Beverly Hills For the Rest of Us

Biking through the posh neighborhoods of Beverly Hills, California. photos by Malea Ritz.
Biking through the posh neighborhoods of Beverly Hills, California. photos by Malea Ritz.

Beverly Hills has more than Gucci and Rodeo Drive, you can bike there too!

By Malea Ritz

Here we were, two broke college students heading to Beverly Hills California.

Was it really possible that we could financially support ourselves out there for a few days? It was definitely a risk we were willing to take.

After so many years of watching movies, TV shows and other references to this famous city, it was time for us to see it up close and in person.

A million dollar Bugatti Veyron on Rodeo Drive.
A million dollar Bugatti Veyron on Rodeo Drive.

Pre-Trip Preparation

Once we had made up our mind to give Beverly Hills a try, we needed to find cheap plane tickets to get us there. We were able to secure a $300 round trip rate through Orbitz only a few weeks prior to our trip, which was set for the end of May.

Once the flights are taken care of, you’ll need to do a little bit of financial planning. It’s recommended to set aside a good amount of money for tips. Between the luggage assistance, valet, tour guides, etc., etc., it adds up.

In Beverly Hills, everyone waits on you hand and foot and big tips are certainly expected.

As for clothing, pack whatever is most comfortable for your day ventures, with a little more formal attire for the evenings. If you plan on the bike tour, as we did, be sure to pack sneakers and athletic clothes.

The pool at the Avalon Beverly Hills. A few too many locals squeeze out the guests!
The pool at the Avalon Beverly Hills. A few too many locals squeeze out the guests!

Although we were spoiled by receiving transportation from a limousine from the Wilshire Limousine Services at LAX, most people do not have this luxury.

For the travelers under 25 like myself and my boyfriend, renting a car was not an option. For those of us with this issue, cab fares from LAX to Beverly Hills usually run around $40.

Once you’ve arrived in Beverly Hills, local transportation is a breeze. For the most part, everything is in close proximity, so walking is a great way to get around to some of the tourist favorites and downtown gems.

A Ghost Town

However, at night Beverly Hills is a ghost town. Luckily, public transportation can get you to Santa Monica or Hollywood, where things are a lot more happening after hours.

A bus ride only costs $1.50, so it’s a great cost-efficient way to do a little exploring if you don’t mind dealing with the unique people that only public transportation can provide you with.

If you have an iPhone, the pre-loaded Maps app is a lifesaver and can get you anywhere you want to go by foot, car or bus. We would have been lost without it.

The Avalon Hotel

Conveniently located 15 minutes from Rodeo Drive, the Avalon Hotel in Beverly Hills combines the best of a ‘50s vintage feel with a modern spin. With its light slate blue and white color scheme and unique furniture, the atmosphere feels like it has one foot in the past and one foot in the future.

The hotel has an indoor lobby and Italian restaurant on the first level, with an outdoor pool area and motel-style wrap around rooms overlooking the pool. The staff is very friendly and accommodating and more than happy to help assist with any of your needs.

Costumes from TV shows and movies at the Paley Center.
Costumes from TV shows and movies at the Paley Center.

For $260 a night, a queen bed and spacious room is all yours. With a clean room and comfortable bed, there are no complaints on this end.

Crowded Pool Scene

The only part of our hotel stay at the Avalon that was a little strange for me was our visit to the pool. During the day and into the night the pool area is crowded with California locals using the space for parties and get-togethers.

The crowd is aged about 18-40 at the oldest, is dressed in their upscale pool-side party wear and takes up nearly all of the cabana and lounge space. The pool closes at 6 p.m. nightly so the parties continue well into the evening.

The crowd seemed a little judgmental to outsiders, making any poolside visits sometimes uncomfortable. Drinks and poolside snacks are available to many, although we seemed to be the only ones at the pool not offered any.

As long as you’re not planning to spend all of your time by the pool, the rest of the hotel experience is great.

