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14 Things to do in Idyllwild, CA: Trails, Theater & Wine

Lake Fulmor with green trees in Idyllwild California

Idyllwild is set within one of the most beautiful areas in Southern California. 

You’ll find it nestled within the San Jacinto Mountains, surrounded by unique rock formations, tall pine & cedar trees, and of course, mountain peaks. 

Situated just 109 miles (175km) from Los Angeles and only 113 miles (181km) from San Diego, Idyllwild is like stepping into a different world. 

With such spectacular scenery, awesome hiking trails, and plenty of great tourist attractions, it’s no wonder it’s such a popular destination.

This town has so much to offer in terms of family-friendly, pet-friendly, indoor and outdoor activities.

Here is a complete guide covering some of the best things to do in Idyllwild, California.

14 Best Things To Do In Idyllwild, California

Explore The Mount San Jacinto State Park

Mount San Jacinto State Park covers an impressive 14,000 acres and is home to over 50 miles of hiking trails. 

As the name suggests, the park encompasses the iconic Mount San Jacinto, which is the second-highest peak in Southern California.

Once you head into the park, you’ll feel like you’ve stepped into paradise as you wander past forests, outcrops, and along meadows. 

Exploring Mount San Jacinto State Park is without a doubt one of the best outdoor things to do in Idyllwild.

With its variety of flora and fauna, dramatic scenery, and trails — allow yourself a good amount of time to explore this spot! 

Large trees blue sky at san-jacinto-state-park idyllwild california

Visit Idyllwild Nature Center

Idyllwild Nature Center is one of the top places to visit in this scenic town. 

The center offers a variety of guided tours and environmental education programs that help people learn more about this special area. 

These tours generally focus on the area’s flora and fauna with its gardens, the culture of the native Cahuilla, and the backstory of the San Jacinto Mountains.

However, the tours can also be adapted to suit personal interests, which is convenient for large groups. 

The Idyllwild Nature Center also hosts various seasonal events each year, including Wildflower Day, and Lemon Lily Restoration Day.

Not only that, but you’ll find a variety of trails in the center’s vicinity. This makes it the perfect starting point to explore Idyllwild. 

Idyllwild Nature Center entrance

Visit Idyllwild Regional Park

Located on the outskirts of town, Idyllwild Regional Park is another popular place to visit. 

The park covers an area of 202 acres and offers endless open space, scenic forests, and several hiking trails. 

It’s the perfect place to reconnect with nature and escape the hustle and bustle of California’s large cities. 

There are five hiking trails in total, and each one offers panoramic views and spectacular scenery, so it doesn’t matter which one you choose! 

If you’re looking for something a bit more daring, then try your hand at rock climbing.

The huge granite boulders within this park offer the ultimate challenge!

You’ll also find a meadow area at Idyllwild Regional Park, which is perfect for picnics. 

Walk Around Lake Fulmor

Lake Fulmor is another of Idyllwild’s top attractions, and it’s something you can’t miss out on if you’re looking for outdoor activities. 

Lake Fulmor is an artificial lake that spans 960 feet in length and is found just off State Route 243. 

The lake is incredibly scenic as it’s surrounded by forestry, and you can even find several giant sequoia trees here! 

Not only is Lake Fulmor stunning, but it’s also a popular spot for birdwatching and wildlife watching. 

If you’re lucky, you might get to spot the California tree frog, mule deer, ground squirrels, and the colorful Steller’s Jay. 

There is also a short trail that runs around the lake’s circumference.

The spot is also popular for fishing, with the numerous fish in its waters. 

So if you’re wandering what to do in Idyllwild for a full day, consider this lake.

Lake Fulmor with green trees in Idyllwild California

Go Overnight Camping

There are a variety of places to camp in and around Idyllwild.

Backcountry camping is the top choice if you’re looking for an into the wild experience.

It’s the perfect way to go off the beaten track and enjoy the peacefulness and beauty of Idyllwild. 

The beautiful landscapes are a good reason why the city offers some of the best summer camps for kids in all of California.  

However, you may need to get a permit depending on where you plan on camping.

If you’re looking for something a little less wild, then head to one of the nearby campgrounds instead, although these may have fees. 

Some of the best choices include Idyllwild Campground, Stone Creek Campground, Hurkey Creek Campground, and Lake Hemet Campground.

The Living Free Animal Sanctuary

Visiting the Living Free Animal Sanctuary is one of the most rewarding things to do around the area.

The Living Free Animal Sanctuary is a non-profit organization that helps cats and dogs who need a second chance!

The organization’s mission is to rescue animals who would, unfortunately, be put down in public shelters. 

Taste Different Wine At The Middle Ridge Winery

If you’re looking for a break from the outdoors, head to the Middle Ridge Winery.

The grapes used here are from some of California’s finest vineyards, including Blue’s Creek Vineyard.

You’ll find plenty of delicious wines to taste during your time at the winery, including NV Merlot, Pinot Gris, and Sauvignon Blanc, and even sparkling cocktails.

Not only is it famous for its award-winning wines, but the property is beautiful. 

The tasting room is truly special, and you can find some incredible artwork. 

So, if you’re looking for a wine tasting experience while in the city — this is the perfect place. 

Eat At Cafe Aroma

If you’re a big foodie, then eating at Cafe Aroma is a must during your visit to Idyllwild. 

This mountain bistro is surrounded by forestry and is known for its cozy and relaxed atmosphere. 

However, the highlight has to be its food! 

Their casual brunch menu runs between Wednesday-Sunday from 10 am-2 pm.

You’ll find plenty of tasty treats on it, including berries and cream waffles, steak Caprese sandwiches, and portobello benedict. 

The dinner menu at Cafe Arom runs from 4:30 pm, and some of its highlights include blackened Atlantic salmon, ribeye, and seafood pasta. 

The cafe offers delicious food, a scenic backdrop, and a cozy atmosphere.

Learn History At The Idyllwild Area Historical Society Museum

The Idyllwild Area Historical Society Museum is one of the top places to visit if you want to learn about the area’s history. 

