Top 7 free vacation hotspots in SoCal

LOS ANGELES You don't need to travel very far to let your kids climb and explore on your next vacation. They can do that and much more at the /*J. Paul Getty Center*/ just off the 405 Freeway.

"It doesn't have that sort of stuffy museum feel, so it's a good place for the kids to run around," said Merdeith Brunswick, a Hollywood Hills resident.

"They just made masks and we go run around on the lawn, and I think we'll take a walk around the sculpture garden," said Megan Bishop, an Encino resident.

According to, the J. Paul Getty Center is at the top of the list of Los Angeles' best free destinations.

"I'm not surprised because I think that we're a great location," said Chenani Moncayo from the Getty Center. "We're central, we're definitely known in L.A. We have so much to offer. We're free of charge, which in this economy is so important. And we really offer something for all sorts of families."

With so many families watching their budgets this year, it's a perfect time for a staycation.

"I think we're all in that place right now so we're definitely looking for places like this to not have to spend a lot of money to have a good time," said Rudy Lippert, a Brentwood resident.

The recently renovated Griffith Observatory is number 2 on the list. It's now celebrating the 400th anniversary of Galileo's pioneering telescope observations. You can bring the kids and they can learn how to make comets.

Westwood Memorial Park is next the next top free destination. It's a cemetery, but you won't believe how many famous names you'll see.

"It's kind of fun, you know, you get to see famous people and for some reason cemeteries are just like a peaceful place," said Bobby Sepulveda, a park visitor. "You don't have to pay for parking, there's no concession stands. You can come here, hang out, you know, and just enjoy the day."

For a walk on the wild side, head to the Venice Beach Boardwalk. With dozens of street performs and artists, it's always an interesting place to people watch.

Also free, and number five on the list, is The Getty Villa in Malibu. It's another fun and educational destination for families.

And if you love the outdoors, you can head to Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve. The wetlands are open from sunrise to sunset.

"If you're a birder it's quite spectacular. Especially when the terns are breeding and they fly in thousands over your head, they're really neat to see," said Delores Baden, as reserve visitor.

"It has all of the amenities that one would need to get out from nature and only be 10 minutes from the freeway," said William Mclaurin.

Last on the list of free attractions is the Coachella Valley Preserve in Thousand Palms. The 20,000-acre site is home to 180 desert animals, sand fields and rare palm trees.

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