Yes, there are ways to enjoy a long, cheap weekend in LA and Hollywood

Posted September 24, 2013


LOS ANGELES — A getaway in Hollywood, Calif., evokes images of five-star restaurants, high-end shops, and exclusive events.

But even if you’re on a much smaller budget, you don’t need to cross Hollywood off your list of possible destinations. Amidst all the glitz and glamour lay a lot of cheaper options.

“When I first moved to L.A., I never expected to live in Hollywood,” said 2013 college graduate and new Los Angeles resident Julian Malagon. “I thought it would be too expensive, but now that I’ve been living here for a month I have discovered a lot of really cheap places to go”.

FRIDAY: Pollution, Chicken and Waffles

As I coast the winding Mulholland Drive, steep mountains lay on my left and the valley of Los Angeles lay below on my right. A heavy layer of pink smog, laden with desert dust, hovers above the sprawling city. Early morning light illuminates the edges of all things natural and man-made in the distance. The brisk, dryness of the air made it feel deceptively refreshing and clean.

For my first trip in Southern California, I expected pretty people and pretty mountains, but pretty pollution?

Billboards with advertisements for new television shows and movies dotted the roadways. Hollywood stars seemed to line the sidewalks. I was able to get an take note of these details because most of the time I spent in a car, traffic was nearly standstill.

After a morning of gazing at mountainous landscapes (and navigating rush hour traffic), I went to “Roscoe’s Chicken and Waffles.”

Anthony Morrow, the San Franciscan sitting next to me during my flight, said I should visit Roscoe’s.

“I visit L.A. multiple times a month and I always go to Roscoe’s: hands down, the best soul food I’ve ever eaten,” he said without hesitation,

Being from Georgia, I was very doubtful of such high praises of soul food outside of the South. So, I visited Roscoe’s after 10 p.m. and the restaurant was packed. Plates varied in price between $6 and $12, and would rival any fried chicken in my hometown. The simple combination of a fluffy waffle, warm maple syrup, a heaping tablespoon of butter, and a piece of crispy fried chicken formed the best meal I had eaten all month.

SATURDAY: Fancy Fast Food and Fancier Gas Stations

When looking for restaurants in the Beverly Hills area, most were decidedly out of my  price range. But several restaurants I found serve what I always believed to be an oxymoron: gourmet fast food.

Located on the ritzy Beverly Drive in West Hollywood, “Saffron” serves typical Indian cuisine, quickly. The menu is limited to samosas, naan bread, and five curry and masala rice bowls and prices range between $3 and $10 (not too bad considering the restaurants next door served $15 appetizers). My tofu tiki masala bowl arrived at my table in less than 10 minutes and was well worth the drive.

ARCO gas is known in California for being one of the cheaper options for gas, as they offer a 40-cent discount on gas purchases paid in cash. This tip of information is what drew me, via GPS, to the nearest ARCO station. I was amazed. On the corner of West Olympic Boulevard in West Hollywood, just outside of Beverly Hills, was what appeared to be a small modern art museum, not the cheap gas station I had Googled minutes before.

Silver, beveled triangles made up every surface of the structure. For my first time visiting an ARCO gas station I wondered, “are they all like this?” Information pamphlets displayed next to every gas pump explained to me that no, this ultra-modern ARCO station was the one-and-only. The station was designed to be energy-efficient in every way from roof to floor.

A rainwater collection system irrigates the landscaping; solar panels power the lighting; the sunlight-refracting surface prevents excess energy-loss, and the specially engineered gasoline reduces smog emissions. While it may seem crazy to insist on visiting a specific gas station, this ARCO gas station was more of a futuristic energy-efficient museum.

SUNDAY: San Bernadino and U.C.B.

While the previous days had been unseasonably hot, according to some Los Angeles residents I had spoken to, Sunday was quite chilly. The air temperature hovered around 62 degrees for most of the day, and kept most people in jackets and light sweaters. In comparison to the sweltering, dry heat that had been sizzling cars and skin alike in the past few days, the dramatic change in temperature was refreshing.

Early Sunday morning I drove to San Bernardino for the annual hip-hop music festival, “Rock the Bells” in the outdoor, 65,000 capacity San Manuel Amphitheater. The amphitheater is the biggest outdoor amphitheater in the United States and lies in Glen Helen Regional Park.

It was a beautiful hour-long drive on I-210 East from where I was staying in the northern Hollywood suburb of Studio City, to the hills of San Bernardino. The air was cleaner and the suspiciously beautiful pink smog was nowhere in sight. The highway passed through flat suburbs at the base of mountains and curved through desert valleys. Nestled in below rocky mountains in rolling, grassy hills, the amphitheater was just as spectacular as the drive.

At night, I traveled to the Upright Citizens Brigade: a small improve theater in West Hollywood, first established in New York City by comics Amy Poehler, Ian Roberts, and Matt Walsh.  A line stretching down Franklin Avenue lead me to Upright Citizens Brigade’s small lobby with an assortment of cheap beer, soda and snacks.

I was directed to follow a dark, narrow hallway to the stage, where about 90 patrons were seated at stadium benches. During the hour-long show, about 20 comedy skits were presented. The show was funny, and the price of admission was only the strong suggestion of a nominal donation made at the end of the show.

If You Go

Traffic can be very slow during rush hours: plan to add an additional 30 minutes to an hour to travel times.

During early fall, temperatures vary between high 60s and high 90s. Afternoons tend to be very hot while nights tend to be warm with cool breezes. If traveling during this time, be sure to pack a light jacket.

Roscoe’s Chicken and Waffle
1514 N. Gower St.
Los Angeles, CA 90028

230 S. Beverly Dr.
Beverly Hills, CA 90212

Upright Citizens Brigade
5919 Franklin Ave.
Los Angeles CA 90028

ARCO Gas Station
8770 W. Olympic Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90035

San Manuel Amphitheater
2575 Glen Helen PARKWAY
San Bernadino, CA 92407

The San Manuel Amphitheater hosts a wide variety of shows and festivals throughout its operating season of April through November. If an artist you like is coming to the amphitheater during your visit, it is worth a trip out to San Bernardino.

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