Blake Walsh

15 Free Things to Do in Richmond, CA

  • Published 2023/03/12

Located 16 miles northeast of San Francisco, California is the bustling city of Richmond.

With a population of over 116,000, it is the second-largest city in Contra Costa County.

The city saw unprecedented growth during World War II as it emerged as one of the biggest shipyards on the West Coast.

As such, the city’s population nearly quadrupled between 1940 and 1943, the vast majority of which are migrants from the South and Southwest who came to work in the shipyards and factories.

Despite experiencing a sharp decline after the war, Richmond’s economy steadily recovered over the next decades as it shifted to post-war industries.

Commercial districts also rose along the bay as well as further inland, paving the way for the city’s economic growth well into the second half of the 20th century.

Despite its industrial roots, the city also boasts over 50 public recreation spaces spread across its 56-square-mile expanse.

From your typical neighborhood park to sprawling swathes of wilderness and everything in between, you can find all of these in Richmond.

This also means that don’t you have to spend a single penny to experience tons of fun activities in the city.

Here are the top free things to do in Richmond, California:

Take a Tour at the Visitor Education Center of the Rosie the Riveter WWII Home Front

Exhibit in the Rosie the Riveter WWII Home Front

EWY Media /

The image of Rosie the River isn’t just one of the most recognizable icons of World War II; its influence also transcends well into modern culture.

Behind the iconic imagery are the millions of women who, despite being thousands of miles away from the battlefields, played an invaluable role in keeping the American war machine running.

Needless to say, the aptly-named Rosie the Riveter WWII Home Front on Harbour Way South pays tribute to these unsung heroes.

The national historical park is divided into several sections, which are spread across Richmond.

Its visitor education center, located in the southern part of the city overlooking the Ford Channel, is a repository of the colorful history of the heroic women.

Statues in the Rosie the Riveter WWII Home Front

EWY Media /

You can find a number of life-size statues depicting the life and times of the era, which even include a female factory worker taking a quick break with a slice of bread.

Of course, you can also read in full detail the history of the iconic image, along with numerous photographs and memorabilia during World War II.

The best part is you can also meet actual World War II workers, the Rosie’s themselves, during Rosie Fridays.

Whether you’re a history buff or not, taking a tour at the visitor education center of the Rosie the Riveter WWII Home Front is worth your time.

Interior of the Rosie the Riveter WWII Home Front

EWY Media /

Enjoy the Breeze at Shimada Friendship Park

One of the most relaxing places in Richmond, Shimada Friendship Park occupies three acres in the southern part of the city.

Despite its size, the park boasts one of the best spots in Richmond to catch enthralling views of sunrises and sunsets.

In the park, you can enjoy the cool breeze and captivating sights of San Francisco Bay, with the sprawling Bay Bridge and the iconic Golden Gate Bridge towering over the horizon.

Allow yourself to be immersed in the relaxing environment by staying near the rocky beach or sitting comfortably on the benches.

There are also picnic areas where you can spend some fun time together with family and friends while enjoying a barbecue.

Shimada Friendship Park may not be brimming with features, but it more than makes up for it with its breathtaking sights.

Go Wildlife-Watching at Hilltop Lake Park

Hilltop Lake Park is a piece of nature located in the middle of the bustling urban area in northeastern Richmond.

The park covers an area of 36 acres, a significant portion of which is occupied by the park’s centerpiece, Hilltop Lake.

Despite its proximity to the urban zone, the park is thriving with wildlife.

Home to many birds and small animals, the park is one of the best spots in the city for wildlife watching.

You can also bike or walk along the trails that loop around the lake while enjoying the captivating views.

Hilltop Lake Park may not offer much in terms of amenities, but its pristine environment and great location make it one of the best places in the city to enjoy a much-needed respite.

Go Swimming and Hiking at Miller/Knox Regional Shoreline

Pelican at Miller/Knox Regional Shoreline

Becky Matsubara from El Sobrante, California, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

One of the popular getaway spots in Richmond, Miller/Knox Regional Shoreline sits in the southwestern portion of the city.

Covering an area of 307 acres, the park has many natural features, which include a large saltwater lagoon, rocky coastlines, and clean beaches.

The secluded Keller Beach, which is located at the northern point of the park, offers a relaxing swimming experience with its clean sandy shores and nice, cool waters.

Other activities you can enjoy at the bayside include fishing at Ferry Point pier and boating via the built-in pier.

A bird at Miller/Knox Regional Shoreline

Becky Matsubara from El Sobrante, California, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

On the other hand, you can either walk or bike your way along the park’s mile-long trail looping around the lagoon.

You can also choose to simply relax and enjoy the scenery while resting at the picnic areas.

Miller/Knox Regional Shoreline may only offer the most basic amenities, yet its relaxing bayside atmosphere and fantastic beach make it a must-visit in Richmond.

