20 Secret Bargains of Los Angeles

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You wouldn't know it from all those outward displays of sloth and luxury, but Tinseltown hides a plethora of delicious deals

What a mixed-up town is my L.A.! It's frustrating but delightful, traffic-clogged but blessed with beautiful beaches, polluted but enjoying 329 days of sunshine a year. And amidst its affluence-the awesome shops of Rodeo Drive, the palm-lined boulevards of Beverly Hills-are bargains, remarkable bargains. Here are the money-saving tactics, programs, and products known to struggling young actors, students, and other price-conscious Angelenos:

1. Pass it

The valuable Hollywood CityPass ($69, citypass.com) grants admission to five big attractions (including Universal Studios and a guided driving tour of stars' homes) for a savings of almost $50. For other free information, maps, and recommendations, contact the visitors bureaus (L.A.: 800/228-2452, lacvb.com; Santa Monica: 800/544-5319, santamonica.com).

2. Freeway of love

You don't always have to drive. Although limited, the new Red Line subway (fares starting at $1.35) is great for shuttling to Hollywood or Universal City. You can ride free on the subway by joining the two-hour guided art tours of select stations (213/922-4278, mta.net). Or take a regular MTA bus for as little as $1.35, or the famous Big Blue Bus in Santa Monica for 75> (310/451-5444, bigbluebus.com).

3. My city has fleas

For $7 spend the second Sunday of the month at the budget emporium to top all others-the mind-blowing Rose Bowl Flea Market (1001 Rose Bowl Dr., Pasadena, 323/560-7469, rgcshows.com). Scour miles of jewels and junk in search of anything from a velvet Elvis painting to antique Victrolas.

4. Summer jazz makes me feel fine

Free musical offerings abound in summer, including jazz on Fridays and chamber music on Sundays at the L.A. County Museum of Art (5905 Wilshire Blvd., 323/857-6000, lacma.org); jazz Friday evenings at UCLA's Hammer Museum (10899 Wilshire Blvd., 310/443-7000, hammer.ucla.edu); concerts on Fridays and karaoke on Saturdays at the Farmer's Market (6333 W. Third St., 323/933-9211, farmersmarketla.com); and the Twilight Dance Series every Thursday night in summer on the Santa Monica Pier (Ocean Ave. and Colorado Blvd., 310/458-8900, twilightdance.org).

5. Getty-up

The new, not-to-be-missed Getty Museum (1200 Getty Center Dr., 310/440-7300, getty.edu) is a multimillion-dollar, ultramodern museum complex overlooking the 405 freeway and admission is absolutely free (except for a $5 parking fee, for which you'll need a reservation). The Getty has become one of America's premier museums. UCLA's Hammer Museum (see above), filled with works by Van Gogh, Chagall, and Monet, is free every Thursday. Pasadena's Norton Simon Museum (411 W. Colorado Blvd., 626/449-6840, nortonsimon.org) will run you only $6. The Museum of Tolerance (9786 W. Pico Blvd., 310/553-8403, museumoftolerance.com), which explores the inhumanity of the Holocaust, charges $10, but the fee is well worth such a stirring experience.

6. Shopper's paradise

Canvass some of the city's enclaves to discover hidden treasures, trendy boutiques, and consignment shops: earthy Los Feliz at the base of the Hollywood Hills; soulful Silver Lake; Beverly Hills' posh Rodeo Drive; and the touristy Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica. The L.A. Fashion District is located downtown on and around Los Angeles Street and generally opens to the public for designer sample sales (50 to 80 percent off retail) on the last Friday of the month from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. (cash only; 213/630-3600, fashiondistrict.org/shoppinginformation.html). Bring your own shopping bag, arrive early, and park in the lot on Main Street.

7. The city's a stage

In L.A., theater lives in film's shadow, but unfairly so. There's always a slew of small stage productions for no charge or for as little as $5 listed in the free LA Weekly (laweekly.com). Major venues offer last-minute tickets, including the Geffen Playhouse (10886 Le Conte Ave., 310/208-5454, geffenplayhouse.com), with $15 seats one hour before curtain; and the Mark Taper Forum and Ahmanson Theatre (at the Music Center, 135 N. Grand Ave., 213/628-2772, taperahmanson.com), both with $12 tickets available two hours before showtime (limited nights, cash only, two tickets per customer). Both also offer one "pay what you can" day for each run; call ahead to determine dates.

8. Life's a bowl

The venerable Hollywood Bowl (2301 N. Highland Ave., 323/850-2000, hollywoodbowl.com), nestled in the hills, has been an L.A. staple for more than 80 years. Every summer, thousands of locals bring picnic dinners into this outdoor amphitheater, but few visitors realize that seats can be had for as little as $1 during the week and $3 on weekends for big-name entertainment.

9. Deals for the fans

Grab a seat in the outfield pavilion at Dodger Stadium for just $6 (1000 Elysian Park Ave., 323/224-1448, dodgers.com). Meanwhile, the new Staples Center charges as little as $10 for the Clippers and $22.50 for Kings hockey (1111 S. Figueroa St., 213/742-7340, staplescenter.com).

