Blake Walsh

15 Free Things to Do in Monterey Park, CA

  • Published 2023/02/10

Monterey Park is bordered by the city of Los Angeles and the San Gabriel Valley region, which are both popular California destinations.

Though often overlooked, the quaint city of Monterey Park in Los Angeles County has its own scenic landscapes and enviable landmarks worth visiting.

Exploring the city isn’t that difficult either, as its popular attractions are either weaved into the metro or aren’t that far from each other.

Best of all, the free things to do in Monterey Park, California, include some of the places and attractions that have defined the city at different points throughout its history.

If you’re looking to make the most of your stay, check out the list below.

Enjoy Picturesque Views at Cascades Park Waterfall

Fountain sculpture at Cascades Park

Angel DiBilio /

Cascades Park is also known as Heritage Falls Park.

Peter N. Snyder developed it in 1929 as part of the Midwick View Estates proposal.

There’s a waterfall here with an outstanding design, but the views from atop the park, where you can see the skyline with an urban forest in the foreground, is an equally compelling reason to visit the site.

The waters of Cascades Park

Angel DiBilio /

There are also over 100 steps that separate the lower ground from the top, which make for a great workout.

Cascades Park is a quiet and meditative space offering panoramic city views.

You can find it on Atlantic Boulevard.

Unwind at Barnes Park

The 17-acre Barnes Park is hard to miss as it’s located at the heart of the city along McPherin Avenue.

The public green space, a favorite local hang-out spot, features sports fields, an amphitheater, and picnic areas for reservations.

Barnes Park also provides easy access to the city’s other public establishments, as it’s just walking distance from the city hall, public library, and fire department.

The park has also been remodeled and upgraded in recent years, particularly the playground for kids and the surrounding recreational and fitness areas for adults.

It’s a cool place to do some light running and walking, even at night, since the pathways are lit up nicely after sundown.

Walk around Monterey Park’s Demonstration Garden

The Demonstration Garden is a quiet space where visitors can walk or simply relax.

The garden features Asian, Modern Mediterranean, Spanish, and native Californian gardens, as well as water-wise irrigation methods.

The 1.2-acre garden is located along Metro Drive and South Orange Avenue, on the tail end of the Monterey Park Historical Museum, where it serves as a respite for joggers, cyclists, and the nearby community.

Demonstration Garden was once a deteriorated public park that has been repurposed to host beautiful landscaping and demonstrate water conservation.

The project was a joint effort between the city and the San Gabriel Valley Municipal Water Distinct (SGVMWD).

Take a Souvenir Photo of El Encanto

Developer Peter N. Snyder had a vision of what the lower San Gabriel Valley might become, but the 356-acre Midwick View Estates never came to fruition due to the 1929 stock market crash and the Great Depression.

What’s left of that grand plan is the two-story Spanish-revival style building called El Encanto and the city’s famed attraction, “The Cascades.”

El Encanto is now one of the architectural landmarks in San Gabriel Valley, where it’s celebrated for its ornate structure and significance to the history of the city.

You’ll find El Encanto on El Mercado Avenue.

Go for a Light Walk at Edison Trails Park

Edison Trails Park offers a narrow 2.1-kilometer multi-use trail for light walking and mountain biking through the hillside.

Edison Trail begins east of Edison Trails Park, along South Garfield Avenue, and ends at Fulton Avenue, just before La Loma Park.

The 11-acre public park also has several picnic areas with barbecue pits, tennis courts, and a fitness center.

Edison Trails is uniquely found in the middle of the busy metro, which makes it a perfect spot for keying in some reps or enjoying the fresh air.

Tour the Vincent Price Art Museum

Admission to the Vincent Price Art Museum is free, but reservations are recommended to ensure a smooth entry during your visit.

If it sounds familiar, it’s because the museum was named after American actor Vincent Price.

Over the past 50 years, its collection has grown to more than 9,000 objects, which includes artworks of African, Mesoamerican, Native American, and European origin.

Vincent Price Art Museum is currently home to seven art galleries that feature temporary rotating exhibitions, permanent collections, student shows, and artist and community projects.

The museum sits at the compound of East Los Angeles College, along Avenida Cesar Chavez Street.

See the Stars at Garvey Ranch Observatory

Garvey Ranch Observatory offers free telescope observations every Wednesday evening.

If you have some night hours free during your trip and have a thing for stargazing or just the sky in general, then a visit to Garvey Ranch Observatory is something you might want to make room for in your itinerary.

Each Wednesday night, professional and amateur stargazers can gather at the observatory owned by Monterey Park and operated by the Los Angeles Astronomical Society, to observe the night sky and even socialize.

The observatory houses an eight-inch refractor telescope for the public, which they use to promote interest and advance public knowledge of astronomy and related subjects.

You can visit Garvey Ranch Observatory along South Orange Avenue.

Explore the Garvey Ranch Park

The 28-acre Garvey Ranch Park is located on the north side of the Garvey Reservoir, where it also houses the Garvey Ranch Observatory and Monterey Park Historical Museum.

The park features sports fields and other recreational areas, as well as picnic tables, playgrounds, and community centers.

The museum is the former estate of city pioneer and cattle rancher Richard Garvey.

The Observatory, meanwhile, is run by the Los Angeles Astronomical Society and is open to the public on Wednesday nights for free.

Garvey Ranch Park is one of the most spacious recreational spaces in the Monterey area and is relatively quiet despite being located near a residential neighborhood.

