Along the Big Sur Coast you’ll find a variety of campsites, with Pfeiffer being a favorite among campers as it is centered on the Big Sur River. Just a short walk away you’ll find the Gorge, a quaint swimming hole in the sun, whose hidden waterfalls and clear water are visited by both locals and tourists. Due to the recent fire, Pfeiffer is currently closed, but it will reopen on June 30. Reservations are available for as little as $35 a night. Consider splitting the campsite fee among a group of friends for an even better deal!
In driving less than an hour north, you’ll end up at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. All-day rides wristbands at this amusement park are $39.95. If you drive a little further north to Santa Clara, you’ll find an even greater selection of games and rides at California’s Great America. Access to these 100 acres of entertainment starts at $46.99 with a discount of up to $25 if you buy online. And if you know you’ll go more than once, you might consider purchasing a season pass for $71.99 that will last you until Sept. 4.
The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art offers free admission for those 18 and under, while the general admission price is $25. Anyone ages 19 to 24 with an ID, however, only pays $19 for entry. Down south, those 17 and under receive free general admission and free tickets to specially ticketed exhibitions at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. If you’re looking to bring someone 18 or over along, consider becoming a NexGen member—it’s free to join for anyone 17 and under, and you’ll receive free admission for you and one adult.
Lake Nacimiento, an 18-mile-long lake, is located in the northern San Luis Obispo County. Shasta Lake, situated further north in Shasta County, is about 10 square miles in size. While camping at these lakes is the cheapest option, you might also consider staying at one of the many lodges, resorts, hotels or motels in the area. And if your friends are feeling up to it, you could even split the cost of a houseboat between you and your group.
Within California’s Sierra Nevada Mountains is Yosemite National Park, best known for its giant sequoia trees and views of Bridalveil Fall, Half Dome and El Capitan. Although camping might be the best way to immerse yourself in this beauty, the National Park also offers various cabins, hotels and bed and breakfasts for other types of lodging. And if the scenery at Yosemite isn’t enough to peak your interest, the National Park also offers activities such as biking, fishing, rock climbing, rafting and shopping.
The San Diego Zoo in Balboa Park, San Diego houses over 3,700 animals of more than 650 species and subspecies. A one-day pass to the zoo includes admission, a guided bus tour, a ride on the kangaroo express bus and skyfari aerial trams and access to all regularly scheduled shows at the park. These tickets are $42 for those 12 and under and $52 for adults.
It can be easy to forget that only a few minutes away is the Monterey Bay Aquarium, a place that was named the top aquarium in the U.S. for kids by “Parents” magazine in 2007. The Monterey Bay Aquarium offers access to 550 different species of animals in more than 100 tanks. For nearby residents, a trip to this world-renowned aquarium requires only payment for the ticket. Admission into the aquarium is $39.95 for students and $49.95 for adults
If you’re looking to spend almost nothing this summer while still enjoying your time off, never forget that the beach is always an option. Carmel Beach is only a few minutes away, but if you’re feeling like it’s time to go somewhere new, consider heading to one of California’s many other beaches such as Huntington Beach, Newport Beach or Venice Beach.