15 Free Things to Do in Garden Grove, CA

Free Things to Do in Garden Grove, CA
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The City of Garden Grove, California, is said to have the largest glass building in the world, known as Crystal Cathedral.

It belongs to Orange County in the northern part, with a population of 171,949 as of the 2020 census.

The city is known for its annual Strawberry Festival, which attracts around 250,000 visitors to celebrate with the locals.

Alonzo Cook founded the area in 1874, and it was incorporated as a city in 1956 with the opening of Orange County Plaza or The Promenade.

Tourists visiting the city and many Vietnamese communities living in the area have put the city on the map.

The popular reggae rock band, Sublime also wrote a song about Garden Grove of the same title.

In the city, sit and wait for a gorgeous sunset at a park, explore the historic downtown, and enjoy other activities without breaking the bank.

Here's a round-up of the free things to do in Garden Grove, California:

Tour around Christ Cathedral, a.k.a. Crystal Cathedral

Exterior of the Crystal Cathedral
Gertjan Hooijer / Shutterstock.com

The Crystal Cathedral is not to be missed when you're in town.

It's touted as the biggest glass building in the world and also houses the Hazel Wright Memorial organ, one of the world's largest pipe organs.

Tours are free and start at the Cathedral Cultural Center and around the campus, where you can see lots of religious sights.

Formally called Christ Cathedral, it used to be the place of worship for the Reformed Church in America ministries.

Moses sculpture at the Crystal Cathedral
mikeledray / Shutterstock.com

It was then sold to the Diocese of Orange County as its new cathedral in 2012.

The modern architecture building, which was constructed in 1977, has a 2,248 seating capacity.

It also hosted the religious "Hour of Power" TV program.

The Crystal Cathedral is located off Chapman Avenue.

Interior of the Crystal Cathedral
User:Nepenthes, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Have a Picnic at Haster Basin Recreational Park

If you're traveling with your family or friends, one of the best places in Garden Grove to have a picnic is Haster Basin Recreational Park.

Formerly known as Twin Lakes Park, it has lakeside picnic shelters with grills you can use while enjoying the park's relaxing ambiance.

The picnic shelters overlooking the lake are among the 21.5-acre park's addition in 2014 after a two-year overhaul.

The renovation also improved the site's flood control.

There are also sports fields, a playground, exercise equipment, and walking trails where you can see some squirrels and other local wildlife.

At night, you may also catch taco and churros trucks in the area.

You can find Haster Basin Recreational Park on Lampson Avenue.

Attend the Free Summer Concert Series

During the summer season, the Garden Grove City Council and the Garden Grove Community Foundation organize the Free Summer Concert Series.

The live performances are free for the locals and visitors in the city, happening every Thursday night in the summertime.

You can bring your blanket or lawn chairs to these venues, except for tents or golf carts.

Food and drinks are also sold at the venues by local vendors.

You can also watch The Voice of Garden Grove, a singing contest participated by local high school students vying for the title and cash prizes.

The Free Summer Concert Series venues include Eastgate Park, Downtown Main Street, and Garden Grove Park.

Celebrate with the Locals at the Strawberry Festival

Strawberry shortcake for sale at the Strawberry Festival
The Image Party / Shutterstock.com

One of California's biggest local festivals, the Strawberry Festival, celebrates the then-abundant strawberry farms of the city.

The festival started in 1958, bringing the east and west sides of the city together in a three-day fun-filled Memorial Day weekend.

Events include a grand parade, strawberry cake-cutting ceremony, contests, food vendors, live performances, and lots of family-friendly activities.

People at the Strawberry Festival
The Image Party / Shutterstock.com

If you're traveling to Garden Grove in May, it's great timing to celebrate and have fun with the locals.

The Garden Grove Chamber of Commerce organizes the Strawberry Festival.

It's held between Main Street and Euclid Street at the Village Green in downtown Garden Grove.

Thrilling ride at the Strawberry Festival
The Image Party / Shutterstock.com

Take the Kids to Garden Grove Park

One of the best playgrounds that the city offers is Garden Grove Park, with lots of learning and play equipment.

The kids can have their time of life learning, playing, and interacting with other kids at the playground while enjoying the relaxing atmosphere.

The ball areas offer grass fields for the comfort of all users.

There's also an exercise station, a small skate park, picnic shelters, and a fenced dog park.

Garden Grover Park is the city's largest park and is nestled on Westminster Boulevard adjacent to the Bolsa Grande High School.

Read a Book at Garden Grove OC Library

For traveling bibliophiles, a nice and peaceful reading nook would be a great pastime during your visit to Garden Grove.

At Garden Grove OC Library, you can choose from its wide and outstanding selection of books for all ages.

The friendly staff can help you get what you need and provide the best peaceful spot to read your book.

It's a great way to spend an hour or two reading if you're in the mood for a slow-paced time in the city.

Outside the library is a pond with lots of ducks, geese, turtles, and birds.

The library also hosts Saturday afternoon movie times for kids and families.

Garden Grove OC Library is nestled on Stanford Avenue.

Stroll around the Historic Main Street

Road arch of the Historic Main Street
Steve Cukrov / Shutterstock.com

Garden Grove's small historic Main Street may have changed over the past year, but it still has remnants of the past.

Many restaurants and shops are still in business, including Louie's, Azteca Mexican Restaurant, and Kaye's Kitchen.

The city's main district also suffered from the heavy beating of the 1933 Long Beach earthquake, which destroyed many of its sites.

