LA: What To Do With Your Last Fifty Bucks

View from Griffith Park, Los Angeles. photos by Ben Hill.
View from Griffith Park, Los Angeles. photos by Ben Hill.

My Last Fifty Bucks in LA: Tips on What To Do for Cheap

By Ben Hill

If you had one day left in Los Angeles, fifty bucks, and a tank full of gas, what would you do?

I moved to L.A. in the early aughts, and each year I consider leaving due to downsizing, stagnation, or wanderlust. I always stay, but only after I plan my last day in town.

I try to use travel guides for inspiration, but they’re all aimed at tourists: Universal Studios, Rodeo Drive, Disneyland, and a laundry list that reads like random points on a map. Places I can’t afford, and places I’d rather avoid even if I could afford them.

Instead, I’d go to the places where I lived, worked, and partied. The places that I will remember, even if I forget the names. If I had fifty bucks left, I’d stretch it to the last penny at the places I know and love:

Inside Bottega Louie, in Los Angeles, California LA
Inside Bottega Louie, in Los Angeles, California

Downtown LA

Stroll past the historic theatres on Broadway and the loft buildings of Downtown’s core, then juxtapose the grit with Bottega Louie’s elegant interior.

The Bottega is both restaurant and gourmet market, and after an obligatory sample, try the mushroom and goat cheese frittata sandwich.

Wake up with an espresso and the clamor of voices bouncing off Bottega’s high ceilings and marble floors, then grab a bistro table near the entry and people-watch out the glass walls.

A few blocks to the southeast, where the Garment and Flower Districts collide, scoop up handfuls of cheap souvenirs. End at the LA Flower Market (the nation’s largest), where growers, wholesalers, and retail florists from all over Southern California come to negotiate. Smell every rose you can, pick the freshest, then strike a bargain.

Parking $5 Espresso $3, Frittata Sandwich $5: Bottega Louie, 700 S. Grand Ave, Souvenirs $5. Rose + Admission $5: LA Flower Market, 766 Wall Street,

Little Armenia / Griffith Park

For cheap produce outside their doorstep, locals go to Shirak Market. Low on glamour but high on value, this neighborhood market has any berries you want – blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, strawberries – for two bucks.

Booth at the Rainbow, LA.
Booth at the Rainbow, LA.

Pick up an Armenian pastry at Taron Bakery, then head to the Griffith Park entrance at Fern Dell Drive. Past the sunbathers and nature museum, hike the sandy canyon to Griffith Park Observatory for your first goodbye kiss in LA.

The view covers downtown to the Hollywood sign and beyond, with Thai Town and Little Armenia in the foreground.

Berries $2: Shirak International Market, 5235 Hollywood Blvd. Pastry $2: Taron Bakery, 4970 Hollywood Blvd

Sunset Strip

To have an authentic L.A. experience, like it or not, you drive. And if you must drive, then drive the strip.

Take Hollywood Blvd west to Fairfax, and if you get distracted by the tour buses and Hollywood street performers along the way, channel it into a detour that sticks with you: James Dean’s star at Hollywood & Vine.

When you get to Fairfax, go south to Sunset and head west for a daytime drive-by of the strip’s cafes, bars, and clubs. Skip the rooftop pools and cool off inside the Rainbow at the end of the strip.

In its heyday, the Rainbow was the ultimate celebrity-rocker hangout, with regulars like John Lennon, Led Zeppelin, and Guns n’ Roses. Chow down on pizza in a red vinyl booth and channel your favorite band through their picture on the wall.

Strolling Montana Avenue, downtown L.A.
Strolling Montana Avenue, downtown L.A.

Small Pizza $8: Rainbow Bar & Grill, 9015 Sunset Blvd,

Montana Avenue

L.A. is a walking (or driving) contradiction, and nothing contradicts better than the Rainbow and Montana Avenue back to back.

Home of spas, exclusive boutiques, and crosswalks on every block, Montana Avenue’s two lanes creep between 7th and 17th streets and end at Santa Monica’s north bluff.

Browse the shops on Montana, choose a tap from the wall of beers at Father’s Office before it gets too crowded, and meet your significant other at the bluffs.

With Pacific Coast Highway and the Santa Monica roller coaster at your feet, take in the view that never ends, from Malibu to Catalina Island to twenty miles south of LAX. Bring the rose, say what you feel, imprint the visual.

Beer $7: Father’s Office, 1018 Montana Ave (Santa Monica),

Gymnastics on Venice Beach, California.
Gymnastics on Venice Beach, California.

Venice Beach

Start at Windward Circle and walk north through the sand, or start at the Marina Ritz and head west along the boats, but end at the Whaler’s beachfront patio on Washington Pier in Venice Beach.

Tell your friends to meet you there, and if you don’t have friends or a significant other, buy yourself a shot and tell everyone it’s your last night in town.

If you’re lucky, a food truck will show up at midnight, and you can have your pick of the latest fusion tacos.

Before the night ends, walk the pier and listen to the waves, then ask yourself why you’d ever leave.

Shot $5, Taco $3: Venice Whaler Bar & Grill, 10 Washington Blvd,

Ben Hill.


Ben Hill is an LA-based freelance writer.

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