Our guide to hanging out in the City of Angels on $50 or less.
It might seem near impossible to enjoy a weekend in a major metropolitan area like Los Angeles on a budget, but it can be done—especially if you opt for public transportation or biking instead of renting a car. Here are our tips for how to do a two-day weekender in the central LA area on $25 a day. Here’s how it’s done.
Saturday: Museum Row and Koreatown
Start off your day with some of the best breakfast burritos in town at Cofax, where they stuff their tortillas with smoked potatoes, chorizo, and eggs for just $7, or go veggie for $6.50. They also do excellent drip coffee for $3.50 and espressos for $3. After strolling the Fairfax District, ride down the street to Museum Row, where you can check out the public exhibitions and sculpture gardens at LACMA and the La Brea Tar Pits park for free. Be sure to explore nearby Little Ethiopia, too.
Ride down 6th Street, or take the bus ($1.75) heading east on Wilshire to get to L.A.’s bustling Koreatown, where cheap eats abound. A personal favorite is the Koreatown Galleria, where upstairs you’ll find a food court fit for the gods. A massive bibimbap bowl at Jin Su Sung Chan easily feeds two people for $9.95, and will keep you full though the evening. Downstairs you’ll find K-beauty shops to stock up on trendy face masks and BB cream, and on the bottom floor there’s a cool restaurant supply shop where you can pick up Korean cookery at bargain prices.
Stop by happy hour at EMC Seafood for $5 well drinks and $1 oysters between 4 p.m. and 7 p.m., or hit up the lobby at the newish Line Hotel for DJs and a lively vibe before the EMC happy hour starts again at 10 p.m. (You’ll learn quickly that this part of the city never sleeps.) If hunger doesn’t strike, use the remainder of your funds for a round of tunes at K-town’s most popular karaoke dive, the Brass Monkey Bar.
Sunday: Echo Park, Downtown, Little Tokyo
While there are plenty of great things on the menu at Square One at Echo Park Lake, the most budget-friendly items are the scones ($3.25), stone ground grits ($4), and steel cut oats ($5.25). Grab your breakfast and stroll around this historic park, which was originally built for drinking water in 1870, and then was transformed into a sprawling landscaped public space in 1892. It was recently shuttered for renovations, and reopened in 2013 to include new paddleboats, repaved paths, and the lake’s iconic lily pads.
Work your way toward Downtown to enjoy some of the area’s many free arts and culture offerings, like the newly minted Broad Museum. (Note: viewing the massive collection of contemporary art does require reservations, which can be booked ahead of time here.) Then, tour around architectural landmarks like the Grand Central Library and the Bradbury Building, also gratis. If at any point you’re getting hungry, there are plenty of eats inside Grand Central Market to keep you sated; while some are a bit more expensive (part of the modernization of the markets has brought in more artisans and hipster vendors), there are some old-school vendors that offer great eats at a low cost, like Sarita’s Papuseria ($3.54 each) or Tacos Tumbras a Tomas ($2.50 each).
Mosey on over to Little Tokyo, where you can escape the pulse of the city at the hidden Koyasan Buddhist Temple and the lush James Irvine Japanese Garden oasis or window shop along 2nd Street’s boutiques from local designers. When you’re ready for a nibble, head to Spitz, which specializes in doner kebabs ($8.50), but also has killer happy hour if you’re in town on a weekday from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m., including $3 pints, $4 sangrias, and $1 pita and hummus. Afterwards, be sure to check in to the Blue Whale, one of the best jazz bars in L.A., where they’re known to put on performances that start at $5.
Krista Simmons is a culinary travel writer and native Angeleno; she covers Southern California for Travel + Leisure. You can follow her adventures bite-by-bite on Instagram.