26 Ways to Save Money in Los Angeles
For tourists, Los Angeles can be a tough nut to crack. With its sprawling city limits, less-than-stellar public transportation, and persistent traffic woes, L.A. poses a few challenges for the outsider. But despite its quirks, L.A. is a unique and special city (and we’re not just saying that because Domaine calls Los Angeles. home!), bursting with exciting cultural happenings, delicious food, gorgeous natural sites, and, yes, temperatures that are reliably lovely. With all of that goodness comes a price tag, but not to worry: Now that we’ve convinced you, we suggest you read on; we’ve culled 26 genius ways to save money, without skimping on the good times.
• When booking airfare, don’t forget about the little guys. LAX is not the only airport near to Los Angeles. Burbank (BUR) and Long Beach (LGB), though smaller, often offer cheaper flights.
• If you plan on doing the majority of your activities in one neighborhood, try your best to get lodging nearby. You’ll save on gas, plus you’ll thank yourself later when you’re not sitting in rush hour traffic after a long day of sightseeing.
• Want to really get a local’s experience? Consider subletting an apartment via Airbnb, OneFineStay, or HomeAway. Nightly and weekly rates can go for major steals.
• Have a car? Explore what’s beyond Los Angeles proper with a quick getaway to Ojai, Santa Barbara, or San Diego. They’re all affordable and day-trip friendly destinations to satisfy your wanderlust and explore the region.
• If you’re flying into L.A., bite the bullet and take care of your car rental right at the airport (LAX has all of the major car rental services onsite, just a shuttle away). Rates are significantly cheaper at the airport than at satellite locations.
• Believe it or not, L.A. does have public transportation. Going downtown from Hollywood? Consider taking the Metro. Heading from Westwood to Santa Monica? The Big Blue Bus is a surprisingly dependable way to get around on the Westside—though not particularly speedy.
• Due to the dispersed nature of taxis in L.A., transportation mobile apps apps like Lyft and Uber are very popular. The cheaper of the two, Lyft, also offers Lyft Line, which functions as a rideshare service, allowing you to tag onto other people’s rides for even less.
• Lots of museums in Los Angeles, such as The Hammer Museum, the J. Paul Getty Museum (boasting some of the best views in the city!), and The Getty Villa, have free admission year-round, with others offering free admission on a monthly basis. Check here to get the complete schedule of slashed admission rates.
• LACMA (Los Angeles County Museum of Art) hosts free jazz nights every Friday evening during the spring and summer. Picnics and children are welcome!
• Head to Griffith Park for The Independent Shakespeare Company’s summer season. All performances are free, but donations are hugely appreciated.
• Hit up the Downtown Art Walk, which takes place on the second Thursday of every month. More than 40 galleries participate, and there’s a free bike-valet service and refreshments.
• Happy hour isn’t just for the thirsty; most reduced-priced menus during this time also include food! Peep TimeOut’s list of top 10 happy hours in L.A. here.
• By-the-glass wine prices can get expensive, and we all know cocktails will run you the equivalent of a starter or two. Explore free corkage and BYOB locations, and you’ll enjoy dinner without quite so much sticker shock when the bill arrives.
• Skip the expensive jaunt to wine country and visit Malibu Wines instead. The Santa Monica vineyard offers $12 or $14 flights, and the beyond-beautiful grounds are ideal for an afternoon picnic.
• L.A. has great food trucks. If you’re visiting LACMA, skip the pricey sit-down eateries and opt for one of the trucks parked along Wilshire instead. The food is just as tasty. If you’re craving tacos, some of the best in the city are from trucks! Check this list for LA Weekly’s top picks.
• Visit the always-bursting-with-goodness farmers markets scattered throughout Los Angeles to try samples and buy local produce at cheaper prices. Consult this exhaustive list for where to go when.
• Every January and July, many top L.A. restaurants participate in Los Angeles Restaurant Week, offering special, fixed-price meals at a discount.
• L.A. is fit to burst with amazing free entertainment, especially in summer months. The Santa Monica Pier Twilight Concerts are a weekly event, and attract some of the best music talent nationwide (last summer, Cults, De Lux, and OK Go were highlights). Getty Museum’s Saturdays Off the 405 allows you to enjoy free outdoor music and evening views of the city on select Saturdays.
• Affordable and fun movie screenings are aplenty. There are many weekly outdoor gatherings, such as Street Food Cinema and Eat | See | Hear, offering live music, tasty street fare, and screenings of your favorite movie. The mother of all outdoor movie screenings in L.A., Cinespia, is hosted during summer months at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery—get there early for a good spot.
• Prefer an indoor setting? Check out Sundance Cinemas in West Hollywood, which offers reduced-priced tickets every Tuesday for just $6.
• Looking to score seats at a big-ticket show or event? Scoop free tickets to any number of T.V. filmings (including The Voice, and daytime talk shows) by using 1iota. The site acts as an agency for seat-fillers.
• It’s no secret that L.A. is full of young, emerging talent. Scout out the latest comedic genius at Upright Citizens Brigade. With shows every night of the week and ticket prices averaging about $5, this is a great go-to spot, and an affordable alternative to some of L.A.’s pricier performances.
• The Southern California CityPass includes access to Disneyland, Universal Studios, and Sea World at significant savings compared to buying all the tickets separately.
• Head to a flea market. L.A.’s famous Rose Bowl Flea, which takes place on the second Sunday of every month, is an all-day event, and costs $8. Children under 12 get in for free. This mega flea offers some of the best bargains on furniture, décor, fashion, and accessories. Explore other flea markets like the Melrose Trading Post ($3 entrance), which is held every Sunday.
• When in doubt, head to the beach. Los Angeles’s beaches offer free, year-round goodness: Summer months are balmy and bustling, while fall and winter months are beautifully peaceful.
• With its always agreeable temps, L.A. is the perfect place to get active. Skip the expensive drop-in yoga fees and go for a hike (free!) instead. Griffith Park and Runyon Canyon are local favorites.
Do you know any secrets for saving money in LA? Share with us below!
Opening photo by Bethany Nauert.