Unwind at Point Molate Beach Park

One of Richmond’s hidden gems, Point Molate Beach Park can be found in the western part of the city.

The park boasts a clean stony beach which is one of the top spots to relax in Richmond.

Additionally, you can also go kayaking and canoeing along the calm waters of the bay while enjoying the views of the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge.

Thanks to its relatively secluded location, you can enjoy a peaceful stay in the park as you take a rest under the numerous trees dotting the landscape.

There are also several picnic tables where you can relax and wait as your sumptuous dinner is being cooked at the grills.

With its fantastic beach and peaceful environment, Point Molate Beach Park is one hidden paradise in the city that you ought to visit.

Relax at Lucretia Edwards Park

If you are looking for a nice and quiet spot in Richmond, you can head southward to reach Lucretia Edwards Park.

Despite its mere two-acre area, the park boasts some of the best views of San Francisco Bay with the city buildings towering on the horizon.

While enjoying the soothing scenery, you can also dip your feet in the water through the stairway down the shore.

There are also a number of benches where you can sit while reading a book or listening to music.

You can also take a quick yet relaxing stroll around the park’s walkways and enjoy the cool breeze of the bay.

Moreover, you can enjoy a meal at the park’s picnic area while watching the children play at the small playground.

Lucretia Edwards Park may be tiny, but it still packs a punch with its captivating views and serene surroundings.

Check the Gigantic Art Pieces at Point San Pablo Harbor

Buildings at Point San Pablo Harbor

Obeahsalive, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Situated in the northwest of Richmond is Point San Pablo, a quaint commercial complex made up primarily of restaurants, cafés, and marinas.

One of the most striking attractions of the complex is the seven unique and gigantic art pieces built within its premises.

Paying homage to the music of the past is La Victrola, a 35-foot tall steel and wood phonograph horn built by artists from Oakland-based American Steel Studios.

There’s also the terrifying Niloticus, which is a 40-foot-long crocodile encrusted with glass and ceramics and features glowing eyes, teeth, and spikes.

The otherworldly Future’s Past, which appears like a portal to another dimension, features intricate patterns along the pyramid-like structure.

The unique artworks were created by We Are From Dust, a nonprofit organization dedicated to producing interactive art and engaging with communities through their craft.

Fascinating art installations combined with scenic views of San Francisco Bay make Point San Pablo Harbor one of the most interesting spots in the city.

Volunteer at Happy Lot Farm and Garden

Situated along 1st Street, Happy Lot Farm and Garden exudes the community spirit of Richmond.

Run by community volunteers, what was once a vacant lot has since been transformed into a lovely garden filled with produce and flowers.

Several chickens and ducks also roam freely around the garden.

The group encourages everyone to volunteer and get involved in the garden activities.

As such, you can help in tending the garden and removing the weeds in the undergrowth.

You can also assist in feeding the chickens, as well as cleaning their coops.

The garden also gives away free seeds to anyone who wants to try gardening at home.

Happy Lot Farm and Garden’s friendly community atmosphere provides a fun and wholesome gardening experience for everyone.

Take a Stroll along Marina Bay Park

Daytime view of Marina Bay Park

tishomir /

Marina Bay Park is a nice patch of green space located along the Inner Harbor Basin in the southern part of Richmond.

Covering an area of 11 acres, the park features neat landscaping and open lawns where your kids can run around and play.

Of course, you can also enjoy relaxing views of the marina’s tranquil waters and the sight of yachts moored to a standstill.

The park also houses the Rosie the Riveter Memorial, which is dedicated to all the women who played a crucial role in keeping the American wartime industry running during World War II.

On the other hand, the park has paved trails which are great for walking and cycling.

There are also picnic areas with barbecue grills for a fun and memorable cookout with the family.

With its pleasant atmosphere and cool environment, Marina Bay Park guarantees a relaxing experience any time of the day.

Play at Booker T. Anderson Jr. Park

Situated in the southeastern part of Richmond, Booker T. Anderson Jr. Park covers an area of 22 acres.

A popular spot for playing sports, the park houses numerous facilities such as basketball and tennis courts.

You can also watch local teams play on the park’s baseball and soccer fields.

On the other hand, the park features a well-maintained lawn area and playground where you can run around and play.

There’s also a paved trail weaving through the park which is ideal for jogging and biking.

After a tiring round of playing and biking, you can relax at the picnic area which is also equipped with barbecue grills.

Whether you’re looking for a place to play or relax, Booker T. Anderson Jr. Park is the perfect spot for you.

Go Skating at Nicholl Park

A fully featured recreation space, Nicholl Park occupies an area of 21 acres in the eastern part of Richmond.

One of the most notable features of the park is its skate park, which is equipped with ramps and rails geared for both novice and skilled skaters.

