Los Angeles might have a lot of glitz and glam, but it is possible to explore the city on a budget. In fact, after doing some research and exploring the city for a weekend, I was surprised by how many low-cost options there are!

But first things first: If you’re going to spend an extended amount of time in LA, definitely rent a car. Thankfully, there are a lot of budget car rental options for you to check out. The last time I was in LA, I booked a car through Kayak and got a rental for just $40 (with gas pre-paid).

Now, what are some things you can do in sunny Los Angeles without that movie star salary? Check out our recs below.

Coastal Towns

With a rental car at your disposal, one thing you have to put on your schedule is driving out to all the coastal towns around LA. On my list: Venice Beach and Santa Monica. Some highlights here include:

  • The Venice Canals: Grab a coffee from a shop on Abbot Kinney Boulevard, then take a leisurely stroll around the beautiful canals.
  • The Venice Beach Sign: This is another highlight of the little coastal town. It’s a quick 10-minute walk from the canals.
  • The Santa Monica Ocean Front Walk: Once you’ve explored everything Venice has to offer, head over to the beautiful neighboring city of Santa Monica. Park somewhere along Ocean Avenue and enjoy the views along the path, with the beach and sprawling ocean below. You could rent a bike as well!
  • The Santa Monica Pier: This iconic locale is great spot to explore. Take it easy and stop at a restaurant for food and all kinds of great people watching, or get a ticket to jump on some of your favorite rides. Individual ticket prices are between $5-10.

Museums and Parks

One of the great things about Los Angeles is that the city has quite a few museums to explore. At the top of my list were the J. Paul Getty Museum and the Griffith Observatory.

  • The J. Paul Getty MuseumGo here to explore sculpture gardens, beautiful architecture, photography, and a wide variety of artwork. One of my personal highlights: seeing a Van Gogh painting in real life. Parking is $15, but admission to the museum is free!
  • The Griffith ObservatoryIt’s a bit of a drive outside of the city to get here, but it’s definitely worth it. Start by exploring the exhibits, then head over to enjoy the views at Griffith Park. You’ll even get a great view of the Hollywood sign. Plus, parking and admission to the building and grounds are always free.

Touristy Stuff

If you’re making your first trip to LA, you have to go see the sites. And the best part about most of these places is that you can walk right up to them, free of charge.

  • Hollywood Walk of FameBefore you make your walk, check out the official website and map out where to find your faves.
  • The Chinese Theatre: While you’re on the Walk of Fame, be sure to snap a photo of the infamous venue that has hosted many red carpet events and movie premieres. And hey, if you have time, pop in for a matinee.
  • Dolby Theatre: Checking out the Dolby (once known as the Kodak Theater) is fun, especially if you want to see where all the magic happens during the Academy Awards.
  • Rodeo Drive: Don’t worry — this is just for window shopping!
  • Studio Tours: To get your true Hollywood fix, check out Warner Bros. Studio ($65 for a tour) or Paramount Pictures ($58 for a tour) for a behind-the-scenes look at the ins and outs of the silver screen. Or if you’re looking for something more action-packed, get a day pass at Universal Studios for around $109.

Where to Stay

My go-to lodging choice is always Airbnb. They have so many great options that are much cheaper than what you’ll find at hotels in the city. However, if you’re looking to splurge, I’d recommend checking out the boutique hotel Petit Ermitage in West Hollywood, or the hip LINE Hotel near downtown. You can read more about my stay at Petit Ermitage here.

Where are your favorite LA spots? Send us your tips on Twitter @BritandCo.

All photos belong to Sarah Vogt. To see more photos and read about my trip to Los Angeles, check out my blog Let’s Go Places.