The 72-Hour Guide to Budget Los Angeles

Getty Villa courtyard | Photo by Stephen Lee Carr, Flickr

Los Angeles is renowned as the Entertainment Capital of the World, home to celebrities and a global destination for luxury. But that doesn’t mean visitors can’t experience everything that L.A. has to offer without breaking the bank. From world-class museums to multicultural dining, read on for our 72-hour guide to visiting Los Angeles on a budget.

Holiday Inn Express West Los Angeles



Conveniently located on Santa Monica Boulevard near the 405 Freeway, the Holiday Inn Express West Los Angeles features 78 modern rooms with amenities like free high-speed WiFi Internet access and flatscreen HDTVs with premium programming, as well as functional furnishings like a work desk with an ergonomic chair. Start the day with a complimentary hot breakfast bar in the inner courtyard.

DAY ONE: 9 a.m. - GRAND CENTRAL MARKET



Opened in 1917, the landmark Grand Central Market (GCM) in Downtown L.A. features dozens of food stalls that represent the full spectrum of L.A.’s thriving dining scene, from old school Mexican to a new generation of artisan vendors. From Hollywood & Highland, take the Metro Rail Red Line to the Pershing Square station and enter the 30,000 square-foot marketplace from Hill Street. Fuel up on G&B Coffee and wait for a seat to open up at China Cafe, which has served countless bowls of classic won ton soup and other favorites since 1959. Most dishes at the 20-seat counter are priced at $5-7, cash only.

DAY ONE: 9:45 a.m. - BRADBURY BUILDING



Located on Broadway across from GCM, the landmark Bradbury Building has appeared in movies, TV episodes and music videos, and is frequently mentioned in literature. Built in 1893, the building was featured prominently in the 1982 sci-fi classic Blade Runner, while noir fans will recognize it from films such as Chinatown (1974), D.O.A. (1950) and I, The Jury (1953). Visitors are allowed up to the first landing, but not beyond it. Be sure to take a selfie with the Charlie Chaplin statue that’s located near the lobby. The Bradbury Building was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1971, and was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1977, one of only four office buildings in Los Angeles to be so honored.

DAY ONE: 10 a.m. - LAST BOOKSTORE



Located in the Historic Core, the Last Bookstore sells more than 250,000 new and used books and magazines. In addition to its vast selection of titles across all genres, the store itself is a must-see for its interior design alone. Not only are there books for sale, but printed material is adapted to create a unique environment where novels, anthologies, manuals and storybooks actually become a part of the store's own layout, too. Don’t miss the mezzanine level, which includes the Labyrinth Above the Last Bookstore (the back room sells 100,000 books for $1 each!), Gather Yarn Shop and the Spring Arts Collective gallery shops.

DAY ONE: 11 a.m. - FASHION DISTRICT



Spanning 100 blocks in the heart of Downtown L.A., the Los Angeles Fashion District is the hub of the L.A. fashion industry, featuring more than 2,000 independently-owned retail and wholesale businesses with apparel, accessories and footwear for the entire family. The district is also home to the lively Santee Alley, the largest selection of fabrics and notions in Southern California, and the L.A. Flower District, the largest flower market in the United States. The district is open to both the public and the trade. Designer showrooms and wholesale businesses are for the trade-only. However, Santee Alley and retailers in the surrounding area are open to the public, as are many of the businesses on the west side of the district. Showrooms open to the public on the last Friday of the month for sample sales.

For more info, read our detailed guide to the L.A. Fashion District. 

DAY ONE OPTION: THE BROAD



Founded by philanthropists Eli and Edythe Broad, The Broad is the acclaimed contemporary art museum that opened in September 2015. Located on Grand Avenue in Downtown L.A., The Broad is home to the nearly 2,000 works of art in the Broad collection, which is among the most prominent holdings of postwar and contemporary art worldwide. With its innovative “veil-and-vault” concept, the 120,000-square-foot, $140-million building features two floors of gallery space to showcase The Broad’s comprehensive collection and is the headquarters of The Broad Art Foundation’s worldwide lending library. Admission to the museum is free, advance timed reservations are available online at The Broad website.

