their famous carnitas tacos, voted one of the best in the city!
As a final tip for affordable travel in LA, make sure to check out the Discover LA website: www.discoverlosangeles.com. You can find the latest events, deals, and where to shop/eat/stay for various budgets.
This is the third and final article in my Discover LA 3 part series. Read Part 1 – my brunch experience in Santa Monica here or Part 2 – my Starline Tours Hop-On Hop-Off and Hollywood Signs tours here.