Beverly Hills Restaurants

For restaurant choices in this pricey city, we used iPhone apps like Yelp and Urbanspoon.

A great place we found for breakfast is the Original Brooklyn Water Bagel Company on 262 South Beverly Drive. Although the place is formally called the “original,” the original location is actually in Beverly Hills. This breakfast spot has a diner feel with a twist; customers order at the counter and bring to the booths to eat.

The large variety of bagels are served plain, in sandwiches, and as pizzas, allowing lunch options as well since the restaurant is open until 5 p.m. Multiple types of unique coffee and fresh juices are available.

The restaurant even has the ingenious “coffee cubsta,” a machine with ready-made coffee cubes to prevent watering down your iced coffee. It’s a good place to grab breakfast to go or enjoy a sit-down meal.

The farmers market in Beverly Hills.
The farmers market in Beverly Hills.

Sharky’s Mexican Grill

For lunch, a great place to get a quick Mexican meal for cheap is Sharky’s Woodfired Mexican Grill on 435 North Beverly Drive. Greeting you with a smile as soon as you walk in the door, Sharky’s staff instantly makes you feel welcome and at home.

Aside from its top hits music, the bright red, yellow and orange colors and décor give the space an authentic feel. All of its ingredients are organic and fresh so you can feel good about splurging on a large meal, without feeling guilty about the price.

Everything is under $10! You can’t beat that. With a fresh salsa bar, there is a large variety of sauces to choose from to add a little extra flavor to your meal. Juices with fresh fruit and tasty teas are also available and delicious options to accent your meal.

Customers order at the counter, choose a seat and when the food is ready it is brought straight to your table. Sharky’s is great for an inexpensive, quick, and filling meal.

Check the Prices Before you Order

Dinner is often the most expensive meal, so it’s important to check the prices when you’re on a budget before you commit to a restaurant. Luckily, despite the expensive location, some restaurants manage to provide affordable food in convenient locations.

Located just to the left lobby of the Avalon Hotel, Oliverio is an Italian restaurant that extends the elegance and vintage feel of the Avalon both indoor and outdoor the restaurant. With its faced-paced service and authentic Italian menu, this restaurant is a great option for breakfast, lunch or dinner.

While for some, $14-38 may seem on the pricier end of the spectrum, this is actually some of the most inexpensive cuisine available in Beverly Hills for the same high-priced quality. At Oliverio, customers can order from a straightforward, yet the gourmet list of appetizers, pizza, pasta, risotto, fish, meats and classic Italian desserts.

Whether enjoying a meal by the pool under the heaters or inside by candlelight, this restaurant has an enjoyable, relaxing atmosphere that entrances its guests and satisfies their stomachs.

A Sprinkles Cupcake, bought from an ÁTM
A Sprinkles Cupcake, bought from a vending machine.

For a more exotic cuisine on a budget, Momed Restaurant on 233 South Beverly Drive, short for modern Mediterranean, is a great find. With a menu of hot and cold appetizers, soup and pitas, salads, house plates, sides, pizza, wraps and a kids menu, items range in price from $6 to $24. With a full additional page of beverages,

Momed has an extensive selection of Mediterranean wine, beer, espresso, coffee and teas. When you think there might be a little room left for dessert, go for it. Momed has some tasty Mediterranean treats worth making room for.

Momed also offers take-out so if you’re in need of a lunch or dinner on the go, this restaurant is a great choice. The atmosphere is a little more casual than the majority of dinner spots in the area, but that doesn’t mean they skimp on food quality by any means. There is outdoor seating available to do a little people watching and enjoy the crisp night air.

Cupcakes in an ATM

Want some dessert but don’t want to have to wait in line for a tasty treat? At Sprinkles Cupcakes, there’s no wait necessary! Customers can go straight inside to the bakery or simply get a cupcake from the outdoor cupcake vending machine.

Sampling fruit at the Sunday farmer's market in Beverly Hills.
Sampling fruit at the Sunday farmer’s market in Beverly Hills.