DAY ONE: LUNCH - PHILIPPE THE ORIGINAL



A wide range of affordable lunch options are available in nearby Chinatown, but none are more iconic than Philippe the Original, one of two L.A. restaurants (the other is Cole’s) that claims to have invented the French Dip. Philippe’s opened in 1908 and has been at its current location on the edge of Chinatown since 1951. And coffee is just 45 cents! The cafeteria-style ordering routine at Philippe’s hasn’t changed in decades - queue up in front of the long deli counter and order from a “Carver.” The famous sandwich can be made with roast beef, roast pork, leg of lamb, turkey or ham and is served on a French roll with several cheese options. You can ask for “single-dip,” “double-dip” or “wet.” Find a seat at a communal table and top your sandwich with potent hot mustard.

DAY ONE: Lunch Option - Guerrilla Tacos



Wes Avila, who spent substantial stretches in the kitchens of chefs like Walter Manzke and Gary Menes, now helms the seasonal kitchen aboard his roving Guerrilla Tacos truck. Every day except Tuesday, Avila parks at some of L.A.'s top coffeehouses, including Blue Bottle and Blacktop in the Downtown L.A. Arts District (Monday and Friday, respectively), Cognoscenti Coffee in Culver City (Wednesday), Dinosaur Coffee in Silver Lake (Thursday), and Blue Bottle locations on Beverly Boulevard and Abbot Kinney (Saturday and Sunday, respectively).

Day One: 2 p.m. - Olvera Street



Olvera Street in Downtown L.A. is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Los Angeles, located in the oldest district of the city as part of El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historical Monument. The colorful Mexican marketplace opened on Easter Sunday, April 20, 1930 following a preservation campaign that was spearheaded by Christine Sterling. Several of L.A.’s most historic buildings are located at Olvera Street, along with dozens of craft shops, restaurants and other businesses.

Olvera Street highlights include Avila Adobe (L.A.’s oldest house still standing in its original location), América Tropical (the only U.S. public mural by famed Mexican artist David Alfaro Siqueiros), and the Chinese American Museum. For more info, read our detailed guide to Olvera Street.

DAY ONE: 5 p.m. - AMOEBA MUSIC



Opened in November 2001, Amoeba Music occupies an entire city block and houses the biggest, broadest, most diverse collection of music and movies ever gathered under one roof. Spanning two floors of shopping as well as the Jazz Room, music fans can browse millions of new and used titles on CD, DVD and vinyl. Amoeba also hosts frequent free music events, featuring live performances, DJ sets and record signings. Guest musicians have included everyone from local artists to a 20-song set by Sir Paul McCartney, who released an EP from the 2007 show called “Amoeba’s Secret.”

DAY ONE OPTION: CAPITOL RECORDS



Keep the music theme going with a quick photo at the world-famous Capitol Records Building, located just north of the iconic intersection of Hollywood and Vine. The landmark building was designed by Welton Becket, the architect who also designed the Music Center, Cinerama Dome, Santa Monica Civic Auditorium, and the department store that now houses the Petersen Automotive Museum. The 13-story tower, which resembles a stack of records, was the world’s first circular office building when it was completed in April 1956. The Capitol Records Building is the site of the historic Capitol Studios, where Frank Sinatra, The Beach Boys, Nat “King” Cole, Sir Paul McCartney, and many more music legends recorded some of the most treasured music in history.

Chicken and waffles | Photo courtesy of Roscoe’s, Facebook

DAY ONE: DINNER - ROSCOE’S House of CHICKEN N WAFFLES



Harlem native Herb Hudson opened Roscoe’s House of Chicken ‘N Waffles in 1975. Roscoe’s has grown from the original Hollywood location on Gower to seven locations across the city. The soul food chain’s signature dish offers a delicious mix of salty and sweet, anchored by massive waffles and a variety of options that range from the basic quarter chicken and two waffles to Herb’s Special, featuring two waffles and a half chicken smothered in gravy and onions. After President Obama visited the Pico Boulevard location in October 2011, the three-wing “Country Boy” plate was renamed “The Obama Special.”

Malese Jow and Austin Charles at The Mint | Photo courtesy of Justin Higuchi, Flickr

DAY ONE: Nightlife - The Mint



Established in 1937, The Mint is a hidden gem music venue located on Pico Boulevard. The Mint books a diverse calendar of live musical acts in a chill, dinner theatre-like setting. There’s a full bar, beers on tap and the kitchen is open until midnight in case you somehow didn’t eat enough at Roscoe’s.

