Free Things To Do in Huntington Beach
- #1View all Photos#1 in Huntington BeachBeaches, Natural Wonders, FreeTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDBeaches, Natural Wonders, FreeTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND
If you've seen a photo of Huntington Beach, chances are it's of its main beach and famous pier. The beach's 3 ½ miles of gorgeous sands is a haven for professional surfers and volleyball players, and draws locals and tourists eager to learn how to surf and stroll the 1,850-foot-long pier. The impressive pier, which is one of the longest on the West Coast, is an excellent place to fish and catch a sunset. Meanwhile, the beach itself features all kinds of amenities, including fire rings for beach bonfires, restrooms with outdoor showers, an information kiosk, water sports equipment rentals and beach volleyball courts. When you need a break from the sand and sea, cycle along the Huntington Beach Bike Trail or explore Downtown Huntington Beach. Both sit within walking distance of the beach and pier.
According to previous visitors, the city's main beach and pier are two of its can't-miss attractions. Not only will you enjoy incredible ocean views (especially at sunset), but you'll also discover a laid-back ambiance ideal for relaxing outside. In fact, many highly recommend coming here to simply watch the surfers and walk up and down the pier. If you're hoping to avoid large crowds, past beachgoers recommended visiting on a weekday and outside the busy summer season. The beach also tends to get crowded during its annual events, so consider planning around popular events like the AVP Huntington Beach Open (in May), the Vans US Open of Surfing (in August) and The Great Pacific Airshow (in September).
- #2View all Photos#2 in Huntington BeachEntertainment and Nightlife, Free, Cafes, Neighborhood/Area, ShoppingTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDEntertainment and Nightlife, Free, Cafes, Neighborhood/Area, ShoppingTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND
Whether you need a break from surfing or fishing at Huntington City Beach or are looking for something to do by your beachfront hotel, Downtown Huntington Beach is the place to go. The city center is the dining and entertainment hub of Huntington Beach thanks to its plethora of restaurants, bars, shops and attractions. Shopaholics will find everything from trendy brands (think: Urban Outfitters, H&M and Free People) to casual surf shops. Meanwhile, foodies can visit the weekly farmers market, grab a bite to eat at one of numerous restaurants or relax with a beverage and light bites at Orange County's highest rooftop lounge. Downtown Huntington Beach is also home to the Huntington Beach International Surfing Museum, so be sure to save some time for perusing the property's surfing-focused exhibits.
Overall, previous visitors heaped praise on this part of the city, citing its diverse selection of shops and restaurants as reasons to return. However, a few lamented the lack of parking, particularly at night and on weekends, so consider arriving early or walking to the area. If you can only squeeze one visit into your itinerary, past travelers suggested going on a Tuesday between 5 and 9 p.m., when the popular Surf City Nights street fair and farmers market takes place.
- #3View all Photos#3 in Huntington BeachBeaches, Natural Wonders, FreeTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDBeaches, Natural Wonders, FreeTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND
One of Huntington Beach's most popular shorelines is Huntington State Beach. At this beautiful beach 2 miles southeast of the Huntington Beach Pier, you can enjoy activities like surf fishing and swimming. Plus, the beach is a haven for California least terns (an endangered species) and snowy plovers (a threatened species), making it a top spot to go bird-watching. However, the beach's main draw is its superb swells. From late spring to mid-fall, Huntington State Beach boasts steep, curled waves that are excellent for surfing. But remember, the beach's large swells are not recommended for beginners; only experienced surfers should ride the waves here.
Although a few past visitors wished the beach still permitted overnight camping, many praised its ample amenities (think: a paved bike path, barbecue grills, beach volleyball courts and outdoor showers) and wide shore. What's more, several previous beachgoers raved about Huntington State Beach's sunsets. To dial up the ambiance when you visit, claim one of the beach's fire rings – which are available on a first-come, first-served basis – so you can sit by a fire and savor s'mores as you watch the sun set. Make sure you arrive early during the warmer months to guarantee access to a fire ring. Also, keep in mind that the beach's three concession stands are only open on weekends and summer weekdays, so firewood is only available to buy on-site at those times.
- #4View all Photos#4 in Huntington BeachBeaches, Natural Wonders, FreeTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDBeaches, Natural Wonders, FreeTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND
Spend a few hours at Huntington Dog Beach if you're traveling with your four-legged friend or enjoy watching pooches play. Considered one of America's top dog-friendly beaches, this stretch of sand welcomes dogs and their owners to run around and play with few restrictions. Plus, it hosts three of the area's most popular pet-friendly events: Surf City Surf Dog (a dog surfing competition) and the spring and fall editions of So Cal Corgi Beach Day (a corgi get-together featuring costume contests and fun photo-ops).
