Friday, January 8, 2010

FREE L.A. - The Bible of Frugal Fun in Los Angeles - BOOK REVIEW

I have a huge confession to make to Troy Corley, the editor who compiled the Free L.A. - Second Edition and sent it to me for review months go.

Though I have already written about Corley on MommyBlogExpert here as well as Tweeted about her book signing at CostCo, I've been too busy with my DH and four kids testing out all the great advice for free and inexpensive fun in the Los Angeles area in this book since I received it back in October.  That should explain why I am only getting around to posting the book review on this must-have resource now.  Troy, I hope you'll forgive me for taking eons to post about your invaluable resource...the truth is we've been out having too much fun with it. Sorry ;-)

Anyway, since this blog is focused on family fun this review is a study on what Free L.A. has to offer to that target market, though I'd be remiss if I didn't mention that adults without kids will also find tons of great ideas for activities to do in this travel guide, too, whether living in Southern California or just visiting.

People without kids and unmarried singles aside, in today's tough economic climate no one is feeling the pinch more than families with one or more children that we must not only feed, clothe, and shelter, but whom we'd also like to educate, entertain and enrich with all the under utilized culture and opportunities that the City of Angels has to share with us all.

We're not talking about the well-known high ticket excursions around town such as Disneyland, Universal Studios, and the other big attractions -- which so many families can't afford right now like maybe they used to.  The good news is that the Free L.A. guide, for visitors and locals alike, proves that the best things in life are often still free (or almost free, as the case may be) and that there are literally hundreds of things to do with our children without spending the equivalent of a month's rent in L.A. on a single family outing, if only us parents would open and read this book so we can discover and take advantage of them all.

Free L.A. is part of the Corley Publications trio of city fun guides available in book form for frugal consumers who like to have fun but have no or little money to spend on it.   The other two books from this company, Free O.C. and Free S.F., will be reviewed separately later on MommyBlogExpert.  Free L.A. is a sturdy hip-sized paperback that comes in a handy 8-1/2" x 4" size with more than 300 pages.  But don't let that mislead you.  It may be light in weight, but this compact local travel guide is also heavy with information that is well-organized into free and cheap things to do in different regions around the area covering hundreds of square miles -- from the beach in Santa Monica inland to Pasadena, north to the Antelope Valley and south to Long Beach.

Totally Zonked Out -- MommyBlogExpert's kids when
the triplets were 3 years old & big brother was 4 on the way home 
after another exciting local L.A. outing with Mommy & Daddy

Inside Free L.A. you'll find sections that cover the 411 on free and frugal fun available via all manner of local art venues, museums, gardens, historic places, nature sites, green L.A., theater, city tours, and more.  The book's crowning touch is a month by month list of annual events at the back that can be found around the metro area, followed by an alphabetical listing of all venues in the book by name to make this a quick and easy reference for families, especially for those of us who sometimes get a bit haggard by our wonderful and energetic kids.  If you need more convincing, check out the first chapter of Free L.A. which is available as a free download HERE and see if you agree.

My hubbie and I have raised our now-tween triplets and their 14 year-old brother from birth till now in So Cal.  And, we've taken our kids on many, many local outings over the years, and have always considered ourselves to be in-the-know about everything that is free or inexpensive to do around L.A. since we've lived locally for the last three decades.  So, at first I didn't expect there would be much new to learn in this book.

Boy, was I surprised to find out how wrong my antiquated thinking was.  After putting post-it notes to mark over a dozen places I'd never heard of before, including free weekly archery lessons at a public park less than a mile from our house, I was ready to admit that Corley (who is actually a much younger mom than I am) and the stable of writers who contributed to her book,  are the real experts here because they collectively know way more than I do in this department.  Though all the activities included are free (or almost free) in this book, Troy Corley, pictured at right, is careful to point out that many of the destinations recommended are funded thanks to government grants, corporate sponsorships, and the generosity of individual donors, so she encourages readers to consider giving a voluntary contribution when warranted.

As far as overall appeal goes, the introduction at the front of Free L.A. is short, but comprehensive, and the print is nicely spaced and large enough for those of us who have reached the 40+ age of reading glasses to make out the fine print.  One particular point worth mentioning is that this guide includes an L.A. metro area transit overview with abbreviations showing all the inexpensive bus, train, and shuttle options available around this sprawling metropolis to get to most of the locations included.  Whoever bashes L.A. for being a city where you have to own a car to get anywhere (myself included, before I read this book, BTW) doesn't know about the 20+ local companies providing affordable transportation for the masses that Corley lists.

We're particularly looking forward to trying out two of the totally free field trips included in this book soon: a visit to Marine Mammal Care Center in San Pedro and another to Edwards Air Force Base (where some of the Space Shuttles have landed in the recent past) for an indepth small group tour.  I think both of these will be really educational and especially appealing to us since we are homeschooling all four children.  Besides those two places, there are many other fun places in Corley's Free L.A. we've already visited that I believe are accurately described as well as quite a few that my family would like to go see for the first time.  I sure hope my kids aren't already graduated from college and living on their own before we are done trying out all the free and frugal fun that we've yet to discover in our own backyard.

Free L.A., from Corley Publications, $14.95 list price, may be purchased at select Costco locations, and in bookstores and online and is also available at just $9.95 plus FREE shipping direct from the publisher HERE

From the website comes this FREE L.A. Activity Tip You Probably Don't Know About (MommyBlogExpert for sure wasn't aware of this before seeing this)

Get on board the fun & funky Hippodrome! A FREE shuttle with on-board performers that takes you around the FREE Downtown Art Walk every 2nd Thu. Next Walk: Jan. 14 noon - 9pm.  Bookmark Corley's site and keep checking back as they add other free online tips of local fun things to do like this one.

Watch for MommyBlogExpert's other book reviews on Corley's other fun and free things to do in Orange County and San Francisco titles.  I will try to get these posted soon, so all you readers can have some really awesome, low-cost family fun too.

FTC Disclosure: MommyBlogExpert received a copy for Free L.A. for review from Corley Publications but did not receive any payment or other compensation associated with this post. See complete FTC Disclosure information that appears at the bottom of MommyBlogExpert's main page and at the bottom of every individual post on this blog, including this one.

1 comment:

  1. you have a beautiful family! I enjoyed reading your post and will continue following. :D