15 Free Things to Do in Whittier, CA

Whittier is a city in Los Angeles County, California, renowned as a tourist attraction, primarily because of its location in the Puente Hills region.

You’ll find plenty of free things to do in Whittier, as the city is brimming with history, culture, and natural wonders.

Whittier is also famous for many city parks and recreational areas that add value to it as a residential city.

Whether you’re up for an outdoor excursion or immersion in the city’s heritage, Whittier makes a fantastic trip when visiting the Los Angeles area.

To get you started in planning your itinerary, here’s a list of the free things to do in Whittier, California:

Experience the Puente Hills at Hellman Park Trailhead

Hills at Hellman Park Trailhead
Northwalker, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

Accessible along Greenleaf Avenue, Hellman Park Trailhead is an easy way to access the scenic Puente Hills of Whittier.

Boasting moderately steep trails, Hellman Park Trailhead is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts who want a bit of challenge as they reach the scenic vistas of Whittier.

The terrain here is mainly in the hilly regions of Whittier, so you’d have to plan your hike correctly, as it can get blistering during the warmer months.

Trail at Hellman Park Trailhead
Northwalker, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

Still, you’re rewarded with some of the best outdoor experiences in Southern California once you finish your hike.

Full of vegetation with a bit of wildlife, the trails give you a rustic but serene experience, especially when you see the beautiful city views atop the hills.

The view from Hellman Park Trailhead
Northwalker, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

Take a Scenic Tour of Penn Park

Penn Park is a public park in Whittier renowned for its scenic beauty, headlined by sprawling waterfalls, ponds, and lush greenery.

The layout and design of Penn Park make it one of the best spots to take a stroll or relax, an intimate spot that’s perfect for couples or families.

Picnics are also allowed here, and you’d be hard-pressed not to do it because it has one of the best greeneries in Southern California.

Depending on the season you go, Penn Park’s beauty also changes; the park in the fall turns into one of the prettiest in the area because of its foliage.

Penn Park is a beautiful way to kick-start your journey in Whittier.

Put it atop your priority list as it’s conveniently found along Penn Street in the city’s uptown district.

Whittier Art Gallery is a must-visit if you want to immerse yourself in the arts and rich culture of the city, all at no cost.

The gallery is a quaint bungalow house that houses unique local artworks, some of which are made by artists from Whittier.

There’s a wide variety of media here, such as sculptures, paintings, and even accessories that the artists make by hand.

Whittier Art Gallery also has a picturesque facade that makes for a great photo opportunity during your visit.

Located in the heart of Whittier’s commercial district, this art gallery is a quick stop, as you’ll only need an hour to see its outstanding exhibits.

Explore Pio Pico State Historic Park

The grounds of Pio Pico State Historic Park
Epolk, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Pio Pico State Historic Park is one of the best historical attractions in Southern California, found along Pioneer Boulevard amidst the main thoroughfares of Whittier.

The place was the former home of Pio Pico, the last governor of California when it was still under Mexico during the mid-1800s.

You can freely tour Pio Pico State Historical Park, highlighted by the former governor’s historic house and ranch area.

Casa at Pio Pico State Historic Park
TequilaThursday, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

You’ll see lots of reading material to aid your learning and an abundance of artifacts from the 19th century.

Pio Pico State Historical Park offers free guided tours if you don’t want a self-guided tour.

Go Back in Time at Whittier Museum

Whittier Museum is located along Newlin Avenue, a few miles north of Whittier Art Gallery.

This is one of the prettiest landmarks that symbolize the rich heritage of Whittier; you’ll immediately see its fine architecture and colorful murals that stand out in the area.

However, inside is where Whittier Museum truly excels.

It offers excellent exhibits about the city’s rich past, mainly during the 19th and 20th centuries.

While not the biggest museum, Whittier Museum is packed with all sorts of displays that vary in each corner you go.

One of the museum’s highlights is an exhibit depicting the life of former U.S. President Richard Nixon, a renowned resident of Whittier.

The Whittier Museum is a no-brainer to add to your list of free things to do in the city.

Catch a Free Concert at Central Park

Whittier offers free summer concerts held at Central Park from July to August if you visit during the summer.

Dubbed “Concerts in the Park,” this event is an exciting way to meet the locals.

Tons of local bands perform during this festive event, many of which play good old rock n’ roll.

Some bands here also pay tribute to iconic bands from the 20th Century.

If you go beyond the summer, Central Park has a lot in store for you, as it’s famous for its picnic grounds.

You can find this park along Bailey Street near the Whittier Museum.

Hike Turnbull Canyon

Trail at Turnbull Canyon
Ormr2014, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Turnbull Canyon is one of the iconic attractions in Whittier, a mountain trail that’s part of Puente Hills.

This place is renowned for showing fabulous views of Whittier and its surrounding area, making it a haven for hikers.

Mountain biking is another popular activity here, as you’ll cover more ground thanks to the sprawling biking trails of the mountain.

The canyon is also believed to be haunted because of several horrific events throughout the years.

Whether or not you believe in ghosts, there’s no debate about the scenic beauty of the canyon, brimming with varied trees and flowers.

Turnbull Canyon is accessible along its namesake road that connects to Beverly Boulevard.

Exercise at Palm Park Center

If you want a casual way to break a sweat, Palm Park Center is one of the most popular places in Whittier for exercise.