The museum is run by volunteers that focus on preserving the history of the San Jacinto Mountains. 

It’s housed in a rustic cabin from the 1930s and has a variety of exhibits, including ‘viewing Idyllwild history’ and ‘Idyllwild Inn and the Emerson Family Legacy’. 

There is also an exhibit dedicated to the early climbers of Tahquitz Rock.

The exhibits rotate at the museum, but you can always take a look at the website before you explore it.

Not only will you get the chance to learn all about Idyllwild, but you also get to see some of the cabin’s original features from the 1930s.

Visit The Town Gallery

If you’re a fan of art and culture, visiting the Town Gallery should be high on your priority list.

The gallery shares its space and ownership with Idyllwild Town Real Estate and works to promote local artists. 

You can find an array of artwork at the gallery where the town and its surroundings have been used as the subject. 

The exhibitions naturally change throughout the year, but you’re likely to find a variety of photo prints, paintings, custom furniture, pottery, and sculptures. 

During your time at the gallery, you can learn about some of the local artists.

Watch A Show At The The Rustic Theatre

When it comes to entertainment, visitors usually get their kicks from the outdoors and its beautiful trails. 

However, if you’re looking for something to do in the evening, then make sure you head to the Rustic Theatre. 

It’s a cozy little theatre that shows the latest movies and has been around since the 1950s

Not only is the Rustic Theatre fabulous for an evening’s entertainment, but you can also grab a bite to eat. 

They sell hotdogs, burgers, and pizzas for main meals, as well as plenty of concessions.

You can even buy a glass of wine, beer, or tasty cocktails, including mojitos, mimosas, and margaritas! 

Rustic Theatre building in Idyllwild California

Explore Humber Park

Humber Park is one of Idyllwild’s most popular parks, and it’s no surprise why!

With beautiful scenery, great trails, and the chance to explore the area’s wilderness, Humber Park has a lot to offer to kids and adults, making it one of the best tourist attractions. 

Two of the most popular trails within the park are the Devil’s Slide Trail and the Ernie Maxwell Scenic Trail. 

Both of these trails enter the San Jacinto Wilderness Area and let dogs in as long as they’re leashed. 

No matter which one you choose, you’ll be rewarded with a great hike, beautiful scenery, and the chance to connect with nature. 

The hikes within Humber Park vary in difficulty and skill level, and permits are required for certain trails.

There is parking available, and you’ll find toilets there too. 

Enjoy The View At The Indian Vista Scenic Overlook

Head up to the Indian Vista Scenic Overlook for panoramic views of the surrounding landscapes. 

It’s situated on Highway 243, just 9.5 miles north of Idyllwild, so it’s just a short 15-minute drive. 

The trail up to the overlook is wheelchair friendly and isn’t very tiring, and once you get to the top, your reward is some beautiful breathtaking views.

If you’re lucky, you may spot bobcats, coyotes, deer, and gray foxes, among other wildlife.

Make sure you look up every once in a while, as you might see red-tailed hawks and ravens flying in the sky. 

Indian Scenic Overview path at Idyllwild California

Hike The Tahquitz Peak Trail 

If you’re a keen hiker, the Tahquitz Peak Trail is a must-do during your trip to Idyllwild. 

Tahquitz Peak is a granite rock formation that sits at an impressive 8,846 feet tall.

You can find a lookout tower right at the peak, which is the highest one in San Bernardino National Forest.

So, naturally, you’re rewarded with spectacular views once you’re at the top. If it’s a clear day, you can even see right over to the Salton Sea. 

The trail is pet-friendly, so a great way to get some exercise in with your dog. 

However, the hike up is no easy feat since you’re looking at a distance of around 8 miles (there and back). 

Parts of the trail are also very steep! 

Where To Stay in Idyllwild, California

Whether you’re visiting from out of the country or out of the state, you’ll find plenty of hotels, lodges, or cottages that you can stay at.

Some of the more popular resorts include The Grand Idyllwild Lodge, where you can get beautiful sights of the idyllic San Jacinto Mountains.

You can also stay at the Quiet Creek Inn, which is another quiet pet-friendly accommodation out in the mountains. 

You can also find some cabins to rent at the Silver Pines Lodge. 

Text Things to do in Idyllwild California image of river with trees

About the Author

Mark Evans is a summer camp consultant and travel enthusiast. He currently lives in Los Angeles, California, and routinely visits other popular cities in California like Idyllwild, San Francisco, and San Jose. 

30 Free Things to do in Richmond, VA & Budget Tips

Street art in Richmond

Sky scrapers, converted warehouses, white water rafting, gorgeous walking trails, and rich history – the city of Richmond, Virginia has it all. 

Whether you’re a foodie looking for trendy spots to eat dinner, an adrenaline junkie seeking adventure, a couple hoping for hipster nightlife or friends in need of a chill day in nature, you’ve come to the right place! 

This city has something for everyone, and one of the best parts is that it’s a city easily done on a budget as there are so many free things to do in Richmond aka RVA!

So no matter what your budget or your interests, be sure to stop by if you ever get the chance!

Free Outdoor Things to do in Richmond

Richmond is a fun all year round destination and it really has a lot to offer those who enjoy outdoor activities, especially in spring, summer, and fall!

One of the best things to do in Richmond is simply wander around, orient yourself, and get a feel for this walkable city!

There are so many walking trails to choose from, but if you’re up for getting your steps in and have the better part of an afternoon you can easily create a self-guided walking tour by looping all of these separate walks together! 

Canal Walk 

For this loop, start with the canal walk (1512 Canal Walk, Richmond, VA 23219). 

Richmond sits right on the James River, but there is also a man-made canal looping through the city, and the walk along the side of it takes you over bridges, through tunnels and winds through some of the best parts of Richmond. 

Canal Murals 

After you complete the short canal walk, you’ll pass by a massive collection of murals on your way to the pipeline (1201 Haxall Point, Richmond, VA 23219).

The murals are a popular Rochmond attraction, so be sure not to miss them!

