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30 Free Things to Do in California

Samantha Williams

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Planning a trip to the Golden State doesn’t have to be expensive. There are tons of fun, free things to do in California during your next vacation. These experiences are memorable, thrilling, and absolutely free.

1. Solvang Danish Village

Visiting Solvang Danish Village is one of the many free things to do in California
Source: solvangusa.com
Solvang, California

Solvang Danish Village is a charming destination located in the Santa Ynez Valley near Santa Barbara, California. Walking around this quaint town while admiring the Danish-style architecture is a delight. Taking pictures in front of the large local windmill is another highlight for tourists.

2. Huntington Beach Bike Trail

Source: tripadvisor
Huntington Beach

The Huntington Beach Bike Trail is a scenic 8.5-mile paved path for bikers, walkers, and skaters to enjoy. This lively spot is ideal for getting a little fresh air and exercise while enjoying the seaside sun. Free festivals and events take place on the beach year-round, including surfing competitions, live concerts, and more.

3. Timken Museum of Art

Source: Eduardo Contreras / The San Diego Union-Tribune
Timken Museum of Art

The Timken Museum of Art is a completely free museum to enjoy while in San Diego, California. Visitors can take guided art history tours and admire European and American masterpieces. The stunning architecture and landscaping further add to the beauty of this destination.

4. Live TV Show Tapings

Perhaps the greatest free thing to do in California is to attend live tapings of popular television shows like Jeopardy.
Source: Steve Jurvetson / flickr
Set of Jeopardy!

Visiting a live TV show taping is the ultimate Hollywood experience. Whether you’re interested in sitcoms, game shows, or talk shows, being a member of the audience is an incredible feeling. It can be difficult to get ahold of these free tickets, so make sure you put your name on a waiting list.

5. Golden Gate Fortune Cookies

Source: flickr
Golden Gate Fortune Cookies

Golden Gate Fortune Cookies is a delightful attraction inside San Francisco’s Chinatown. Tourists who visit can watch while workers create batches of fresh fortune cookies. Make sure you buy some tasty treats or a personalized fortune cookie message as a souvenir.

6. Hollywood Forever Cemetery

Source: Alizada Studios / shutterstock
Hollywood Forever Cemetery

The Hollywood Forever Cemetery may seem like a morbid destination, but it’s actually one of the coolest free ways to spend the day in California. This cemetery, listed on the National Register of Historic Sites, is the final resting place of many famous celebrities. Guests can also enjoy a wide range of festivals and events, like outdoor movie screenings, concerts, literature events, and the biggest Dia de Los Muertos Party in the United States.

7. Big Sur Coastline

Source: Jon Bilous / shutterstock
Big Sur

The Big Sur Coastline offers breathtaking sights during the world’s most scenic drive. Cruise along this section of California Highway One and admire the powerful ocean and cliffside views. Tourists can get up close and personal with nature on nearby hiking trails and campgrounds.

8. Griffith Observatory

Source: f11photo / shutterstock
Griffith Observatory

Griffith Observatory is a fun, educational attraction that’s free to the public in Los Angeles, California. Visitors can use advanced telescopes, explore museum exhibitions, and watch live shows played in the Samuel Oschin Planetarium. This observatory is the ideal destination for astronomy lovers, and also for tourists who want to admire the city skyline.

9. Sierra Nevada Brewery

Source: tripadvisor
Sierra Nevada Brewery

The Sierra Nevada Brewery in Chino is an exciting destination that offers free brewhouse tours. Guests can try samples of beer, smell the fresh, aromatic hops, and watch the packaging process. Make sure to make reservations for this memorable experience when you’re visiting the area.

10. Hollywood Walk of Fame

Source: Andrew Zarivny / shutterstock
Hollywood Walk Of Fame

The Hollywood Walk of Fame is an iconic, star-studded 15 block section of Hollywood Boulevard. Taking pictures in front of these legendary stars is a fun way to spend an afternoon without spending a penny. This area of Los Angeles is also a great place to see wild street performers, costumed actors, and other thrilling sights.

11. Rodeo Drive

Source: John O’Neill / wikipedia
Rodeo Drive

Rodeo Drive and the iconic Beverly Hills signs are must-see sights when visiting Southern California. Spend the afternoon window shopping at premium designer boutiques, and try to catch a glimpse of a celebrity.

12. Emerald Bay

Source: Don Mammoser / Shutterstock
Emerald Bay, Lake Tahoe

Emerald Bay is a breathtaking inlet on the west side of Lake Tahoe. This awe-inspiring destination is perfect for hiking, camping, and sightseeing. Keep an eye out for bald eagles and other natural wonders while you’re in this area.

13. Pacific Coast Highway

Source: Sundry Photography / shutterstock
California’s Pacific Coast Highway

The Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) is an iconic route to drive while in Southern California. Driving on California State Route 1 takes you right along the stunning shoreline and through the beautiful mansions of Malibu. Highlights of this route include Redondo Beach, Hermosa Beach, the Palos Verdes Peninsula, and San Pedro.

14. Glass Beach

Source: IrinaK / Shutterstock
Glass Beach

Glass Beach is a wildly unique beach with colorful pieces of smooth glass scattered along the shoreline. This beach is a great destination for taking vivid, one-of-a-kind photos while enjoying the sun.

