10 Free California Field Trips

To say we LOVE field trips is an understatement.   I have found that hands on learning and exploring makes topics more interesting and memorable for my children. Sadly, public schools are consistently cutting back on their budgets for field trips and other extracurricular activities. These one of a kind learning experiences are essential for a child’s development and some of my fondest memories from my own schooling. Being able to take field trips is actually one of the many reasons we homeschool.

Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.  ~ Benjamin Franklin

Isn’t tasting freshly pressed olive oil at the site where it was made, listening to a Native American speak about his ancestors and share his knowledge of native plants, touching a plane that was used in WWII, or walking portions of the Cherokee Trail of Tears more exciting than learning about them in a book?

Today, I share with you some of our most memorable California field trips we have enjoyed this past year.

Free California FieldtripsLego Fun – Buddy is big time into LEGOs. When we are home he spends  hours playing with them so of course we had to visit Legoland when we were in Southern California.  While there, we stopped by Lego® Mindstorms® and signed up for a hands-on tutorial. The kids had a blast building and programing a computerized robot.  As a result of this experience, we are contemplating starting our own Lego League this fall.

Lucero Olive Oil – After trying our hand at harvesting our own olives recently, What to Do With Fresh Olives, I wanted to give the kiddos a taste of the agricultural sciences which brought us to Lucero for a taste experience we will not soon forget.

bird watching

Nature Walks  – Our Roots & Shoots friends have joined us on many of these adventures.  Our volunteer guide is very knowledgeable about birds. We look forward to her outings every month.

Lady WashingtonLady Washington & Hawaiian Chieftan – We were fortunate to happen upon these historic ships while in San Francisco one weekend.

Free California Field Trips

I have shared about some of our other field trips here, here, and here … but since I never tire of sharing, here are 10 more FREE California field trips you can enjoy:

  1. California Capitol – always FREE. The State Capitol Museum is open daily and offers free tours hourly; self-guided tours are also available. Reservations are required for large groups or sign up for a guided tour.
  2. Jelly Belly Factory – Learn the secrets to how we create the legendary Jelly Belly jelly bean, and discover why it takes more than a week to make a single bean.
  3. Nature Centers – California has many nature centers that do not charge to walk the trails. Some of these are Oak Canyon Nature Center in Anaheim, San Elijo Lagoon Nature Center, and Turtle Bay Exploration Park.
  4. Historic Ships Dockside Tours – When in port, these historic ships are sure to impress. $3 donation suggested
  5. Bohart Museum of Entomology – Founded in 1946, it is located on the University of California, Davis campus. Dedicated to teaching, research and service the museum boasts the seventh largest insect collection in North America, and is worldwide in coverage.
  6. Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary – Housed in an historic Coast Guard Station, the exhibits highlight the amazing wildlife in the Gulf of the Farallones, the threats to the wildlife, as well as what people can do to help protect the sanctuary. Open to the public Wed – Sun from 10 am – 4 pm
  7. Mildred E. Mathias Botanical Garden – A living museum, having special collections designed to assist the teaching mission; offers free docent-led tours for groups of 10 or more.
  8. Santa Ana Watershed Association – Offers free environmental education programs taught by Naturalists who specialize in conservation, watershed issues & ecology.
  9. Fish Hatcheries – There are many fish hatcheries in California, including the Coleman Fish Hatchery in Anderson and the Mad River Hatchery in Arcata.
  10. Federal Reserve Bank – The San Francisco Fed offers one of the world’s foremost collections of historic United States currency and a look at cash processing too!  Free tours are available at the Los Angeles Fed as well.

Field Trip Planning Tips

Always check out the websites prior to your desired visit date and try to plan your visit around special programs or events.  Additionally, you’ll often find downloadable guides for kids and suggested activities with which to engage them before/after your visit.

Though the suggested sites listed here may not be in your proximity, you can use this list as a guide to find similiar sites near you.

Thanks for visiting. What has been your most favorite field trip so far this year?

About Eva Varga

Eva is passionate about education. She has extensive experience in both formal and informal settings. She presently homeschools her two young children, teaches professional development courses through the Heritage Institute, and writes a middle level secular science curriculum called Science Logic. In addition to her work in education, she is an athlete, competing in Masters swimming events and marathons. In her spare time she enjoys reading, traveling, learning new languages, and above all spending time with her family. ♥