You can also find other play facilities like baseball and soccer fields, a playground, and a space for lawn bowling.

Moreover, the park boasts a spacious lawn area where you’ll be greeted by the sight of geese roaming around.

For relaxing strolls, there are paved walkways where you can relax under the natural shade of lush trees.

After an hour or so of skating and playing, you can proceed to the picnic area to relax and freshen up.

With plenty of play facilities and a neat environment, Nicholl Park is your one-stop shop for outdoor fun and leisure.

Go Birdwatching at Point Isabel Regional Shoreline

Scenic sunset at Point Isabel Regional Shoreline

BondRocketImages /

Situated on the southeastern edge of the city is the 23-acre Point Isabel Regional Shoreline.

Despite its modest size, it is also one of the most visited parks in the city, attracting over one million visitors each year.

Thanks to its pristine environment, the park serves as a stop-over for many migrating birds.

As such, the park is a fantastic spot for birdwatching, especially during fall and winter.

The majestic Golden Gate Bridge, which towers on the horizon, also adds to the visual splendor of the bayside.

A hawk on a boulder at Point Isabel Regional Shoreline

Becky Matsubara from El Sobrante, California, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Additionally, you can also go fishing along the shores as long as you secure the required state fishing license.

On the other hand, you can embark your trail journey across Richmond right at the park as it serves as the official trailhead of the San Francisco Bay Trail.

A haven for dogs, the park also distinguishes itself as one of the few places in the city where dogs are allowed off-leash, provided that they are also able to obey with voice control.

From its awe-inspiring sights to its cool and relaxing atmosphere, Point Isabel Regional Shoreline is a great place to have a quick breather from the bustle of the city.

A bird perched on a plant at Point Isabel Regional Shoreline

Becky Matsubara from El Sobrante, California, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

See Local Art at Richmond Art Center

The cultural hub of the city, Richmond Art Center can be found along Barrett Avenue right at the heart of the city.

Founded in 1936, the art center aims not only to promote the works of local artists but to showcase the importance of art to society.

Along with its permanent gallery, the center also hosts rotating exhibits with a special focus on the works of contemporary African-American artists.

Moreover, one of the center’s most notable exhibits is “The Art of The African Diaspora,” which, as its name implies, features works from artists of African descent.

The center also hosts special events like its Annual Holiday Arts Festival and Artist Walkthroughs.

Interesting exhibits combined with deep community roots make Richmond Art Center a worthwhile destination not only for art enthusiasts but for everyone.

Enjoy the Lovely Views at The Wave Garden

Despite occupying an area of merely a third of an acre, The Wave Garden is one of the most beautiful spots in Richmond.

For starters, the sloping oasis boasts amazing views of San Pablo Bay, especially during sunsets.

The garden’s distinct landscaping seamlessly blends with winding walkways and platforms, hence its name.

It also features a wide variety of flowers and ornamental plants which were purposely selected to adapt well to the warm and dry Californian climate.

Although many of these plants are native to California, the majority in the garden’s collection were imported from Mexico, South America, and Australia.

The Wave Garden may be minuscule, but its gorgeous environment and picturesque views in the background make each visit worthwhile.

Explore the Wildcat Canyon Regional Park

Richmond skyline from Wildcat Canyon Regional Park

Sundry Photography /

Covering a massive 2,789-acre area, Wildcat Canyon Regional Park is located in the eastern part of the city.

Thanks to its sprawling expanse, the park boasts numerous natural and man-made attractions.

One notable example is the historic Alvarado Park, which is the site of one of the most thriving villages of the Ohlone tribe who settled in the area several thousand years ago.

You can also visit the ruins of Belgum Sanitarium as well as the remaining concrete pad of the Old Nike Missile Radar Site.

Of course, the park is replete with natural landmarks such as the Alvarado Canyon, which offers scenic views of the city.

Trees along Wildcat Canyon Regional Park

Sundry Photography /

An outdoor trekker’s paradise, the park hosts an extensive web of trails stretching 25 miles, the majority of which are fire roads.

While taking a hike along the trails, you can also enjoy watching the thriving wildlife within the park’s woodlands.

The park also has several picnic sites which come with barbecue grills, as well as a playground.

With tons of places you can explore, Wildcat Canyon Regional Park is a must-visit for every outdoor adventurer.

Final Thoughts

Richmond may be a bustling urban center, yet it’s also a penny-pincher’s paradise and a budget traveler’s ideal destination.

Thanks to the myriad of public spaces spread across the city, you can visit many of its best spots without ever pulling your wallet.

Along with dozens of parks and numerous beaches, there are miles of trails you can hike and cycle around and acres of natural landscapes you can explore.

Plan your trip today and look forward to enjoying all of these free things to do in Richmond, California.

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