The Pipeline

The pipeline (310 S 14th St, Richmond, VA 23219) is a unique walking trail located on the river side of a concrete wall, and there’s a small path that will lead you to a ladder that takes you onto the pipeline. 

It is a very narrow walk-way, and you have to squeeze by people going the other way, but it is absolutely gorgeous and a very unique thing to do in Richmond, Virginia! 

Walk to the end and take a rest, watching the white water rafters and kayakers whizz by through the rapids, or even dip your feet in the James if it’s a warm day!

Leafy green The Pipeline tree bridge in Richmond VA

T Tyler Potterfield Memorial Bridge

After you’ve completed the pipeline, turn around and head towards the Memorial pedestrian bridge. 

This is a favorite of the locals, and many people choose to spend their evenings jogging or walking with their kids across this bridge.

The skyline makes for a gorgeous backdrop, and it’s definitely one of the best free things to do in Richmond, Virginia. 

Flood Wall

Once you reach the end of the pedestrian bridge, turn left. 

You’ll have to walk on some small dirt paths, but they’ll take you past a rock climbing wall and under a bridge, where you’ll find the steps up to the city’s flood wall. 

This is where you’ll end your DIY walking tour, along the flood wall that’ll give you, without a doubt, the best views of Richmond, and if you time it well, a gorgeous sunset view!

Street art in Richmond

Swim in the James River

Another amazing free thing to do in Richmond is to go swimming in the James! 

Right near the pedestrian bridge, to the right side, is a suspension bridge that will take you to a magical place called Belle Isle. 

While you can visit year round (and you should, as it is beautiful in all seasons), most people choose to bring their bathing suits and visit in the summer. 

You can walk around this island fairly quickly, but the best thing to do is to pack a picnic and some towels, and spend the afternoon swimming in between the rocks, exploring the civil war ruins, and getting some sun! 

Huguenot Bridge at Sunset

If you are looking to end the day with a stunning sunset head to Huguenot Memorial Bridge for dusky views over the James.

Outdoor Sports

Another thing that you could do for free in Richmond is to bring your outdoor equipment from home.

There are outdoor rock walls available to those who have climbing gear, and a beautiful river for those who have either kayaks or paddle boards. 

Richmond is a very outdoorsy city, and you should definitely take advantage of it. 


If you’re more of a city than a nature person, don’t worry! 

Although Richmond has more nature than the average city, it still has all the perks of modern, urban areas, and Carytown is an excellent place to spend an afternoon. 

Covered in murals and street art, this quaint little street is full of unique cafes, hipster thrift stores, incredible restaurants and breweries, and is one of the best places to pass some time.

There are so many boutiques to visit, and even some souvenir shops so that you can bring little pieces of Richmond home with you. 

Take a walk, do some window shopping, and pop into the stores that interest you. 

Carytown Farmers’ Market

The Carytown Market showcases local farmers and producers at City Stadium from summer through to fall.

The market features a variety of vendors from the Richmond area and live music.

Hollywood Cemetery 

If you’re in the mood for some history, be sure to head over to Hollywood Cemetery. 

Also located along the river, Hollywood cemetery is one of the most picturesque places in all of Richmond. 

There are multiple presidents buried here, but the main appeal comes from simply wandering through the incredibly manicured grounds with the view of the river as the backdrop.

Maymont Park 

Another incredible, free thing to do in Richmond would be to visit Maymont Park. 

Not your ordinary park, Maymont is owned by a very wealthy family who has created three separate themed gardens right in the middle of Richmond named The Japanese Gardens, the Arboretum, and the Italian Gardens. 

Each is distinctly different, but definitely best visited in the spring when all the flowers are blooming. 

There are pagodas, waterfalls, a petting zoo, tulip fields, and bamboo forests, and it is a gorgeous place to visit with friends.

Free Indoor Things to do in Richmond

If the weather turns and spending your time in Richmond exploring the outdoors is not an option, never fear! 

There are also some incredible free indoor things to do in Richmond such as observation decks, galleries and museums.

City Hall Observation Deck

For the best aerial, panoramic views of Richmond, be sure to head towards City Hall (1001 E Broad St). 

Enter the lobby and head straight to the elevators that can take you up to the top floor.

This room has floor to ceiling glass windows that allow you to see the entire city from a unique vantage point! 

Lots of people bring a coffee or a snack so that they can simply sit and enjoy the view. 


Without a doubt, the best free thing to do in Richmond is to visit the VMFA (200 N Arthur Ashe Blvd).

This museum is home to works of art as well as archeological artifacts and valuable pieces of furniture and history. 

They regularly have temporary exhibits that have a small entrance fee, but the rest of the museum is completely free. 

Browse through the ancient Egyptian artifacts, East Asian scrolls and statues, the extensive African mask collection, and the absolutely stunning impressionist exhibit. 

Even if you’re not a huge art-lover, the VMFA is not to be missed, even if it’s just for a walk through their sculpture garden and a quick coffee in the cafe. 

Science Museum of VA 

If art isn’t your cup of tea, you can always visit the Science Museum of Virginia (2500 W Broad St). 

Located in a gorgeous, historic building, the science museum of Virginia is fun for people of all ages. 

Most of the exhibits are either hands-on or very visually engaging, so this is an amazing option if you’re looking for free things to do with kids during your trip to Richmond. 

Edgar Allen Poe Museum

Another amazing museum in Richmond, the Edgar Allen Poe Museum (1914 E Main St) will definitely appeal to any literature lover or English major, as the museum is located in Poe’s actual home. 

There are dramatic recitations scheduled every day, as well as many different artifacts, original poems, and letters that tell the story of Poe’s life. 

It is very interesting, and a good way to spend an afternoon and appreciate literature. 

Children’s Museum of Richmond

If you’re looking for something even more family-friendly, consider the Children’s Museum of Richmond (2626 W Broad St).

There are so many fun activities for kids which will keep them entertained but also teach them new skills and provide fresh experiences.

