Situated along the San Joaquin River, Antioch is a city off Highway 4 in Contra Costa County, California.
It was founded as Smith’s Landing in 1849, later renamed after the biblical Antioch of Syria during a town picnic in 1851.
Antioch started as an agricultural community until industries and businesses were instituted and brought development to the place.
It was incorporated in 1872 and has become a bustling city in the Golden State.
Antioch's geographic location offers magnificent vistas and a variety of recreational opportunities to visitors.
Its abundant green spaces, lovely parks, and indoor attractions should give you a well-deserved rest or a great outdoor adventure.
Moreover, you can enjoy these scenic spots without spending a dime!
To help you draft your itinerary, here are the free things to do in Antioch, California.
Take a Hike at Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve
Black Diamond boasts a rich history as the site of California’s largest coal mining operation from the 1860s to 1900, which extracted around four million tons of coal or “black diamonds.”
From the 1920s to 1940s, it was a major source of commercial sandstone, where over 1.8 million tons of sand were mined.
Nowadays, there are tours offered at an affordable price to learn more about the histories of Black Diamond mining and the Hazel-Atlas Mine.
For a small fee, you may stay for the night too at the campsite assigned to the general public.
Meanwhile, activities you can enjoy at no cost at Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve include hiking, picnicking, and observing local wildlife.
Drop-in programs and events are tailored for the young ones where they can learn, play, and have a splendid time.
Adventurers can explore 65 miles of trails that wind through various habitat settings such as grassland, foothill woodland, mixed evergreen forest, stream vegetation, and more.
Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve is an excellent place for bird-watching.
More than 100 species of birds have been spotted here, from the golden eagle to the meadowlark.
Immerse in nature at Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve along Somersville Road.
Take a Breather at Antioch/Oakley Regional Shoreline
East Bay Regional Park District manages the Antioch/Oakley Regional Shoreline on land bought in 1979.
It was previously called Antioch Regional Shoreline until 1999, when it was renamed Antioch/Oakley Regional Shoreline to commemorate Oakley’s incorporation in the said year.
This park is kid-friendly and has features where you can go fishing, picnicking, and kite-flying.
A highlight of this site is the 550-foot pier, open 24 hours daily, giving access to fishing in the San Joaquin River.
If you have a state fishing license, you may catch striped bass, sturgeon, steelhead, and salmon, depending on the season.
Near the fishing pier, you can see a California Historic Landmark plaque remembering the Juan Bautista de Anza Expedition’s 101st campsite.
Don’t forget to bring a basket of food to share with the family or friends at the picnic tables adjacent to the paved trails.
These tables are on a first-come, first-served basis.
Likewise, there are drinking fountains and restrooms at Antioch/Oakley Regional Shoreline.
The park is at the end of Bridgehead Road at Wilbur Avenue.
Revisit Local History at the Antioch Historical Museum
The Antioch Historical Museum presents a vast collection of artifacts that will make you appreciate the city’s past.
The Antioch Historical Society manages the museum housed at the old Riverview Union High School on West 4th Street.
The Antioch Historical Museum’s collections are displayed in different themed rooms to engage you in rediscovering the city’s rich history.
The Delta Room will introduce you to the native peoples of the Delta, different city industries and businesses, and local wildlife species.
Learn about Antioch's elected officials and civil servants and the oldest city in Contra Costa County in the City Hall Room.
Celebrate the athletic achievements of notable Antioch individuals in the Sports Legends room and the city’s movie and entertainment icons and history in the Lower Floor Theater.
There are more rooms with different themes, such as the Family Room, School Room, Saloon, etc.
Outside the museum, check out the McCoy Cook House, built in 1861, and the Fire House, dedicated to the Antioch Fire Department.
Explore all of these at the Antioch Historical Museum!
Appreciate the Art at Lynn House Gallery
Antioch owns two old buildings, Roswell Butler Hard House and Lynn House, in its historic downtown.
Lynn House, built in 1905, opened its doors anew in early 2020 following the approval of a lease agreement with a local artist.
