Best cheap things to do in L.A.
This delightful tribute to the horticultural magic of Southern California includes more than 600 varieties of camellia (best seen between the middle of February and early May) and some five acres of roses. Swing by in the spring and you can see the cherry blossoms in the Japanese garden—all with just a $9 admission ticket.
The Upright Citizen Brigade Theater’s longest-running, most beloved showcase includes a (sometimes celebrity) guest storyteller plus a base cast of the theater’s current top-brass—including founding UCB members Matt Walsh, Matt Besser and Ian Roberts. The Saturday shows at UCB Franklin only cost $12 but regularly sell out; the Sunday shows at UCB Sunset are free, but seating is first-come, first-served, so be sure to arrive early.
The summer home of the LA Phil (and boozy picnics) fetches upwards of $100 for box seats. But the most coveted spot at the Bowl only costs a buck: A limited number of bench seats are available for select LA Phil performances for only $1. If you can’t score those tickets before they sell out, you might be able to catch the orchestra for free during a summertime morning rehearsal (call 323-850-2000 for the latest info).
The undisputed standout at this kid-friendly museum is the Endeavour. The final ship to be built in NASA’s space shuttle program, Endeavour inspires a reach-for-the-stars ambition unlike any other exhibit in the city. To visit the shuttle at the otherwise free museum, you’ll need to secure a timed ticket (with a $3 reservation fee) on weekends and holidays; it’s free during the week.
Driving to the hilltop astronomical landmark often means parking nearly back on Los Feliz Boulevard or paying $8 per hour. And due to the spotty reception, you can forget about grabbing an Uber. Thankfully, a DASH bus route travels up the hill every day—even on Mondays, when the observatory’s interior is closed—from the Vermont-Sunset Metro station. One-way fares cost only 50 cents with cash, or 35 cents with a TAP card.
The stony bridges and footpaths at this Van Nuys garden wind along a central pond, flanked by rockwork, manicured trees and tea houses. Of course, this wouldn’t be the Valley without a bit of an industrial edge—the garden is irrigated by the adjacent Donald C. Tillman Water Reclamation Plant. Just a heads up: The $5 admission fee is cash only.
This 1921, Mayan-inflected Frank Lloyd Wright house was originally built as a “progressive theatrical community” space by activist and oil heiress Aline Barnsdall—today it’s the centerpiece of Barnsdall Park and is open for tours ($7, Thu-Sun, 11am-4pm).
The Brentwood museum is a remarkable complex of travertine and white metal-clad pavilions that houses ornate French furniture, recognizable Impressionist pieces and rotating exhibitions. Its relative inaccessibility is more than compensated for by free admission and panoramic views, from the hills and the ocean in the west all the way around to Downtown in the east. That location comes at a cost: $20 parking for most of the day. Arrive after 3pm, though, and that price is knocked down to $15, with $10 garage entry after 6pm on late evenings. (The same applies to the Getty Villa.)
Not only does this classic Egyptian-themed space have an insane amount of legroom, the single-screen theater has a $6.50 matinee that includes current blockbusters.
If you swing by Pasadena’s historic train-station bar and pizzeria on a Monday or Tuesday night, you can order one artisanal pie and get a second for just $5 (plus $6 glasses of its signature sangria until 7pm). You’ll find a similar deal on entrees next door at La Grande Orange Café.
This second-run cinema in Pasadena screens movies for only $3.50, with $2.50 matinees before 6pm. Swing by on Wednesdays after 6pm for an irresistible date-night deal: two tickets, two bags of popcorn and two fountain drinks for only $10.
Not picky about what you drink? The Santa Monica standby serves a dangerously priced cocktail-of-the-day for less than $2 during a narrow half-hour window (Mon–Sat 5:30–6pm).
You can navigate large parts of Los Angeles without ever stepping foot in a car or having to foot the bill for parking thanks to Metro. Consider it a smart option for destinations in Downtown L.A., Hollywood, Koreatown, Pasadena, Santa Monica and Long Beach. A single ride, regardless of the destination, costs $1.75 and includes free transfers for up to two hours. Day passes start at $7 but are only worthwhile if you’ll be taking four trips more than two hours apart.