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Los Angeles: the land of macrobiotic diets, turmeric smoothies, seaweed snacks and starving (literally and figuratively) Hollywood types, but those are just clichés. In truth, L.A. is a crazy good food city and the culinary epicenter of this madcap, sprawling melting pot is Downtown Los Angeles (aka DTLA), the city’s central business district and walkable inner core, which is home to more than 60,000 residents, a half million workers and a booming revitalization. Here is where you’ll find hipster hotels, highbrow museums, Art Deco icons, tucked-away speakeasies, late-night raves, a million bus and subway stops and a food scene that has become the envy of Southern California. Not all meals cost an arm and a leg; here are ten downtown lunches that won’t bust your bank.

RELATED: The 10 most beautiful spots in San Francisco

Amazebowls, Arts District, DTLA, Los Angeles, acai bowl, cheap eats

Amazebowls | Photo by Jason Heidemann

1. Amazebowls

This teeny super food and healthy treat outpost serves up smoothies and fruit bowls so yummy and addictive, you’ll swear they’re mixed with crack cocaine. Actually, they’re made with a smorgasbord of healthy ingredients like açai, hemp milk, pomegranate powder, turmeric and various fruits, and that’s just the base. They’re then topped with layers of granola, more fruit, chia and flax seeds, agave, coconut, date bits, hemp hearts and so much more. Are they really healthy? We have no idea, but they’re super delicious and perfectly priced at under $10.

2. Birdies

The cranes are flying high everywhere in DTLA and most of the action is happening in South Park, an area just south of the historic core. Good restaurants have yet to catch up, but at least there’s Birdies, a fast casual doughnut shop and chicken shack. The doughnuts are solid and each one is available for sample, but the birds are the best we’ve tasted in a long while. The breakfast sandwich ($8) is a real knockout, but since it’s lunchtime, go for either the Birdies Spicy ($10) with Ghost Pepper Mayo and Tillamook Cheddar or a leg and a thigh for a mere $7.

Clifton's Cafeteria, DTLA, Los Angeles, Cheap Eats

Clifton’s Cafeteria | Flickr CC: Paul Narvaez

3. Clifton’s Cafeteria

No trip to Los Angeles is complete without a visit to Clifton’s, a combination cafeteria, cocktail bar, performance, space, cabinet of curiosities, family-friendly attraction, retro throwback and L.A. institution. Opened in 1932 and recently renovated (to the tune of several million dollars), the five level space includes eye-popping taxidermy, a faux redwood tree that punctuates the entire middle of the restaurant, and all kinds of rare treasures and oddities. It’s also still a cafeteria with a carving station, Jell-o molds and other familiar items. Prices are fair and nighttime lines (for the bar) are out the door.

eggslut, breakfast, los angeles, dtla, eggs

eggslut | Flickr CC: T. Tseng

4. eggslut

Despite the fact that L.A.’s Grand Central Market offers a smorgasbord of choices ranging in everything from ample bowls of vegetarian ramen to tasty scoops of legendary McConnell’s ice cream, it’s this egg-focused eatery that garners the longest lines—even at lunchtime. The menu is 90% breakfast sandwiches hovering around the $7-$8 range. We don’t understand all the fuss although we’ve yet to try the $10 Slut, a cage-free, coddled egg atop housemade potato purée, cooked in a glass jar sprinkled with gray salt and chives and served with slices of baguette.

Guisados, tacos, Los Angeles, DTLA

Guisados | Photo courtesy of Guisados

5. Guisados

Expect to find this taqueria ranked high on all those “Best tacos in America”-type lists that pop up occasionally in your social feeds. Born in Boyle Heights, a working-class neighborhood east of downtown that is slowly gentrifying, Guisados has replicated its neighborhood success with a downtown location on Spring Street that packs ’em in morning, noon and night. The fuss is over homestyle braises such as shredded chicken, flank steak and Mexican sausage. All tacos are priced at $3 or less, which means nothing on the menu will break your piggy bank.

