It’s not just a playground for stars. Here’s how to live large on the cheap in 90210
As a kid growing up in working-class Los Angeles, I thought Beverly Hills was a faraway place reserved for privileged playboys and the Hollywood haves. Rich people lived in Beverly Hills; I watched Beverly Hillbillies on TV. I bought baubles at Target, not Tiffany. And I was in my 20s before I realized that Rodeo Drive wasn’t pronounced like the cowboy cattle-roping event.
As an adult, my tastes have become more sophisticated (though my income, unfortunately, has never quite caught up). I recently said, Oh, what the hell, and planned a Beverly Hills getaway―on my budget. After a weekend of cocktails, shopping, chic restaurants, poolside lounging, and posh digs, I have to say: Even in Beverly Hills, you can get a lot of bang for your buck.
A stylish home base for $175: For my pied-à-terre, I chose the .
Built in 1926 as a residence for silent-film stars, this sleek little 35-room boutique hotel has a prestigious address around the corner from Rodeo Drive and is within walking distance of everything, but with a nightly rate that didn’t make me swoon (compared with the $500-and-up Beverly Hills Hotel).
Bonus: Relaxing on the cushy sofas in the lounge with an indoor-outdoor fireplace feels very swank. From $175; 310/247-0505.
A touch of Hollywood for $10: To get my bearings, I hopped on the for a 40-minute tour.
Okay, so you’ll never be mistaken for a local on this thing, but you get a ride through the leafy, winding roads of the 6-square-mile town.
Our guide burst into occasional song and celebrity impersonations while pointing out landmarks: the Beverly Wilshire (Pretty Woman) Hotel, countless designer stores, and mansions of old-time stars like Clark Gable, Gene Kelly, and Charlie Chaplin. Sat–Sun; Rodeo Dr. at Dayton Way; 310/285-2442.
Next: More ways to feel the star power in Beverly Hills
More ways to feel the star power: Check out vintage photos of icons like Mick Jagger and Marilyn Monroe at (free; 345 N. Canon Dr.; 310/858-7815).
Screen one of the 150,000 historic TV shows and radio or new-media clips at the (closed Mon–Tue; free; 465 N. Beverly Dr.; 310/786-1000).
Or wander the gardens at (free; 905 Loma Vista Dr.; 310/285-6830), a 1920s estate that’s been the scene of society life, high drama, and real-life murder mysteries.
Ogling luxury handbags for free: Caught up in the glamour and glitz, I ducked into Fashionphile, a handbag consignment shop with shelf after shelf of limited-edition, gently worn luxury bags: Vuitton, Chanel, Gucci, Hermès.
It turns out that the term “bargain” is relative in Beverly Hills: Even secondhand, many items (except for a $125 lipstick case) still had four-digit price tags, a steal by Rodeo Drive standards. I decided paying my mortgage was probably smarter. Closed Sun, by appointment Sat; 9551 Wilshire Blvd.; 310/279-1136.
Another place to get in on the glam: Browse the racks at Anat B, a trendsetting, affordable (dresses and tops under $40) boutique with a celebrity clientele. 271 S. Beverly; 310/385-7917.
A decadent treat for $3.25: So a vintage Chanel wasn’t going to happen, but there were plenty of smaller indulgences to be had.
I joined the line snaking along Santa Monica Boulevard to nab one of the famous red velvet cupcakes at .
It claims to be the world’s first cupcake bakery and, with flavors like chai latte and ginger lemon, takes credit for the craze. 9635 Santa Monica Blvd.; 888/220-2210.
An afternoon at the spa for $23: My luxe manicure at skin clinic included a trip to the steam room, after which I was swathed in a plush robe while European nail technicians fussed over my fingers.
I curled up with a cappuccino and cookies on a full-body massage chair in the lounge, lulled by the sound of the indoor waterfall. Closed Sun; reservations required; 449 N. Canon; 310/278-7565.
Next: Budget-friendly cocktails and bites
Drinks by the pool for $5:50: Before 5 p.m., anyone who orders a drink can claim a poolside cabana at the (which has a glam old-Hollywood feel―even Marilyn Monroe stayed here).
I asked for a San Pellegrino in my cabana and then dipped my toes in the hourglass-shaped pool. For the price of a bottle of water, you can party like it’s 1959.
9400 W. Olympic Blvd.; 310/277-5221.
More spots to get a cocktail: Try the happy-hour martinis and budget-friendly appetizers at Luxe Hotel’s Café Rodeo (from $3.60; Mon–Sat; 360 N. Rodeo; 310/273-0300). The outdoor tables on Rodeo have stellar people-watching.
At the Beverly Hilton, Trader Vic’s Lounge is a happening poolside spot for Polynesian pupus and fruity mai tais with floating orchids (pupus from $12; 9876 Wilshire; 310/274-7777).
A swank dinner for two for $50: Nirvana is a haven for the young and glamorous, but the Indian menu stands on its own. Save room for halwa, or carrot pudding.
Afterward, recline with a martini ($6) on a pillow-topped bed in the restaurant’s nightclublike bar. From $50 for two; 8689 Wilshire; 310/657-5040.
More places to grab a bite: Brighton Coffee Shop ($; 9600 Brighton Way; 310/276-7732) has been a popular breakfast spot with locals since 1930.
For lunch, try LA Food Show Grill & Bar ($$; 252 N. Beverly; 310/550-9758), where fusion burgers, salads, sandwiches, wok dishes, and fish tacos reflect the L.A. area’s melting-pot diversity.
A Celebrity sighting for free: My most memorable Beverly Hills moment didn’t cost a cent. As I window shopped along South Beverly Drive, I spotted a tall, tan, handsome gentleman, who smiled and nodded genially. Is that who I think it is?
Yeah, it’s George Hamilton. Priceless.
Getting to Beverly Hills: The city is east of Santa Monica and west of Hollywood and downtown L.A. From LAX, take I-405 north and go east on Santa Monica Boulevard.