The cheapest places to visit in California: 10 budget-friendly travel destination

By Tetiana PavlichenkoNov 19, 2023 12:47 PMCalifornia
The cheapest places to visit in California: 10 budget-friendly travel destination
Nature, beaches, interesting cities, and entertainment - California has a lot to offer without spending too much. Source: Image 12019/Pixabay

California is one of the most coveted destinations for travelers from all over the world, thanks to its natural and architectural wonders and famous attractions. This popularity makes the state expensive in terms of temporary accommodation, entertainment, and dining. But that doesn't deter travelers because there are many affordable vacation spots in California. Here, you can find inexpensive options for accommodation in colorful towns near beautiful natural areas, interesting places to visit, and colorful entertainment. All of this can be enjoyed without spending a huge amount of money on a vacation. So, if you're ready to explore the best of California, check out these cheap vacation spots in California for a budget-friendly stay.

10. Pismo Beach

The charming coastal town of Pismo Beach is a great place for a California vacation on a budget. The most popular activity on these beautiful white beaches is driving on the Oceano Dunes. Tourists can rent ATVs. Then it's worth taking a walk along the famous 400-meter pier and promenade to take stunning photos against the ocean and admire the sunsets. Pismo Beach offers swimming, fishing, surfing, and clamming. And if you feel like taking a break from the beach, explore the waterfront shops, visit beautiful golf clubs, and go horseback riding. Another entertaining place for the whole family is the Monarch Butterfly Grove, where you can view thousands of colorful butterflies through a telescope. Kids will appreciate a trip to the 11-acre Dinosaur Caves Park, and adults will enjoy a short trip to the vineyards and wineries of the Central Coast Wine District.

For accommodations, consider the SeaCrest OceanFront Hotel with room service, coffee makers, and free parking.

9. Redding

This cute Northern California town offers cheap places to visit in California and affordable activities for every vacationer. Those who love the outdoors should take a 15-minute drive west from Redding, where the Whiskeytown National Recreation Area is located. This expansive area offers rich natural diversity to explore, with opportunities for hiking, horseback riding, or bicycling. Other popular attractions include Shasta Dam and Lassen Volcanic Park. History buffs should check out the Shasta State Historic Park. Here, they can tour restored buildings preserved from the 1800s and learn interesting historical facts about the California gold rush. You can see a brewery, an old blacksmith shop, a stagecoach barn, and farm tools here, and then settle in for a leisurely lunch at picnic benches.

Stay overnight at the Comfort Suites Redding-Shasta Lake Hotel near downtown Redding, where room rates include breakfast, Wi-Fi, and weekday newspapers.

8. Death Valley National Park

The cheapest places to visit in California: 10 budget-friendly travel destination
These landscapes possess a frightening beauty. Source: Image Joe/Pixabay

Despite the intimidating name, this park will delight you with striking natural beauty and cheap places to visit in California. It is located in the central part of the state, and the drive from Los Angeles will take about 2.5 hours by car.

Death Valley is one of the most popular cheap travel destinations in California. The best time to come here is in early spring, as it is one of the hottest places in the country. The period from March to early May is ideal for a short hike across the Natural Bridge and to admire the flowering fields and unusual rock formations along the way. Fill your leisure time with adrenaline at Badwater Basin, which sits 282 feet below sea level and presents a surreal landscape with miles of salt flats. Include the Ubehebe Crater, the Golden Canyon Trail, and the dunes of the Mesquite Plain on your itinerary.

Try staying at The Ranch At Death Valley, a family-friendly resort. Camping is even cheaper: there are nine campgrounds in the Valley, several of which are free.

7. Solvang

The city of Solvang called the Danish capital of America, offers a European flavor while traveling through California. It is located in the picturesque Santa Ynez Valley and is known for its unique Danish-style architecture and excellent wineries.

Throughout the center are picturesque buildings and wooden windmills that you can tour and take cool photos with as a backdrop. You can also explore the city by bicycle - there are rentals in the center. You should visit Hans Christian Andersen Park if you are traveling with children. There is a climbing wall, skate park, jukebox, and playground. Admission to the park is free. One of the best inexpensive places to visit in Solvang, California is vineyards and wineries. Here you can catch a tasting, relax on the patio in the shade of old oak trees, and order a home-cooked picnic on-site.

Lovers of natural beauty will appreciate a hike through the Solvang countryside. Climb Gaviota Peak for a view of the Pacific coastline.

Stay at King Frederik Inn with an on-site pool and free parking.

6. Sacramento

When picking the cheapest place in California to visit, you can't miss the state capital. Sacramento is full of interesting museums, and stores, and boasts a rich history and culture. Start with a visit to the Capitol Museum: admission is free, the neoclassical architecture of the 1874 building is gorgeous, and the basement theater shows free documentaries daily. Then ride the bike trail along the American River, or take a stroll on foot or horseback. The 32-mile trail will delight you with beautiful scenery. It's also worth the walk to Folsom Lake, where you can go horseback riding, water skiing, or boating. If you're exploring cheap places to go in California for a family vacation, don't miss a free tour of the Jelly Belly factory, which produces 50 types of jelly beans.