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6. Nickel Diner
The name is appropriate; the Nickel is a cheap and cheerful downtown diner where a sit-down meal can be had for relatively little. Prices aren’t exactly turn of the century as the 5¢ moniker out front might imply, but there are nevertheless a ton of delectable menu items for under $10 like the spicy pulled pork sandwich and fries ($9.75), the big time cheddar sandwich ($8.50) and the turkey burger ($10). Granted, tax and tip will push you over the 10-buck mark for sure, but this is still a cheap eat (and desserts here rule!).

7. Okipoki

The poké craze is as widespread here as it is in any American city, so if you’ve got a hankering for some delicious treats of the sea plopped atop a bed of rice, hit up this quick serve restaurant across the street from the artsy bibliophile dream shop, the Last Bookstore. The pokés here don’t run cheap, only the veggie friendly “Straight Outta Tofu” and spicy “Baby Got Shrimp” are priced under $10, but the same tasty effects are achieved via Okipoki’s sushi burritos which are almost entirely priced under $10.

Pie Hole, DTLA, pies, Arts District

Pie Hole | Flickr CC: jennie-O

8. Pie Hole

An option that is both cheap and trendy, this Arts District entry serves up heaps of unbelievably good and Instagrammable pies, including lip-smacking (yes, these pies are so good that you may smack your lips together) options like Mexican Chocolate, Earl Grey Tea and Salted Carmel Pecan. But wait, you’re here for lunch, right? Not to worry, there’s a full menu of savory pies including Chicken ‘n’ Cornbread, Potato and Leek Pot Pie, and the most comforting of all—Mac ‘n’ Cheese. Every single one is priced below $8. Yum.

9. Villa Moreliana

Another Grand Central Market entry, this place is one of our favorite joints in all DTLA and perhaps the Market’s most affordable lunch option. Villa Moreliana specializes in one thing: slow-cooked pork as it is prepared in Michoacan, Mexico, and served as tacos. The meat is piled high (two will absolutely fill you up) and visitors have the option of choosing either meat only or meat in combination with the rest of the pig (skin, brains, gizzard, etc.). Add to it a bottled water and even with tax and a tip this authentic and exquisite lunch only clocks in at around $9.

Wurstküche, sausages, hot dogs, Arts District, foodie, Los Angeles, DTLA

Wurstküche | Photo courtesy of Wurstküche

10. Wurstküche

What sausage emporium Hot Doug’s (may it rest in peace) was to Chicagoans this joint is to Angelenos because it’s slammed all the time. It doesn’t hurt that it picked the Arts District (aka Little Brooklyn) for its downtown location. Between classic dogs like the standard brat and the vegetarian smoked apple sage (each $6.50), and more exotic fare including rattlesnake and rabbit with jalepeño peppers, there’s something to entice all palates. Plus, even with a small order of frites some combinations still come out at exactly $10.


Tagged: California, Food & drink, L.A.

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It’s the all-American vacation: a trip to one of our national parks. And with the National Park Service marking its 100th anniversary this year, there’s no better time to explore the great outdoors. But after you’ve Instagrammed nature from every possible angle, what can you actually do? The big, open sky is the limit.

Take an art workshop at Yosemite National Park in California

When it comes to finding your muse, it doesn’t get much more inspiring than Yosemite’s giant sequoias, majestic waterfalls and tranquil streams. Channel your creativity with the help of art and photography classes offered each spring and fall at Yosemite Art Center. The cost is just $10 per student per day.

Yosemite National Park. Credit: FaunggsPhotos/Flickr.

Yosemite National Park. Credit: FaunggsPhotos/Flickr.

Try sled-dog mushing at Denali National Park and Preserve in Alaska

Whether you book a guided trip with a team of dogs or BYOD, this snowy sport is one of the coolest ways (pun intended) to tour this park, which is home to the tallest peak in North America. On a clear day, the Huskies can cover up to 30 miles.