Cheap Things to do in Richmond

While there are many free things to do in Richmond, your options expand if you have a little bit of a budget!

Fortunately, there are many affordable things to do in this city as well. 

Byrd Theater

Conveniently located in Carytown and nicknamed “Richmond’s Movie Palace”, The Byrd Theater is one of the best places to see movies in Virginia. 

Although they only show one movie at a time, and typically quite some time after they are newly released, the Byrd has extremely discounted tickets that make seeing a movie extremely affordable. 

The enormous chandelier, the boujee red velvet curtains, and the old-world atmosphere make something as simple as seeing a movie into a unique, fun experience. 

Altria Theater

Every once in a while, the Altria Theater, a historic building with an interior covered in mosaic tile, will hold special events. 

From Broadway shows to symphonies, from TV show premieres to movie screenings with live music, the Altria Theater can add a really special element to your trip, especially if you plan around one of these exclusive events. 

White Water Rafting

Something unique about Richmond is that it is home to the only class four rapids in the US that are found within a city. 

Some people leave their corporate jobs in a city highrise, and then head to the river to raft through top notch rapids – it’s a very unique dichotomy! 

Paddle Board Yoga

If rapids aren’t quite your thing, don’t worry!

There are calm sections of the river that are perfect for paddleboarding, or even booking a sunset paddle board yoga class!

Perfect for the hot summer, paddle board yoga is challenging and fun, and you won’t even mind if you end up falling into the water! 

Yoga combined with the sunset on the river with the skyline of Richmond as the backdrop… you can’t get much better than that.

Free Richmond Walking Tour

When in doubt, you can always book a walking tour of the city! 

Most are labeled as free, but the tour guides always appreciate a tip. 

Walking tours are an amazing way to get a little more historical insight into a city and its background, as well as orient yourself if it’s a new location for you! 

Ghost Tour of Richmond

Join an experienced guide through the street of Richmond’s oldest neighborhood, Church Hill where they will share stories of ghosts and tragic events!

This tour includes St John’s Church graveyard.

Church Hill Scavenger Hunt

Make your way through Church Hill solving challenging riddles and clues!

Through this scavenger hunt you will also hear about historical figures and discover the city’s hidden nooks.

Squirrels Game 

Another local’s favorite is attending a Flying Squirrels baseball game at the Diamond. 

Regardless of winning or losing, it’s always fun to experience a baseball game in person, and in July and August they frequently have a fireworks show no matter the outcome of the game. 

Even if you’re not a huge baseball fan, feasting on hot dogs, cotton candy, and curly fries is always a good way to spend an evening!

Free Festivals and Events in Richmond

While there are many festivals and events to attend in Richmond throughout the course of the year, there are a few standouts that you have to see if you’re in town!

River Rock Festival

If you’re looking for something that’s still fun but a little more laid back, be sure to check out River Rock Festival! 

This festival takes place on Brown’s Island, which is located right next to Belle Isle. 

It happens in the middle of May, and it’s the perfect way to enjoy the newly warm weather.

Bring your dog and watch the dock-jump competition, or grab a beer and marvel at the bouldering contests. 

Snag some food from a food truck and camp out on the hills while you watch the slackliners practice their tricks above the canal. 

River Rock attracts one hundred thousand people a year, so don’t miss it!

Shamrock the Block

Shamrock the Block is a festival that happens towards the middle of march, typically on the weekend closest to St. Patricks Day. 

It takes place in Scott’s Addition, which is chock-full of breweries and hip restaurants, which makes it the perfect place to celebrate the holiday. 

It is extremely rowdy, and the streets get absolutely packed with people decked out in green clothes and cheesy accessories. 

Shamrock The Rock also features in our guide, the best places to visit in the US in March.

Free Things to do in the Winter

If you’re lucky enough to visit during the holiday season you are in for a treat! 

There are tons of free, christmassy things to do in Richmond. 

Dominion Energy Gardenfest of Lights

Located outside the city limits, but still well worth a visit, are the Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens.

 Every year, they completely deck out every inch of the gardens with millions of lights, which creates the most lovely holiday atmosphere. 

Bring some gloves and hand warmers and enjoy a walk through the gardens and greenhouses!

City Lights

Centered around Kanawha (8th & Canal Street), there is a massive collection of Christmas lights that you simply can’t miss. 

Herds of glowing reindeer (see if you can hunt down rudolph!), hanging snowflakes, and oversized Christmas trees fill the plaza, and the holiday cheer even spills into the lobbies of neighboring banks, with miniature train sets, a fun penguin display, as well as a lifesized gingerbread house adding to the extravaganza.  

Tacky Lights Tour

When it comes to festive light tours, Richmond has you absolutely covered. 

There’s usually a map created yearly that will take you on a self-guided car tour of the city’s tacky Christmas lights. 

We’re not being rude calling the lights tacky, this is what they are known as in Richmond and they will absolutely blow your mind.

One neighborhood communally commits to putting on a spectacular show, and every house participates.

Fun fact: It’s so highly regarded that realtors are obligated to tell buyers of this tradition if one of the houses ever goes for sale!

Where to Stay in Richmond on a Budget

If you want to stay close to the action, expect to pay around $200-300 per night for a hotel during high season.

Check out The Berkley Hotel for a historic city center hotel.

If you are happy to travel 6-10 miles to get into the center, you can find rooms for $150 in summer at the likes of the Best Western or Comfort Suites.

How to Get Around in Richmond, Virginia

While there is a bus system that runs through Richmond, it is a very walkable city. 

Taxis are not that common, but calling an Uber or a Lyft is very easy and inexpensive. 

Additionally, if you’re up for more of a thrill, electric scooters can be easily found everywhere and are lots of fun!

Final Words

Thus concludes this comprehensive list of all the best free things to do in Richmond, Virginia! 

Richmond is such a unique city, from the river and its rapids, to the restored warehouse breweries, to the gorgeous skyscrapers and the free outdoor rock walls. 

It is an incredible mix of excitement that the outdoors bring as well as all the city necessities such as cute brunch places and stunning boutiques. 

