We strongly advise that before you go swimming or visit any location, you check the most recent updates on potential hazards, security, water quality, and closures. If you do plan to visit a location, respect the environment.
The Golden State is full of beautiful places to see and things to do. Think stunning beaches, Hollywood glamor, and everything from mountains to desert landscapes. But more often than not, California will cost you a pretty penny (aka Disneyland and all of the other theme parks). To save your wallet from a hard hit, we've compiled a list of the most fun free things to do in California.
From scenic drives up Pacific Coast Highway to amazing museums, botanical gardens, and watching movies poolside in true California style, you'll find a little bit of everything here.
Take the Scenic Route Up Pacific Coast Highway (PCH)
Location: California Highway 1 (It runs all the way up the state's coast.)
Why You Should Go: This iconic highway leads you along the coast through some of California's most breathtaking ocean and cliff views. Since this route runs over 665 miles, there's plenty of beautiful sights to take in.
Take A Hike At Torrey Pines Nature Reserve
Hours: Open 24 hours
Location: 12600 N. Torrey Pines Rd, La Jolla, California
Why You Should Go: Located just a short drive away from San Diego, this natural reserve is the perfect escape from the city. The bird's eye view you can get from the top is incredible.
Explore Downtown Disney District
Price: Free (parking not included)
Hours: 7 a.m. to - 2 a.m. every day
Location: 1580 Disneyland Dr, Anaheim, California
Why You Should Go: You can explore plenty of cute shops and restaurants in Downtown Disney. It's a fun way to spend an afternoon or have a Disney-lover's date night.
Watch a Live TV Taping On Set of A Show
Hours: Varies by available dates.
Location: Los Angeles, California (exact location revealed after free tickets are booked)
Why You Should Go: From Jimmy Kimmel to the Ellen Degeneres Show and more, you can score free tickets to be in the audience of your favorite sitcom. To find the details for tickets, head to the website and fill out a form to request tickets.
Go Sailing On a Lovely Marina
Hours: Open from 1 p.m to 4 p.m. See site for further details.
Location: Berkeley, California
Why You Should Go: The Cal Sailing Club takes guests on an introductory free sailboat ride during their open house. Get there early; spots fill up very quickly. You can get more information here.
Stroll Through the UC Davis Arboretum
Hours: Open 24 hours
Location: University of California Davis, California
Why You Should Go: This lush arboretum is a plant lover's dream, spanning 100 acres of gardens to explore.
Stargaze and See City Lights at the Griffith Observatory
Hours: Closed Monday; Saturday and Sunday 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., Tuesday to Friday, 12 noon to 10 p.m.
Location: 2800 E Observatory Rd, Los Angeles, California
Why You Should Go: You can learn about the cosmos, stargaze, and see the spectacular city skyline of Los Angeles all for free. We recommend going at night for that extra touch of magic.
Take a Self-Guided Tour of the California State Capitol Museum
Location: 1315 10th St Room B-27, Sacramento, California
Why You Should Go: You can take a self-guided tour to see the stunning interior, senate chamber, and grounds. If you come in the spring, the magnolia trees are covered in lovely pink flowers.
Marvel at this Rainbow Colored Glass Beach
Location: Glass Beach, Fort Bragg, California
Why You Should Go: You can walk along a beach of beautiful rainbow-colored stones!
Watch a Movie Poolside
Location: Pearl Hotel: 1410 Rosecrans St, San Diego, California
Why You Should Go: If you book a stay at a Pearl Hotel in San Diego during your travels, you'll have access to their weekly movies by the pool.
See World-Famous Art at The Broad Museum
Price: Free ticket reservations
Location: 221 S Grand Ave, Los Angeles, California
Why You Should Go: You can see world-famous art for free. Reserve tickets here.
Roam Around Point Reyes National Seashore
Price: No entry fee
Location: Point Reyes Station, California
Why You Should Go: This gorgeous park has so much to explore. You'll find everything from a waterfall cascading onto the beach (Alamere Falls), a shipwreck on the sand, a beautiful lighthouse and elk grazing in the distance, to a towering Cypress Tree Tunnel you can walk through.
Go Hiking in Lake Tahoe
Location: Lake Tahoe, California
Why You Should Go: Hiking trails in Lake Tahoe radiate beauty. Where else in California can you find a lush forest framing vibrant turquoise water. Some of our favorite routes to explore include Cascade Falls Trail, Fallen Leaf Trail, and Skyline Trail. Make sure to pick up a free permit at the trailhead.
Editor's Note: It is illegal to take stones from Glass Beach due to erosion. Make sure to be respectful during your visit, leave no trace, and protect the environment.