Blake Walsh

15 Free Things to Do in Downey, CA

  • Published 2023/01/28

Downey is a small city in Southeast Los Angeles County, California.

This quaint city is less crowded than Los Angeles and offers plenty of opportunities to explore, relax and experience its unique culture.

Despite being near Los Angeles, there are still plenty of free things to do at Downey.

However, you must resort mostly to outdoor activities such as parks, gardens, and nature reserves.

Despite the limited options for free activities, Downey still offers plenty of entertaining and educational attractions.

Below is a list of free things to do in Downey, California.

Check Out the World’s Oldest McDonald’s

Exterior of the World's Oldest McDonald's

Allard One / Shutterstock.com

Did you know that Downey has the world’s oldest McDonald’s?

That’s right.

The World’s Oldest McDonald’s at 10207 Lakewood Boulevard is a drive-up hamburger stand still open and operational today.

It opened in 1953 and is technically the third McDonald’s ever built.

Since it’s still open and operational today, it’s officially the oldest functioning McDonald’s in the world!

Its architecture and interior have been incredibly well preserved, making it a popular tourist destination.

Signage of the World's Oldest McDonald's

Logan Bush / Shutterstock.com

The stand has a unique Americana design and was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1984.

You can visit the restaurant and enjoy classic McDonald’s burgers, fries, and shakes.

Or you can take photos of the building and its vintage interior.

Either way, you will have a blast exploring this unique piece of history.

A worker preparing french fries at the World's Oldest McDonald's

Logan Bush / Shutterstock.com

Get Active at Furman Park

Furman Park is a large park that covers 6.3 acres and offers plenty of outdoor activities for people of all ages.

Kids can enjoy the playground area, open spaces, and gazebo, while adults can play tennis, field sports, and work out at outdoor fitness areas.

There are two baseball diamonds where locals and visitors can get together for a friendly game.

The two tennis courts are also filled with casual and seasoned players looking to compete for some fun.

Picnic shelters are also available for people who want a fun family outing.

Despite these amenities, the most popular attraction in Furman Park is its 0.6-mile trail loop.

This trail goes through and around the park, making it perfect for a stroll or jog.

While you explore this trail, you will pass by some of the park’s critical facilities and nearby shops.

Furman Park is the perfect place to bask in the sun and get physical activity.

See Local Artwork at Stay Gallery

Downey has a lot of talented artisans who showcase their artwork at local galleries.

Stay Gallery is one of the most popular places to explore these creations.

It features a large studio-type setup where you can view various artwork from local creators.

Stay Gallery opened in 2012 as more than just a space.

It’s an opportunity for Downey locals to get creative and express themselves.

Artists, youth, and families come together in Downtown Downey to appreciate art at its finest.

Stay Gallery also offers workshops, art programs, and exhibits—however, they will cost a fee to participate.

Admission is also 100% free, and you can even meet some local artists there.

Check out the Stay Gallery for some incredible artwork and a unique experience.

Host a Picnic at Golden Park

Golden Park is a bustling outdoor space located at 8840 Golden Street.

This charming neighborhood park is perfect for birthday celebrations, family reunions, and social events.

It has plenty of open spaces, picnic shelters with tables, a rentable kitchen, and a barbecue station.

There’s also a playground tailored to children aged two to 12, providing an ideal way to have fun and exercise.

There’s also a walking trail at the end of the park, offering a great way to explore the surrounding views.

During operational hours, the public has access to restrooms for their convenience.

The park offers many outdoor recreation options, including expansive grassy areas, basketball and handball courts, and a baseball diamond.

These sites are all free on a first-come-first-serve basis!

Golden Park is the perfect venue if you want to host an outdoor party without spending a fortune.

Play Baseball at Discovery Sports Complex

Sports enthusiasts rejoice at Discovery Sports Complex, a modern facility that offers various field sports.

Located at 12400 Columbia Way in downtown Downey, this sprawling complex has two baseball diamonds, a soccer field, and open space for other field sports, such as American football or frisbee.

It also features two concession stands and restrooms for the public’s convenience.

