Free Things to Do In and Around Pleasant Hill


Pleasant Hill's central location makes it a great place to stay. Keep local or take a day trip to one of the surrounding big cities. The choice is yours and it doesn’t have to cost a thing!

1. John Muir National Historic Site

Get a sense of the area's rich history when you visit the home of America's most famous naturalist and conservationist, John Muir. The John Muir National Historic Site is located in the Alhambra Valley, just 7 miles northwest of Pleasant Hill. Muir was celebrated for his writings, which convinced the U.S. government to protect Yosemite, the giant Sequoia, the Grand Canyon, and Mt. Rainier as national parks. The site is open every day from 10 am to 5 pm and is free to visitors! Guests can go on The Muir/Strentzel Family Gravesite Tour, hike and explore Mount Wanda, and take a cell phone tour of the grounds. For more information on things to do, visit the national park service website.

2. Take a Walk Through Town

Take a walk through the downtown areas of Pleasant Hill, Martinez, Concord, or Walnut Creek for a day of exploration. Discover each town's unique culture and vibrant communities while sticking to a budget. Be sure to check out Pleasant Hill’s Taylor Thrift Trail too! There are plenty of free options to keep you entertained, like taking a walk in one of the numerous scenic parks, taking your dog out for a hike and snapping photos of all the coolest landmarks and sites for your Instagram feed. There are also tons of cozy coffee shops where you can grab a latte and read a book or head out on a search for the best tacos in town, all for just a few dollars!

3. Picnic in the Park

Pleasant Hill is home to several beautiful parks, including Pleasant Hill Park, Rodgers-Smith Park, and Paso Nogal Park. Grab some friends, a blanket, and enjoy a picnic lunch in the fresh air. Don't have anything to pack? Grab farm-fresh produce and other locally sourced ingredients from one of the area's farmers' markets for cheap!

4. Visit Mount Diablo State Park

Mt Diablo State Park is a 20,000-acre park in northern California. The park is a popular destination for hikers, cyclists, campers, and equestrians. The mountain's terrain includes elevations ranging from 335 to 3,849 feet, which creates different temperatures, rainfall, and wind exposures. The park also features unique geological landmarks, rare plant and animal species, and some of the best views of the Bay Area. Browse the park's website for more information.

5. Pose at Postcard Road

Visit one of the most photographed locations in San Francisco. Alamo Square's famous "postcard row" at Hayes and Steiner Streets is a visual treat and a perfect spot to snap a picture with your friends. This formation of Victorian houses, called the Painted Ladies, is back-dropped by the city’s skyline, which provides a striking contrast for your photo. The grassy square, just across the street from the homes, is an ideal spot for a midday lunch break or just a fun afternoon of people-watching and soaking up the sun.

6. Concord Murals

Concord is full of remarkable public art, and you can take a self-guided tour of the city's vibrant murals for free. Go on a walk through town and find inspiration around every corner. These murals capture all the different facets of Concord's community and character, and many document the area's history and significance. Those looking to discover a bit more about Concord don't need to pay admission to an expensive museum; they can learn just by paying attention to the art right in front of them.

7. See the Home of a Nobel Prize Playwright

Eugene O'Neill, America's only Nobel Prize-winning playwright, called many places home during his extraordinary life. But Tao House, located just 12 miles south of Pleasant Hill, is the spot O'Neill called home the longest and is even where he wrote his last plays. O'Neill was drawn to the privacy of the area and the warm climate of California and purchased the 158-acre ranch. Guests can visit the site and explore this significant landmark for free as long as reservations are made 24 hours in advance. Find more information here.

Credit: Photo by Spencer Davis on Unsplash

8. A Scenic Cruise Down the Highway

The Pacific Coast Highway is one of the most scenic drives one can go on in America. Winding in and out of coastal towns, around cliffsides that overlook the stunningly blue ocean, and passing some of California’s most impressive and distinguished destinations, California State Route 1 makes for supreme leisure driving. We recommend stopping frequently and taking in all the sites (and taking tons of photos), but make sure you hit Big Sur, Monterey, and Santa Cruz to make the most of your cruise through California.

9. Explore a Low-Cost Railway

Explore the Diablo Valley Lines (DVL) model railroad for just three dollars at The Walnut Creek Model Railroad Society. This incredible display features standard gauge, narrow gauge, and interurban freight and trolley lines and is viewable from a 160' perimeter that includes multiple elevated viewing platforms. This low-cost activity is fun for all ages and offers a unique learning experience and understanding of the area's railroads and their infrastructure. To learn more, check out the WCMRS website.