Your 5 Favorite Creative Adventures On A Low Budget

Recently, Cynthia Morris introduced the idea of “creative excursions” to my readers. Cynthia calls them “excursions,” Julia Cameron calls them “Artist Dates” and I like to call them creative adventures. They’re times when you leave your laptop screen and go out to have fun and explore the real world. Hopefully, you come back from the experience feeling invigorated and excited to create.

I’ve learned that these creative adventures are essential to the writing process. They breathe life into a writing routine that can often become boring and tedious if not checked. Creative adventures help you move past your writing blocks, inspire you, and solve most creative problems in no time. Plus, they bring a certain vibrancy back into your life.

So, today, instead of recommending books, I’d like us to share some of our favorite creative adventures. These are places you’ve been to, or things you’ve done, that have really got your creative juices flowing and led to some great writing sessions.

And since not everyone can afford to go to Europe or Hawaii on a whim, I thought we’d focus on adventures that would go easy on our wallets as well. 

As always, I’ll go first. Here’s my 5 Favorite Creative Adventures to have on a low-budget:

Griffith Observatory

The most visited observatory in the world is also the most stunning. (Okay, I don’t know that. It’s the only observatory I’ve ever been to, but just play along.) Whatever you do, DO NOT visit the observatory during the day. You’re just cheating yourself if you do. The first time I visited the observatory was during the day and the experience was very underwhelming.

But last year I visited the newly renovated structure, and I have to say: I was blown away. First of all, the inside has a new, lower level complete with a Leonard Nimoy Auditorium where astrologers and scientists share their latest galactic discoveries with the public. There’s tons of fun exhibits that you can interact with, including scales to check your weight on all the different planets. You can gape at the breathtaking images from space projected on screens all around you or you can examine the artifacts of real-life pieces of asteroids enclosed in glass boxes that would tempt any comic-book villain.

But the best part is when you step outside of the observatory and witness the panoramic view of Los Angeles city. There, you get to witness the vibrant lights of the modern metropolis, the sparkling stars in the night sky, and, if you look closely, a peak of the Hollywood sign hiding underneath the shadows nearby. It’s like being on the balcony of Mount Olympus.

Make sure you visit “the most viewed-through” telescope in the world while you’re there, and experience the magic of being so close to the moon, it feels like you can literally touch it.

Beat that, Pirates of The Caribbean 4 in 3D.

Cost:  Free parking and entrance. Tickets for the Planetarium shows range from $3-7 dollars.


Santa Monica Pier and The Third Street Promenade

The promenade on the weekends is always bustling with people. It’s also one of the few places I’ve been to that welcomes street performers looking to turn a buck through their art. There are break dancers, gymnasts, singers, and musicians. It’s fun to just walk around and follow a crowd as it spontaneously gathers to watch an impromptu street performance.

The beach and the pier is walking distance from the Promenade, so you can’t help but swing by and listen to the soothing sound of the waves as they bend and crash against the shore–punctuated by the thrilling cries coming from the ferris wheel nearby.

As you take in the stunning orange sun as it falls beneath the horizon, you begin to realize why this place has inspired popular songs and remained a go-to destination for artists.

Cost: Free except for parking. Parking prices have been going up in LA for years so be expected to pay up to $10 dollars for parking.


The Getty and The Getty Villa

The Getty is a must-see for any artist living in Southern California and the best thing is that it’s completely free.

The Getty features a vast collection of Western art from the Middle Ages to… blah, blah, blah, whatever.

Truly, the only reason you want to go to The Getty is to witness the greatest feature of The Getty:  The Getty itself. When you walk through the magnificent structures at The Getty, it feels like you’re walking through an art studio designed for corporate CEO’s–from the future. It’s a great place just to walk around and get inspired by the little things you see, like a cactus garden that jets out into the hills, or a layout of flowers that looks like it was designed by Tim Burton on his wedding day.

Then, there’s the one-of-kind view: you can see the whole city of Los Angeles, including the shoreline, from the museum’s balconies. The bummer is that this view becomes invisible on a smoggy day–which, for LA, is most days.

The Getty Villa, in Malibu, is smaller and less impressive, but is still worth seeing.

It features art work from Roman and Greek antiquity… blah, blah, blah, whatever.

The reason you go to the Villa is so you can experience walking through a recreation of a first-century Roman country house. While you’re there, it’s very easy to suspend your belief and imagine you’re about to be served grapes on bronze plate and visited by Zeus, the Greek God of Thunder.

Cost: Both museums are free to visit. Parking is $15 before 5 p.m.


Your Local Park

Believe it or not, your local park can be a pretty magical place to visit. I’ve visited my local park several times to gather inspiration for my novel. One day, I got around to reading some of the signs on the exhibits at the park. I was surprised to discover that, in the early 1900s, the locals used to call the park “Fairyland” because of its “magical” effect on visitors.

What a wonderful place for a fantasy writer to be visiting, right? And I didn’t even know it!

