You have a week in Los Angeles with your kids. Believe it or not, there's more to Los Angeles than amusement parks. Parents can spend a life's savings taking the kids to an amusement park like Disneyland (one adult ticket is $80 these days just to get you through the gate). In fact, there's a good deal of cultural activity that your 3-day pass to Disney Resort is depriving you of. Go ahead and go to one of the parks, but spend the rest of your week experiencing the real city. Even better is that there are many very inexpensive fun cultural experiences to be had.

1. Dodgers Game

I know, I know — the poor Dodgers have had a mess of a time what with management, and the Dodgers fans who beat up the Giants fan didn't help public relations either. My good friend Howard Equitz used to say the best time to go somewhere is right after something bad has happened. He's right on target with this one.

Attendance is down due to perceived danger and Angelenos sick of the McCourt divorce escapades. But this means you can score Loge $35 seats for $5 bucks, and there seems to be one police officer for every 20 people. A Dodgers game has never been safer or cheaper. (Parking will cost $15.) Besides, the stadium has a great early-'60s vibe. And they're winning this week!

2. Getty Center and Getty Villa

Both museums are free to the public and the only cost involved is to park. The Getty Center has a super cool Family Fun Room where kids get to go interactive with examples from the collection. My girlfriend and I parked it on a bench and watched our kids play for 30 minutes straight before anyone asked "What's next?" The Getty Center also has a Sketch Gallery directly above the Family Room where kids can sketch their own renditions of Dutch Masters. (The museum provides cases of charcoal and paper for this endeavor.) Lots of outdoor space with great views and gardens for kids to roam and explore.

The Getty Villa in Malibu is a must for the young mythology-minded kid as it is home to a great collection of Greek and Roman sculptures and artifacts. The Family Room here is also amazing. Kids can play "Greek Theatre" with a light that casts cool shadows on a screen. They can write on vases and other cool stuff.

3. Santa Monica Beach/Pier

Again, only cost is parking for a fun day at the beach with fun people watching. Why this one? Lots of lifeguards and bathrooms, great play structures with friendly parents, adult play structures (Muscle Beach), and the kids can feel like they are on the set of every Disney movie they've ever seen that had a beach scene (because usually, that's pretty much where things get filmed). Santa Monica Pier is as touristy as any beach pier, but this one has some history dating back to the early 20th century and the '60s and '70s. (See the documentary Dogtown and Zboys.) You can pass by Charlie Chaplin's mom's house on the way.

4. Venice Beach

Older kids will like Venice Beach, especially the teenagers who want to see the freakier side of California. Will a vaguely homeless guy rollerskating whilst playing electric guitar do? Lots of tourist stands and more incense than a freshman dorm line the walkway, but it's friendly and way cleaner than it used to be. Venice sports a great playground on the beach, too, with enough partial shade to help beat the heat.

5. Architectural Tour

Join the LA Conservancy, or at least take them up on one of their tours. You learn a great deal, come away with a sense of how things became what they are. The LA Conservancy focuses on downtown walking tours. There's a surprising amount of things to see! Be sure to stop into the Bradbury Building on the corner of Broadway and 3rd. (Blade Runner was filmed there.)

6. Angel's Flight

Speaking of downtown, if you're children must ride something, why not the world's shortest funicular — Angel's Flight? For 25 cents each way, the kids can ride from Hill street to California Plaza and back again. What's at either end? Grand Central Market (open since 1910) is at the bottom — great for lunch downtown — and California Plaza and the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) is above.

7. Geffen Contemporary/Levi's Film Workshop

Also downtown is the Geffen Contemporary (sister site to the MOCA and admission to one gets you into both). The teens will love the current Art in the Streets Exhibit. Admission on Mondays is currently free, courtesy of artist Banksy.

Next door — and also for free — is the Levi's Film Workshop. My kids learned what a green screen was and were filmed in front of one doing all sorts of poses. There are techs and computers on-hand to teach kids how to do all sorts of stop motion animation too.

8. Skirball Cultural Center

Hands down the most kid-friendly museum space ever, the Skirball Jewish Cultural Center houses the ongoing Noah's Ark exhibit which tells the story of Noah's Ark via animals made out of recycled materials. The visitor is Noah, the docent explained, and it's the visitor's job to maintain the animals. It takes about two hours to walk through and kids never want to leave because they can touch and play with EVERYTHING! Elementary school kids and tweens will probably really enjoy the Houdini: Art and Magic exhibit currently featured. Free Admission on Thursdays.

9. Page Museum/La Brea Tarpits

It's hard to believe that Los Angeles was once a bubbling pit of tar, but it was. If ever a museum was built with young boys in mind, it's the Page Museum featuring the La Brea Tar Pits. Wooly mammoths, dire wolves, and saber tooth cats all got stuck in the muck, and the museum does a find job of describing the gooey icky mess of it (and yes, you can still smell the tar). $5 for kids/$10 for adults. If you want the kids to have a little more refined culture, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art is right next door.

10. Natural History Museum

The new Dinosaur Hall at the Natural History Museum is not to be missed. Seriously. Both the Dinosaur Hall and the Age of Mammals exhibits are in newly-renovated wings of the museum and feature lots of natural light, digital screen interactive displays, and great collections of bones. The building itself is gorgeous to behold. Bands play on the first Friday of the month. In summer months there's a Butterfly Pavilion and in the fall there's a Spider exhibit, where little ones can get up close to all things insect and arachnid. Lots of perks go with membership on this one (including entrance to the aforementioned Page Museum).

11. American Girl at The Grove

Technically, this should, in theory only cost you in parking BUT taking a girl to the American Girl store without buying something is like going to Disneyland and not going on a single ride. The sheer enormity of it and the blatant consumerism is worth a look-see. My daughter saved up all year to come here and indulge. There's a cafe where girls can dine with their dolls (provided they have a reservation). They can also visit the doll 'hair salon' and have their doll gusseyed up. People are starving in the world and there's the American Girl store at The Grove shopping center. An L.A. experience if there ever was one.

12. A Movie in Hollywood

I hate big blockbuster films as a rule BUT I love seeing them in Hollywood on a giant screen as they should be seen. If your kids have never had the real experience of a giant screen with a curtain that closes all the way and opens up again, where management introduces the movie — take them. We saw the last Harry Potter in 3-D at a matinee (cheaper) at the Grauman's Chinese Theatre and got to see the real costumes on display in the lobby. The theater itself is amazing to look at (look up frequently). If you go early you can get in and out of Hollywood before the madness of the evening sets in.

Across from the Grauman's Chinese is the Disney-owned El Capitan, which screens Disney/Pixar films on a great screen. Some screenings also have a live show before the movie or organ-playing at the very least. I know you can see a movie at home, but it is, after all, where movies are made!

So there you have it — 12 places that won't cost $70-80 which kids will totally love; places that have much more to do with Los Angeles than the theme parks do anyway.