Richmond should, without a doubt, be the location that you travel to next. 

Text free things to do in Richmond Virginia image of street art mural

About the Author

Emma Sturgeon is an adventure enthusiast and travel blogger, who runs the show over at

Although she is currently living in and exploring South Korea, she was born and raised in Richmond, Virginia, giving her 20 years of experiencing all that the city has to offer. 

Follow Emma on Instagram.

28 Free things to do in Hilton Head, SC & Budget Tips

Wooden sun beds on Hilton Head Island South Carolina

If you’re looking for free things to do in Hilton Head, South Carolina, you’re in luck.

Throughout this post, you’ll learn all about the best free and affordable activities in Hilton Head that you absolutely won’t want to miss, including a few seasonal attractions!

Hilton Head has quite a few cheap attractions despite being such an upscale location to visit so we will include them too.

This guide will reveal the best free things to do in Hilton Head outdoors as well as indoor attractions.

Plus, festive activities and budget tips on where to stay and how to get around.

Free Outdoor Things to do in Hilton Head

Enjoy Coligny Beach

Despite being one of the most popular attractions in Hilton Head, a visit to the scenic Coligny Beach is a must.

It’s absolutely free to visit the beach though you may have to pay for parking; head over to South Forest Drive for free parking.

The amenities at the beach are abundant and feature outdoor showers, spots to relax, and many wheelchair-accessible spaces.

If you get hungry while there, be sure to stop by some of the nearby family-friendly restaurants in case you’re traveling with little ones!

Long stretch of sand at Coligny Beach, Hilton Head SC

Visit the Historic Hilton Head Range Rear Lighthouse

The Hilton Head Range Rear Lighthouse is one of the most historical spots to visit in Hilton Head, dating back to 1879.

While there are many lighthouses on the island, this is the only one that is an actual lighthouse.

The lighthouse was recently renovated in 2019 and is now open to the public.

When visiting the lighthouse, stop by the oak trees right near it, which are some of the oldest Live Oak trees on Hilton Head.

Attend a Show at Shelter Cove Harbour

There are quite a few free concert series throughout the summer at Shelter Cove Harbour, generally on Thursday evenings.

Unless you wish to stand during the entire concert, bring your own chair that you can set up to stay comfortable.

Because admission is free, try to get there early to make sure you have a great spot while you enjoy the music.

Visit the Stoney Baynard Ruins

The Stoney Baynard Ruins are one of the must-visit historic locations in Hilton Head.

The ruins are of what used to be a plantation house near the Calibogue Sound, dating back to the 1790s.

Today, as the name suggests, there are genuinely just ruins left, but it’s still an interesting spot to visit on the island.

Admission is entirely free though there may be a small parking fee depending on the time of year that you visit.

Leafy woods with Stoney Baynard Ruins Hilton Head SC

Bike in Fish Haul Creek Park

Along Port Royal Sound, there’s an incredible trail in the shade found in Fish Haul Creek Park.

This is one of the best free things to do in Hilton Head, SC, if you already have a bike.

If you aren’t traveling with a bike, they can be rented throughout the island for affordable rates depending on how long you’re renting one.

Watch the Sunset at Harbour Town Lighthouse

No trip to Hilton Head is complete without catching the sunset at least once over the Atlantic Ocean.

There are many places to watch the sunset in Hilton Head, but one of the best spots is at Harbour Town Lighthouse.

Get there a little earlier to ensure that you can snag a great spot overlooking the water, and don’t forget to bring your camera.

Harbour Town Lighthouse at sunset in Hilton Head

Peruse the Stands at the Farmers’ Market

Visiting Farmers’ Markets on Hilton Head is the perfect way to get outdoors without spending money unless you wish to purchase something from any stands.

There are many throughout the area, including the Thursday markets at the Coastal Discovery Museum, the Farmers’ Market at Bluffton, and the Farmers’ & Makers Market at The Shops at Sea Pines Center on Tuesdays.

Learn and Step Back in Time at Fort Howell

Fort Howell is a historical fort dating back to the 1860s that is free and open to the public.

The fort was initially built during the Civil War to protect the nearby waters after an attack.

Once the battle ended, enslaved people on Hilton Head Island were freed by Union soldiers.

These were the first enslaved people freed during the Civil War, and they later went on to set up more forts and the town of Mitchelville.

Today, the fort is explored via a nature trail through the woods with occasional plaques and signs that educate visitors on the fort’s history.

Go Geocaching

If you love getting outside, go on a geocaching adventure on Hilton Head.

This can be a great way to spend some time if you’re visiting the island with kids and want to explore the island less traditionally.

Relax at Mitchelville Beach

For a quieter alternative to the popular Coligny Beach on Hilton Head, go to Michelville Beach instead which features in our best beaches in the US guide.

Even during peak seasons and popular times of day to go to the beach, Mitchelville Beach tends to be very tranquil.

There are quite a few amenities at the beach, including showers, picnic tables, restrooms, and even a bridge leading to nearby Barker Field filled with outdoor recreational fields.

Sunset at Mitchelville Beach Hilton Head SC

Mitchelville Freedom Park Tour

Do the self-guided tour of Mitchelville Freedom Park to learn about the formerly enslaved sea islanders of Hilton Head.

The tour can be done at your own pace.

This is where the island’s Juneteenth events take place.

Check out our guide to the best places to visit in the US in June for more.

Explore the Audubon Newhall Preserve

Another excellent free thing to do in Hilton Head while outdoors is to explore the Audubon Newhall Preserve, which spans 50 acres.

The best way to explore the preserve is to use the trails throughout, which are only about a mile long.

Along the way, be sure to look out for the more than 100 bird species that live there freely in the preserved area.

Free Indoor Things to do in Hilton Head

Learn at the Coastal Discovery Museum

The Coastal Discovery Museum is the perfect place to go if you’re looking for fun things to do in Hilton Head with kids.

While most of the attractions at the Coastal Discovery Museum are indoors, some of the trails that lead between exhibits are outdoors.