The park has everything you want in a city recreational space, featuring basketball and tennis courts and a playground for younger children.

They also have an affordable pool if you don’t mind spending a bit.

This park is one of the first attractions you’ll find as you go through the Whittier Greenway Trail, so it’s also a fantastic way to do some light jogging or biking.

If you want a more laid-back experience, Palm Park Center is also a picnic hotspot for families.

Take Photos of the SkyRose Chapel and Mausoleum

SkyRose Chapel and Mausoleum might not strike you as a tourist attraction on paper, but it’s one of Whittier’s prettiest locations.

Found in the city’s cemetery near Rio Hondo College, SkyRose Chapel and Mausoleum is a fantastic piece of architecture further accentuated by one of the best vistas in Whittier.

While sweeping views of the city skyline are a must-see, the chapel’s architecture headlines the beauty of this place.

The chapel ceilings are some of the most unique you’ll ever see, capturing fantastic lighting during the afternoon sunsets.

When you go outside, the garden area and facade of the mausoleum also add to the serenity of the place.

Visit the SkyRose Chapel and Mausoleum!

Ride a Bike along Whittier Greenway Trail

Daytime view of Whittier Greenway Trail
Northwalker, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

Perhaps the best way to explore the neighborhoods and city attractions of the city is through the Whittier Greenway Trail.

It’s a former railroad trail converted into a biking path that takes you to various areas of the city, making it an excellent whole-day activity if you bring your bike.

Throughout your trip, you’ll find many remnants of the past, particularly accents of Mexican culture that played a vital role in the foundation of Whittier.

Whittier Greenway Trail can be overwhelming if you want to complete it, but plenty of maps will guide you along the way.

You can access the trail along Pioneer Boulevard near the San Gabriel River Freeway.

Let Your Dog Loose at Whittier Dog Park

Whittier Dog Park is the best place to let your dogs run around and spend some pent-up energy.

You can access this recreational space via the Whittier Greenway Trail along Philadelphia Street.

One of the best aspects of Whittier Dog Park is its cleanliness, a perfect way to relax with your pup.

It has two dog areas for small and large breeds; the large breed section welcomes some of the biggest in the county.

Whittier Dog Park also doesn’t fail to provide a seamless experience for dog owners thanks to its well-stocked amenities.

Pet the Cute Animals at Parnell Storybook Zoo

Parnell Storybook Zoo is a free petting zoo located inside Parnell Park, along Lambert Road, in Whittier’s residential districts.

This zoo is one of the best places to take children, as the friendly animals are sure to give joy and excitement to family lovers.

Headlining their roster of animals are the cute horses, donkeys, and goats, but you’ll also find some ducks and even tortoises in the zoo.

Besides the zoo, the immediate area is also geared towards children, featuring a modern playground and picnic grounds.

Events are also often held here, giving this place a fun and lively atmosphere.

See the Wildlife at Arroyo Pescadero Trailhead

Dirt trail at Arroyo Pescadero Trailhead
Gccwang, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Arroyo Pescadero Trailhead is another way to enjoy the Puente Hills, this time at its southern portion along South Colima Road.

Known as a nature preserve, Arroyo Pescadero Trailhead is a great excursion if you’re into wildlife immersion.

You’ll have greater chances of encountering local animals here, like deer, rattlesnakes, and migratory birds.

Bobcats and coyotes are also found here, but they’re elusive and hard to encounter, making the trailhead safe for families.

Many information boards about the area’s ecology can be found there, adding value to your adventure.

Even if you fail to spot some of the bigger animals in the area, Arroyo Pescadero Trailhead also offers lovely views of the city.

Take a Stroll at Murphy Ranch Park

Murphy Ranch Park is located along Whittier’s southernmost areas and is accessible along Las Cumbres Drive.

Murphy Ranch Park is one of the most scenic attractions in the city that doesn’t require a strenuous hike of Puente Hills.

If Turnbull Canyon Trailhead is too challenging for you and your travel buddies, Murphy Ranch Park offers wilderness trails that are much easier and shorter.

The best part is that it’s just as gorgeous, if not even better, in terms of scenery, as the park teems with tons of botanical life.

It’s a fantastic place to stroll around even if you don’t intend to reach its peak, as the park is brimming with high arching eucalyptus and oak trees that bring plenty of shade.

Visit the Jonathan Bailey House

Exterior of Jonathan Bailey House
Los Angeles, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Another historical attraction in Whittier is the Jonathan Bailey House, found along East Camellia Street.

This historic home belonged to the Bailey family, one of Whittier’s pioneering families during the mid-1800s.

Today, the Jonathan Bailey House is the oldest building in Whittier and is managed by Whittier Museum for public tours.

While admission is free, Jonathan Bailey House is only open on the second and fourth Sundays of each month, so time your trip if this is your priority.

Touring the home will transport you back in time, as it’s well-preserved with several pieces of furniture and artifacts from the past.

Final Thoughts

Whittier is a city with loads of fun in store for you, most of which are free.

Benefiting from the sprawling wilderness and hiking areas of Puente Hills, the city is a haven for outdoor adventure.

However, it’s not merely limited to nature, as Whittier also has excellent historical areas and city parks that add variety to your vacation.

The free things to do in Whittier, California, await!


Find out more about Travel Lens and read our editorial guidelines here.