The two-story historic building was previously occupied by the Arts & Cultural Foundation of Antioch and operated as an art gallery until 2017.
Lynn House Gallery is where art enthusiasts can discover the talent of Bay Area and California artists.
It features rotating art exhibits and hosts artist receptions.
You may find paintings, photographs, and other artworks of varied styles here.
Lynn House Gallery is along the riverfront at West 1st Street across the Amtrak Station.
Wander Rose Hill Cemetery
Rose Hill Cemetery is a historic Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve cemetery that served five towns in Mount Diablo Coal Field.
Primarily used between the 1860s and 1900, this Protestant cemetery was the final resting place of children who died from diseases, men who died in mining accidents, and women who died during childbirth, among others.
East Bay Regional Park District protects and aims to restore Rose Hill Cemetery, which it acquired in 1973.
Before the cemetery became a regional preserve, vandals had nearly destroyed the site.
You’ll find approximately 80 remaining gravestones out of the estimated 235 burials in Rose Hill Cemetery.
As you take a peaceful stroll, observe the motifs on the gravestones and find the notable burials in this solemn place.
You’ll also spot a few original plantings that withstood the ravages of time in Rose Hill Cemetery.
The site had previously grown various plant species from foreign places.
Learn the stories of Rose Hill Cemetery through the informative displays on-site.
Take a Tour of Antioch Public Art
To promote and celebrate its diversity and creativity, Antioch has several public art projects that you’ll find as you traverse its streets.
The city invites visitors to tour Antioch Public Art, which offers a visual perspective of its past and how it evolved through the decades.
Some featured artworks include the “Love Always Wins” mural on Sunset Drive, Veterans Mural near the Antioch Marina, and the Horse and Cart Statue on Hillcrest Avenue.
Bring a camera to take snaps of Antioch Public Art that you may encounter as you navigate the city!
Walk around Somersville Towne Center
If you like hanging out at malls, Somersville Towne Center is among the city shopping areas you’ll find.
Somersville Towne Center was once the County East Mall and opened as a site of open-air shops in 1966.
The first renovation took place in 1989, and another in 2004.
Take a look around the mall off of Somersville Road, which at times holds events too.
Somersville Towne Center houses retail stores for clothes, accessories, beauty products, sporting equipment, and more.
Unleash Your Green Thumb at Rivertown Garden
Rivertown Garden is a relatively new addition worth visiting in the city.
It’s nestled within the Contra Costa County Fairgrounds at West 10th Street.
Rivertown Garden started as Mangini Garden in 2018 through the efforts of the UC Master Gardener Program, which has hosted Great Tomato Plant Sales since 2016.
Before that, it was a co-sponsor for the school nutrition tours conducted at the former Mangini Agricultural Museum established at the Fairgrounds.
Years after the program folded, the UC Master Gardener Program created a demonstration garden now named Rivertown Garden.
It’s open to the general public to answer everyone’s gardening questions!
There’s an indoor classroom and a large park for short demonstrations covering various topics.
If you’re planning to start your home garden, check out the Rivertown Garden talks at the Fairgrounds!
Unwind at Contra Loma Regional Park
East Bay Regional Park District also manages Contra Loma Regional Park, which sprawls over 775 acres and encompasses a reservoir for recreational activities year-round.
It’s famous for its swim lagoon and sandy beach that’s accessible to the public for a fee during the summer.
Fishing enthusiasts also come for its reservoir containing a variety of fish to catch.
You can also do many free activities here, like setting up a picnic and enjoying wild plants and flowers at Contra Loma Regional Park.
Moreover, there are free guided hikes around the waters that you can join.
You’ll likewise find trail connections to Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve from Contra Loma Regional Park.
Keep yourself posted on the free events at this park along Frederickson Lane.
Go Kayaking at Antioch Marina
Antioch Marina is a great location to try marine recreational activities, just one mile north of the intersection of Highway 4 and “L” Street downtown.
In 2018, it officially became part of the San Francisco Bay Area Water Trails.
