Beverly Hills for the rest of us

It’s not just a playground for stars. Here’s how to live large on the cheap in 90210

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Drinks by the pool for $5:50: Before 5 p.m., anyone who orders a drink can claim a poolside cabana at the Avalon Hotel Beverly Hills (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.

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