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When it comes to domestic travel, California tends to be more expensive to visit than many other states around the country. However, this is a huge state with a wide variety of places to see that suit any type of budget. If you’re looking for an affordable California vacation, there are some great cities, towns, and recreation areas that won’t break the bank. Here are 11 cheap weekend getaways in California to check out.
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There are lots of great national parks to visit in California, and these are affordable destinations that help you get in touch with your natural surroundings. The entrance fee is $30 per vehicle here, and it’s $25 per motorcycle and $55 for an annual park pass. There are nine campgrounds at the bark where you can save money on lodging and maximize your time outdoors. There are four reservations-only campgrounds that cost about $15 to $20 per night, as well as first-come-first-served campgrounds that are $15 per night. Backcountry camping is also allowed in the park if you pitch your tent at least a mile from roads and 500 feet from trails and water sources. Things to do in the park include hiking, horseback riding, mountain biking, and rock climbing.
A great weekend getaway from Los Angeles is Ventura, which is just north of the city and has a laid-back beach town vibe. There are lots of cheap things to keep the whole family entertained here, including the Ventura Pier playground for kids, and the 30-mile Ventura to Ojai bike bath to get some exercise. Entrance to the Channel Islands National Park is free, and there is free beach parking and harbor village parking. Other fun and affordable activities are bird watching along the promenade and searching for sea glass.
June Lake is a small mountain town in the Eastern Sierras with lots of great camping opportunities. The private campgrounds have affordable rates, and disbursed camping is often free in the area. Embrace the big mountains and great outdoors with totally free hikes at Gull Lake, the Parker Lake Trail, and June Mountain. Other top things to see and do are Devil’s Postpile National Monument, June Lake Brewing, and Mono Lake Tufa State Natural Reserve in nearby Lee Vining.
Eureka in Northern California also makes for a cheap weekend getaway because of its affordable lodging and food options. Take a drive down the Redwood Highway, check out the Humboldt Bay, walk through Old Town Eureka, and be among the giant trees at Sequoia Park Garden. There are also some interesting mansions and museums here if you’re interested in local history.
You can also head to the state capital of Sacramento for a cheap weekend getaway in California. Visit on free museums days for your art and culture fix, exercise on the American River Bike Trail, enjoy water sports at Folsom Lake, and visit the Jelly Belly Factory in nearby Fairfield. Other free attractions are the Effie Yeaw Nature Center, Capitol Park, Capitol building tours, and the 2nd Saturday Art Walk each month.
Idyllwild is a California town with lots of charm in the San Jacinto Mountains. It’s a couple of hours from Los Angeles and makes a wonderful cheap weekend getaway. Idyllwild has a rustic vibe and transforms you back in time with its locally owned restaurants and shops lining the streets. While you’re in this area, you might want to check out the local rock climbing scene at Tahquitz Peak and Suicide Rock.
Oxnard is a beach town that’s north of Malibu, which might make you think it’s far from affordable. But compared to other destinations along this stretch of Pacific coast, Oxnard has some surprisingly good prices. You can hop on a boat from here to reach the Channel Islands or just relax on the beach. Here you’ll find beachfront areas lined with palm trees and trails for biking and jogging. Other great budget-friendly options are the local farmers’ markets, Bedford Pinkard Skate Park, the vintage cars at the Murphy Auto Museum, and touring Heritage Square.
Pismo Beach is a beautiful central coast location that includes everything you love about California. Budget-friendly things to do on a weekend trip here include the Monarch Butterfly Grove, Dinosaur Caves Park, Pismo Pier, and Margo Dodd Park. Check out the local farmer’s market at the pier and take a ride on the nearby Bob Jones City to Sea Bike Trail too.
Big Bear is only within a couple hours from Los Angeles and is a popular place in both winter and summer. Come to this region to go skiing in the winter but know that this is when prices hit their peak. Alternatively, you can visit in the summer for often cheaper prices and plenty of opportunities to go fishing, swimming, mountain biking, and even play mini golf. Downtown Big Bear has lots of restaurants, shops, and theaters that you can walk around and spend as much or as little as you like.
Take a cheap weekend getaway to Solvang and feel like you’ve just taken a very affordable trip to Europe. This town is modeled after a Danish village and within an hour of Santa Barbara. You’ll love the windmill and iconic architecture here, as well as all the quaint shops filled with treats and souvenirs. It’s totally free to walk through town and browse to your heart’s content, but you might want to open your wallet for a delicious apple strudel at the Danish Mill Bakery.
Morro Bay offers cheap weekend getaways for travelers and some excellent kayaking opportunities in a protected bay. This central coast destination has lots of free things to do, including the Art Center Morro Bay, the Auxilio Innovation shop, Main Street Market, and Coleman Park & Beach. Also make sure to check out the Morro Bay Bike Park, the Mural Mile, and the Morro Bay National Estuary to see the sights without breaking your budget.