The Discovery Sports Complex is free during operating hours, and casual players and sports teams can use its amenities.

Reservations are accepted for the sports facilities, but most days, they are available on a first-come-first-serve basis.

Catch Fish at Wilderness Park

Wilderness Park is a small public park located at 10999 Little Lake Road in Downey, California.

The park has plenty of outdoor opportunities.

It has plenty of trees where you can sit down and relax while reading a good book or picnic with family and friends.

There’s also a playground where the kids can get active and a walking path along the park’s perimeter where you can take a stroll.

However, the main highlight of Wilderness Park is its two serene lakes that are perfect for fishing.

The lakes are abundant with various kinds of fish, providing the entire family with recreational fun and relaxation hours.

The park is free and open to the public, so go ahead and make the most of the beautiful outdoors with a relaxed day of fishing at Wilderness Park.

Bring Your Dog to Rio San Gabriel Park

Rio San Gabriel Park is a large Downey park with a dog park for canines and their owners.

Located at 9612 Ardine Street, the park has plenty of grassy areas to let your pup run free and other amenities such as trash cans and a drinking fountain.

The park is free to access, so you must grab your pup and have fun!

Upon entering the Rio San Gabriel Park dog park area, your dog must be off-leash to enjoy the freedom of play.

You should also keep an eye on your pet while playing; you never know what surprises they might stumble upon!

There’s also a limit of two dogs per owner, and your canine must be at least four months old to enter the park.

Check ahead of time for any restrictions and regulations for the park before you visit.

After you and your pup are done playing, check out the park’s other features, such as its walking trails and picnic areas.

Whether a quick break or an entire day, you and your furry friend will have plenty of fun at Rio San Gabriel Park.

Enjoy Family Day at Independence Park

Independence Park is another large park with multiple amenities and facilities promoting health and fitness.

Located at 12334 Bellflower Boulevard, the park is perfect for families looking for a fun-filled day outdoors.

The park offers plenty of amenities you can enjoy with your families, such as a play area for kids, tennis courts, and baseball fields.

You can either play or spectate a game and then hang around the open spaces to have a picnic or relax.

Independence Park also features a skate park, the Meredith H. Perkins Skate Park.

It is open all year round and features plenty of ramps and rails for skateboarders and inline skaters to practice their moves.

Wearing helmets and knee and elbow pads is always mandatory for your safety.

It’s an excellent place for families to come together, have fun, and exercise.

Don’t miss out on Independence Park when visiting Downey, California.

Read and Learn at Downey City Library

The Downey City Library is a highly underrated free attraction in town.

Located at 11121 Brookshire Avenue, right in the heart of downtown Downey, it’s a great place to spend an afternoon if you’re looking for something low-key.

The library offers an extensive selection of books, magazines, and newspapers.

Plenty of comfortable reading spaces exist when you want to sit back and enjoy your book or magazine.

There’s also a wide variety of genres and special interest collections such as mysteries, science fiction, children’s books, and more.

It’s also a great place to hang out and have a peaceful time.

You can sit in the lounge and listen to songs on your mobile device or access the internet via WiFi.

Accessing the internet is free; no library cards are necessary!

The library also hosts free events such as book clubs, lectures, and other related programs.

These events are a great way to learn about the Downey community and its culture, meet new people and make new friends.

If you want an afternoon of relaxation and learning, the Downey City Library is a great place you shouldn’t overlook.

Join a Local Event at Apollo Park

Apollo Park at 12544 Rives Avenue is a great place to get involved with the Downey community.

The park is home to Gary P. McCaughan Gymnasium, which hosts many sports tournaments, community events, contests, and concerts.

It’s free to join most of these events; you must register and show up.

The events are usually held during the weekends, so check the park’s events calendar to find out when and what’s happening.

It’s a great way to meet people, get involved in the local culture, and have fun.

Apollo Park also has other amenities that are worth checking out.

These amenities include an activity room, athletic sports fields, baseball diamonds, basketball courts, outdoor sand volleyball courts, playgrounds, and walking trails.