DAY TWO: 8 a.m. - COFFEE TOMO



Start your second morning with a house-roasted coffee, honey butter bread, and specialty pretzel from your friends at the Korean-Japanese inspired Coffee Tomo. Their intricate knots are baked fresh daily, which you can enjoy with a drip coffee in the clean, warm ambiance informed by the owner’s background as a landscape architect. The honey butter bread comes dusted with cinnamon and topped with whipped cream, while your oven-hot pretel might be filled with sweet potato or Asian red beans and mozzarella. Now you’re ready for the rest of your day.

DAY TWO: 10 a.m. - CITADEL OUTLETS



Located in Commerce, about 10 minutes south of Downtown L.A., Citadel Outlets offers the closest outlet shopping for Angelenos. Spanning 700,000 square feet of retail space, Citadel Outlets features 130 stores with amazing deals from top brands at 30-70% off retail prices.

Famous fashion and sportswear brands include Michael Kors, H&M, Kipling, COACH, Not Your Daughter's Jeans, kate spade, Tilly's, Perry Ellis, Calvin Klein, Banana Republic Factory Store, Tommy Hilfiger, BCBGMAXAZRIA, MAXSTUDIO.COM, Under Armour, Adidas, Columbia Sportswear, Reebok, Puma and Nike. Young adults will love the up-to-date selection at Guess Factory Store, Converse, Quiksilver Factory Store and Hurley; kids are sure to find something at The Children's Place, Gymboree and OshKosh; and the whole family can shop at Old Navy and Gap Outlets.

Photo courtesy of Aqui es Texcoco, FacebookPhoto courtesy of Aqui es Texcoco, Facebook

DAY TWO: LUNCH - Aqui es Texcoco



You can grab a fast casual lunch at one of 16 food spots at the Citadel, but if you’re feeling a little more adventurous, head to nearby Aqui es Texcoco for traditional Mexican barbacoa (lamb barbecue). While there are plenty of places in L.A. that serve barbacoa, Aqui es Texcoco raises the bar with their barbacoa quesataco, which features a piece of oozy cheese that’s seared until crispy and then stuffed with tender lamb. Other options include chicken, huitlacoche (Mexican corn truffle), mushrooms, zucchini flower or poblano pepper. For truly hearty appetites, go for the 2.2-pound Family Platter, which is priced at $40 and serves 4-6. Choose from meat, rib or tripe and dig into DIY tacos with tortillas, salsa, lime, cilantro and onion.

DAY TWO: 2 p.m. - GRIFFITH OBSERVATORY



The Griffith Observatory is one of L.A.’s greatest cultural attractions, offering spectacular views from the Pacific Ocean to Downtown L.A. from its perch on Mt. Hollywood in Griffith Park. The observatory and accompanying exhibits were opened to the public on May 14, 1935. In its first five days of operation, the observatory welcomed more than 13,000 visitors. Today, the Griffith Observatory is renowned as a national leader in public astronomy, and a beloved gather place for visitors and Angelenos alike.

The Griffith Observatory's grounds, exhibits, and telescopes are open and free to the public each day the building is open. The observatory also offers programs, special events, and public “star parties.” Visitors may drive directly to the Griffith Observatory and park for free in its parking lot or on adjacent roads.

DAY TWO OPTION: FOREST LAWN Hollywood Hills



Located in the Hollywood Hills near the Griffith Observatory, Forest Lawn Memorial Park is situated in an idyllic landscape that showcases a unique collection of American and Mesoamerican artwork, from larger-than-life statues of Washington, Jefferson, and Lincoln to historic artifacts from the Olmec, Aztec and Mayan civilizations.

Forest Lawn is the final resting place for generations of celebrities, including Bette Davis, Lucille Ball, Telly Savalas, William Conrad, Buster Keaton, Liberace, Freddie Prinze, Andy Gibb, Jack Webb, Stan Laurel, Ricky Nelson, Brittany Murphy, John Ritter, Gene Autry, Sandra Dee, Lou Rawls, Rod Steiger, Isabel Sanford, David Carradine and Steve Allen.

