It’s Always More Fun When It’s Free
Fun? Count us in. Free? We’re on our way. Fun for free?! We’re there! Whether you’re looking for educational, recreational or sensational, we’ve rounded up 20 things to do in SoCal that you won’t need to open your wallet to enjoy. These free activities are sure to add some fun to your fall calendar.
Spend an Afternoon on the Farm by Volunteering
Appreciate the earth at The Ecology Center, a 28-acre regenerative organic farm in San Juan Capistrano, by becoming a volunteer. You can get involved on one of their dedicated team such as Orchard Ohana, Chicken Tenders, Nourishing Neighbors, Farm Share or pick up a few shifts helping with Peace Pizza, packing up our pantry add-ons, saving seeds, or making bouquets. Getting involved is easy, just join them at a volunteer orientation. They happen once a month on a Saturday. Check their website for more details.
Head to the Fun Zone
Take fun for a ride—or ride for fun, rather—at the Balboa Fun Zone! This coastal amusement area in Newport Beach is packed with rides, arcade games and treats along the harbor and since there is no admission you can always take some pictures and admire the boats passing for free.
Ride in A Giant Hot Air Balloon
Stroll around Irvine’s Great Park that offers 1,300 acres of amenities and park space. Standing 118 feet tall with a volume of 210,000 cubic feet, the Balloon flies 6 to 16 passengers at a time based on flight conditions. Flying at an altitude up to 400 feet, it is always tethered to the ground by a steel cable with the strength of 99,000 pounds, making it a safe and fun experience for everyoneThe Giant Balloon admission is free (sponsored by FivePoint). Due to popularity, the flight list fills quickly. Check-in begins 30 minutes prior to each session.12/9
Explore the Tide Pools
Experience the ocean at your fingertips (literally) at the Tide Pools in Dana Point, where you’ll find hermit crabs, sea anemones and other creatures. Please never pick up or disturb the ocean life, just observe and please leave no trace behind. The tide pool area starts just north of the small beach behind the Ocean Institute in Dana Harbor.
Experience Disney Magic
Find a close second to “The Happiest Place on Earth” in the Downtown Disney District. Pop into the unique boutiques and dine alongside live entertainment in this magical enclave of Anaheim.
Hike to the Hollywood Sign
Follow in the footsteps of Real estate developers Woodruff and Shoults, who called their real estate development “Hollywoodland”. Check out these famous letters and hike for free to LA’s Hollywood Sign for your sweaty 15 minutes of fame.
Visit the Griffith Observatory
Discover what’s in orbit at the Griffith Observatory, one of LA’s most famous landmarks. Explore a planetarium, multiple exhibits and a panoramic view of the city.
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Spend a Day at The Grove, People Watching
One of our favorite free activities is people watching. Sitting on a bench at The Grove, watching a cross section of people shopping, dining and taking selfies is not only free but super fun. And please keep all comments to yourself.
Explore The Last Bookstore
While it may not actually be the last, if there ever is truly one last bookstore, we hope this is it. Explore 22,000 square feet of vintage books, collectibles, comic books and more at this LA bookstore.
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Take Pics at the Tar Pits
Discover science in action at the La Brea Tar Pits, where scientists and paleontologists are working daily to excavate new fossils from deposits. L.A. County residents receive free Museum Admission 3-5 pm Monday through Friday. Additional tickets must be purchased for the 3D Theater. Visitors get a front-row seat!
Seas the Day at Seaport Village
Wander along the waterfront at Seaport Village, an outdoor destination with over 70 shops, galleries and eateries.
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See the Famous “Top Gun” House
This restored 1887 bungalow, best known for its appearance in the 1986 film “Top Gun,” is now a charming pie shop set on the grounds of Oceanside’s Mission Pacific Hotel. Pop in and take a look!
Plan a Beach Bonfire in Mission Bay
As the sun begins to set, break out the firewood and s’mores. Mission Bay is the perfect place to spend time on the sand and tell campfire stories. Fire rings are available at many Mission Bay beaches and available on a first-come, first-served basis. Fires are permitted only between 5 a.m. and 12 midnight. Only wood, charcoal, or paper products may be used as fuel.
Watch the Seals Play at Children’s Pool
La Jolla’s Children’s Pool is a small sliver of beach protected by a seawall built in 1932 to make act as a surf break allowing children to swim safely. Recently it has become a popular viewing spot for harbor seals as they also love the break from the waves. Also, please respect the animals and keep your distance.
Hike to Potato Chip Rock
This natural attraction is located on the Mt. Woodson summit and is famous for resembling a potato chip. It is a long hike to get here taking about 4 1/2 hours to do the 7.4 mile out and back loop. Lake Poway PARKING IS FREE during the week but does cost $10 on the weekends. Snap a photo at the right angle to give your loved ones a proper scare, but be prepared to wait in line to snap that pic.
Greater Palm Springs
Road Trip to Salvation Mountain
If the slightly odd beckons you then Salvation Mountain, an outdoor art display 28 years in the making made of adobe clay and half a million gallons of donated paint, is the worth the 90 minute drive from Greater Palm Springs. It is a great place to snap photos and lies at the entrance to Slab City, the off-grid, unincorporated artist community.
Attend Palm Springs VillageFest
Turn any Thursday into a thrill at VillageFest, a weekly street fair that takes place on Palm Canyon Drive. Experience you will experience a diverse array of artists, artisans, entertainers, and purveyors of fresh fruits and veggies, flowers, jewelry, snacks and sweets from 6-10pm in the Fall and Winter.
Hike in Joshua Tree
There is so much to see in Joshua Tree which is quickly becoming an LA Suburb. You could pay to go to a concert at Pappy & Harriets, rent an Airbnb (for prices similar to LA now) or take a free hike. Popular beginner hikes are Arch Rock Trail and Skull Rock. Make sure to bring plenty of water.
See a Cover Band for Free
Get your groove on with a free concert at The Rock Yard, an outdoor amphitheater in Indio with two side-by-side stages. Expect to see knock off’s of your favorite bands like Motley Inc, Just Like Priest and Petty Fever. Shows run all fall long at Fantasy Springs Casino’s fun little backyard.
Explore the Faye Sarkowsky Sculpture Garden
Experience four acres of serenity at the Faye Sarkowsky Sculpture Garden in Palm Desert, which features 14 outdoor sculptures and over 60 desert plants. Set in a lushly landscaped desert oasis replete with water features, native plants, and winding walkways, the sculpture garden houses the art of modern masters, including works by Donald Judd, Betty Gold, Yehiel Shemi, Felipe Castaneda, Jesús Bautista Moroles, Dan Namingha, Gio Pomodoro, and Dave McGary.
Jaclyn is a sunshine chasing San Diego native with an extensive writing background. When she isn’t word-smithing, you can find her playing beach volleyball, skating the boardwalk, or on a rooftop enjoying a drink in the sunshine with her pals.