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Labor Day: 5 free (or low-cost) So Cal Staycations

Palisades Park Santa Monica is a popular spot for a walk, workout or picnic.

Staying in town over the Labor Day Weekend? There are plenty of fun places to explore across Southern California, without spending much money. And, with gas prices at their lowest levels in months, why not hit the road? Here are five free (or nearly free) So Cal day-cations.

Palisades Park: Santa Monica

Palisades Park stretches several blocks across a bluff overlooking the Santa Monica shoreline and Pacific Coast Highway.  Stroll along the tree-lined pathway from San Vicente to the Santa Monica Pier or Third Street Promenade as you take in the gorgeous views. Pack a picnic, or choose from a variety of restaurants to enjoy a meal. The famous Santa Monica Pier is an easy walk from Palisades Park, and admission is free to the pier amusement park.  Tourists from around the world visit Santa Monica and the Malibu coast, so it’s definitely worth the drive across town.

Related: Parking in Santa Monica

Malibu, CA

California's Highway 1 (Pacific Coast Highway) between Oxnard and Santa Monica offer is one of the most beautiful drives in the USA. The New York Times calls this drive through Malibu one of the most beautiful stretches of road in the USA! Here are some photos I took along the way. Story to follow soon, in case you want to try this 30 mile coastline drive yourself. I highly recommend it!

[img src=http://traffic411.com/wp-content/flagallery/malibu-ca/thumbs/thumbs_malibupointdumenaturalpreserve.jpg]59630Point Dume Natural Preserve, Malibu
Point Dume offers a hiking trail down a hill to a beautiful secluded beach.
[img src=http://traffic411.com/wp-content/flagallery/malibu-ca/thumbs/thumbs_pointdumemalibu.jpg]7550
[img src=http://traffic411.com/wp-content/flagallery/malibu-ca/thumbs/thumbs_pointmugunavalairstation.jpg]7730
[img src=http://traffic411.com/wp-content/flagallery/malibu-ca/thumbs/thumbs_malibupointmugulookoutpoint.jpg]7650Point Mugu Lookout Point
[img src=http://traffic411.com/wp-content/flagallery/malibu-ca/thumbs/thumbs_malibucampingthornehillbroomebeach.jpg]6460Beachside Camping Malibu
How's this for a camping spot?!? Thornhill Broome Beach State Park is an ideal place to cool off in the summer. Bring your camper, motorhome or fifth wheel and you're all set!
[img src=http://traffic411.com/wp-content/flagallery/malibu-ca/thumbs/thumbs_malibucountrymart.jpg]5670Malibu Country Mart
[img src=http://traffic411.com/wp-content/flagallery/malibu-ca/thumbs/thumbs_malibucountrymartcourtyard.jpg]5140
[img src=http://traffic411.com/wp-content/flagallery/malibu-ca/thumbs/thumbs_malibustarbucksralphshoppingcenter.jpg]5240
[img src=http://traffic411.com/wp-content/flagallery/malibu-ca/thumbs/thumbs_santamonicabaygettyvilla.jpg]5650Getty Villa, Santa Monica Bay
[img src=http://traffic411.com/wp-content/flagallery/malibu-ca/thumbs/thumbs_malibupointdumenaturalpreserve_0.jpg]4880
[img src=http://traffic411.com/wp-content/flagallery/malibu-ca/thumbs/thumbs_malibupchdriveroadsign_traffic411.jpg]5080California's Finest Drive: Route 1 Santa Monica, Malibu, Oxnard
This stretch of California coastline is among the most beautiful in the state. Highway 1 (Pacific Coast Highway) is also a great alternative to the 101 freeway when traveling between Ventura County and Los Angeles.
[img src=http://traffic411.com/wp-content/flagallery/malibu-ca/thumbs/thumbs_malibupchwindyroad.jpg]4200

Malibu Coast

Pacific Coast Highway will likely be very busy over the holiday weekend, but if you’re patient and feel like a scenic road trip, the PCH drive through Malibu (Santa Monica to Oxnard) offers some of the most stunning views of the California Coast. North of Point Dume, to Ventura County, the coast is undeveloped. You might even recognize the view since it’s a popular location for new car commercials.

