Southern California is justifiably one of the most popular family destinations, with near perfect weather year round, pristine beaches and clean water. Buena Park, 20 miles from Los Angeles and five miles from Disneyland, is a charming historical town. You can find a variety of free things to do in Buena Park and then save your vacation budget for the expensive theme park trips.
Buena Park, California, is not only home to attractions for thrill seekers but it’s also a great destination for those on a budget. If you need things to do in Orange County California with kids you are in luck. In addition to Knott’s Berry Farm theme park, attractions include Soak City Waterpark, Pirate’s Dinner Adventure and Medieval Times Dinner & Tournament. There are also six free things to do in Buena Park. For more things to do, downloand the free Buena Park visitors' guide.
1. The Land Before Time: Ice Age Fossils in a Park
Naturally one of the free things to do in Buena Park is go to a park! The Ralph B. Clark Regional Park includes the Clark Interpretive Center Paleontology Museum. The small museum features ice age fossils and local geology exhibits. See a 9 million year old baleen whale skeleton, thought to be one of the only complete ice age whale fossils in existence. Admission is free, but you do have to pay to park. The museum's hours are Tuesday to Friday, 12:30-4:30 pm.
Once you have paid to park, you might as well spend the day in the park. There are hiking and biking trails, three playgrounds, picnic tables and a lake stocked with fish.
2. Declaration of Independence: From Paying Admission
Walter Knott, who founded Knott’s Berry Farm, was an American history buff. He built Knott’s Independence Hall, an exact replica of the original in Philadelphia. Open daily, except Christmas, 10 am to 4 pm.
The building, which commemorates the signing of the U.S. Constitution and the signing of the Declaration of Independence, retells the debate that led to the drafting of the Declaration of Independence and the creation of the United States of America. Historical exhibits include a replica of the Liberty Bell – down to the crack – and a 1790s horse drawn carriage.
3. Time Travel: Buena Park Historic District
Yes, one of the things to do in Orange County California with kids is see the Liberty Bell! Credit: Knott's Berry FarmThe city of Buena Vista dates to the 1800s. In the Historic District, several well preserved buildings offer free tours. You literally step back in time here. There is a large clock, with hour and minute hands. Assuming you know how to tell time this way, you can teach your kids how to tell time the non-digital way.
Historic buildings include the Whitaker-Jaynes House, which is also the city’s local history museum. The Stage Stop Hotel dates from 1890 and serves as the California Welcome Center. The hotel once served stagecoach passengers and still assists travelers. Pick up free maps and discounted tickets here. And check out the Bacon House, one of the oldest surviving structures from the area.
4. Fine Art Nearby
The Irvine Museum Collection, at the University of California, Irvine California, shows paintings focusing on California Impressionism. The museum has rotating exhibits of its collection until it moves to its permanent home. It is open Tuesday-Saturday, 11 am-5 pm. Not only is admission free, but you can also validate your parking ticket for free parking. The museum is about 20 miles from Buena Park.
5 . Window Shopping, with Free Parking to Boot
Head to Knott's Marketplace, just outside Knott's Berry Farm, for Snoopy souvenirs and Knott's jams and jellies, or just to window shop. When you see all the jams, the origin of the name Knott's Berry Farm makes sense. In fact, though Rudolph Boysen developed the hybrid berry that bears his name, he was unable to grow the berry successfully. Knott's Berry Farm is where the first boysenberries (a cross between blackberries and huckleberries) were cultivated.
Knott's Marketplace has a year-round Christmas Store. Validate your parking ticket in one of the shops. You can get up to three hours free, a rarity in this area.
6. Supplement Your Visit
The Nutrilite Health Institute Center for Optimal Health has twice daily free tours. The interactive experience includes learning how organic farms and rooftop gardens operate. The farms supply the ingredients for the Nutrilite brand vitamins and supplements. Tours last two and a half – three hours. Reservations are required. Closed on Sundays.
Have you found other free things to do in Buena Park? Let us know in the comments section.