To save money on getting around the city, take the city's public transportation system, SacRT. A good option for a stay with a great location is the Best Western Plus Sutter House Hotel with an outdoor pool and free breakfast.

5. Lake Tahoe

The cheapest places to visit in California: 10 budget-friendly travel destination
Lake Tahoe is beautiful in any season. Source: Image 12019/Pixabay

Active vacations year-round are provided by Lake Tahoe in California, which is surrounded by many luxury resorts and more affordable places to vacation in California for cheap. Even seasoned travelers are struck by the lake's sublime beauty: dazzling blue water, rugged coastline, and pine forests all around. In summer, the lake is popular for swimming and water sports, and the surrounding area is famous for its beautiful hiking trails. In winter, you can ski and snowboard here. It's full of inexpensive but memorable adventures. You can hike the easy 2-mile Cascade Falls Trail to view the waterfall, and the sparkling lake surface, and stay at Bayview Campground. If you're up for a challenge, take the Rubicon Trail along the Emerald Bay shoreline. The 4.5 miles will lead you to a high slope where you can admire the mountain views.

The Tahoe Seasons Family Resort by Diamond Resorts offers good value for money.

4. Big Bear Lake

This place just two hours from Los Angeles becomes very popular in winter when crowds of skiing enthusiasts flock here. During the warmer months, these places to vacation in California are cheaper (cheap places to vacation in California), but the fun doesn't get any less. Go mountain biking, rent a kayak or boat for a lake trip, go fishing, and visit the Big Bear Alpine Zoo where you can see grizzly bears, snow leopards, possums, flying squirrels, and foxes. This trip will also be extremely interesting for ornithology fans: they will be able to see golden eagles, American ravens, sparrow hawks, mallard ducks, and other birds. But one of the greatest adventures awaits travelers on hikes such as the San Bernardino Mountains, Bluff Lake Preserve, or Big Bear Valley (the latter route is suitable even for children). Or explore the short but popular Castle Rock Trail with beautiful panoramic views.

Inexpensive places to go in California include numerous campgrounds or the Robinhood Resort in downtown Big Bear Lake with free parking and internet.

3. June Lake

The small mountain town of June Lake in Mono County welcomes its guests with a serene atmosphere and offers good places for cheap travel in California. It is a great choice for those who prefer outdoor activities. There are opportunities for scenic walks and drives, swimming, bird watching, and boating.

One of the most attractive activities for tourists is fishing. For fans of fishing, June Lake is a dream come true with its four lakes and abundance of fish, and you can even catch several species of trout. If you come here in the spring, explore the trails along Parker Lake to admire the colorful wildflowers. Bring binoculars if you want to go bird watching: golden eagles, osprey, and blackbirds can be seen here. Stroll through the town of June Lake: sample pastries at a local bakery, visit art galleries, vintage stores, and have a beer at June Lake Brewing Company.

Inexpensive vacations in California with good amenities can be found at the Heidelberg Inn Resort with free parking.

2. Mendocino

The cheapest places to visit in California: 10 budget-friendly travel destination
California is full of beautiful coastal landscapes. Source: Image Simon/Pixabay

There's a hidden gem on California's rugged north coast - the small and very photogenic town of Mendocino, and you'll be surprised at how cheap places to travel to in California are. There are many interesting free and inexpensive activities to do here. For example, discover the beauty of the ocean-view walking trails at Mendocino-Headland State Park and then visit the Ford House Center and Museum (with free admission) to learn more about the history of these places. Hike along the rocky shore at Point Cabrillo Lighthouse State Historic Park, explore the many trails and waterfalls of Russian Gorge State Park, and enjoy relaxing on the beautiful Big River and Van Damme beaches.

Mendocino has plenty of affordable restaurants and places to stay, so for cheap vacations in California, it's one of the most suitable places to stay. Take a stroll through the city's stores and galleries and admire its Victorian architecture.

Stay overnight at the Inns of Mendocino, a small hotel with free breakfast.

1. Ventura

One of the best places to visit in California on a budget with a beach atmosphere and affordable entertainment is Ventura, just north of Los Angeles. Some of the most beautiful beaches in the state are located here. It's a good place to bask in the sun and surf, and there are stores and restaurants nearby to take your mind off the sand and waves.

In addition, Ventura offers plenty of adventures at reasonable prices. Nature lovers can head to Channel Island National Park, located on five unique islands, and visit the Ventura Botanical Gardens, which offer stunning ocean views. There is no charge to visit the park and garden. The waterfront offers jogging, biking, and strolling along the pier. It's especially beautiful here in the evening during the shimmering sunset.

For the night, stay at the Crowne Plaza Ventura Beach Hotel with an outdoor pool.

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