15. Treasure Island Park

Source: californiabeaches.com
Treasure Island Park

Treasure Island Park is a lovely, free attraction in Laguna Beach, California. This oceanfront park offers unbeatable views of the beach and nearby mansions. Both adults and children alike will love this scenic location.

16. Venice Beach

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Venice Beach

Venice Beach is a unique location known for its quirky characters and seaside shops. Visitors can enjoy a wide range of live entertainment while strolling the boardwalk, like performances, concerts, and other novelties. This lively area is an incredible spot to take a stroll and spend the day.

17. Lands End

Source: TheTokl / wikipedia
Lands End, San Francisco

Lands End is a spectacular park in San Francisco, California with hiking trails right along the coast. Historic shipwrecks and the ruins of the Sutro Baths are intriguing landmarks to view during your trip. These sights, in addition to the gorgeous views of the Golden Gate Bridge, make for perfect photo opportunities.

18. Cal Sailing Club

Source: Tim / latitude
Cal Sailing Club

The Cal Sailing Club (CSC) offers free sailboat rides around San Francisco, California. Hop aboard these zippy dinghies to get a thrilling, scenic ride while learning about the ecology of the bay. CSC is an independent, non-profit cooperative, and a super fun way to spend the day at sea.

19. La Jolla Cove

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La Jolla

La Jolla Cove is a gorgeous seaside spot for swimming, snorkeling, as well as tons of other free activities in San Diego, California. This location is great for nature lovers who want to observe wildlife in the surrounding caves and tide pools. Visitors can also explore the downtown area to shop for souvenirs or grab a bite to eat.

20. Leo Carrillo Ranch & Historic Park

Source: Shana Thompson / The Coast News Group
Leo Carrillo Ranch & Historic Park

Leo Carrillo Ranch and Historic Park is a lovely preserved ranch sitting on 27 acres of nature. Enjoy hiking the trails or explore the intriguing historic buildings during your visit. Delightful wildlife, including peacocks, can often be sighted on the grounds.

21. Point Reyes National Seashore

Source: Dennis Jarvis / Flickr
Point Reyes

Point Reyes National Seashore is a 71,028-acre park preserve located in Marin County, California. This destination is adored by nature lovers for its spectacular ocean views as well as abundant wildlife. It’s not uncommon for tourists to see tule elk and shorebirds during their trip to the coast.

22. Pioneertown

Source: Matthew Field / Matthew Field Photography
Pioneertown

Pioneertown, California is a fascinating historical town in San Bernardino’s High Desert. Taking a stroll along Main Street and exploring the old saloon will make you feel like you’ve traveled back in time. This destination is also awesome for families and for fans of the Wild West.

23. California Citrus State Historic Park

Source: jasperdo / flickr
California Citrus State Historic Park

California Citrus State Historic Park is a delicious, aromatic, totally free attraction in Riverside, California. Visitors can take a tour of the gorgeous grounds and also eat free samples of various citrus fruits.

24. Fisherman’s Wharf

Source: photo.ua / shutterstock
Fisherman’s Wharf

Fisherman’s Wharf is a San Francisco attraction known for its sights, shopping, and seafood. One of the most popular free activities to do while at the wharf is watch the sea lion colony on Pier 39. Make sure you try the famous clam chowder bread bowls during your visit.

25. Deep Creek Hot Springs

Source: alltrails.com
Deep Creek Hot Springs

Deep Creek Hot Springs is a charming, free getaway in Apple Valley, California. This relaxing destination is the perfect place to unwind while enjoying the surrounding nature.

26. Balboa Park

Source: tripadvisor
Balboa Park

Balboa Park is an awesome, activity-packed destination. Visitors can enjoy walking trails, gardens, museums, as well as historical sites. Balboa Park is also the home of the legendary San Diego Zoo. Residents can take advantage of Free Museum Days on Tuesdays at locations like the Air and Space Museum.

27. Pacific Grove Monarch Butterfly Sanctuary

Source: City of Pacific Grove
Pacific Grove Monarch Butterfly Sanctuary

Pacific Grove Monarch Butterfly Sanctuary gives guests a chance to admire Monarch butterflies up close for free. Every October, thousands of butterflies migrate through the area, making a stop at this sanctuary. Although visitors can’t touch the butterflies, this is a great opportunity for photos or videos.

28. Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA)

Source: LACMA
Urban Light, LACMA

Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) offers dazzling, diverse displays from a variety of artists. This museum features more than 150,000 pieces of artwork and offers a wide range of interactive tours. Free admission to LACMA is granted to Los Angeles residents, to children, to everyone during the second Tuesday of each month, and for a variety of other reasons.

29. Columbia State Historic Park

Source: visitcalifornia.com
Columbia State Historic Park

Columbia State Historic Park is a fantastic family-friendly getaway. Free historical tours of this California Gold Country park are as educational as they are entertaining. While you’re here, make sure to check out the stagecoach rides, blacksmith shop, and the tasty drinks in the saloon.

30. The Getty Center

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Getty Center

The Getty Center and the Getty Museum are elegantly perched atop the hills of Los Angeles. Visitors can enjoy free guided tours or self-guided audio tours with complimentary headphones. The Getty Center also offers stunning views of gardens, sculptures, and the surrounding landscape. The Getty Museum is home to an impressive collection of European and American artworks, but classic and contemporary.

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