With a fun little song, the machine presents a live video feed inside the machine as it snatches the cupcake from inside the store and transports it through the machine and out the end as the front opens to reveal a cupcake in a small brown box, garnished with a brown sticker, advertising the fun Sprinkles logo.

With a seemingly endless list of flavors that vary weekly, there is definitely something for everyone.

Next door, Sprinkles recently opened up a matching ice cream shop with similar flavors of gourmet ice cream to complement a tasty cupcake.

A cupcake is four dollars, and I can’t quite remember how much the ice cream was because I was more focused on eating it.

One cupcake and you’ll be hooked! Might as well grab the ice cream to go with.

Activities in Beverly Hills

First and foremost, if you are going to go to Beverly Hills, you need to stop by Rodeo Drive. While there is most definitely nothing available on this street for travelers on a budget, there is always room for a little window shopping and car eye candy.

With a seemingly endless avenue of designer stores and multiple million-dollar cars lining the streets, it is difficult not to drool. Hey, you can dream, can’t you?!

Just down the street from Rodeo Drive, the Paley Center for Media sits on the end of the block at 465 North Beverly Drive. Warner Brothers premiered their newest exhibit, “Television Out of the Box” at the media museum not long ago.

The company donated many of their TV props to the center to be placed on display inside. The continuously changing exhibit shows costumes from “Two and a Half Men,” “The Sopranos,” to “Alice” and “West Wing.” For $10, you can spend as much time as you like drooling over the artifacts from your favorite shows.

A Beverly Hills mansion on the bike tour of the city.
A Beverly Hills mansion on the bike tour of the city.

You can even take pictures in the famous Seinfeld booth. There is a theme song sing-along to help guests reminisce some of the TV classics.

With a history in a media resources, the Paley Center for Media still serves as both a fun exhibit and a useful resource for those looking to do a little research or just catch up on an old TV show.

The museum has TV and radio programs on record from years back, available at your request. For a full tour of the exhibit and the museum’s resources, ask for Martin. For those not so fond of museums like myself, this one is definitely worth seeing.

The contents of the museum are scheduled to change periodically to keep the visitors intrigued and returning.

Bikes Hikes and Ecotourism

Located right in West Hollywood, the Bikes and Hikes Ecotourism Company is new in its kind, creating a different kind of tourism in a city dominated by cars. Equipped with a bike, helmet, and water bottle, you are off on Santa Monica Blvd, dodging cars and beginning the sometimes challenging bike ride up the hills of side streets.

While it seemed that many of the destinations are to deceased celebrities’ homes or current celebrities’ ex-homes, the tour was still a fun way to see the city and get some exercise. For those that aren’t exactly athletic, I might recommend a regular trolley tour, unless you’re willing to accept the challenge. Personally, 12 miles and three hours up and down those famous hills were a little too draining for me.

This tour is a little on the pricier side for $68, but if you’re adventurous and want a unique way to see the city, it’s well worth it. Kim is a great guide and will keep you entertained and alert. For a rare glimpse inside Beverly Hills’ freshest foods, stop by the farmers market, open on Sundays 9 a.m.-1 p.m. just by the town hall near 455 North Rexford Drive.

Follow the signs around town until you find them. While it’s not great for a full breakfast, there is a plethora of fresh fruit available to sample or purchase.

As for a full lunch, it’s a different story; there’s plenty to choose from hot off of the grill. The sound of the sizzle and the smell of juices is enough to make your mouth water. Live entertainment accents the market, providing a little background music to make your food shopping even more enjoyable.

A Trip Worth Taking

Don’t let the luxe lifestyle scare you from taking a vacation in Beverly Hills. There is more than enough to keep you entertained on a budget. We spent three days and two nights, which didn’t seem to be long enough; there was so much more we wanted to explore.

Malea Ritz, GoNOMAD Editorial Assistant.

Malea Ritz is a former editorial assistant at GoNOMAD and a graduate of UMass. She edited the Travel News Notes blog.

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