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Exploring Los Angeles and Santa Barbara on a Budget

My Dad’s from Southern California and his parents lived in Pasadena just outside of Los Angeles. We lived with my grandparents for a few years when I was young and then lived in another house in Pasadena. I remember playing at Lacy Park with my Mom, sister, and friends, visiting Fair Oaks Pharmacy with my Grandma, visiting the gardens of Huntington Gardens and more. On the weekends, or when LA got too hot and smoggy, we’d escape two hours north to my grandparent’s bungalow beach house in Carpinteria, just ten minutes south of Santa Barbara. There we’d spend all day playing on the beach, enjoy burgers with a beachside view at Padaro Grill, stroll in and out of shops on State Street and spend our allowance on candy at Robitaille’s Candy. Wonderful memories! I wanted to share some of these experiences with Jason, so we booked a flight to Los Angeles and rented a car and explored on a budget.

48 Hours of Fun in Los Angeles and Pasadena on a Millennial’s Budget

We flew into Los Angeles International Airport at about 9am PST. We rented a car from Budget (it was about $30/day…make sure you google for coupon codes) and quickly went in search of breakfast. We’d wanted to check out the Silver Lake area, so stopped at Millie’s Cafe on Sunset Blvd. I had some eggs and toast. I think Jason had some kind of veggie omelet. We both had a lot of coffee since we’d been awake since 4am!

brunch at millie's cafe silver lake
Waiting for breakfast at Millie’s.

After breakfast, we hopped back in the rental car and started going up and down the steep hills of Silver Lake. Just exploring. At one point, we were going up a super steep road and Jason accidentally kneed the gear shifter and threw into neutral. Terrifying! I slammed on the brakes and we recovered, but I think I had nightmares about rolling backward through LA. Before we left, my Dad mentioned a famous architect’s house in Silver Lake-the Richard Neutra house. While we were there, we figured we’d stop by. It’s only open on certain days and it wasn’t our lucky day, we checked out the outside and then walked on the trails at the Silver Lake Reservoir across the street.

Silver Lake, Los Angeles
silver lake reservoir
Silver Lake Reservoir
Richard Neutra silver lake
Visiting Richard Neutra’s house in Silver Lake

I wanted to show Jason where we’d lived in Southern California, so we hopped in the car and scooted over to Pasadena and San Marino. We visited my grandparent’s former house, the house where our nuclear family lived and then decided it was time to do some outdoor adventuring. Since we were already in Pasadena, we picked Eaton Canyon for some exploring. It was late August at about 3pm. Not the best time to go hiking, but we brought water and found a waterfall at the end of the trail.

san marino ca house
In front of Grandma and Grandpa’s house in San Marino.
In front of our Pasadena duplex, just south of Colorado Blvd.
pasadena eaton canyon hiking
Hiking at Eaton Canyon in Pasadena.
eaton canyon pasadena
Very hot and dry at Eaton Canyon!

Here are some pics of how Eaton Canyon looks when LA gets rain!

After hiking about 4 miles at Eaton Canyon, we drove over to Santa Monica to check into our Airbnb. I’d been trying to figure out where to stay in Santa Monica on a budget and found a cute little standalone room and bathroom right at Montana and 21st St with free parking for about $80/night. The host was really friendly and answered all of our questions, but also gave us some privacy. We had our own private entry and it was nice not having to check in and out. Plus, we were only about 2 miles from the beach! After dropping our bags, we went down to the main Santa Monica shopping, dining and entertainment area called the 3rd Street Promenade and walked around. We couldn’t decide on a place to eat and ended up just stopping for pizza (our favorite) at 800 Degrees on 2nd St then heading back to the Airbnb.

budget santa monica airbnb
Private patio at the Santa Monica Airbnb.

We asked our host where we could get coffee and breakfast in the morning and she recommended a place called Sweet Lady Jane, just around the corner from the Airbnb. We walked there the next morning and enjoyed checking out the fancy Santa Monica homes on our walk over. Sweet Lady Jane was cute but expensive! We each got a coffee and I got a croissant and Jason got a muffin and it was like $20! Guess they have to pay rent too. ūüėČ We had excellent service and the busboy even offered to give us a coffee to go. We left a $10 tip on the table.

sweet lady jane bakery santa monica
Enjoying a coffee and pastry at Sweet Lady Jane in Santa Monica.

