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The West Coast of the United States is known for the Hollywood Walk of Fame, sparkling vampires and the birthplace of an American coffee conglomerate, but the region has more to offer than that… and many of these lesser-known attractions are free. Here are some of the best free things to do in California, Oregon and Washington.
Fun Things to Do in California for Free
Jelly Belly Factory Tour
1 Jelly Belly Lane, Fairfield
The history of Jelly Belly began in the mid-19th century when Gustav Goelitz opened his candy business in Illinois. Today, Jelly Belly jelly beans are sold around the world and are manufactured in California.
There you can visit the place where Jelly Bellys are born and get an inside look at the candy factory.
The factory features interactive exhibits, a self-guided walking tour and free samples of the famous jelly beans.
You can also browse the Jelly Belly Jelly Bean Art Gallery, shop at the Jelly Belly Candy Store, dine at the Jelly Belly Café, shop at the Jelly Belly Chocolate Shoppe and Fudge Counter and sample your way through the Chocolate & Wine Experience.
Last time there was a candy factory tour this extensive, you had to find a golden ticket in a chocolate bar.
The Visitors Center at the Jelly Belly Factory is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day. Factory Tours take place from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. every day.
Free Things to Do at Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco
Sea lions took up residence on the docks of Pier 39 in 1989, at the Fisherman’s Wharf, and now rarely ever leave. According to the Fisherman’s Wharf website the wharf has more family-friendly activities than any other part of San Francisco.
Fisherman’s Wharf has a reputation of being an expensive tourist trap, but there are free thins to do at the historic location.
Visiting the sea lions, taking a stroll on Hyde Street Pier and observing street performers are just a few of the fun things to do at the wharf that don’t cost a dime.
Find out about even more free fun things to do in California.
Free Things to Do in Oregon
The Pacific Northwest is known for its hiking locations and the hikes at Forest Park offer a taste of the lush and bright-green landscape.
Forest Park is open from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. everyday. Its 5,157 acres of natural landscape make it the largest urban forest in the United States.
The first European American explorers arrived in the area in 1806 as a part of the Lewis and Clark expedition. Today, Forest Park stretches more than seven miles along the eastern slope of the Tualatin Mountains.
Here you can explore the urban wilderness on your own or take a guided Discovery Hike, led by the park staff and local experts, for free.
To protect the wildlife, visitors are encouraged to stay on marked trails and refrain from littering. Since Forest Park is an urban park, fires, camping, fireworks or firearms are not allowed.
The International Rose Test Garden
Washington Park, 400 S.W. Kingston Ave., Portland.
Also in Portland, you can explore one of the largest and oldest rose test gardens in the country.
Starting in 1917, the primary purpose of the International Rose Test Garden garden has been to serve as a testing ground for new rose varieties, hence its name.
The test garden is home to around 7,000 rose bushes and features specialty rose test gardens, such as the miniature and Shakespeare gardens, which serve specific purposes.
In the miniature garden you can stop and smell the miniature roses, where rose breeders are working to shrink the delicate flower, one generation at a time.
The Shakespeare garden was originally designed to include only herbs, trees and flowers mentioned in Shakespeare’s plays. The garden’s design features graceful trees, brick walks and hundreds of annuals and perennials besides roses.
Visitors are welcome to picnic in the gardens and are encouraged to take their time browsing through the extensive collection of plants.
Free tours are offered from June through September on Tuesdays at 11:30 a.m. and 1 p.m., and on Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays at 1 p.m. The garden is open from 7:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily.
Find out about even more free fun things to do in Oregon.
Fun Things to Do in Washington for Free
211 W Highland Dr, Seattle
Kerry Park offers the usual public park amenities, but the view of Elliott Bay, the Central City and occasionally Mount Rainier make this park a local and tourist favorite.
The park is located about halfway up Queen Anne Hill and although it is small, the park features one of the best views of the Seattle skyline. From the park’s lookout point you can see the famous Seattle Space Needle and a clear silhouette of Seattle’s other skyscrapers. Photographers flock to Kerry Park on clear-skied sunny days, hoping to snap a shot of the elusive Mount Rainier in the distance.
The park is also a popular spot for weddings and wedding photos, so seeing a bride and groom strolling through is a typical sight.
The park is open all year and admission is free.
The Olympic Peninsula National Park and Waterfall Trail
3002 Mt Angeles Rd, Port Angeles
The Olympic Peninsula National Park offers year-round outdoor activities for those looking to enjoy the natural beauty of Washington state, with more than 70 miles of wild coastline.
There you can see the cliffs of Cape Flattery, the glacial fjord of the Hood Canal, the Valley of the Quinault Rainforest and waterfalls of varying sizes and shapes.
The Olympic Peninsula Waterfall Trail offers ways for visitors of varying skill levels to experience the views.
Some of the waterfalls can only be reached by kayak or raft and others require some hiking. There are also waterfalls that can be seen from paved, wheelchair-accessible trails, and even from the car window.
The Olympic Peninsula National Park also offers lodges and campgrounds, kayaking and fishing locations.
The park is open year round and admission is free.
Find out about even more free fun things to do in Washington.
This post was created by Alexandra Olsen, a college student intern for TravelingMom.com. Her love of travel began at a very young age–traveling with her family to little beach towns growing up in Brazil. She has her own personal travel blog, Trail Mix, which she started while spending a summer studying abroad in Norway.