Recent visitors highly recommended checking out this beach, especially if you're looking for a fun event to attend. Because Surf City Surf Dog occurs annually in September and the spring and fall So Cal Corgi Beach Day events take place in April and October, respectively, you'll want to plan your trip accordingly. If a spring or fall vacation is out of the question, don't let that dissuade you from visiting. Past beachgoers said Huntington Dog Beach is excellent to visit year-round thanks to its clean sand, no leash policy and lack of crowds.
- #6View all Photos#6 in Huntington BeachFree, Parks and Gardens, RecreationTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDFree, Parks and Gardens, RecreationTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND
When you find yourself needing a change of scenery, head to Huntington Central Park. Featuring more than 350 acres of land, this green space is the largest city-owned park in Orange County. Here, you can pass the time picnicking, fishing, bird-watching, playing Frisbee golf or simply exploring various trails on foot, by bike or by horse. If you're traveling with children, you'll find multiple kids facilities on the park grounds, including four playgrounds and the largest children's library situated west of the Mississippi River. Other noteworthy amenities include three eateries, an equestrian center, a dog park and an 18-acre nature center.
Past travelers loved visiting Huntington Central Park, calling it an "oasis in the city" and a "bird-watcher's paradise." Many previous visitors were particularly impressed with the beautiful foliage and well-maintained paths, though a few cautioned that the presence of homeless residents can make the park feel unsafe at times. Try to visit during the day and with others to avoid feeling uneasy.
- #7View all Photos#7 in Huntington BeachBeaches, Natural Wonders, FreeTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDBeaches, Natural Wonders, FreeTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND
Head to Bolsa Chica State Beach if you want to reconnect with nature while at the beach. This 3-mile stretch of sand, which sits 4 miles northwest of Downtown Huntington Beach, generally sees fewer visitors than other beaches like Huntington City Beach and Huntington State Beach, so you'll enjoy more elbow room when surf fishing, bird-watching and sunbathing, among other activities. What's more, the beach boasts proximity to Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve and features a popular recreational vehicle campground.
Many reviewers suggested coming to Bolsa Chica State Beach to hike or bike its paved beachside trail. Several people also said the beach is a terrific place for beach bonfires (you'll have access to 200 fire rings here) and highly recommended camping overnight. If you plan on staying the night, be sure to reserve your space months in advance, especially during the summer months, to ensure availability.
- #8View all Photos#8 in Huntington BeachNatural Wonders, Free, Parks and GardensTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDNatural Wonders, Free, Parks and GardensTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND
Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve's proximity to Bolsa Chica State Beach makes it a necessary addition to any beach visit, but don't let that be the only reason why you stop by. Within this serene 1,400-acre coastal estuary, you'll find marshes, dunes, islands, mudflats and open water frequented by hundreds of species of birds, plus coyotes and raccoons, among other animals. Sea lions and green sea turtles are occasionally spotted here as well. The reserve also features 5 miles of hiking trails and an interpretive center with maps, educational exhibits and a gift shop.
Past visitors said this protected area offers a tranquil setting ideal for jogging, hiking and biking. What's more, many appreciated the countless bird-watching opportunities the property provides. If birding is your main reason for coming, try to visit in winter (between November and February) or summer (between April and August) when you have the greatest chance of spotting birds.
- #9View all Photos#9 in Huntington BeachMuseums, FreeTYPELess than 1 hourTIME TO SPENDMuseums, FreeTYPELess than 1 hourTIME TO SPEND
A trip to Huntington Beach wouldn't be complete without visiting the Huntington Beach International Surfing Museum. As its name implies, this museum focuses on the history of surfing, making it an excellent place to gain some context about the sport before or after a surfing lesson. Inside, you'll find unique surfing artifacts, including the world's largest surfboard and a surfboard that belonged to Duke Kahanamoku, the man credited with popularizing the sport. There's also a gift shop that sells T-shirts, books and other surfing-related keepsakes.
Although a couple of recent visitors bemoaned the museum's small size, most said it's worth visiting, regardless of whether or not you like to surf. Several past museumgoers also appreciated the attraction's friendly staff and commitment to regularly changing the theme of its displays.
- #10View all Photos#10 in Huntington BeachEntertainment and Nightlife, Free, Cafes, ShoppingTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDEntertainment and Nightlife, Free, Cafes, ShoppingTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND
For a taste of Europe in Southern California, head to Old World Village. True to its name, this shopping, dining and entertainment complex features an old-world ambiance that will make you feel like you're in Germany. Inside the Bavarian-style buildings, you'll find novelty shops selling everything from cuckoo clocks to glass trinkets, as well as a German beer garden and eateries dishing up German classics like apple strudel and bratwurst. Plus, the property's main restaurant and bar hosts an Oktoberfest celebration every year from early September to early November.
Reviewers say Old World Village is a terrific place to bring kids for a dose of culture and traditional German fare. In fact, the cuisine here is so authentic that visitors who've traveled to Germany or are originally from the country claim it reminds them of what they've enjoyed back in Europe. However, a few travelers bemoaned the dated appearance of the property and its limited selection of shops.
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