High Culture; Low Cost — An LA Weekend on the Cheap

If you live in Los Angeles, you know things in this town can be pricey. From dining to entertainment to merely finding a place to park your car in many neighborhoods, it ain’t cheap to be an Angeleno. Assuming you want to go out and do things, that is. And most LA types definitely want to be in motion.

There are always a hundred festivals, gallery shows, farmer’s markets, arts and crafts events, etc, popping up in LA, and all those things are interesting and amusing. But they’re also fleeting: here today, gone tomorrow. What I have come to find recently, through a series of very informal surveys (read… conversations) is that many residents — even longtime residents — have not taken advantage of the myriad inexpensive (or free) sights and spots our city and surrounding locales have to offer.

So here I will posit a few permanent fixtures of Los Angeles that will cost you only pennies (or at least only dollars) and are guaranteed to please. Who knows… some of them might be a few steps from your home. Oh, and all of these will be family friendly, so load up the whole car.


The Griffith Park Observatory
You probably know it from Rebel Without a Cause. And you’ve probably driven past signs for the observatory a thousand times, perhaps thinking “Hey, I should go there sometime.” Well, have you thought that? Yes? Have you visited? A-ha…

The observatory sits atop the mountains that run through Hollywood, affording you stunning views on clear days. Hiking paths crisscross the surrounding hills. The architecture of the building is unique and impressive. Oh, and inside is room after room packed with models, dioramas, art, etc. It’s almost too much to see in one visit, especially if you include a visit to the planetarium.

Image Courtesy WikiMedia Commons / Griffith Park

The California Science Center
The Science Center would seem like a place geared largely for schoolchildren, but it is so well curated that adults and kids alike will be thrilled by a visit, which could easily last all day. Parking at Exposition Park will cost you between $8 and $10, but then, unlike the other local museums, the Science Center is free (if you can bring yourself to walk past the donation box, that is). Inside is not only a wealth of knowledge on countless topics, but also dozens of hands-on installations. It is a sensory thrill, and stimulating at every turn. You can travel from the bottom of the ocean to vast deserts to outer space, all in one building.

Image Courtesy WikiMedia Commons / CA Science Center

Descanso Gardens
Tucked away just north of Glendale, Descanso Gardens offers a beautiful escape from the go-go pace of LA, and for about $5. The 150 acres are a mix of carefully manicured patches of flowers and shrubs, and areas intentionally allowed to grow “wild.” Streams and waterfalls, hedges wrought of rose bushes, etc bisect the landscape. One can scarcely believe they are a mere 15 minute drive from the towering skyscrapers of Downtown LA.

Image Courtesy wikiMedia Commons / Descanso Gardens


Travel Town Museum
Just a half mile from the Los Angeles Zoo (a fine zoo indeed… but not cheap for, say, a family of four), Travel Town offers an enjoyable afternoon to all visitors. There is a museum with several exhibits and housing several old cars and wagons, but the reason to visit is outside on the grounds. Or rather the reasons — it’s the trains. Almost a dozen massive locomotives and train card perch about Travel Town, dating from the 19th Century to much more recent models. Adults will enjoy the living history; kids will be absolutely thrilled.
Image Courtesy WikiMedia Commons / Travel Town

Bergamot Station
Just off the 10 Freeway in Santa Monica, Bergamot Station is a collection of art galleries that might as well just call itself a museum. With dealers specializing in art ranging from paintings by long dead masters to the most avante gard and cutting edge, the score-odd galleries of Bergamot Station will stimulate your nicely intellectual side, and for free. Unless you decide to acquire artwork, in which case not free.

Image Courtesy WikiMedia Commons / Bergamot Station

The Beach
OK, you know all about the beach and yeah, I’m kidding. No one needs to tell you it’s there. But has it been a while? Lots of Angelenos seem to never take the time to go visit the Pacific, even though it’s right there.

Image Courtesy WikiMediaCommons / City of Malibu, CA

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