DAY TWO: 4 p.m. - HOLLYWOOD BOWL MUSEUM



For generations, the landmark Hollywood Bowl has been one of L.A.’s top summer concert destinations. The Bowl is the summer home of the LA Phil and has hosted performances by music legends and modern superstars, as well as perennial favorites like the two-day Playboy Jazz Festival, the Sound of Music Sing-Along and the July 4th Fireworks Spectacular. Tickets start as low as $1 for bench seats in the back, and for added comfort you can rent a seat cushion for an additional $1.

Open year-round with free admission, the Hollywood Bowl Museum features permanent exhibits such as "The Beatles at the Bowl," "Live From the Bowl" (audio and video clips), and "Music for Everyone."

DAY TWO: HAPPY HOUR - THREE CLUBS



Located on Vine Street, Three Clubs is an old school Hollywood cocktail lounge that features a Three Martini Happy Hour from 5-7 p.m. Specials include $5 classic cocktails like the Martini, Manhattan, Old Fashioned, Daiquiri and Moscow Mule.

DAY TWO: DINNER - TACOS LEO



Los Angeles helped jumpstart the nationwide food truck craze, and there’s no better example of this quintessential L.A. experience than Tacos Leo, perhaps the most popular and beloved taco truck in the city. The renowned $1 al pastor tacos are directly shaved off the rotating spit (trompo in Spanish) onto a pair of griddled tortillas. These are available daily, though only in the evening and wee hours of the day. Their well-stocked salsa area includes all-you-can-ladle runny taco guacamole, and both solid red and green salsas. Be aware that lines can be quite long on weekends, especially in the later hours of the night. Don’t worry, their tacos are worth the wait. If you’re a real taco connoisseur, ask for an al pastor taco on a handmade tortilla. It might cost a little more, but you get much more of the meat and the texture is even better.

Photo courtesy of Nuart Theatre, Facebook

DAY TWO: NIGHTLIFE - NUART THEATRE



The Nuart Theatre is the flagship theatre for Landmark Theatres, but you'll find many a classic, foreign or independent film - perhaps a documentary - playing here. It's common to find Rocky Horror Picture Show faithful lined up for a seat outside every Saturday night. Indicative of the theatre's success is that The Nuart plays the same film 4 or even 5 times per day during a weekly run - with a different movie playing every Friday night.

DAY THREE: 9 a.m. - Solstice Canyon



Located just past Pepperdine University in Malibu, Solstice Canyon is one of L.A.’s best and most approachable hikes. From Pacific Coast Highway, take Solstice Canyon Road to the entrance, located at Corral Canyon Road. Solstice Canyon is an easy hike along a shaded trail that is partially paved before it gives way to a fire road. A babbling brook is the soundtrack as the trail leads you to Tropical Terrace and the foundations of a house designed by renowned architect Paul Williams. Depending on the time of year, a waterfall cascades into a pool in the rocks behind the former home. Do some exploring and you’ll find a statue of the Virgin Mary in a nearby grotto. You can take Solstice Canyon back, or work up a sweat on the switchbacks that take you to the Rising Sun trail at the top of the hills. The incredible views of the Pacific Ocean are your reward for the huffing and puffing.

Leo Carrillo State Beach | Photo courtesy of kayno919, Flickr

DAY THREE: 10 a.m. - Leo Carrillo State Park



Continue north on PCH for about 15 minutes and you’ll arrive at Leo Carrillo State Park. The family- and pet-friendly coastal park offers 1.5 miles of beach for swimming, surfing, windsurfing, surf fishing and beachcombing. The beach also has tide pools, coastal caves and reefs for exploring. Giant sycamores provide shade for the main campgrounds. The park also features back-country hiking. Junior Rangers and campfire programs are offered during the summer. The Visitor Center has interpretive displays on tidepools and gray whales, and school field trips are offered during the academic year. The park is named after Leo Carrillo, the actor, preservationist and conservationist who is best known for his portrayal of Pancho on The Cisco Kid 1950s TV series.

