Explore America's Campgrounds
Southern California has an abundance of low-cost or free cultural, educational, and fun activities. Many of these attractions get you outdoors, perfect for enjoying Southern California's warm, typically sunny climate. From Los Angeles to Santa Monica to La Jolla, plenty of attractions keep you entertained.
Visit the Santa Monica Pier
The Santa Monica Pier has been a Southern California institution since it was opened to the public in 1909. There is so much to see and do at the pier, from shops and cafes to special events and outdoor movie screenings. Children will enjoy a ride on the carousel, and playing video games and skeeball at Playland Arcade. And don't forget Pacific Park, the pier's amusement park, featuring Pacific Wheel, the world's only solar-powered ferris wheel. A visit to the Santa Monica Pier Aquarium will prove to be both educational and fun. Visiting the Santa Monica Pier and Pacific Park is free, although admission is charged for the aquarium, and arcade games require a fee.
See the Getty Center
The Getty Center, one of L.A.'s cultural gems, is a museum that contains a collection of Western art from the Middle Ages to present day. The museum is located on a hillside in the Santa Monica Mountains. Designed by architect Richard Meier, the museum's buildings are just as impressive as the art they house. Surrounded by greenery and stunning gardens, it makes for a picturesque setting. The Getty Center is also one of the best places to see Los Angeles, as you'll have sweeping views of the city from nearly all points on the grounds. Admission to the Getty Center is free, but parking before 5 p.m. costs $15.
Explore Griffith Park
To see all of Griffith Park, you'd need a few days. It is home to the Los Angeles Zoo; Griffith Observatory, overlooking Los Angeles from atop Mount Hollywood; Autry National Center, a cultural institution focusing on America's West; and the Greek Theatre, an outdoor performing arts center that attracts major artists and acts. Encompassing 4,210 acres, Griffith Park is the largest municipal park in the U.S. Guests are welcome to use the 53-mile network of trails for walking, running, or hiking. Griffith Park also houses facilities for swimming, tennis, and horseback riding, as well as four public golf courses: Roosevelt Municipal, Los Feliz Municipal, Harding Municipal and Wilson Municipal.
Tour the Hollywood Walk of Fame
Millions of people visit the Hollywood Walk of Fame each year. Since it opened to the public in 1958, it has been an honor for A-list stars to have their name added to the walk. Stretching 2.4 miles down Hollywood Boulevard, the walk bears more than 2,400 named stars, including Hollywood icons such as Audrey Hepburn and Matt Damon. Seeing the entire walk is a great way to work in some exercise during your excursion. A ceremony is held each time a new star is awarded; check the Hollywood Chamber website for information on upcoming events.
Kayak to the La Jolla Sea Caves
The La Jolla caves are accessible only by water. These natural structures are home to sea lions, leopard sharks, and you may even see a dolphin or two. Rent kayaks through San Diego Bike and Kayak Tours, and for around $43 per person, you'll get a two-hour guided tour in your own kayak through the caves.
Kristen Hampton has been writing professionally since 2003, specializing in higher-education communications. Her work has appeared in the "Baltimore Sun" and publications for Loyola University Maryland, Drexel University, Lehigh University, Cabrini College and Royal Caribbean International. Hampton lives in Philadelphia.