Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Spa Discounts

Everyone deserves a massage or facial, right? You're in L.A.! Of course, cost for these services can get in the way of the California dream, which is why there's Spa Week, which runs April 13 to 19. At a wide variety of day spas, including some fancy ones on the Westside and in Beverly Hills, you can receive some selected treatments for just $50. And you can find deals on some more expensive services.

Mamma Mia! on Sale

You've seen the musical, and the movie, now how about seeing the musical again? A traveling company doing Mamma Mia! is at the Pantages in Hollywood and seats are discounted April 7 to the 19th. Buy through ticketmaster.com with the promotional code BLA15M and you'll get $15 off per ticket at select performances.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Baseball in L.A.

With some of our beautiful Spring days, it's an ideal time to catch a ball game. Here are two of my favorite cheap ways to see a game:

Dodgers--Plan on seeing a weekend afternoon game. One of the best places to sit is in the upper deck between the dugouts. Sure, you're way up high, but you also have a perfect view of the entire field (and you're not paying $35 a seat to be lower, but much farther down the foul line. Tickets for the upper deck are around $9. Stadiums are known for having tasty, but expensive food. I take everyone to historic Phillipe's ( 1001 N. Alameda St., downtown) for a late breakfast. Of course, Phillipe's is known for their amazing sandwiches, but they've also got incredible and reasonable breakfasts. And you can' t beat the price of their coffee: 9 cents.

Angels--The team has a series of "Family Fun Packs" each season for particular games which include four tickets, four hot dogs and four small drinks. For seats in the upper-upper level, the package is $39. Packages with seats in the lower-view area are $51, making these quite a bargain. Parking here is usually a bargain too, lots across the street from the stadium charge as little as $5.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Fun on the Pier

Santa Monica's iconic Pacific Park on the pier got a new ferris wheel recently, and at twilight it provides some of the best views of the L.A. coastline. The park also features a chilling roller coaster that seemingly threatens to toss you into the ocean, lots of kiddie rides, a historic carousel, carnival games and a marine biology museum just outside the entrance. Unlimited ride wristbands are normally $17 for people over 42 inches tall, $9 for those below that mark. With a coupon available online, you can save 15%.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

A Cheap Disney Vacation

Can a family of four enjoy a Disneyland vacation over a holiday for under $1,000? Let's say two adults and two kids are looking over Memorial Day weekend, May 22-25, for their vacation. They arrive late in the afternoon on Friday, roam through Downtown Disney and walk through the Grand California Hotel to the Whitewater Snacks counter for dinner. There the adults get sandwiches and the kids share chicken tenders ($37 with tax).

They head to the Alamo Inn & Suites on Katella Avenue across from the resort that they booked on Hotels.com for $50/night, which includes two double beds, refrigerator, microwave and free wireless connections in the lobby. Three nights: $150

On Saturday morning, the family walks a half-block to Denny's for breakfast ($22) then over to the Disneyland gate for tickets. Now a good majority of Disneyland visitors buy their tickets online and they buy the "park-hopper" passes for multiple days, which allows them to go from Disneyland to California Adventure on the same day. However, our family decides that because they're on a budget and because their young kids can only deal with so much stimulation in a day, they buy the single park day tickets for Disneyland, the main attraction in the visit ($256 for two adults and two kids). They brought some snacks for the kids to munch on, and they have an early dinner at the Rancho del Zocalo restaurant in Frontierland, sharing a couple of their large entrees, as well as four drinks and churros for dessert. $40.

On Sunday, they head to the Whitewater Snacks counter again for rolls, muffins, coffee and milk ($20) then buy single-day tickets for California Adventure ($256). For a late lunch, they head to the PCH Grill at the Paradise Pier Hotel for burgers and drinks, making sure they show their AAA card to get 10% off. ($37) then ice cream in the evening ($20).

Monday morning they splurge on the brunch at the Disneyland Hotel's Goofy's Kitchen, remembering again to show their AAA card for 10% off. ($78). They do another walk through of Downtown Disney then head for home. Of course, their kids need something to something to remember the trip, so they spend a total of $50 on souveniers. Grand total: $966.

Of course, this doesn't include transportation to Anaheim. If they're within 100 miles, the $34 left over should pay for gasoline. If they're farther away, let's just say they used one of our favorite sites for airline deals Airfare Watchdog. Then they used Hotwire to pick up a cheap rental car or took a shuttle down to the resort area. So, in all likelihood, they spent more than $1,000, but compare that to some of the vacation packages that are advertised and you'll see you can do Disneyland much cheaper.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Free (or Cheap) Museums in L.A.

Of course, a trip to the Getty Museum and the Getty Villa is a cheap must when you're in Southern California, but there are plenty of other cultural attractions in L.A. that won't break your wallet. For instance:

California African American Museum--Located in Exposition Park near downtown, you can find amazing photography, art and history about the area's African-American community.

California Science Center--Also in Exposition Park, they have some amazing exhibits for children and an IMAX theater (you have to buy tickets for the shows).

Fowler Museum--Situated on the UCLA campus, the Fowler features cutting edge art and photography from around the globe.

Hammer Museum--Located near UCLA in Westwood Village, the Hammer is known for its dynamic, challenging exhibits. Thursdays are free, otherwise adults are $7 and kids 17 and under are free.