A cascading fountain greets visitors at the entrance of Gardens of the World in Thousand Oaks, CA

A cascading fountain greets visitors at the entrance of Gardens of the World in Thousand Oaks, CA

Gardens of the World

Soak up botanical beauty at this best-kept Conejo Valley secret, located across the street from the Thousand Oaks Performing Arts Center.  Admission is free to Gardens of the World, a stroll through the grounds will take you on a tour of lush landscapes from around the world.

Balboa Island, Orange County

Balboa Peninsula and the Fun Zone arcade are a quick ferry ride away from Balboa Island.

A stroll on Balboa Island will have you feeling like you’re in New England. The quaint streets and bayfront homes are surrounded by water, which will help to keep you cool.  Parking is tight on the island, especially on a holiday weekend. You might want to park in Newport Beach, and walk  across the small bridge that leads to Balboa Island.

Hollywood Bowl

It’s a Los Angeles landmark, but a lot of locals have never been to The Hollywood Bowl.  Movie music takes center stage this weekend, with a concert by John Williams ( Star Wars, Raiders of the Lost Arc) and a tribute to the Henry Mancini and director Peter Sellers (The Pink Panther, Breakfast at Tiffany’s) fans will enjoy the tribute to Henry Mancini and director Peter Sellers.

I recently attended a Hollywood  Bowl show at the last minute and was surprised to get a ticket for well under $20. You don’t need the best seats in the house to enjoy the experience. This weekend, tickets start at just $15, and you can avoid online ticketing fees when you buy tickets on site at the box office, just call ahead to make sure it’s not close to a sell out.

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Malibu Drive: PCH Oxnard-Santa Monica

California's Finest Drive:  Route 1 Santa Monica, Malibu, Oxnard

The coastal route between Ventura and Los Angeles is not only beautiful, it can be a time-saving alternate to the busy 101 freeway.

Here’s a Southern California coastal drive that’s enjoyed by both locals and tourists alike.  And, believe it or not, it is often less crowded than the freeway (101 and 405) when traveling between Ventura County and Santa Monica.  Plus, there’s plenty of fresh air to breathe and beautiful scenery to see along the way.

California Highway 1 (Pacific Coast Highway) near the border of Los Angeles and Ventura Counties is mostly a single lane in each direction.  The smooth road hugs rocky mountains or sandy hills on one side, and the rugged crystal blue-turquoise Pacific Ocean on the other.  The approximately one hour (without traffic) drive takes you past the Naval Base Ventura County (home of the “Seabees” and Point Mugu Naval Air Station) to the Santa Monica Pier.  And, there’s so much to see along the way.

Related: El Matador Beach Malibu “Picture Perfect”

Mugu Rock, a distinctive boulder that stands on the coastal side of the road, can be seen from far away, as you wind along the highway.  You might recognize Mugu Rock, and this stretch of Pacific Coast Highway, since it’s a popular shooting location for TV shows and car commercials.

Malibu, CA

California's Highway 1 (Pacific Coast Highway) between Oxnard and Santa Monica offer is one of the most beautiful drives in the USA. The New York Times calls this drive through Malibu one of the most beautiful stretches of road in the USA! Here are some photos I took along the way. Story to follow soon, in case you want to try this 30 mile coastline drive yourself. I highly recommend it!