Admission is free, though some educational programs happen each day that require a small fee if you wish to attend them.

Throughout the museum, you can learn about the area’s natural history and visit historic buildings.

Go Inside the Hilton Head Branch Library

If you’re a lover of books and want to stay indoors for a bit, head to the Hilton Head Brand Library, the island’s main library.

There’s ample reading space, public computers, and books that you can take off the shelf and read inside, even if you aren’t a member.

The library also hosts many free events and programs throughout the year, which you can attend if interested.

Interact at The Sandbox Children’s Museum

The Sandbox Children’s Museum is a fun place to go if you’ll be visiting Hilton Head with children.

Inside, there are many interactive educational exhibits and activities children can participate in while learning.

While there’s usually a small admission fee, be sure to visit on their Free Family Fun Night, which changes days each year.

Check their website for the most updated information on when free nights are.

Cheap Things to do in Hilton Head

Explore Sea Pines 

Sea Pines is the main resort complex located on Hilton Head, and guests can access everything inside with a pass which costs just under $10.

By paying, guests can enter the resort area and visit the shopping centers and more.

This small fee goes towards the Sea Pines community and is worth it to access all the fun activities in the resort.

Play a Round of Golf at Pirate’s Island Adventure Golf

To have some fun during your visit to Hilton Head, consider golfing at Pirate’s Island Adventure Golf, which is fun for all ages.

One round is $15 for adults and $11 for children, but you automatically get a free game if you get a hole in one.

Go on a Paddleboard Tour

One of the best cheap things to do in Hilton Head is to go on a stand up paddleboard tour like this one.

This is one of the most affordable and unique tours you can take around the island.

During the tour, you’ll get taught how to paddleboard by an experienced guide and explore the coastline.

Have Fun on a Kayak Tour

Another excellent cheap tour that’s relatively popular is this 1.5-hour kayak tour that’s limited to a small group of ten.

If paddleboarding isn’t your thing, this kayak tour is perfect and includes a kayak rental with a life jacket.

During the tour, you’ll kayak through marshlands as you’re taught all about the history and landscape of the island by an experienced guide.

Join Gullah Heritage Trail Tours

Learn more about the Gullah Geechee Corridor, which South Carolina is part of, from Hilton Head born guides with Gullah Heritage.

Discover the language, history, and tour the Gullah Neighborhoods with Gullah Heritage Trail Tours.

This is the priciest activity in our guide at just over $40 but reviews say it is worth every penny for privilege to learn more about the culture.

Free Festivals and Events in Hilton Head

Art in the Garden at The Greenery Garden Center

Art in the Garden is a new annual event taking place every year in Hilton Head at The Greenery Garden Center.

This free event is a celebration of local artists held directly in the beautiful garden and is a perfect way to support the arts in the area while also enjoying the outdoors.

May Fest

Another excellent free festival in Hilton Head is May Fest, which, as the name suggests, is hosted in May annually.

This event has been held for more than 40 years and is hosted by The Rotary Club of Bluffton.

This is also an arts-focused festival featuring arts and crafts, food trucks, and even a fun pie-eating contest.

Hilton Head Island Gullah Celebration

Did you know that Hilton Head had a rich Gullah history?

The Hilton Head Island Gullah Celebration has been highlighting cultural Gullah heritage on the island for over two decades.

Free Things to do in Hilton Head in Winter

Go Fishing

This may be a surprising free thing to do in winter, but the best time of year to go fishing in Hilton Head is in the winter months.

Grab a fishing pole and some bait, and head out to the water to go fishing.

Because this isn’t peak season, it’s easier to catch a fish this time of year versus in the summer months.

Enjoy the Beaches

The best time of year to head to the beaches is in the winter months.

Even though the temperature is a bit cooler from December through February, there are significantly fewer visitors to the beaches; it’s typically just locals.

Movies in the Park

Bluffton occasionally hosts winter movies in the park during December for festive movies like “Elf.”

Because it’s winter, you’ll want to make sure you’re prepared for cooler weather, so bring blankets and dress appropriately, as the event is typically held rain or shine.

Movies have been held in Martin Family Park in the past, though that may change.

Meet Santa

Many free holiday-related events allow children to meet with Santa!

These events start directly after the Thanksgiving holiday, some as early as Black Friday.

In the past, Santa has even met children on Hilton Head at the Neptune Statue, where they can take photos, listen to holiday music, and even munch on gingerbread cookies.

Stroll the Waterfront to See Holiday Boats

During the holiday season, walk along the marina to see the beautiful boats that are docked.

Many boat owners will get into the holiday spirit and deck the halls by decorating their boats with tons of holiday lights.

Because you’ll want to see the boats lit up, be sure to walk along the waterfront at night once the sun has already set.

Affordable Accommodation in Hilton Head

If you’re visiting Hilton Head on a budget, consider booking a stay at the Days Inn by Wyndham Hilton Head.

Pricing changes throughout the year, but it’s generally one of the most affordable places to stay on the island.

Another great option is the Red Roof Inn Hilton Head Island.

For more space, book a one-bedroom apartment at the Hilton Head Beach and Tennis Resort.

How to Get Around Hilton Head on a Budget

The cheapest way to get around Hilton Head is by walking, but make sure you wear proper footwear.

If you’d rather rely on public transportation, a few affordable options are available.

The Breeze is a public trolley that will get you around for only $1 no matter where you get off, but make sure you pay in exact change.

This trolley runs until around midnight on weekends and 10:30 p.m. on weeknights but is not available to ride until around noon.

For a free option, consider The Sea Pines Trolley, which picks guests up at trolley stations.

There are a few routes, but they will stop at popular clubs, shops, and more.

The Sea Pines Trolley is a seasonal trolley, so it’s not available for use year-round.

If you don’t want to use public transportation, Lyft or Uber are always an option, but keep in mind that it may be a bit more costly depending on the time of year and day.