10. Free TV tapings

Sitcoms, talk shows, and game shows want you! This is Hollywood, after all, home of the largest concentration of TV broadcasts in the world. Tapings provide a rare peek into the inner workings of "the industry," as showbiz is called out here. Even for top-rated shows, seats are completely free, but tickets don't guarantee entry: it's first come, first seated (818/753-3470, tvtickets.com).

11. Dead but not forgotten

For the celeb macabre, check out the real Hollywood haunts, where the stars rest in peace. Burbank's Forest Lawn Hollywood Hills (6300 Forest Lawn Dr.) hosts Lucille Ball, Bette Davis, and Liberace; Marilyn Monroe, Natalie Wood, and Burt Lancaster are interred at Westwood Village Memorial Park (1218 Glendon Ave.); and the remains of Jayne Mansfield, Rudolph Valentino, and the notorious "Bugsy" Siegel are at Hollywood Forever Memorial Park (6000 Santa Monica Blvd.).

12. Discount Disney

Amusement park deals are rare, but check with your employer's human resources department, which may have access to them. Or make nice-nice with a Californian, as residents can often get discounted rates at Disneyland (1313 Harbor Blvd., Anaheim, 714/781-4565, disneylandresort.com), Knott's Berry Farm (8039 Beach Blvd., Buena Park, 714/220-5200, knotts.com), and Universal Studios Hollywood (100 Universal City Plaza, Universal City, 800/864-8377, universalstudios.com).

13. More discounts

Disneyland offers multiday discounts and after 4 p.m., Knott's halves admission. Finally, CityPass (citypass.com) offers dynamite $166 ($127 kids) passes that cover the Disney parks, Knott's, SeaWorld Adventure Park, and the San Diego Zoo.

14. Get funky by the sea

Eclectic Venice Beach and its upscale neighbor, Santa Monica, are the most entertaining and accessible public beaches in L.A., with hawkers, bodybuilders, sidewalk shows, and an array of characters. Metered or free parking is usually available a few blocks away (arrive early), and bicycle and in-line skate rentals start at $6.

15. Asian escapes

Sadly, most tourists never discover the streets of Chinatown and Little Tokyo. The "Garden in the Sky" on the third floor of the New Otani Hotel (120 S. Los Angeles St., 213/629-1200), a half-acre version of the historic 400-year-old garden in Tokyo's New Otani, provides much-needed zen relaxation. Try meditating in the hard-to-find James Irvine Garden, tucked under the Japanese American Cultural & Community Center (244 S. San Pedro St., 213/628-2725). Or roam Chinatown for exotic treats and collectibles.

16. Worldly flavors

L.A.'s melting pot cooks up some of the best food this side of Tokyo or Tijuana. For Asian fare, try all-you-can-eat sushi and shabu-shabu at Todai (12400 Wilshire Blvd., 310/979-8655) for $14.95 weekdays, $15.95 weekends (lunch $12.95); Sawtelle Kitchen (2024 Sawtelle Blvd., 310/445-9288) for fabulous fish with Japanese flair ($9.95 to $11.95); and Ramenya (11555 W. Olympic Blvd., 310/575-9337) for steaming masses of ramen noodles for $5.75. Yang Chow (819 N. Broadway, Chinatown, 213/625-0811) is known for its $12.75 "slippery shrimp." Latin American contributions include $8.95 Cuban roasted garlic chicken or pork with mounds of rice, beans, and plantains at Versailles (1415 S. La Cienega Blvd., 310/289-0392); and Mexican grub with L.A.'s best homemade tortillas at La Caba a in Venice (738 Rose Ave., 310/392-6161) starting at $8.60.

17. Pillow talk

Beverly Laurel Motor Hotel (8018 Beverly Blvd., 323/651-2441; $84/double) is hip, central, and a good value. Casa Malibu Motel (22752 Pacific Coast Hwy., 310/456-2219; $90/double) is an oceanfront address that won't soak you. For ultrabudget, Hostelling International Santa Monica (1436 Second St., 310/393-9913, hiayh.org; from $30 per person) is beside both the beach and Santa Monica's trendy promenade.

18. Seaside galleries

Santa Monica's Bergamot Station (2525 Michigan Ave., 310/829-5854, bergamotstation.com) is a free collection of small galleries, and the Eames Office Gallery (2665 Main St., 310/396-4677, eamesoffice.com) is the world's most important display of Eames furniture.

19. Fancy footwork

The "beautiful people" stay fit on a multitude of hiking trails, including those in expansive Griffith Park (America's largest urban park). Some trails have close-up views of the beloved Hollywood sign-you'll find trail maps at cityofla.org/rap/grifmet/griffith.htm. The Santa Monica Mountains, including Will Rogers State Park and Runyon Canyon, are also local hiking favorites.

20. Unwinding in Santa Monica

Students at the Shiatsu Massage School of California (2309 Main St., 310/396-4877, shiatsumassageschool.com) provide one-hour rubdowns for a measly $30-less than half the norm. Or stretch body and dollar at the pay-what-you-can Power Yoga Center (522 Santa Monica Blvd., 310/281-1170, suggested: $10).

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