As much as we all love Southern California, we all know it’s an expensive place to live and visit. But heck, with this gorgeous weather I guess we just have to put up with the sunshine tax. To save all of us a few bucks, I’ve put together a list of some fabulous freebies that you can enjoy in SoCal without spending a dime. These locations are all wonderful excursions that can be enjoyed by an out-of-towner or a local. Get ready to have some fun and save some money while you’re at it.
1. First Thursdays are Free at the Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens in San Marino
With the price of admission on the weekends running $25 per person, this first Thursday freebie is pretty fantastic. Reservations for free tickets need to be made one month in advance through online reservations. The Huntington is truly a beautiful place to see; if you're on a budget then First Thursday is the way to do it.
2. Tour the Old Orange County Courthouse Museum in Santa Ana
See the oldest courtroom in Southern California during the free tours that are offered weekly by appointment. This building is a registered California Historical Landmark.
3. Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles
A one-hour guided tour of the interior architecture and exterior gardens of this magnificent concert hall is available to the public at scheduled times each day with a professional tour guide. All tours are free. If you prefer the self-guided route, they also have free audio tours available.
4. Free Tuesdays at select Balboa Park Museums for San Diego residents
The museums at Balboa Park are on a rotating schedule offering free admission to a select group of museums every Tuesday. You must show local ID at the museum to get in at the discounted rate.
5. The Nethercutt Museum and Collection in Sylmar
If you're a car enthusiast, or even if you're not, the Nethercutt offers one of the coolest collections of restored antique cars you will ever see. The collection also includes antique furniture and vintage musical instruments. Admission and guided tours are always free and offered by appointment only Thursday-Saturday.
6. Bowers Museum in Santa Ana
Bowers Museum offers free admission to all Santa Ana residents every Sunday of the week. If you're not a Santa Ana resident, you can still enjoy a freebie at the Family Festivals event held the first Sunday of the month. Family Festival is free to all Santa Ana residents and non-residents.
7. Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles
This is one of the most iconic places in all of Los Angeles and it is absolutely free. Even the parking is free, which is rare. Enjoy some stargazing, take in a show at the planetarium or tour one of the many exhibits and never pay a single dime. This place is incredible!
8. The Coronado Butterfly Preserve in Goleta in Santa Barbara County
The Monarch butterflies are a glorious sight to see. Although peak butterfly season is almost wrapping up, you can enjoy the 9.3 acre preserve year-round as you will find walking trails, woods and meadows to explore.
9. Sunday concerts at the Spreckels Organ Pavilion in Balboa Park
Every Sunday at 2pm since 1917 there has been a free weekly organ concert in the heart of Balboa Park at the Spreckels Organ Pavilion. The pipe organ is stunning and quite magnificent to see and hear in person.
10. Build a towering castle in the sand
The ultimate freebie that you can do on any SoCal beach. Dig out an old bucket and a beach shovel and have yourself a blast on a sandy beach.
Don’t you just love a bargain?! I hope you enjoy checking out all of these great spots. Although these places are free, many of these locations do appreciate donations so keep that in mind when you visit. What other SoCal destinations would you add to the list that can be enjoyed without having to open your wallet?