Text free things to do Hilton Head South Carolina image wooden beach chairs and blue umbrella

About the Author

Amy Hartle is the founder of East Coast With Kids, a website dedicated to highlighting the most fun destinations for kids AND adults on the East Coast of the USA. Born and raised in Florida, Amy has lived on the East Coast all her life. Check out this New England road trip guide and US travel guide for more content by Amy on Two Scots Abroad.

100+ Free Zoom Backgrounds: Work & Social

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Are you bored of boring Zoom backgrounds? We are, too, so we’ve created a selection of popular Zoom wallpapers for you to download.

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Topics include home office backgrounds, hobby themed backgrounds, funny backgrounds for social calls, and holiday Zoom backgrounds such as Christmas, Hallowe’en, July 4th, Juneteenth and Indigenous Peoples’ Day.

The styles vary from 3D backgrounds, images and cute graphics.
Which is your favorite? Tell us in the comments below!

Also, looking for ideas for games to play on Zoom? Check out our popular guide.

Hosting a quiz and need some trivia rounds inspiration? We’ve got that here too.

You can also download our St Paddy’s Day and Easter Zoom backgrounds.

Let’s look at the extensive list of Zoom virtual backgrounds, free for you to use.

Professional Zoom Backgrounds

The following free virtual backgrounds for Zoom are ideal for business conference calls as they imitate large office spaces and small, working from home rooms.

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Holiday Zoom Backgrounds

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If you are planning a Christmas video call, check out our quiz rounds guide to grab our free Xmas quiz.

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You may also like our guide to the best places to visit in the US in July which includes July 4th and events.

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You may also like our guide to the best places to visit in the US in June which includes Juneteenth events.

Indigenous Peoples’ Day

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You may also like our guide to the best places to visit in the US in August which includes National Day of Mourning events.

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20 Free Things to do in Madison, WI & Budget Tips

Dome building at Dane County Farmers Market Madison WI

Madison is the state capital of Wisconsin and offers visitors and residents a wide variety of attractions and activities.

As one of the largest cities in the state, you can find a lot of free things to do in Madison, WI. 

With four lakes, hundreds of parks, and numerous bike trails, it’s a great place to enjoy the outdoors. 

Its convenient location in Southern Wisconsin also makes it a great place to take a day trip from or to large cities like Milwaukee and Wisconsin Dells. 

Here are some free activities you can do when visiting Madison, whether you’re looking for a fun outdoor adventure, relaxing strolls, or fantastic sights. 

You may also like our guide to Wisconsin in the fall.

Free Outdoor Things To Do In Madison

Relax At The Memorial Union Terrace

If you’re coming to the city to visit its attractions, the Memorial Union Terrace (800 Langdon St. Madison, WI 53706) is one of the most famous ones. 

It’s located on the UW-Madison campus and offers some of the best views you’ll find, which is what makes it so popular.

You can enjoy a beautiful lake view while eating some snacks and taking in some sunlight. 

There are nearby cafes and restaurants to catch some lunch or dinner. 

It’s a hot spot for events, so you can enjoy some music and other entertainment if you come on the right days. 

Tables on beach at Memorial Union Terrace Madison WI

Bike Around The City

Madison is one of the most bike-friendly cities in all of the Midwest. 

There is an endless number of bike trails throughout, making it easy to ride your bike across the city. 

You can ride through many scenic trails like the Lake Monona Loop, which passes through the Olbrich Botanical Gardens, or the Lake Shore Path. 

If you’re more into mountain biking, there are also several of those trails nearby, like the Tour of Blue Mound.

It’s a great pastime and a perfectly healthy activity to stay fit.

Get Out On Lake Monona

In summer, kayak or paddle board and in winter get your skates on for Lake Monona!

When the lake freezes over you might just catch Four Lakes Ice Yacht Club racing too.

Look Out For Pink Flamingos

Kid you not, Madison enjoys an annual flamboyance during the Fill The Hill event.

Each year thousands of pink flamingos take over Bascom Hill as part of a fundraiser for the University.

Madison Mural Alley

Check out the colorful street art around Madison which has been created as part of a community project with Bubbler.

The murals were put together by five artists and teams working with local Madison teens.

Go On A Peaceful Hike

Just like there is a multitude of biking trails, there is just an equal amount of hiking trails to explore in the city.

There are nearby state parks like Governor Nelson State Park and the Capital Springs Recreation Area that offer several hiking trails for beginners and experienced hikers. 

You can get beautiful sights of nature and gorgeous landscapes.

But you don’t need to visit a state park for hiking since there are plenty of local parks with their own trails. 

You can bring dogs along to some of these trails, but you may need a dog permit, depending on where you’re going.

Visit The Allen Centennial Garden

The Allen Centennial Garden (620 Babcock Dr, Madison, WI 53706) is located on the UW-Madison campus and is completely free to the public, including non-students.

The botanical garden is managed by the universities Horticulture Department and hosts a variety of different plant groups.

It’s pet-friendly, so it’s great if you’re visiting the city with a dog. All ages are welcome, so it’s also a perfect family activity.  

You can find benches around the area which offer their own beautiful views of the place. 

Pink flower close up at Allen Centennial Garden Madison WI

Stewart Lake County Park

Stewart Lake County Park (3106 Co Hwy JG, Mt Horeb, WI 53572) is located 40 minutes drive from Madison and offers picnic shelters, hiking trails, canoe and kayak launch site, and fishing!

This is also where you will find the six acre, artificial lake, Stewart Lake.

This spring fed lake is accesible for trout and bass fishing.

Go Stargazing

Head to Halfway Prairie Star Trail for uninterrupted night’s sky and star gazing.

The 1.8-mile loop is said to be relatively easy but not well marked.

Take A Day Trip

Madison is located in a convenient place close to other major and popular cities in Wisconsin.

It’s about an hour’s drive from places like Wisconsin Dells, Lake Geneva, and Milwaukee. 

These places have their own free attractions, including hiking trails, museums, and more. 

You can take a trip to Wisconsin Dells, known for its numerous indoor and outdoor water parks, so it’s perfect for visiting with kids or friends. 

Milwaukee is famous for its beer and for hosting popular events like Summer Fest.