L.A. Fire Department Museum--A must for any fire department geek, there are two locations, one in Hollywood and one in San Pedro that features fire boats. These museums are only open Saturdays, but they're fun and informative for both kids and their parents.
Paley Center for the Media--Also known as the Museum of Television, this center's collection of old TV shows and memorabilia in the heart of Beverly Hills is a fun way to break up your day.

Santa Monica Museum of Art--Home to some amazing traveling exhibits and known for their special programs.

Traveltown--If there's a train buff in your group, a trip to Traveltown in Griffith Park is essential. You can walk through antique locomotives and passenger cars and kids can ride a small train around that park.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Hotel Deals in L.A.

With the economy tanking, there's fear that this will be a devastating year in the hospitality industry. So, enter Expedia's Spring Break. Select a participating hotel from their package and you'll get a 3rd, 4th or 5th night free. The L.A. hotels range from the Burbank Ramada Inn at $66/night (3rd night free) to the swanky Avalon in Beverly Hills for $259 (4th night free). Around Disneyland, there's the Carousel Inn for $111 (3rd night free) to the old Jolly Roger for $88 (3rd night free). You have to book it by April 9 and start travel by May 15. The site promises more deals on April 9.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Discount Greens Fees

If you want to take a swing at an L.A. golf course while on vacation, cheaply of course, here are a few options:

Rancho Park--Located on Pico in West L.A., this is one of the premier public courses in the U.S. It's been the site of PGA tournaments over the years and many of the game's greats have been challenged by its design. It's also the course where you're most likely to run into a star or two, with Fox Studios across the street. For 18 holes on a weekday when the crowds are fewer, it's $31 for non residents and $26 if you've got an L.A. address, not including rental clubs or a cart. They also have discounts for twilight golf and 9-hole. Call for reservations 310-838-7373.

DeBell--Perched in the Burbank hills, DeBell is a scenic, challenging course with a range of holes. It's probably best played on clear days in the spring and fall when you can get a nice view of the surrounding valley. Weekday greens fees are $25 for non residents, $18 if you live in Burbank. Call 818-845-0022 for reservations.

Scholl Canyon--A truly unforgiving 18-hole executive course with great views of downtown from the Glendale foothills. Greens fee is normally $26 midweek, however, by going to golfnow.com you can find a tee time that fits your schedule for as little as $12.50.

Balboa--Located in the Sepulveda Basin in Encino near the iconic L.A. River dam (once you see it, you'll recognize it since it's been the site of countless movie and TV chase scenes) the Balboa course is long and mean. If you're planning to tackle it in summer, remember this is the Valley, it regularly gets 100 degrees and above (or at least it feels like it) so you'll want to schedule a tee time early or late. Weekday greens fees are $31 for non residents and $26 for residents of L.A. Call for reservations 818-995-1170.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Getting Around Without Wheels, Part I

L.A. has many things going for it, but public transportation isn't one of them. Unlike some of the great cities of the world, you really do need a car to navigate around the Southern California since the attractions are so spread out and our public transportation system is so rudimentary compared to cities like New York, San Francisco, London, etc.

However, lots of visitors do get around without a car and while it may not be the most convenient way to travel, it can be done. Here's the first in our series on tips for getting around L.A. without a car:

The MTA--The Metropolitan Transportation Authority in L.A. manages the bus and rail network in Los Angeles county. Much maligned, it does transport millions to jobs, schools and attractions, and during last summer's gasoline crunch it helped out many who sought a cheaper way to get somewhere.

The basic fare is $1.25, and a day pass will run you $5. A weekly pass $17. You can get just about anywhere on the MTA, it's just going to take you longer than if you're driving. For example, on their excellent trip planner, say you wanted to go from Santa Monica's Third Street Promenade to Universal Studios on a weekday, arriving at around 10:00 a.m. You'd take a 920 Red Line Bus at 8:46 (which has fewer stops) up to Wilshire and Vermont, transfer to the Red Line Subway and take that up to Universal, arriving at 10:00. The journey in a car at that time of day? Probably 45 minutes. So you can get where you want to, but you've got to add time to your itinerary.

One advantage you may have by going on the MTA is their Desination Discounts program. By showing your Day Pass or Metro Rail ticket, you can get several discounts in the area including:

* Free admission to the El Cid flamenco show on Sunset in Hollywood.

* $15 off general admission at Universal Studios.

* 50% off the ISU World Skating Championships at Staples Center.

Overall, if time is short you're better off with your own car. But if you have to bus it, it can be done.

Medieval Times for Free

If you're around the Disney/Knott's area this month and don't have plans for the evening, you might consider taking the kids to Medieval Times in Buena Park. Through March 31, you can get one free child/teen ticket (18 and under) with each paying adult. That's a savings of up to $54 per ticket. To get this offer call them at 888-935-6878 and mention code KTF09-LAT.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Whale Watching

If you're burned out on theme parks and tired of traffic during your vacation, consider whale watching. It's a once-in-a-lifetime experience to see massive gray whales on their annual migration south to Mexico during the spring. Boats leave from Marina del Rey, L.A. Harbor, Long Beach and Newport Beach. Expect to pay $15-$30 for a two to three-hour excursion.