Fun in the Golden State

Fun in California can be costly, especially if you stick to the more touristy attractions. Fear not, there are quite a few things to do that are memorable without completely emptying your wallet. When we lived there, we tried our best to appreciate all the beauty that surrounded us, and tried to take advantage of community events, discounted memberships and free opportunities. Here are some places we enjoyed throughout the years in sunny California.

Let’s start from San Francisco. Of course there’s the iconic Golden Gate Bridge which is a wonderful place to sit and soak in the atmosphere, take some photos, and enjoy a picnic.

Not too far down the road from the Bridge is the Palace of Fine Arts. Another picturesque spot to sit back, relax and take in the day.

Heading a little further South is Santa Cruz, which offers the beautiful site of Natural Bridges State Beach.

There are many places to stop along the coast to spend some time playing in the water, so be sure to have towels or a change of clothes handy.

When we lived in the area, we opted to purchase an annual pass for the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

It was one of our most favorite places to take a day trip to, and in the long run saved us money visiting multiple times. It’s such a magnificent facility and the exhibits are some of the best we’ve ever witnessed.

While in Monterey Bay, we enjoyed grabbing a bite at Bubba Gump Shrimp. The kids had no idea what the big deal was, but they loved eating there nonetheless.

The Jelly Belly Factory located in Fairfield is something my kids still talk about today, almost 10 years later! For a minimal fee ($5 adults, $2 kids at the time), you can go on a factory tour to see how Jelly Belly makes their candies. At the end of the tour, we were given a sample of the newest flavor they were going to release as well as a bag of jelly beans. They also have a store full of different (crazy) flavors for purchase.

Emma Prusch Farm is home to San José’s largest barn where 4-H livestock projects are housed. The animals they keep vary throughout the year so it’s a great place to periodically check out to see what new animals are around. The park has wonderful community gardens, a rare fruit orchard, and acres of open grass, perfect for a picnic, and relaxing. They have a fun play scape and many areas to explore throughout the property. Remember to bring quarters so you can feed the chickens and goats.

One of the most beautiful and memorable moments we had was watching the sunrise in the bay while in San Diego. It was quite literally, breathtaking.

Old Town, San Diego is fun to check out, grab some lunch, listen to live mariachis and soak in some history. Explore the old buildings and artifacts and even let the kids pan for gold for a small fee.

California has a plethora of beautiful beaches and parks to encounter. Enjoy the day soaking up the sun, listening to the waves and playing in the water, all while not spending a dime!

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