10 Free Things to Do in Walnut Creek, California (From a Local)

The city of Walnut Creek, California, nestled in the East Bay region of the San Francisco Bay Area, offers a wealth of attractions. Best of all, many of these can be enjoyed without spending a penny.

Here’s a detailed exploration of the top 10 free activities to indulge in when you’re in Walnut Creek.

1. Discover Lindsay Wildlife Experience

Although admission isn’t always free, the Lindsay Wildlife Experience is open to the public for free every first Friday of the month. This remarkable place offers an up-close interaction with animals and birds, providing education about wildlife rehabilitation and environmental conservation. Children and adults alike will be mesmerized by the exhibits and live animal encounters.

The museum also hosts numerous free animal encounters on its front patio, including with giant birds of prey and a hilarious porcupine. Check the museum’s website for a schedule of free encounters.

2. Conquer Mount Diablo

Mount Diablo, one of the Bay Area’s most recognized natural landmarks, provides several free hiking trails that offer breathtaking panoramic views of the surrounding landscape.

The trails cater to all fitness levels, making it an inviting spot for novice hikers and seasoned mountaineers alike. Don’t forget to pack a picnic to enjoy as you marvel at the magnificent vistas!

And also, if you decide to conquer the mountain by car, we’re not judging! It’s free to drive to the top, and no one will know from your Instagram photos!

3. Explore Downtown Walnut Creek

Main street in downtown Walnut Creek, California, September, 2019.

The downtown area of Walnut Creek is a vibrant hub, brimming with art, unique stores, and a welcoming community atmosphere.

From the chic fashion boutiques to the eclectic variety of restaurants (which you can enjoy just for their atmosphere, especially on a walk at night), it’s easy to spend a leisurely day just wandering around and soaking in the local culture.

4. Experience Public Art

Art enthusiasts will appreciate Walnut Creek’s extensive Public Art Program. By downloading the public art walking tour map from the city’s official website, you’ll discover an array of eye-catching installations scattered throughout the city. This self-guided tour is a great way to appreciate the artistic side of Walnut Creek.

Check out Bull Man, a super cool and enigmatic sculpture downtown, which is one of my favorites. Fountain Head is awesome too.

5. Wander Through the Gardens at Heather Farm

The Gardens at Heather Farm are a free public garden that spans over six acres. This peaceful haven features a variety of different landscapes and plant species, from roses and perennials to sustainable gardens and natural ponds. Whether you’re a gardening enthusiast or simply looking for a tranquil spot, these gardens are worth a visit.

I used to live nearby and I took my dogs on a walk through the garden all the time.

6. Join the Walnut Creek Art & Wine Festival

Taking place annually in June, the Walnut Creek Art & Wine Festival provides free admission and showcases a multitude of local artisans. While the wine tasting does come with a cost, the vibrant atmosphere, live music performances, and visually stunning art are completely free to enjoy.

7. Bike the Iron Horse Regional Trail

The Iron Horse Regional Trail is a historic 32-mile trail that winds its way through the heart of Walnut Creek. It’s an ideal spot for a relaxing bike ride or a brisk walk. The trail follows a former Southern Pacific Railroad right-of-way and offers a unique perspective on the city and surrounding nature.

You can also begin on the canal trail near Heather Farm and meet the main trail.

8. Spend Time at the Walnut Creek Library

Beyond its vast collection of books, the Walnut Creek Library is a community hub hosting regular free events, ranging from art exhibits to lectures and workshops. This isn’t your ordinary library, but a vibrant center for education and community engagement. Don’t forget to check their events calendar during your visit!

They have a great kids’ section, too, with lots of places to play and read. There’s easy parking underground.

9. Step Back in Time at Old Borges Ranch

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Old Borges Ranch provides a peek into Walnut Creek’s agricultural history. The preserved ranch is open daily, and the self-guided tours offer a fascinating journey through time. Children will enjoy seeing the farm animals that still inhabit the ranch.

10. Unwind at Civic Park

Finally, consider spending a relaxed day at Civic Park, one of the best WC parks. This expansive public park features picnic areas, a beautiful rose garden, a charming gazebo, and a lively playground.

There are so many awesome things you can do in Walnut Creek without spending a penny! Of course, if you do want to support a local business, checking out amazing restaurants is always a good bet.

Thomas Smith

Thomas Smith is a food and travel photographer and writer based in the San Francisco Bay Area. His photographic work routinely appears in publications including Food and Wine, Conde Nast Traveler, and the New York Times and his writing appears in IEEE Spectrum, SFGate, the Bold Italic and more. Smith holds a degree in Cognitive Science (Neuroscience) and Anthropology from the Johns Hopkins University.

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