The Travel Disaster named Pyra is back(!) and this time in sunny South California for the annual family-trip-that-went-on-hiatus-for-two-years. Visit family-friendly destinations on a budget with us.

Downtown Los Angeles is full of little treasures, but for today our goal was to merely taste as many parts of it within 7 hours… and for free.

Ignoring warnings from L.A. locals such as “Downtown L.A. perfected slow death by traffic boredom” and “Downtown L.A. perfected death by smog inhalation” (common thread?) the V-clan first landed along Miracle Mile– amidst no traffic and clear skies on this Sunday!

MUSEUM ROWMiracle Mile District

A handful of museums and its minions crowd this area. I’m sure the exhibits inside are interesting, but there was enough free things decorating the museums to catch the eye and camera.

The La Brea Tar Pits house sections of bubbling tar. Uhh… what? Like… for roads? Oh– THAT’S why it smells like pavement. Here you can view the bones of animals who became stuck in the tar pits thousands of years ago and see the more recent excavations to learn more about them. Surrounding the main museum, it seems anyone without paid admission could enter the excavation shacks and gaze down at old bones resting inside wells of tar. In between shacks, blankets of grass invited dozens of picnicking families and tempted our flat-Florida sneakers to run in circles over the small hills. A couple performance artists milled around all under the watchful eyes of the large mammoth statues at the entrance who greeted visitors while rising from the pond of molten tar.

Cut through the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA)’s lobby to catch glimpses of the art decorating the room, but it’s the outside art that seemed to draw the camera whores. I battled children through the vertical yellow noodles streaming from the ceiling (I forgot the artist), modeled against the dozens of street lamps from Chris Burden‘s Urban Light, and escaped the hovering two-floors high giant boulder from Michael Heizer‘s Levitated Mass. Really– it’s fun!

Between Chris Burden's "Urban Light" Behind me is Heizer's "Levitated Mass"


Humans on the loose! Those few blocks along famous Hollywood Blvd were exhibitions of humanity at its celebrity-crazed best. The sidewalk itself is a game of Frogger as tourists wade through river rapids of other tourists trying to get to their treasured destination… and there’s MANY of destinations.  And it’s totally FREE to ogle (from the outside).

Here’s just a few:
– The 4-floored H&H shopping center with its rounded courtyard. Humans scrambled over each other to take pictures of the Hollywood sign in the distance.
– photos next to dozens of costumed characters (a few Batmans, a couple Michael Jacksons… even someone dressed as a flashlight). Please tip the poor actors before taking their picture.
– glancing down at the sidewalk stars along the Hollywood Walk of Fame
– Looking up at the Grauman’s Chinese Theater architecture
– looking down at the footprints, hand prints and etches of the famous past forever cemented into the sidewalk in front of the theater
– look up at the Dolby Theater and pretend it’s Oscar night. You’ll have to pretend really hard because the outside is SO unglamorous when not dressed up with the red carpet.
– And of course, there’s the Wax Museums (yes TWO), shopping, eating, theaters and people stopping randomly in front of you to take a picture of the sky. Your neck will hurt from always looking up then down


This is a farmer’s market? What happened to the typical 10×10 foot tents? Naturally, L.A.’s version of a Farmer’s Market consists of scores of permanent stalls pitching everything from sushi, Brazilian food, hot sauce, newspapers and more. It’s a maze and space in between stalls are limited, but the heart of a regular farmer’s market is still there in the homemade freshness of goods offered.

A few food stalls from the Farmer's Market
A few food stalls from the Farmer’s Market

Food-wise, no stall will please everybody so I recommend splitting everyone up to chase their food dream before meeting together at the scattered tables. There’s no roof so the gorgeous California weather streams into the market.

The Farmer’s Market is bumped against The Grove – best described as a somewhat upscale, nicely landscaped shopping plaza filled with familiar stores and restaurants. Its current claim to fame stems from its close proximity to NBC studios– often The Grove acts as Mario Lopez’s background when he plays host in Extra. Another draw are the Bellagio-styled dancing fountains– no coincidence as both are designed by the same firm.

Shopping at The Grove
Shopping at The Grove

Okay– so I only scraped the surface from each of these attractions– I didn’t uncover any local secrets or had any epiphanies upon entering a store. But I had fun! And isn’t Los Angeles itself known for being a little shallow anyway? So experience bits of L.A. without spending a cent, and don’t feel guilty as you join the rest of the zoo-manity.

Click on my pictures to take a photo trip through Downtown Los Angeles with me.

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