[img src=http://traffic411.com/wp-content/flagallery/malibu-ca/thumbs/thumbs_malibupointdumenaturalpreserve.jpg]59630Point Dume Natural Preserve, Malibu
Point Dume offers a hiking trail down a hill to a beautiful secluded beach.
[img src=http://traffic411.com/wp-content/flagallery/malibu-ca/thumbs/thumbs_pointdumemalibu.jpg]7550
[img src=http://traffic411.com/wp-content/flagallery/malibu-ca/thumbs/thumbs_pointmugunavalairstation.jpg]7730
[img src=http://traffic411.com/wp-content/flagallery/malibu-ca/thumbs/thumbs_malibupointmugulookoutpoint.jpg]7650Point Mugu Lookout Point
[img src=http://traffic411.com/wp-content/flagallery/malibu-ca/thumbs/thumbs_malibucampingthornehillbroomebeach.jpg]6460Beachside Camping Malibu
How's this for a camping spot?!? Thornhill Broome Beach State Park is an ideal place to cool off in the summer. Bring your camper, motorhome or fifth wheel and you're all set!
[img src=http://traffic411.com/wp-content/flagallery/malibu-ca/thumbs/thumbs_malibucountrymart.jpg]5670Malibu Country Mart
[img src=http://traffic411.com/wp-content/flagallery/malibu-ca/thumbs/thumbs_malibucountrymartcourtyard.jpg]5140
[img src=http://traffic411.com/wp-content/flagallery/malibu-ca/thumbs/thumbs_malibustarbucksralphshoppingcenter.jpg]5240
[img src=http://traffic411.com/wp-content/flagallery/malibu-ca/thumbs/thumbs_santamonicabaygettyvilla.jpg]5650Getty Villa, Santa Monica Bay
[img src=http://traffic411.com/wp-content/flagallery/malibu-ca/thumbs/thumbs_malibupointdumenaturalpreserve_0.jpg]4880
[img src=http://traffic411.com/wp-content/flagallery/malibu-ca/thumbs/thumbs_malibupchdriveroadsign_traffic411.jpg]5080California's Finest Drive: Route 1 Santa Monica, Malibu, Oxnard
This stretch of California coastline is among the most beautiful in the state. Highway 1 (Pacific Coast Highway) is also a great alternative to the 101 freeway when traveling between Ventura County and Los Angeles.
[img src=http://traffic411.com/wp-content/flagallery/malibu-ca/thumbs/thumbs_malibupchwindyroad.jpg]4200

Point Dume is another recognizable landmark.  The flat-topped bluff jutting into the Pacific is visible from miles away.  The Point Dume Natural Preserve offers a path to the Cliffside lookout point.  It’s a relatively easy walk downhill to a pristine beach, but there’s very little parking in the Point Dume neighborhood.

Nearby Zuma Beach is popular among sun worshippers, but can be dangerous for swimmers. If your ‘parking karma’ is good, you might find free beach parking when you turn onto Busch Drive (just south of Zuma Beach).

Related: Hike Solstice Canyon Malibu

Just South of Pepperdine University is the heart of Malibu’s shopping district.  For a relaxing break, stop at the Ralph’s shopping center for a frozen yogurt or Starbucks.  Across the street, Malibu Country Mart, offers an array of dining options and can be a good place to spot celebrities.  (Cross streets are Civic Center Way or Cross Creek Road).

Related: Pacific Park Santa Monica Pier – Carnival by the Sea

Santa Monica is about nine miles away from the Malibu Civic Center area.  This is the portion of the drive where you’re likely to find the most traffic, especially on summer weekends, or during the weekday morning and evening commutes.

Related:  Santa Monica Daycations

The Malibu Coast is a fun daytrip.  If you only want to take the coast one way, hop on the 101 north to Camarillo, exit Pleasant Valley or Las Posas, then head west to the coast, and southbound along Pacific Coast Highway (toward Santa Monica).  Coming from Ventura or Santa Barbara, exit the 101 South at Rice Road, head west and you’ll wind up on California Highway 1.

Note:  The Ventura portion of Pacific Coast Highway is very dark at night, there are no street lights, so it’s not recommended if you are unfamiliar with the road, especially on evenings when there isn’t much moonlight.  Safe travels!!

See the map!  The Malibu Drive:  PCH Oxnard-Santa Monica

 

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