DAY THREE: LUNCH - NEPTUNE’S NET



One of L.A.’s most famous beachside restaurants is Neptune’s Net, located a mile north of Leo Carrillo. Opened as Jake’s Diner in 1958, the popular seafood spot has only changed hands twice since its inception - first in 1974, when it was purchased by Paul and Dolly Seay (who doubled the space and renamed it Neptune’s Net), and in 1991, when it was sold to Michelle Lee and her husband, Chong Sun. Besides the name change and expansion from almost four decades ago, as well as a patio addition in the early 1990s, very little of the landmark has been altered. Neptune’s Net offers a unique dining experience - guests choose their own fresh shellfish from the restaurant’s tanks and hand it to the cooks, who steam it for them on the spot.

Besides being a celeb hangout (Drew Barrymore, Adam Sandler, Michelle Pfeiffer and Cameron Diaz are all fans), Neptune’s Net is also a popular filming location. Perhaps its most famous onscreen appearance is from a key scene in The Fast and the Furious (2001), when undercover cop Brian O’Conner (played by Paul Walker) tells hijacker Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) that he wants in on the action.

DAY THREE: 1 p.m. - SURFRIDER BEACH & MALIBU PIER



Surfing locations don’t get much more iconic than Malibu Lagoon State Beach, better known as Surfrider Beach and one of the most popular surfing spots in L.A. County. Surfrider Beach is located off Pacific Coast Highway near the historic Malibu Pier, about 20 minutes south of Neptune’s Net. The 110-acre site was dedicated as a state park in 1951, and later dedicated as the first World Surfing Reserve in October 2010. The famous right-break had a big impact on 1960s Southern California surfing culture. Surfrider has three primary surfing areas - on the south swells most common in late August and September, surfers can ride all the way to the pier.

DAY THREE: 1:30 p.m. - GETTY VILLA



Located in the Pacific Palisades, the Getty Villa houses a collection of 44,000 Greek, Roman, and Etruscan antiquities that span 7,000 years of history, from the end of the Stone Age to the fall of the Roman Empire. The Villa is modeled after a first-century Roman country house, the Villa dei Papiri in Herculaneum, Italy and boasts spectacular coastal views from its hilltop location. Admission to the Getty Villa is free with timed entry reservation. There is a nominal fee for parking.

DAY THREE: 3:30 p.m. - SANTA MONICA PIER



Opened in 1909, the historic Santa Monica Pier is the site of restaurants, shops, an aquarium, a 1920s carousel, and Pacific Park, a family-friendly amusement park that includes a roller coaster and the world’s only solar-powered Ferris wheel. Every summer, the pier hosts the Twilight Concerts, one of L.A.’s most popular outdoor music series.

The Route 66 End of the Trail Sign is one of Santa Monica’s hidden gems, located on the Santa Monica Pier. Known as the Will Rogers Highway, the Mother Road and the Main Street of America, the 2,450-mile-long Route 66 was originally built to connect Chicago to Los Angeles. Though the actual end of the legendary highway has been debated for decades, this replica of the long-lost End of the Trail Sign officially marks the Western terminus of the great highway.

DAY THREE: HAPPY HOUR - AMMO

For a pre-dinner drink stop by AMMO, the upscale cafe located in the courtyard of the Hammer Museum. Offered Tuesday-Friday from 4-7:30pm, AMMO's happy hour features $5 draft beer, $5 glass of red or white wine, and a special wine and cheese pairing. Light bites to share include assorted olives ($6); flatbreads, hummus or quesadillas for $10; and a cheese board for $14.

DAY THREE: DINNER - 800 Degrees - Westwood Village



After happy hour, enjoy dinner at 800 Degrees, named for the minimum temperature at which their pizza are cooked in their wood-fired ovens in less than a minute. 800 Degrees offers some of the best pizza in L.A. The restaurant takes great pride in the simplicity and quality ingredients with which their light, Neapolitan style pies are created. Customize your own pie or pick one of their specialty pizzas, and pair it with wine on tap or a soda from the state-of-the-art Coke machine that offers more than 150 varieties.

DAY THREE: NIGHTLIFE - PLAN CHECK SAWTELLE



Terry Heller and chef-partner Ernesto Uchimura now have three Plan Checks in L.A., with more on the way thanks to demand for their modern riffs on burgers, fried chicken and other comfort food classics, all served in cast iron skillets. Located just a few blocks from the hotel, Plan Check in Sawtelle Japantown is the one that started it all. End your three-day budget tour of L.A. with Plan Check’s selection of craft beers and cocktails like the $10 Old Fashioned on tap.