Visit the Japanese Garden at Sequoia Park

The five-acre Sequoia Park has a centerpiece Japanese Garden with Azumaya View Deck to go along with its lush green fields.

Additionally, the park has a baseball and softball field, tennis court, and picnic shelters.

The park has a bit of elevation compared to other recreational spots in the city, which means you can enjoy downtown and scenic skyline views.

This uphill park is generally quiet, with relatively low foot traffic throughout the day, which is even better if you’re looking to stop by for a picnic or do some light walking or exercise in its open field.

You can find Sequoia Park along Ridgecrest Avenue.

Relax at La Loma Park

After a little run or hike through Edison Trails, you might be inclined to make a stop at La Loma Park, which is right at the end of Edison.

The park is approximately 7.5 acres, which put it just about average in terms of size when compared to other parks in the city.

La Loma Park has sports fields and playgrounds and ample benches and shade for relaxing or picnics.

Location-wise, you’ll have access to South Orange Avenue, which you can traverse after a short break to get to Garvey Ranch Park and other nearby attractions.

Other Things to Do Nearby

Monterey Park is one of the best places to stay if you plan to visit Los Angeles but do not want to get caught up in its busy neighborhood.

This nearby city has a lot of good hotels and is perfect for those who want to stay physically active, as there are urban recreational spots for all kinds of activities.

Since it’s close to Glendale and Los Angeles, there are also a lot of opportunities to make your itinerary more dynamic by adding some of these additional places of interest to your list.

Take on a More Challenging Hike at Beaudry Loop

The view from Beaudry Loop

Noah Sauve /

Verdugo Mountain Park offers fresh air for tourists visiting the nearby urban jungles.

For hikers, the location is famed for its panoramic views of nearby cities and its 5.5-mile Beaudry Loop, which is a moderate trail with decent elevation and beautiful landscape.

There are plenty of places to get your laps in at Monterey Park, but if you wish to take a more challenging route, the nearby Beaudry Loop is the ideal destination.

Don’t forget to bring a small camera with you as the views are breathtaking and worth the climb.

Verdugo Mountain Park is in Sun Valley, 35 minutes away from Monterey Park.

Landscape of Beaudry Loop

Noah Sauve /

Explore Downtown Los Angeles

Skyline of Downtown Los Angeles

Chones /

Downtown Los Angeles is just 14 minutes away by car from Monterey Park, making it an ideal day trip destination or stopover.

Some of L.A.’s iconic crown jewels are located within a three-block stretch of Grand Avenue, including Walt Disney Concert Hall, The Broad, Grand Park, Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, and MOCA.

Walt Disney Concert Hall at Downtown Los Angeles

f11photo /

You may also want to check out Los Angeles’ own Chinatown, which has a thriving gallery scene and is often busy with events and festivals.

Don’t miss the chance to take a photo with the historic seven-foot bronze sculpture of Bruce Lee, which was transported from China to honor the cultural and Hollywood legend.

The Broad at Downtown Los Angeles

Checubus /

There are plenty of other places of interest in Downtown L.A., including Little Tokyo, Los Angeles Central Public Library, Biddy Mason Park, and more.

Dorothy Chandler Pavilion at Downtown Los Angeles

Checubus /

Take a Detour to Turnbull Canyon

Mountain views at Turnbull Canyon

Ormr2014, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Turnbull Canyon has a rich occult history.

The four-mile loop is part of Puente Hills Preserve, which was originally a landfill before Puente Hills Habitat Preservation Authority took over the land and transformed it into a green public space and recreation area.

The short hiking trail through the canyon will lead you to a water tower with spectacular views of the San Gabriels to the north and the Los Angeles basin to the east.

There is a small dirt parking lot on the north side of Turnbull Canyon Road, which is free for visitors.

Turnbull Canyon is in Whittier, a 23-minute ride from Monterey Park.

Enjoy a Short Hike and Great Views at Ascot Hills Park

Trail at Ascot Hills Park

Jon Bilous /

If you’re up for a short hike with great views of Downtown L.A., visit Ascot Hills Park.

The elevation is gradual, but the hike offers some challenges as you ascend.

The reward, of course, is a view of Los Angeles that only gets better as you reach higher grounds.

To get to Ascot Hills Park, look for an entry point at Multnomah Street.

Ascot Hills Park is in Los Angeles, about 10 minutes via car from Monterey Park.

Skyline views from Ascot Hills Park

Jon Bilous /

Explore the Whittier Narrows Natural Area and Nature Center

The grounds of Whittier Narrows Area

Katemarie Montalvo /

The Whittier Narrows Natural Area and Nature Center is a narrows or water gap in the San Gabriel Valley.

You can explore most of the grounds for free, while plenty of commercial establishments and recreational areas are also just nearby or within the nature center itself.

The 1,500-acre Whittier Narrows Recreation Area, for one, is a multi-use facility, divided into three sections: the North Lake, Center Lake, and Legg Lake.

The area charges vehicle entry fees on weekends and holidays, but you can visit it for free if you’re going carless.

Whittier Narrows Natural Area and Nature Center is in South El Monte, 16 minutes away from Monterey Park.

Final Thoughts

Monterey Park is an intimate and inviting destination for those who wish to explore the greater Los Angeles County since it has access points to many famous locations and places of interest in California.

You wouldn’t want to miss the city’s own exceptional landscape and cultural landmarks.

The free things to do in Monterey Park, California, will give you a vivid picture of the city’s history, which is one of the most dynamic and inclusive in all of Los Angeles.

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