In a city that thrives on the creative industry, being “between jobs” is much more common and understood in Los Angeles than basically anywhere else. It’s often a double-edged sword; you have all the time in the world but your finances are limited at best, if existent at all.
As expensive a city as LA can be, it’s also brimming with very cheap or free ways to get the most out of your time between jobs.
1. Free yoga- Finding free yoga in Los Angeles is remarkably easy if you’re willing to look for it. City Yoga in West Hollywood and Studio City offers several free classes a month. In Long Beach, Trilogy Yoga offers free classes daily at the gorgeous Bluff Park overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Yoga classes with suggested donations (usually about $10) or pay-what-you-can policies range from Santa Monica’s Beach Yoga with Brad, Yogala in Echo Park, to Yoga Circle in Downtown’s Old Bank District.
2. Echo Park Lake- Freshly unveiled from construction, the new and much improved Echo Park Lake sports a jogging path just under a mile long in one loop. Although Echo Park is a quickly changing neighborhood, exercise caution after dark. There is usually street parking in the residential streets near the lake.
3. Venice canals- Between Venice and Washington Boulevards, the Venice canals offer a peaceful walk for a sunny afternoon. The trails are too narrow for jogging so it’s best for a slow mosey to check out the wild birds, flowers and vibrant million-dollar homes. Even on weekends, free on-street parking can usually be found on one of the side streets off Washington or past Abbot Kinney on Venice Boulevard South. Enter off Strongs Drive from Washington or Canal Street from Venice.
4. Fitness Zones in LA parks- Ridiculous gym membership fees are no excuse for putting off getting in shape. LA provides free first-come-first-serve workout equipment in more than 25 parks across LA County. If you’ve been scared off by the athletic prowess of Venice Beach’s exercise area, don’t worry about the Fitness Zones; they attract all fitness levels, ages and sizes.
5. Annenberg Beach House- Tucked into the Santa Monica coastline, the Annenberg Beach House was developed by William Randolph Hearst for Marion Davies in the 1920s. Operating as the Sea and Sand Club through the 50s, the estate transferred to the city in 1959 to become the public’s very own beach house. The beach areas, playground, courtyard, splash area and stunning view deck are free and open from 8:30 am to early evening. It’s rarely crowded during the week and is impressively well kept.
6. Runyon Canyon- Everyone knows about Runyon Canyon by now, so the celeb-obsessed tourists and fitness addicts can take it over in droves during busy times. Stick to mid-week hikes and runs and avoid holidays like the plague. Try carpooling or public transportation, as parking has been a longtime issue (and ticketing and towing of cars is at an all-time high).
7. Lake Balboa- The lake may be man-made, but the natural element of the Sepulveda Basin is abundant. Ducks, cranes and butterflies will keep your mind at ease around this 1.3 mile jogging path. You can also fish and rent paddle boats, but judging from the, um, fragrance of the water, you might want to save that for a cleaner lake. Parking is usually easy in the free lots along the park entrance from Balboa Boulevard.
8. The freaking Pacific Ocean- It’s free, it’s beautiful and it’s mind-clearing. Santa Monica and Venice are the most populated spots although if you get there early enough, you’ll still see wild dolphins, seals and pelicans hanging out near the coast. Parking is crazy but if you’re willing to walk a little, you can usually find free street parking less than a mile away.
9. Venice Beach drum circle- Whether you consider your beat to be set to a different drummer or you just like soaking in the nag champa, the Venice Beach drum circle is a local legend. Feel free to bring your own drum, bring your dance moves, or just bask in the eclectic vibes of this free gathering every day at sunset.
10. Last Bookstore’s $1 Book Labyrinth- The Last Bookstore is frequently named as Los Angeles’s best bookstore and it’s easy to see why. With an eclectic mix of used and new books as well as an impressive music and comic book collection, Last Bookstore found a perfect home in the revitalizing Downtown Arts District. On the second floor, wander past local multimedia art pieces through a labyrinth made of stacks of books, all on sale for just $1.