Road of the Historic Main Street
The Image Party / Shutterstock.com

Despite the changes since the city's founding, it still has an old-town feel.

Take a photo of the historic Main Street welcome sign at the entrance of the street to document your trip!

Buildings at the Historic Main Street
Steve Cukrov / Shutterstock.com

Relax at Magnolia Park

Enjoy a quiet and relaxing time at Magnolia Park.

The 5.9-acre park has lots of nice shady trees where you can relax sitting on the grass or reading a book.

There are also picnic shelters, ball fields, a play area, a pool, a resource center, and a pool.

Magnolia Park is located off Magnolia Street.

Experience the Classic Car Show at the Historic Main Street

A 1928 Buick, '34 Split window Chevy Hot Rod,' '56 T-Bird, and many other vintage cars are what you can see at the Classic Car Show.

Happening every Friday night at the historic Main Street, the event showcases classic cars and live shows.

See and experience this Classic Car Show while you're in town and also explore downtown's specialty shops and enjoy live performances.

The Classic Car Show is the longest-running car cruise in Orange County, which started in 1994.

Let Your Dogs Play at Garden Grove Dog Park

A happy dog at Garden Grove Dog Park
Noisy Shutter / Shutterstock.com

If you're traveling with your dogs, they can enjoy playing and interacting with other canines at Garden Grove Dog Park.

The 36-acre park has a dedicated fenced dog park where large and small dogs are in separated-leash and off-leash areas with grass.

There are benches by the fenced areas for you to watch over your furbabies with plenty of shady trees.

Pugs at Garden Grove Dog Park
Noisy Shutter / Shutterstock.com

There are also pet stations filled with waste bags and a water fountain for your pets by the dog park entrance.

Garden Grove Dog Park is located inside Garden Grove Park off Westminster Boulevard.

Dogs at Garden Grove Dog Park
Noisy Shutter / Shutterstock.com

Take a Snap of The Promenade at Garden Grove

Garden Grove was incorporated as a city in 1956, and that same year, Orange County Plaza, now known as The Promenade at Garden Grove, also opened.

You can take a photo of its beautiful structure a few meters away, facing the shopping mall's entrance.

The beautiful landscape on the front alongside the lined-up palm trees adds to the relaxing vibe of the mall's outer area.

The Promenade at Garden Grove was touted as the largest and the first regional shopping center in Orange County.

It's owned by HGGA Promenade and is located on Brookhurst Street and Chapman Avenue.

See the Alonzo Cook Statue

Dr. Alonzo Gerry Cook founded Garden Grove in 1874 when he bought 160 acres of land from Abel Stearns Ranch.

Today, the Alonzo Cook statue can be seen standing proudly on the northwest part of Community Center Park.

The City of Garden Grove erected the two-foot square bronze statue during its 50th incorporation anniversary in 2006.

The Alonzo Cook Statue is a nod to the city's founding father, which is worth the quick visit to the park.

It's located off South Euclid Street.

Admire the Iconic Tower on the Green

Daytime view of the Iconic Tower on the Green
Steve Cukrov / Shutterstock.com

The iconic Tower on the Green, located at the entrance of the city's oldest park, the Village Green, celebrate's the community's dynamic spirit.

It features twin black obelisks at the base of the clock, which is made of solid granite and was imported from India.

If you look closely, the obelisks are etched with all the donors' names who made the project come to life.

Close view of the Iconic Tower on the Green
The Image Party / Shutterstock.com

The light posts next to the tower also feature custom-built strawberries, representing the Strawberry Festival.

The Tower on the Green was dedicated in 2002 and is a Garden Grove Community Foundation project.

You can find it next to the historic Main Street.

Other Things to Do Nearby

Apart from Garden Grove's gorgeous attractions, its neighboring cities are equally tourist-friendly.

You only have to drive a few minutes past the city limits to discover world-class attractions.

Catch a Breathtaking California Sunset at Sunset View Park

When the California skies put on a show, it means a beautiful golden hour, which you can enjoy at Sunset View Park in Signal Hill.

The 0.47-acre park offers unmatched views of the sunset.

Signal Hill is one of the best go-to cities in California, where people would only go to catch the sunset.

The park is also a beautiful spot to see the panoramic views of Signal Hill, Long Beach, and San Pedro areas.

There are walking trails nearby if you're up for scenic strolls.

However, if you're not a sunset person, the sunrise here is equally gorgeous and popular among locals and tourists.

Sunset View Park is located off Skyline Drive in Signal Hill, only 19 minutes from Garden Grove.

Get Closer to Nature at the Santiago Creek Wildlife & Watershed Center

The Santiago Creek Wildlife & Watershed Center is one of Orange County's crowning jewels with its gorgeous natural areas.

It's only a seven-minute drive from Garden Grove, a great spot if you're into nature and wildlife.

There are beautiful walking trails where you can see local wildlife, shady trees, lush foliage, and natural areas.

You can also check the center itself to learn more about the watershed, cultural history, and Orange County wildlife.

Whether you're exploring the Santiago Creek Wildlife & Watershed Center solo or with family, this is a great destination to feel closer to nature.

You can find it off East Memory Lane at Santiago Park in Santa Ana, California.

Final Thoughts

With lots of gorgeous destinations and rich local history, the City of Garden Grove is the place to be!

Explore the city's jewels and go back home filled with amazing experiences and memories.

Save this list of free things to do in Garden Grove, California, for your next trip!

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