The trails are a growing network of designated launching and landing sites allowing non-motorized small boat users to enjoy the San Francisco Bay and its nearby waters.
Antioch Marina features two Cadillac kayak launches and storage facilities for water recreation like kayaks, paddle boards, and canoes.
If you have a kayak, you can enjoy free paddling from one of the launch sites.
Aside from endless fun on the water, Antioch Marina is a lovely spot for birdwatchers who may see great blue herons, great egrets, and snowy egrets, among others.
There are also leisurely trails for hikers that connect to Corteva Wetlands Preserve near Antioch Marina.
Take in Scenic Vistas at Corteva Wetlands Preserve
Spanning around 471 acres of undeveloped land, Corteva Wetlands Preserve makes a relaxing outdoor place for anyone who wants to walk around and appreciate the wonders of nature.
Previously called the Dow Wetland Preserve, Corteva Wetlands Preserve has miles of trails, observation decks, and benches that are accessible to the public.
Dow Chemical plant in Pittsburg bought this land in 1989 to serve as an environmental buffer zone.
In 1990, it dedicated more than 200 acres of its property as Corteva Wetlands Preserve in time for Earth Day.
You’ll find various ecosystems and wildlife animals like beavers, river otters, and water birds here.
Likewise, you can spot endangered plant species here.
You can explore the Corteva Wetlands Preserve through its entrance at the Antioch Marina parking lot.
Take a Peaceful Stroll at Antioch Community Park
Antioch Community Park is one of the many parks managed by the city to provide recreational opportunities for the residents and visitors.
Located on James Donlon Boulevard and Blyth Drive, Antioch Community Park spans 20 acres of open space and trails.
Antioch Community Park features different sporting fields and play areas for young park-goers.
There are picnic tables for visiting families or groups who want to spend quality time together.
Antioch Community Park is an excellent place to enjoy a morning or an afternoon walk while enjoying the views of this green space.
Get Active at Hillcrest Park
Hillcrest Park is a neighborhood park spanning 18 acres along Larkspur and Sunflower Drives.
People come to this place for its grassy areas and well-maintained landscape.
There are tables and barbecue pits for those who want a picnic and sports courts for those who want to get active at Hillcrest Park.
It features an exercise course too if you want to go for a jog.
The young ones can have fun at Hillcrest Park’s small playground with climbing areas, slides, and swings.
Raise Your Environmental Awareness at Antioch Dunes National Wildlife Refuge
Situated along the southern edge of the San Joaquin River, Antioch Dunes National Wildlife Refuge is the first national wildlife refuge dedicated to protecting endangered plants and insects.
The 55-acre refuge was established in 1980 primarily to conserve the Lange’s metalmark butterfly, Contra Costa wallflower, and Antioch Dunes evening primrose.
Antioch Dunes National Wildlife Refuge also serves as home to several native plants and animals.
You may only access the refuge through docent-led tours every month due to the sensitive nature of the site, which was once a shifting riverine dune ecosystem.
Join the free 1-1.5-hour tour to learn more about the story and conservation efforts at Antioch Dunes National Wildlife Refuge.
You can find it along Fulton Shipyard Road.
Other Things to Do Nearby
Tour the Greathouse Visitor Center
You can find the Greathouse Visitor Center in an underground mid-1920s chamber in Pittsburg, California, 12 minutes from Antioch.
As you step inside Greathouse Visitor Center, you’ll find several photographs and artifacts on display regarding the Black Diamond Mines’ past as a coal and sand mining site.
Observe the workings of a 20th-century sand mine and uncover what life was like for coal and sand miners worldwide.
Learn about Black Diamond Mines’ contribution to California's growing economy and industry, and reflect on these miners' hardships.
Find out more about these through an underground experience at Greathouse Visitor Center.
Antioch makes an excellent destination for anyone traveling on a budget to California.
Aside from its green parks, Antioch has several nature preserves where you can observe local wildlife, hike, or embrace the captivating views surrounding you.
Make the most of your vacation with these free things to do in Antioch, California!