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How to Spend An Affordable Weekend in California

How to Spend An Affordable Weekend in California

When it comes to spending an affordable weekend in California, you know we've got the best tips and tricks to make your time worthwhile.

Roubina Al Abashian


5 min read

March 05, 2022

Who said that a weekend in California means spending all your money? Wherever you look in the Golden State, you’ll find something cheap or free to do. From white-sand beaches to cheap eats, open museum days to free-of-charge historic sites, there’s something fun and affordable to do everywhere. Don’t believe us? Here’s a list of inexpensive and free things to do in California that will make your next getaway memorable and economic.

Affordable Things To Do In Southern California

The iconic Griffith Observatory sits on the south face of Mount Hollywood and overlooks the Los Angeles basin.

1. Wish Upon a Star at Griffith Observatory 

Visiting the Griffith Observatory has forever been one of the best and free things to do in Los Angeles, California. Not only is the observatory an iconic example of California architecture, but it’s also full of fun surprises. Attend one of the live cosmic shows for a small fee or spend the evening swooning over the luminous Los Angeles skyline through the telescope.

2. Tour The Museum of Western Film History

Dig Western flicks? Visit the Museum of Western Film History in Lone Pine for an introduction of the OG silver screen legends. Here, you’ll encounter a wide range of film programs, memorabilia, artifact preservation, and exhibits, as well as view the landscapes that served as a canvas for Western storylines. 

3. Hike the Hazard Peak Trail 

What better way of spending an affordable weekend in California than by hiking its breathtaking coastal hiking trails? The Hazard Peak Trail at Montaña de Oro State Park is a six-mile, moderate hike with an elevation of 950 feet. At its peak, you get clear 360-degree views of the roaring Pacific. Of all the free things to do in Southern California, hiking this trail is probably the most refreshing.

We believe in love at first sight. After all, we've all seen Ricky's yummy fish tacos. We only eat tacos on days that end in “y”.

4. Indulge In Mexican Food At Ricky’s Fish Tacos

We all crave Mexican food, and satisfying our cravings is actually pretty affordable. When in L.A., search for the most crowded food truck and you’ll find yourself at Ricky’s Fish Tacos. Here, you’ll taste the best tacos of your life—give the Ricky’s Special a try; it’s a mix of fish and shrimp, and it will blow you away. 

5. Appreciate Art At The Getty Center

One of L.A’s top art museums charges no entrance fee—crazy, right? The Getty Center is where you’ll marvel at American and European paintings, sculptures, photographs, and drawings. The classic landmark is also an architectural masterpiece in the City of Angels; there’s a lot to admire here.

There are many recreational facilities and several gift shops and restaurants within the boundaries of Balboa Park.

6. Relax At Balboa Park 

You don’t need to think too much about the cheapest things to do in San Diego, California—a relaxing afternoon at the famous Balboa Park will do just right. At the 1,200-acre botanic paradise, you’ll come across museums, beautiful gardens, and the must-visit San Diego Zoo. If you’re on a budget, have a picnic at one of the gardens, stroll around, and visit the Timken Museum of Art—the entrance is free of charge.

7. Shop Till You Drop At Desert Hills Premium Outlet

Yes, Palm Spring is a luxurious destination, but we can’t help but splurge when we’re here. If you ever feel like going on a shopping spree, head straight to the Desert Hills Premium Outlet. Browse from more than 130 brands, including Jimmy Choo and Dior, and look your best without breaking the bank.

8. Hike To The Hollywood Sign  

Looking for a cheap thing to do in Hollywood? A hike is always a good idea. The 5.1-mile, out-and-back Hollyridge Trail leads you to the Mount Lee Summit, where you’ll be exposed to spectacular panoramas right behind the Hollywood Sign. While this is one of the most scenic Hollywood hikes, it has little to no shade, so make sure to carry lots of water and wear a hat.

9. Find a Good Read At Bart’s Books 

Bibliophiles, gather—we’re about to introduce you to a hidden gem called Bart’s Books. This is the world’s largest outdoor bookstore, where you’ll find over 130,000 books from used and new to bestsellers and first editions. Cheap things to do in California are the best, especially when you get to cross off things from your reading list. 

Cheaps Things To Do In Northern California

The Cable Car Museum contains several preserved cable cars, together with smaller exhibits and a gift shop.

10. Learn About The State’s History At The Cable Car Museum 

It’s one thing to watch the iconic San Francisco cable cars in action, and it’s another exploring them up-close. The Cable Car Museum gives you free access to learn the ins and outs of the historic system. Here, you’ll find three cable cars from the 1870s, including the last one that stood on the Clay Street Hill Railroad. Once you’re done observing the tools, grips, cables, and tracks, learn about the man who first invented the system.

11. Expand Your Knowledge at The California State Capitol and Park

Touring the California State Capitol and Park is undoubtedly the most fun thing to do in Sacramento—and it’s free! Stroll through gardens, smell the fragrant roses, and head straight into the State Capitol building. This is where you’ll see the historic offices of the governor and legislature. Examine the chambers, offices, and artwork for the ultimate American experience.

Glass Beach is one of the Mendocino Coast's most unique and photographic destinations that was once a dumping site.

12. Spend the day at Glass Beach

Upon mentioning California, our mind conjures images of white-sand beaches and untamed waves. And while all of them are worth visiting, there’s one that stands out—Glass Beach in Fort Bragg. The shore is covered in kaleidoscopic pebbles and rich tide pools. Bring your camera to this unique beach to snap cool shots.

13. Join For Happy Hour At Bounty Hunter

Out of all the diners in Napa, Bounty Hunter stands out in taste and affordability. Every weekday, during happy hour, customers get a discount on all barbecue platters. And guess what? You’ve never had a decent barbecue unless you’ve dined at Bounty Hunter! It’s hard to believe that indulging in mouthwatering dishes is considered one of the cheapest things to do in Northern California.

Grab your friends for a fun weekend while you explore shops, enjoy in-store specials, and listen to live music in the Old Sacramento Waterfront.

14. Tour The Old Sacramento Waterfront

The Old Sacramento Waterfront is where you’ll travel back in time to the Gold Rush era. The 28-acre district is clad in wooden sidewalks, with horse-drawn carriages and buildings from the 1800s decorating the streets of this Sacramento attraction

15. View Lake Tahoe From The Skyline trail

Our favorite way of experiencing Lake Tahoe is through hiking the Skyline Trail. Start your journey by taking the ski lift at Heavenly Ski Resort to reach the Skyline Trailhead. Then, make your way to the Observation Deck, where you can enjoy striking views of Lake Tahoe, Carson Valley, and Desolation Wilderness. 

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