After breakfast, brushing our teeth and slathering on sunblock, we drove over to the Griffith Observatory to see the views of LA and do some hiking.¬† From the Griffith Observatory website: “Southern California‚Äôs gateway to the cosmos! Visitors can look through telescopes, explore exhibits, see live shows in the Samuel Oschin Planetarium, and enjoy spectacular views of Los Angeles and the Hollywood Sign.” Plus, it was featured in a dance scene in the movie La La Land. It was so smoggy that day that we really couldn’t see much, but Jason still took some great photos:

Cool car in the Griffith Observatory parking lot
Cool car in the Griffith Observatory parking lot.
Griffith Observatory smoggy view.
Griffith Observatory smoggy view.
Griffith Observatory at night.
Griffith Observatory at night.

The Griffith Observatory is surrounded by the huge, 4,000+ acre, Griffith Park, which was originallyColonel Griffith J. Griffith’s private property and then he donated it to Los Angeles for public parkland. There are lots of trails, an outdoor theater, a bird sanctuary, and even equestrian trails. We walked around the bird sanctuary and spotted a coyote. I got nervous the coyote would attack and carried around this stick. Lol. The coyote was probably just looking for water. Look at how dry it was!

griffith park bird sanctuary
Walking around the Griffith Park Bird Sanctuary with my coyote battle stick.

We got back to the Airbnb from Griffith Park and decided it was time to try scootering! We were both new to it and had to figure out what we were doing. Haha. Jason brought his bike helmet on the trip for bicycling and figured it’d be a smart idea to wear it on the scooters. I didn’t have a helmet, so I just rode very slowly with one leg hanging off the edge in case of an emergency ejection.

We scootered down Santa Monica residential streets to the beach and jumped in the water. We sat in the warm sand and air-dried as the sun lowered in the sky. Once dry, we walked over to the Santa Monica Pier and ended up watching some pretty amazing street performers doing gymnastics. We gave them $20. Ha. Tourist alert! My phone died while we were scootering, so I couldn’t borrow another scooter to get back to the Airbnb. Jason dialed up an Uber and we got home in about 5 minutes. We went to a place called Father’s Office for dinner and shared a burger, fries and beer. It was hopping! Definitely a trendy place to be.

After hiking, scootering, swimming and dining, we were pooped and hit the hay pretty hard. The next morning, Saturday, we packed up at the Airbnb and met my childhood best friend, Kayleigh, for breakfast at Bread & Porridge on Wilshire Blvd. It was great to catch up with her and hear about her experience living in LA. After lots of laughs and reminiscing, we said goodbye and started on our way north to Santa Barbara.

bread & porridge santa monica
Meeting with Kayleigh outside of Bread & Porridge in Santa Monica.

A Fun, Affordable, Weekend in Santa Barbara

Before getting to Santa Barbara, we stopped in the sleepy, little, beach town of Carpinteria where I’d grown up playing on the beaches. We drove down Linden Ave and I pointed out our favorite candy shop, burger joint and the local campground. We turned right onto 3rd St and I asked Jason to take my pic in front of our family’s former beach house. It was about 3pm by then and we decided to go for a swim. We parked the car, changed in the public restroom and rented some boogie boards from a vendor on the beach for $5/hour. We swam out to the floating rafts and looked back to see the mountains, palm trees, and sandy beach. It brought back so many wonderful memories of playing with my sister, Mom, Dad and family friends.

Linden Ave in Carpinteria
Linden Ave in Carpinteria
Carpinteria State beach
Carpinteria State Beach
3rd st carpinteria
Standing in front of the family beach house on 3rd St in Carpinteria.
carpinteria ca beach
Playing in the sand in Carpinteria.

We dusted off the beach sand, put our clothes back on and drove up Highway 101 to Santa Barbara. We stayed in a very affordable Airbnb room right near downtown for about $80/night. It seemed like the house had been purchased strictly for Airbnb. It was big, and newly remodeled, with each room being rented out. Guests were supposed to share the kitchen and bathroom, but the house was very quiet and private and the host wasn’t even there. Guests could also rent bikes for like $15/day. We checked out Santa Barbara Brewing Co for dinner and shared pizza, salad and a few beers.

On our last day of the trip, we each did our own thing in the morning. Jason rented a road bike and road up the infamous Gibraltar Road known for cycling. I took the rental car and drove over to More Mesa and jogged along the coast to UC-Santa Barbara. We met up at the Airbnb afterward to shower and relax for a bit. Then we drove down to a family favorite, Padaro Grill, and ate dinner at sunset looking out over the Pacific. The next morning, Monday, we packed up and drove back to LA to catch our afternoon flight home. It was a fun, short, trip and we saw and did a lot! Will have to come back and see even more places.

cycling gibraltar santa barbara
Jason’s view from cycling up Gibraltar in Santa Barbara.
padaro grill santa barbara
Last Santa Barbara dinner at Padaro Beach Grill.
santa barbara views
Santa Barbara views.

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