11. Bob’s Big Boy Classic Car Show- If your novel/screenplay/film is influenced by decades past, you might find yourself inspired by being able to literally touch a piece of history. Each Friday, the parking lot of classic diner Bob’s Big Boy in Burbank fills with classic car aficionados eager to show and tell their historic cars. It’s a free event each week from 3pm to 10pm.
12. Griffith Observatory- One of LA’s most beloved city projects, the Griffith Observatory has been around since 1935. Admission is free at all times to the observatory, although the indoor planetarium does charge an entrance fee. Open everyday except for Monday, the best time to visit the observatory is on the first Friday of the month when the Leonard Nimoy Event Horizon space staff gathers for a free program to explain the latest in astronomy science current events.
13. Phillippe- One of the oldest restaurants in Los Angeles is also famous for its bustling atmosphere and low-prices. In 2012, Phillippe’s finally raised the price of its coffee from 9 cents to 45 cents to keep up with the cost of the beans. The crowds get claustrophobically dense on weekend mornings, but it remains in a lively swing during the week.
14. Free Comedy- While the rest of the country is shelling out for comedy club tickets and a two-drink minimum, LA residents are able to revel in free or under $10 comedy every single night of the week. And that’s not even counting open mics. Check out The Comedy Bureau, Splitsider, or just spend a minute on Twitter and you’ll be in the know for the best shows.
15. Background extra- It’s not the most glamorous screen credit, but it’s a great way to be on set and see how it all works. You’ll get paid a modest stipend, maybe make some actor allies, and best of all, you’ll get to tell your mom to look for you in an upcoming movie and if she’s got good eyesight, maybe she’ll even be able to make you out of the crowd. Check out Production Weekly, Craigslist, Mandy and Central Casting. Which brings us to…
16. Central Casting- Central Casting is the one-stop-shop for background work of all shapes and sizes. If you’re an aspiring actor, it’s invaluable for you to be on set and with Central Casting, you’ll probably get paid. If you aspire to be a writer, director, comedian, Director of Photography, or working within any other aspect of the entertainment industry, it can be valuable experience to merely witness the different types of shoots and production styles. Pay those dues and be a gem to work with. That kid getting lattes now could very well end up being tomorrow’s producer.
17. Open Mics- If you are a comedian, writer or musician, go to them. Just go. Go often. These are going to be your colleagues as you move up and those relationships are invaluable. Stay on your awesomest behavior because those two people watching you perform might be your strongest allies down the road. Be nice.
18. Audience Unlimited- If you want to write or direct, this is a totally free way to witness it in action. Yes, it’s very touristy. Swallow your pride and take in each and everything you can learn from it.
19. Production Assistant- Being a PA is one of the best worn paths to working in entertainment. If you’re an aspiring actor, writer or director, it can give you a valuable look behind the scenes. PA positions run the gamut from soul-sucking-misery to more-worthwhile-than-college. Try to sample many short ones early on and take on longer PA stints after you know what working style suits you and what you want to get from the experience. Keep in mind that the best ones will often pay nothing or next to nothing.
20. Internships- No matter what, an internship is valuable. These days, it’s increasingly competitive to get an unpaid internship, let alone a job. If you can get the right internship, it’s worth the financial burden of no pay! For example, will you get to put the name of a major company on your resume? Or have the opportunity to gain legit work experience? Will it allow you to network with others in your field? You’re the only one who can answer this!
21. Learn a New Language- Even the most basic knowledge of a secondary language looks great on a resume. You’re in LA, so having just un poco understanding in Spanish is inteligente, si? You’re in luck. By entering your LA library card number (always free), you can sign in to LA Library’s Mango learning at no cost from your own laptop.
To Sum it Up…
Being without a job can suck. Actually, scratch that– being without a job is pretty great, it’s being without money that is the real problem. But hang in there, keep your head high, and make the most of it. Everyone has growing pains in the first few years. In the meantime, don’t waste your downtime on Facebook. Get out there and make LA work for you!