Getty's famous Central Garden, created by artist Robert Irwin

LA Cheap Thrills

Backpackers and budget travelers have to deal with monetary constraints, especially if you’re aiming for long-term travel. I’ve been away from the Philippines since March 24, and I find myself tightening my belt as the weeks go by.

One thing I’ve learned is that you don’t always have to spend on popular tourist spots, which are often overpriced. There are free tours, shows, and adventures you can enjoy without breaking the bank. If, like me, you’ve been to Disneyland too many times in your life and have spent loads on Mickey Mouse souvenirs that are now gathering dust in your bedroom, then free-entrance museums, public performances, and other free outdoor activities make a fulfilling alternative itinerary.

Here are five I visited in Los Angeles last week:

1. Santa Monica Pier

The Santa Monica State beach is still too cold for me in spring.
Pacific Park, where you’ll find old-fashioned carnival rides and prize booths

Where: 200 Santa Monica Pier, Santa Monica, CA 90401
What’s free: The outdoor sights, from the iconic Route 66 to the beach strip. Unless you’re with teens or kids who need quarters for the arcades or cash for the rides, you’ll get your dose of happiness just by strolling around the amusement park with a camera and a beach bag. Get some exercise by walking or biking around the vicinity.
Potential expenses: Souvenir shopping, tickets to the rides, parking, drinks, and grub.

2. Getty Museum

One of the lush gardens of Getty Museum
Getty’s famous Central Garden, created by artist Robert Irwin

Where: 1200 Getty Center Drive, Los Angeles, CA 90049
What’s free: Entrance to the museum and gardens. If you’re an artist, bring your camera or sketch pad and get a surge of inspiration in the art galleries or the outdoor gazebos. Get a tan at the Central Park-like lawns (bikini not necessary) or take a hundred photos by the colorful trees and flower boxes.
Potential expenses: Parking, souvenirs, overpriced cafes, and food stalls

3. Hermosa Beach Pier

Street art at the corner of Pier Ave. and Cypress Ave.
Hermosa beach strip

Where: Pier Ave., Hermosa Beach, CA 90254
What’s free: The sights from Hermosa Ave. to the beachfront. Dog lovers will enjoy meeting four-pawed cuties that frequent the area, while trigger happy Instagrammers can fill their feed with street art and beach snaps. Catch free concerts and events such as skaters’ meets.
Potential expenses: Shopping, drinks, grub, and parking

4. Downtown Santa Monica

Ye Old King’s Head, a British pub, restaurant and gift shop in Downtown Santa Monica
The pedestrian-friendly 3rd Street Promenade

Where: 3rd Street Promenade, Santa Monica, CA 90401
What’s free: Window shopping and strolling. Interact with the locals by visiting the bi-weekly farmers market. Take photos and get the autograph of street performers before some of them become famous.
Potential expenses: Shopping, drinks, grub, and donations to street performers

5. Venice Beach

At Venice Beach, graffiti isn’t a rebellious form of expression, but a norm.
Browse for unusual souvenirs, such as weed pipes and voodoo items, at Venice Beach.

Where: 1800 Ocean Front Walk, Venice, CA 90291
What’s free: Watch skateboarders and street performers at their element. Discreetly ogle at the muscle beach gym rats, hippie artists, and “freaks” of Venice Beach. Take as many photos as you like of the graffiti, but watch out for “no photos” signs at certain shops.
Potential expenses: Shopping, drinks, grub, donations to street performers, and parking

What are your top 5 budget-friendly spots in the Los Angeles area? Share your travel tidbits with me below.

  1. Santa Monica Pier will never be forgotten in every story I’ve read that are based in LA, specially the love stories where the male character brings his love interest on a date for the first time. They’ll first stroll on the beach and then after a long walk will finally proceed to the Pier that makes the girl’s face lit up. At first I thought the place is just a result of the writers creative imagination because of how awesome he described the place, you know typical love story setting, until I’ve read the same scene and setting in a hundred different stories. Not that I’m complaining, I actually loved it since the way every writer describes how amazing and fun it is to be there especially at night. Then I searched it up and discovered that it is not an imaginary place but actually a real one and definitely a perfect place for a first date *or a trip/tour for me haha*. That’s why it’s good to know that I don’t have to worry about spending too much money to actually enjoy my trip there *p.s not that I’m packed and on my way there already maybe in the future lol* and experience what most writers tends to make their readers feel to be there. And let’s don’t forget the other places that you mentioned that will make every tourist’s stay there more memorable *and convenient para sa mga taong katulad kong kuripot by heart* HAHAHA

    1. I can get kuripot as well when doing long-term travel, so I’m always looking for spots where I don’t have to spend too much. There are lots of museums, tours, parks, and shows that have no entrance fee. I might do more versions of this article when I visit other places.

  2. Hi Kate~
    Love your article on the Los Angeles area. What a fun read. I am having a great time following your travels. Thanks for taking me along on you trip!

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