Not to mention that, once in a while, they’ll hold fairs on the park grounds. Sometimes, I’ll decide to go to the park to meditate only to find that I’ve run into an annual PowWow, a Hawaiian Expo, or even a historical reenactment. It’s then that, all of sudden, my local park becomes a perfect playground for my imagination.

Cost: Free.

Website: Search your city or town’s website for events they might be hosting at your local park.

Now it’s your turn. What are your favorite things to go to, or places to go to when you want to get your creative juices flowing? Please share with us in the comments below. 

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14 comments on “Your 5 Favorite Creative Adventures On A Low Budget

  1. Mark says:

    Because neighbors have complained about visitors to the Getty clogging up sreets and available parking, they encourage musseum patrons to use public transportation. To the main Getty campus, take the Metro bus #761 from anywhere in Westwood. For the Getty Villa, take the Metro bus # 534 that says “Malibu/Trancas” on the overhead. Either of these buses (at present) will cost you $1.50 each time you board, or you may purchase an all-day pass for $5 (ahead of time; bus drivers do not sell day passes or make change). It’s a great deal if you’re planning on visiting more than one venue (the #534 also goes directly by the Adamson House State Park in Malibu (next to the Malibu Lagoon where the Frankie Avalon/Annette Funicello ‘beach party’ movies, “Gidget” and many other movies were filmed), and the Weisman Museum of Art on the Pepperdine University campus (which is always free).

    • Ollin says:

      Thanks Mark! What a great idea to also make it a stress free no traffic day. Going to Malibu there was a lot of traffic especially with the construction that was going on there. Not sure if the construction is still going on, but I’m going to just second your suggestion of using public transportation. Maybe you can read a good book on the way there!

  2. Great list for us SoCal folk. I’ll add the beach and the library.

    • Ollin says:

      Great suggestions! I forgot to add a hike in the mountains. That’s also one of my favorite creative adventures.

      I’m hoping that people suggest places in their area, too. It doesn’t have to be in SoCal.

  3. Christina says:

    My favorite place is anywhere by the ocean:)

  4. Siri Paulson says:

    I’m going to interpret your question more broadly, because I don’t usually connect writing so directly with activities I’ve done, but I know the sort of excursion/activity that makes me happy/rejuvenated and increases my sense of “flow” (being in the moment).

    For me, anything outdoors is good. I walk through a park on my way to or from work several times a week…it’s just a 15-minute walk, but it clears my head. For longer excursions (I’m in Toronto), a ramble through High Park, the Toronto Islands, or anywhere along the waterfront really feels like a break.

    A different kind of inspiration comes from poking around the artistic districts…in Toronto that would be Queen West (start at Ossington and head east) or Kensington Market. Or try an unfamiliar neighbourhood, one that has its own flavour (lots of those here), or any local festival.

    To give my creative mind a boost, I like other creative pursuits, especially ones that are concrete (knitting, drawing) and/or kinesthetic (dancing, rock climbing). Because they’re so unlike writing and yet still creative, they offer a really nice stretch, like yoga for the mind.

    Finally, this one isn’t as quick or cheap, but it must be mentioned: My local group of writers rents a cottage/cabin for a week every summer. We comparison shop when we’re looking for one, and then we split the cost of rent and food, and carpool to save gas. It works out to be quite a cheap vacation. The surroundings (lake/woods) are peaceful and inspiring. And there’s nothing quite so motivating as seeing your fellow writers industriously typing away on their laptops!

    • Ollin says:

      I love the idea of a cottage retreat. I’m going to have to try that once. I did it with my friends once and I loved it. But what a great idea to do it with fellow writers. Reminds me of a sort of artist residency. Thanks for sharing!

  5. I love this post. Sometimes just a short day or weekend getaway with recharge my creative batteries and I think it’s something we all need on a regular basis! My MFA residencies used to do this for me twice a year, but now that I’m done with school, I have to get my fix other ways. I like going to other towns in my state, especially this time of year, because the summer months and the ocean all make me feel inspired to write. Seeing new places works wonders for me. I like traveling around New England, seeing historic places, meeting new people, sleeping in a different place and waking up to different scenery. If I only have an afternoon, I’ll go to a coffee shop, walk around Main St., go thrift shopping, take a long walk with my dog. It’s just a matter of getting your brain working in new ways, don’t you think?

  6. clarbojahn says:

    I’m familiar with Julia Cameron’s Artists Pages and do them myself. Her dates have taken me to blockbusters to see what movies are sold out to thrift shops. I already walk two or three miles a day with my bff so I can’t include that as a solely creative stop. Went to New York City recently and that was terrific for creativity. We also go to an audobon bird sanctuary for walks.

  7. 83October says:

    I like walking leisurely around the city. I also like visiting historical/preserved places. Where I come from, certain parts of the metropolitan there’s a whole city that is reminiscent of how life was 100 years ago. I also like going up the mountain or to a cafe to sit and take in the scenery.

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