There’s nothing like dropping more than 50 bucks in less than 5 minutes on a sunny Saturday morning in Los Angeles to make you feel like a fool.
First, it’s the parking that you thought for sure you could validate but find out from the nice barista with the eyebrow piercing that, sadly, you cannot: $10. Then it’s a matcha latte and an everything bagel with cream cheese, tomato, sprouts, and some other hipster stuff that somehow comes to, yep: $15. Back to your car, and oh look, you’re almost out of gas from commuting all week! You roll by the Mobil, yank out the gas pump, and glare at the monitor as the number climbs to: $40.
I’m ashamed to admit that some variation of the above has happened to me more times than is acceptable. No, I don’t keep going back to the same parking lot thinking I’m going to get validated, but LA is not for the faint of plastic. If you blink twice, you’ll somehow have swiped your credit card once more than that.
Now, with that California-sized preface out of the way, come with me on a brief escapade of a day tailored to sticking it to the man (all legal, I assure you). Things that are both affordable and fun to do can be hard to find around these parts, but sometimes they end up being the hidden gems you never knew you needed. If the activities that I happened to frolic between on this particular Saturday aren’t your cup of tea, I’ve made sure to provide some alternate choose-your-own adventures that I’ve enjoyed equally at other times.
Click your heels and say it 3 times: FREE Pool-side Rooftop Yoga
Every Saturday at 10 am, my favorite yoga studio does a free offsite class at the Freehand Hotel in Downtown LA. Just head up the elevators to the rooftop, bypass all the guests in lounge chairs (don’t forget to tell them to enjoy their $15 mimosas), and go to the far side of the pool deck where everything has been moved to make room for a dozen yoga mats. After slipping and sliding on your own sweat for an hour, you’re offered a glass of fruit-infused ice water and are fully encouraged to take a dip in the pool (and/or probably hang out all morning). Besides the $7 parking, which you can skip if you take the metro to Pershing Square, this is an entirely free, mirage of a morning.
Choose your own adventure: If you’re not a fan of yoga (or at least pretending to like it to access a hotel pool) check out The Broad contemporary art museum, which is also free and opens at 10 AM. You may already know it for it’s Infinity Mirror Rooms, which you’ve likely seen as the backdrop to many-a-selfie plastered across Instagram, Facebook, and Tinder. Tip: Get there early. You can check the current standby line wait by visiting @TheBroadStandby on Twitter.
A Picnic Brunch at Echo Park Lake
I know you’ve worked up an appetite by now, so don’t fret… I won’t make you blow that leftover 43 bucks on one measly downtown Brunch. Instead, head on over to Reggie’s in Echo Park: An unassuming little deli inside an unremarkable office building only two miles from Downtown. Smoothies are usually maddeningly steep around here, but Reggie’s makes a dreamy Blueberry Pineapple Coconut elixir for less than five bucks. They also offer a smattering of bagels, fresh cream cheeses, and breakfast sandwiches that make my east coast heart happy. Snag some street parking, pick up your food, and walk the couple blocks over to Echo Park Lake. If you’re like me and have a musty beach towel or an old blanket crumpled up in the back of your car, here’s your chance to use it just like you always say you will. Find your very own patch of grass and stretch out in the shade of a palm tree with the skyline, glassy water, and array of eclectic characters prancing around you. It’s finally time to chow down on that $10 brunch you didn’t even have to wait in line for. Take that, Blu Jam Cafe —we’ve still got 33 bucks left.
Choose your own adventure: If you’ve managed to part with the Freehand pool deck in time to catch the Silverlake Farmer’s Market (closes at 1), it’s worth a stop. Sample some fresh fruit, scarf down a $4 Jalapeno Bean and Cheese Pupusa, and get in some prime people watching. Just be on your best behavior or you might walk away with $50 worth of candles, soaps and succulents. Don’t say I didn’t warn ya.
Embrace your inner child at Sherman Oaks Castle Park
I’ll admit it: I’m about to turn 30, and my brain has tricked me into thinking that if I play enough mini golf this summer, it just won’t happen. That’s fine: I’ll try to stay blissfully unaware and take advantage of the phase because a little healthy competition for 7 bucks never hurt anyone. The downside is that Castle Park is slightly out of the way for LA standards, but it shouldn’t take you more than 25 minutes to drive there from Reggie’s. Get yourself some dippin’ dots and go nuts on the golf courses and batting cages. Everything is super affordable so it’s unlikely you’ll walk away spending more than $15, which means… You just officially accomplished a jam-packed day in LA for under 50. Tip: On Monday morning, when that one coworker asks you where you got the tan, just tell her Palm Springs.
Choose your own adventure: If you don’t want to subject yourself to mini golfing or going to Sherman Oaks at all for that matter, I get it. I really do. How about a quaint, vintage bowling alley in the heart of Highland Park? On Saturdays, lanes are $25/hour until 4, so split the cost with a few friends and you’ve got yourself a deal. If you happen to go on the second Saturday of the month, you can stick around for the neighborhood Art Walk, which means a night of eating street food while popping in and out of local bars, shops and galleries. You’re so #blessed