Los Angeles is an expensive city, but it doesn’t have to cost you a fortune to visit. My boyfriend lived out there for three and a half months this summer for a project he’s working on, so when I visited him I got the opportunity to play half tourist/half resident (that sounds better than “real tourist/fake resident”). We did a lot of cool things that were either free or cheap. This helped balance out some of the more expensive things we did, as well as what we had to pay for parking and gas, while still letting us feel like we were really getting to experience the city.
Hike Runyon Canyon:
Runyon Canyon is a 160 acre park in Hollywood. There are several different entrances and trails you can take. We went in the Fuller Avenue Entrance and hiked Route B. It wasn’t too intensive, but it was a workout. It felt great and there were fantastic views of LA along the trail. Make sure you wear comfortable clothes, tennis shoes, and bring water. It’s also important to note there was basically NO parking by the entrance (Keep reading though, for my tip on where to park). Runyon Canyon also has free outdoor yoga classes. I didn’t have time to try it this trip, but I plan on making it on my next trip! You can learn more about Runyon Canyon and what it has to offer here.
Price: the cost of our bottle of water
Meander around Hollywood Walk of Fame:
The Hollywood Walk of Fame is an iconic landmark. Over 2,500 present and past celebrities have a star on the famed sidewalks lining Hollywood Boulevard and Vine Street. This is one of the most popular tourist attractions in LA. We went on a Monday and it was swarmed with people. Can I be honest…? I don’t really get it. Aesthetically yeah, it was prettier than a regular sidewalk, but after about two blocks I was over it. That being said, I’m glad we went and saw it at least once because it is part of the quintessential Los Angeles experience. I recommend anyone in LA at least go once, but I doubt I will ever go again. If you’re interested, you can search for the exact location of your favorite star’s star here.
Visit TCL Chinese Theater (formerly Grauman’s Chinese Theater):
Another Hollywood icon (and another place I doubt I visit again) is the Chinese Theater. This is another popular tourist spot. This is a working theater that regularly hosts movie premieres. In front of the theater are over 200 concrete slabs with celebrity’s signatures and hand/footprints. I’ve wanted to visit since I was a little girl and saw the John Wayne episode of I Love Lucy (Lucy stole his footprints from the theater). The prints were more interesting to me than the Walk of Fame, but there were even MORE people here (on a Monday), so we didn’t stay long.
Price: for people who don’t love crowds, it will cost a small piece of your sanity. for everyone else it’s completely free.
Parking Tip! We did Runyon Canyon, Walk of Fame, and TCL Theater all in the same morning. We parked in the Hollywood & Highland Center parking garage. Self parking is $2 for the first two hours, then an additional $1 for every 15 min after that WITH VALIDATION. We bought a couple of Kind Bars at Starbuck’s in the Center to get our ticket validated. From this garage we walked to Runyon Canyon which was a few blocks away, then walked back after our hike to the Walk of Fame and TCL Theater which were on the same block as the garage. You can find directions and more info on this parking garage here.
Taco Tuesday Comedy Show:
The first and third Tuesday night of the month you can make your way to Best Fish Taco in Ensenada for a free comedy show from 7:30-9:30. Up and coming comedians come to perform at these shows. Oftentimes there is also a secret celebrity guest who will show up to try out new material. The address is 1650 Hillhurst Avenue Los Angeles, CA 90027.
Price: free, unless you can’t resist the smell of the fish tacos (which are really cheap anyway)
Hike the Hollywood Sign:
This might have been my favorite part of my trip. Of course everyone wants to SEE the Hollywood sign when in LA, but did you know you can hike all the way to the top of it? The Hollyridge Trail will take you to the very top. We did this the first day and got amazing views of the city from several different points. The views were better here than they were at Runyon Canyon. There were several little juts out we walked to get decent pictures of the Hollywood Sign along our way too. It took about an hour and a half to two hours to go to the top and back with our picture stops along the way. Make sure you bring water and sunscreen! It was an overcast day but Nick and I both got sunburns.
Price: the cost of our bottle of water and aloe gel for sunburns
Eat at El Flamin Taco:
I love Mexican food. I guess you might say (and most people who know me definitely would) that I am a Mexican food snob. I’m picky about the chips, the salsa, the cheese dip, basically every part of the meal. El Flamin Taco stand is without a doubt the best tacos I’ve ever had. I got the Al Pastor tacos, and watched the worker cut the meat fresh off of the chunk of lamb roasting on the grill. So fresh and so delicious. And so cheap. While you’re at it try the carne asada fries which are really popular in LA. Fries with steak, cheese, and other deliciousness. You won’t be disappointed.
Price: $1.35 per taco
Go to the beach:
Relax a little and enjoy some sun. You can spend as much or as little time as you have at one of Los Angeles’ beaches. You have several options here. You can find a beach near where you’re staying, or choose based on what you want in a beach. Here is a list of 8 beaches to get you started in choosing one.
Santa Monica Pier:
I recommend you go to Santa Monica Pier. And I recommend you go on a weekday. We made the mistake of going on a Sunday in July and it was incredibly crowded. Kids were EVERYWHERE. We still had fun though. The pier has a small amusement park (Pacific Park) on it, with rides, games, and food vendors. We strolled around the pier for a while, then rode the Ferris Wheel. I love Ferris Wheels, and the views from this one were pretty good. Worth the trip.
Price: no admission fee, $5 per person for the Ferris Wheel
Drive through Malibu Canyon:
After Santa Monica Pier, we drove up Pacific Coast Highway towards Malibu, we turned right onto Malibu Canyon Road by Pepperdine University on a whim and were pleasantly surprised with what we found. The drive through Malibu Canyon was BEAUTIFUL, with occasional pull off points where you could park and get out to take pictures. I soaked up the beauty the whole way. Malibu Canyon Road connects back to the 101 from Pacific Coast Highway, going through Calabasas.
Price: cost of gas for the drive
Hopefully these ideas will help you get started planning your trip to LA without breaking the bank. Any other suggestions you have that didn’t make my list? I’m planning on going back and always am interested in new ideas!