Living in Southern California is expensive, but vacationing there is even pricier. If you’re looking for some great free activities this summer for your family, check out these great suggestions.
San Luis Rey Mission: Why should you visit this mission? It’s absolutely stunning and it’s not far from Oceanside Beach, which is a great beach for little ones to body board. The waves are usually just perfect for kids and the wind doesn’t seem as intense as Huntington and Newport beaches. San Luis Rey Mission, is a National Historic Landmark and a really interesting and educational experience for children and adults alike. Admission to the grounds is completely free. If you want to see the museum or cemetery, there is a nominal fee. I recommend doing a little research on the missions built in California before you go. You can give the kids a fun history lesson and learn something yourself. Visit the mission and the beach in the same day and you get two free activities. Beach parking is normally around $20 dollars or less depending how far you want to walk.
Griffith Park Observatory: This is constantly being voted one of the best free things to do in Southern California. The Griffith Park Observatory has gorgeous gardens and paths and for a small fee you can visit the planetarium, although you don’t have to spend a dime to have a great day with the family. Obviously, the haze from pollution can be bad in this part of California (Los Angeles), but on a good day, you can get a shot of your family with the Hollywood sign as a background.
Hiking at Whitewater Preserve: You can visit the Whitewater Preserve for free and there are tons of beautiful hiking trails. This part of California gets extremely hot in the summer months, so I recommend going in the spring, fall, or even winter. When we lived there, we normally wore shorts on Christmas Day! If you get to the Whitewater Preserve early, you can find a nice picnic spot, feed the trout, or stop by the lake. Never venture off of the trails here. The desert can be deadly if you lose your way.
Point Dume: You should definitely take the time to visit the Point Dume Preserve while you’re in Southern California. It’s completely breathtaking! Point Dume consists of 30 plus acres of beach perfection. You can hike down to the beach from numerous trails. Your children will love this place but there are steep cliffs, so please hold hands and keep the kiddos on the inside of the trail. The only real downside to visiting is the parking, but if you’ve been to any beach city, you know that parking is always an issue.
Goat Hill Junction: If you have little ones, this is usually a hit. You can visit Goat Hill Junction and ride a mini train. Yes, mom and dad can ride too. Make sure your kiddos are old enough to walk or they can’t ride. You’ll need to go on the third weekend of the month and yes, the rides are free. Go to Fairview Park, in Costa Mesa for this fun experience. I recommend making a day trip out of this with a picnic. It’s usually not as busy the last few hours of the day. When we’ve gone in the early day, the lines were pretty horrendous, but usually seem to lessen towards the end of the day.