Denali National Park. Credit: Joseph/Flickr.

Denali National Park. Credit: Joseph/Flickr.

Ride a llama at Yellowstone National Park in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming

Dyed-in-the-wool nature lovers will want to explore the backcountry the old-fashioned way: by horse, or even llama. Guided excursions are available through several licensed tour companies. Keep your eyes peeled for wildlife, from bald eagles to bison.

Yellowstone National Park. Credit: Always Shooting/Flickr.

Yellowstone National Park. Credit: Always Shooting/Flickr.

Go sand sledding at Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve in Colorado

Snow sledding is a hassle. By the time you’re bundled up, someone inevitably needs to use the bathroom. Get to the fun part faster when you try mild-weather sand sledding or sandboarding on the tallest dunes in North America. The equipment is designed especially for sand, makingfor a smooth ride.

Great Sand Dunes National Park. Credit: Flickr CC

Great Sand Dunes National Park. Credit: Flickr CC

Go snorkeling at Virgin Islands National Park in the Caribbean

More than half of the island of St. John is technically a national park? Works for us. Much of the parkis actually underwater, so you’ll want to explore the reefs, mangroves and seabeds with the help of a mask and flippers.

Virgin Islands National Park. Credit: Wikipedia.

Virgin Islands National Park. Credit: Wikipedia.

Take a jazz Pilates class at New Orleans Jazz National Park in Louisiana

Redwood forests and gulf stream waters are great. But if you’re not about that life, head to the old U.S. Mint building for a more cosmopolitan escape. The building is now a shrine to the musical genre, making it the perfect spot to catch a live performance, bring the kiddos for educational workshops or take a jazz Pilates class with Pilates instructor-slash-vocalist Stephanie Jordan, combining fitness, dance and of course, all that jazz.

New Orleans Jazz National Historical Park. Credit:

New Orleans Jazz National Historical Park. Credit:

Play 18 holes at Death Valley National Park in California

It’s no surprise that one of America’s toughest courses, as crowned by Golf Digest, is located at 214 feet below sea level. Furnace Creek Golf Course, located at a ranch in the desert park, is the world’s lowest elevation golf course. So even if you shoot well above the 70 par, you can brag that you played your lowest game ever.

Furnace Creek Golf Course at Death Valley National Park. Credit: Daveynin/Flickr.

Furnace Creek Golf Course at Death Valley National Park. Credit: Daveynin/Flickr.

Try spelunking at Mammoth Cave National Park in Kentucky

Our national parks are celebrated for their wide open spaces. This is not one of them. If you’re up for an adventure, try the Wild Cave Tour, a six-hour trek that’ll have you crawling, squeezing and hiking your way through 5 miles of caves.

Mammoth Cave National Park. Credit: Daniel Schwen/Flickr.

Mammoth Cave National Park. Credit: Daniel Schwen/Flickr.

CTIXblog CTA _ cheap of the week

Tagged: Beach, California, Family, Tips & advice

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When it comes to the fan experience, these baseball stadiums hit it out of the park.

PNC Park

PNC Park | Flickr CC: Dan Gaken

PNC Park – If you thought Uber was the most innovative way to get to a sporting event, then you’re in for a pleasant surprise when you cheer on the Pittsburgh Pirates. Walk across the Roberto Clemente Bridge (which closes to traffic on game days) or idle your boat or kayak on the Allegheny River, where you can hear the roar of the crowd and maybe even catch a  stray ball. Occasional Pup Nights mean frankfurters aren’t the only dogs you’ll find in this stadium.