It’s safe to say that Apollo Park has plenty to offer, so make sure to drop by when you’re in town.

Ride a Bike at Treasure Island Park

Treasure Island Park is like your typical park: it has plenty of open green spaces, a playground for kids, and some picnic areas.

What makes this park unique is the Rio Hondo Bike Path that goes through it, which is excellent for biking adventures.

This bike path is a great place to take in the sights and sounds of Downey as you ride along the banks of the Rio Hondo River.

It’s a breezy path, with plenty of stops along the way for when you want to take a break and enjoy the scenery.

The path is also popular with runners, joggers, and walkers, so you’ll meet many like-minded people as you explore.

If you’re not into biking, you can stroll through Treasure Island Park, appreciating the beauty of the great outdoors.

Let the Kids Play at Dennis the Menace Park

Named after the popular comic strip character, Dennis the Menace Park is a great place for kids of all ages to have fun.

At 9125 Arrington Avenue, Dennis the Menace Park is a lush, inviting park that remains the go-to spot for outdoor birthday parties and family outings.

This park is a haven for children aged five to 12, with an array of playground equipment specifically designed for them.

For your convenience, the public restrooms remain open during regular business hours.

Plus, all vehicles in the park’s parking lot are kept safe for added security and peace of mind as it is securely locked every night.

The park offers a variety of amenities for your picnicking pleasure, including plenty of open green space and picnic tables.

The barbecue grilling stations are also accessible on a first-come, first-served basis, so get there early!

Other Things to Do Nearby

Watch a Local Soccer Game at Bell Gardens John Anson Ford Park

Head to Bell Gardens John Anson Ford Park if you want something more lively.

Located at 8000 Park Lane in nearby Bell Gardens, this park features two full-sized soccer fields where you can watch some of the area’s finest soccer talents train and compete.

Local games are free to watch, usually during the weekends.

The park also hosts tournaments between the top teams and schools in the area.

Unfortunately, these events will require you to purchase a ticket.

However, it’s still worth checking out their calendar of events to see what’s going on.

There are also plenty of other amenities at the park, such as a playground for children and plenty of open green space to enjoy.

The Bell Gardens John Anson Ford Park is in Bell Gardens, California, seven minutes from Downey.

Enjoy the Great Outdoors at Hollydale Regional Park

Hollydale Regional Park in nearby South Gate, California, is the perfect location to be one with nature.

This regional park has undergone several improvements, resulting in a newly-expanded 53-acre park.

The new additions to the park include a flower garden, a solar-powered drinking fountain, several picnic tables, and plenty of open grassy spaces to play field sports.

The park is also a field with trees, shrubs, and plenty of plants, making it the ideal spot for a stroll.

Enjoy plenty of complimentary amenities like basketball and tennis courts, baseball and soccer fields, several public fitness zones, picnic tables, and children’s play areas.

There’s also a dog park where your pets can have a good time.

Hollydale Regional Park is 11 minutes from Downey.

Enjoy the Quiet Atmosphere at Santa Fe Springs Park

Santa Fe Springs Park is the perfect place for you if you’re looking to escape from the hustle and bustle of the city.

Located in nearby Santa Fe Springs, California, Santa Fe Springs Park is the ideal destination for a tranquil outdoor experience.

The park offers horseshoe pits, basketball courts, and picnic areas for large groups.

The park also provides a Homework Club to the general public, available Mondays through Fridays between 3:30 PM and 4:30 PM.

This club is 100% free and requires no registration.

Other park amenities include barbecue grills, a Wading Pool open during the summer, handball courts, public board games, and much more.

Santa Fe Springs Park is ten minutes from Downey.

Final Thoughts

Most of Downey’s free attractions rely heavily on parks and outdoor activities.

Every park in Downey offers a unique and exciting experience—from sports and entertainment to peaceful strolls and nature trails.

If you want a budget-friendly vacation experience in Los Angeles County, Downey is the perfect place.

Consider this list of free things to do in Downey, California, and work them into your itinerary for an unforgettable trip.

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