If you don’t mind spending some money or splitting it with friends, there are plenty of cabins you can rent throughout Wisconsin and outdoor areas to explore, especially up north.  

Day trips are perfect for getting away from the city and enjoying some new sights and experiences.  

Free Indoor Things to do in Madison

Explore The Madison Museum Of Contemporary Art

The Madison Museum of Contemporary Art (227 State St, Madison, WI 53703) offers rotating art exhibitions and galleries, as well as free art-related activities for kids. 

With different art pieces shown here, there is always something new offered each time you visit.  

It’s located in downtown Madison, so if you’re in the area, visit it to check out some interesting sculptures, paintings, and more.

While it’s not as large as other museums in Madison, it is one of the few that don’t cost anything at all.

Tour The Governor’s Mansion

Visitors can go on free tours that run from June to August at the Governor’s Mansion (99 Cambridge Rd. Madison, WI 53704). 

It’s the place where the current governor of Wisconsin resides.

You can see several art pieces and rooms in the three-story high building, as well as garden areas. 

If you’re interested in learning about the politics of the city and state, it’s a must-visit. 

Tour The Wisconsin State Capitol

Unsurprisingly, touring the state capitol is one of the most popular free activities to do in Madison. 

There are free tours each day that run Monday-Saturday starting at 9 am and ending at 3 pm. 

It’s a great way to learn about the history of the capitol and the architecture of the building. 

Visitors can also simply explore by building by themselves.

If you’re bringing a large group of more than ten people, you will need to make a reservation.

The capitol is located on East Main Street.

Cheap Things To Do In Madison

Enjoy The Olbrich Botanical Gardens

The Olbrich Botanical Gardens (3330 Atwood Ave, Madison, WI 53704) are free if you’re a member, but if you’re not, you can visit for under $10.

Stroll along the area to find gorgeous landscapes and Midwestern plants. 

You will also find the Thai Pavillion, which is famous for being the only one found in the United States itself. 

Overall, the entire garden expands over 16 acres and gives visitors the opportunity to see a diverse natural landscape filled with different plants.

Gardens and path at Olbrich Botanical Gardens in Madison WI

Try Different Foods At The Dane County Farmers’ Market

The Dane County Farmers’ Market (Capitol Square Madison, WI 53701) is an old Madison tradition that started back in 1972.

Hundreds of sellers offer fresh local goods like vegetables, meats, fruits, flowers, and other products every Wednesday and Saturday morning until late afternoon.

The Dane County Farmers’ Market starts in July and doesn’t end until November.  

Dome building at Dane County Farmers Market Madison WI

Free Events in Madison

Art Fair on the Square

Each July, there is a grand art festival called the Art Fair On The Square (2 E Main St – Madison, WI 53702). 

It offers those who attend a fun mixture of live music, iconic art pieces including sculptures, paintings, prints, and an abundance of food choices.

You don’t have to pay to get in since it’s open to the public, but you may want to spend some money on souvenirs or dinner. 

It typically occurs on a weekend.

The Bird & Nature Festival

The Bird & Nature Festival (2930 North Sherman Avenue Madison, WI) is a family-friendly free thing to do in Madison that takes place on the last Sunday of April each year.

As can be expected by its name, there are live bird shows that include hawks and eagles. 

You can also enjoy fun events throughout the day like tree planting, how to use garlic mustard,  bird watching with a telescope, and more.

It’s the perfect festival to entertain children if you bring them along. 

Apart from bird shows, expect entertaining music and delicious food.     

Taste Of Madison

Taste of Madison (Capital Square, Madison, WI) is a yearly food festival that typically occurs in September. 

It’s free to attend and hosts dozens of food vendors, live music, and several drinking options. 

While you don’t have to spend money to get in, consider bringing some so you can try different foods. 

There are all kinds of foods from BBQ, tacos, chicken, pastries, and much more.

It’s a fundraising event that’s heavily managed by groups of volunteers, so volunteering is a great way to spend the day helping set up the festival if you’re up for the task.

Free Things to do in Madison in Winter

Go Sledding At Several Parks

Wisconsin is a cold state, and the city of Madison doesn’t differ in weather. 

The snowfalls during the winter can be quite heavy, and with beautiful outdoor landscapes, Madison is one of the best cities for snowsports. 

You can go sledding at any of the numerous parks throughout the city, with the Elver Park sledding hill being one of the most popular options.

Discover more winter activities in Madison featured in this guide.

Ice Skate At The Many Ice Rinks

Madison has a variety of ice skating rings throughout the city where no reservation or entry fee is required. 

Some of the popular options include Tenney Park, and there is also an ice-skating rink at the Henry Vilas Zoo park. 

While you won’t have to pay to skate, shoe rentals can cost between $5-$6 per hour. 

There are also free ice skating events like Groove & Glide that feature lights and music throughout the winter months. 

Affordable Accommodations In Madison

You have quite a few options for any budget when it comes to staying somewhere in the city. 

The Radisson Hotel Madison is an affordable choice at $80-$100 a night that’s only a 15-minute drive from downtown. 

You also have the AmericInn by Wyndham Madison West, which is another excellent budget hotel.

If you’re looking for apartments, check out the Willy St Apartments

How To Get Around Madison On A Budget

Madison has bike trails spread all around the city, making it a great way to move around at no cost. 

Avoid any expensive Lyft or Uber by bringing a bike along and riding it all around the city. 

However, the diverse landscape makes it an excellent place for hikers and joggers alike. 

If you’re near the downtown area, you can visit a lot of places on foot to save yourself the expense of using gas or paying for a taxi. 

Madison is also well-known for its organized public transit systems, so riding the bus is also a cheap option to consider. 

Text free things to do in Madison Wisconsin Image State Capitol Building

About The Author

Martin Soto is a lifelong Wisconsinite and currently lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He has visited Madison along with other popular cities like Wisconsin Dells numerous times. Martin currently runs the travel blog Travel Explorator where he covers travel in the Midwest and tropical places in the U.S.