Jackie Robinson Rotunda in Citi Field, NYC

Jackie Robinson Rotunda in Citi Field, NYC | Flickr CC: Peter Bond

Citi Field – If the Big Apple is a melting pot, then the home of the New York Mets is where baseball fans go to feast. In countless online reviews, fansrave about the food selection: From Shake Shack to El Verano Taqueria to Hot Pastrami on Rye to more upscale eateries that require reservations, this ballpark hits a home run in the food department. As for the building itself, the stately Jackie Robinson Rotunda makes for a grand entrance (it’s so impressive that people get married there), while easy subway access and plentiful parking make getting to and from the ballpark a breeze. Occasional postgame concerts are another nice touch.

AT&T Park

AT&T Park | Flickr CC: truebacarlos

AT&T Park – The San Francisco Giants, who play here, have been crowned World Series champs three times since 2010. So there’s that. Then there’s the waterfront park itself, with its sweeping city views, award-winning design and “splash hit” home runs that land in McCovey Cove just outside the stadium. Even if you don’t want to watch the actual game, there are amusements galore in the free Fan Lot: a Superslide shaped like a giant Coca-Cola bottle, photo booth and Little Giants Park, a tot-sized replica where future sluggers can practice running the bases. And don’t even get us started on the food.

Comerica Park

Comerica Park | Flickr CC: Kevin Ward

Comerica Park – Yeah, we know, Detroit’s no San Francisco (even if it is on the up-and-up). But the home field of the Detroit Tigers is a bright spot in the city that can’t seem to catch a break. There’s a 50-foot Ferris wheel with cars shaped like baseballs, as well as a tiger-themed carousel; both are free for kids on Sundays. And when the Tigers score, a fountain on the centerfield wall comes to life with a “liquid fireworks” display of synchronized lights and music. For a more low-key experience, join the the Tiger Club, which offers a dinner buffet and access to the private Asylum Cigar Bar.

Stilt walkers in Marlins Park

Stilt walkers in Marlins Park | Flickr CC:

Marlins Park – America’s favorite pastime gets a dose of South Beach swank at this home of the Miami Marlins, and we’re not talking about the retractable roof. Tropical touches include colorful mosaic walkway lined with palm trees, a fish tank behind home plate and a sculpture that comes to life every time the Marlins score. But the party doesn’t really start until you’re inside the 21-and-up Clevelander Marlins Park. Take a dip in the bar’s pool, dance to the sounds of celebrity DJs and marvel at the stilt walkers. Just remember to keep an eye on the actual, you know, game.

Racing Sausages in Miller Park

Racing Sausages in Miller Park | Flickr CC: relux

Miller Park – Raise a glass to this home of the Milwaukee Brewers, whose fans take baseball tailgating to football-like levels. Inside the retractable-roofed stadium, the feast continues with everything from bacon-wrapped hot dogs to nachos on a stick. You can even cheer on your favorite meat during the sixth-inning Famous Racing Sausages showdown. And of course there’s beer. Lots and lots of beer. Periodic post-game concerts add to the fun.

Fenway Park

Fenway Park | Flickr CC: Peter Ciro

Fenway Park – Even if you don’t know a double play from a double header, you’ve probably heard of the <ahref=”” target=”_blank”>Boston Red Sox, indisputably one of the coolest baseball stadiums in America. The legendary team’s stadium opened in 1912, and the original architecture, hand-painted scoreboard and storied bar under the field keep the history alive. Sure, the seats are small and the food options are just average, but this is about tradition, people. Sing “Sweet Caroline” during the eighth inning, argue with the rowdy fans in your section, and then head into the neighborhood after the game for a selection of wicked good eats.


Tagged: California, City, Family, Florida, Food & drink, New York City, Sports, Uncategorized

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Find refuge at Disneyland’s Animation Building to create cartoon characters & sing with the Seven Dwarves.

By Ari Krell

You know the old saying, “It never rains in southern California.” Well it’s totally true. Until it rains. And if it happens to be raining cats and dogs on a day you already planned on going to Disneyland Resort, then prepare yourself for a magical time even under threatening skies. Continue reading

Tagged: California