15 Free Things to Do in San Leandro, CA

Free Things to Do in San Leandro, CA
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San Leandro is known for abundant cherry harvests within the Easy Bay area.

This city is a part of Alameda County and is also popular for its charming history and quintessential brewery in Northern California.

To the northwest of this city is Oakland, also the largest city in the county, making San Leandro a convenient destination for both urban and countryside travelers.

But what makes this city sensational is its small-town atmosphere amid the San Francisco Bay Area's massive upscale buildings and modernization.

San Leandro is also a historical city with a vibrant art scene, as seen in its centuries-old mansions and public art installations.

When its first settlers—the Portuguese Azores—came to the land, the city got its nickname "the Portuguese Capital of the West."

Now, over 150 years later after its incorporation in 1872, the city's rich history and culture draw visitors from various places.

Below are 15 free things to do in San Leandro, California:

Admire the Public Artworks All over San Leandro

Truth is Beauty sculpture at San Leandro
SnapASkyline / Shutterstock.com

The art scene of San Leandro is prominent in the city's public sculptures, murals, and banners.

With the goal of promoting cultural diversity and encouraging creative thinking, the city officially approved and appointed its Arts Commission in 2014.

Now, when you take a stroll or go for a slow drive along the city streets, you'll see an art gem lurking within the buildings, walls, and lampposts.

One of the city's art department's major projects is Chime Way.

This sculpture is an auditory experience featuring overhead chimes triggered by a rocking mechanism.

The 2016 decorative banners also serve as welcome points for visitors.

You can find these banners on Davis Street and East 14th Street.

All over the city streets, there are mural art and utility art boxes you can freely admire.

Enjoy Scenic Views at Oyster Bay Regional Shoreline

Situated along Neptune Drive, Oyster Bay Regional Shoreline is a hidden cove of natural treasures.

Dedicated in 1980, this park spans 157 acres featuring diverse wildlife and a beautiful shoreline.

Before becoming a regional recreation center, the area was a former landfill.

Several years later, the site has become a nature conservation property with clear-view vistas of the bay it's named after.

Scout the trails and recreation corridor of the park and see animals living within the preserve's original habitat.

Or better yet, just look up at the vast bird species in flight.

In 2021, the park opened new amenities: a disc golf course and a small garden for the butterflies visiting the property.

Oyster Bay Regional Shoreline is on Neptune Drive.

Go on a Meditative Break at the Memorial in Marina Park

The 30-acre Marina Park is not your usual San Leandro park center.

This one, as the name suggests, borders the San Leandro shoreline, which provides visitors with panoramic views of the calm waters.

It features a play area, picnic tables with grilling facilities, and a par course or workout trail that extends to about a mile.

In its grassy lawn, bask in the temperate climate while playing a game of "pass the ball" or frisbee.

Also within Marina Park is the small Luster Knight Memorial with its red fire engine-like drinking station.

It's a tribute to the man the memorial is named after, who was a dedicated firefighter in his time.

Take the opportunity to sit and meditate by the memorial.

Marina Park is on Monarch Bay Drive, close to Fairway Drive.

Browse through the Concept Exhibits at the San Leandro History Museum

San Leandro's colorful timeline of events—from its Portuguese culture to its agricultural and cherry-filled past—is enough to pique your interest.

You can learn about it at the San Leandro History Museum.

This free museum features exhibits and displays concentrated on the city's past.

Relive the California Gold Rush or the Spanish-Mexican heritage of the state through its life-sized portraits.

Admire wall murals and concept collections from the city's bygone eras, including pre- and post-World War II.

You can find San Leandro History Museum on West Estudillo Avenue.

View the Railway Models at the San Leandro Historical Railway Society

Are you a big fan of trains and intricate train models?

Then you might like the San Leandro Historical Railway Society!

Officially opened to the public in its current location on Orchard Avenue in 1988, this organization has carved a home in the city's former depot.

This railroad museum features both an indoor and outdoor exhibit.

Inside, there's an HO train set, built in 1991, that has the largest scale helix within the country.

Its 4,000-foot tracks allow the display trains to reach their designated stops for as long as 30 minutes.

When you step outside, the 2005 garden railways offer a more immersive show for visitors.

There's a children's layout that your little one can try to operate.

San Leandro Historical Railway Society is in Thrasher Park.

Explore the Rustic Areas of Chabot Park

Lake Chabot at Chabot Park
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When it comes to solitude and recreation, San Leandro's Chabot Park is among the city's top attractions.

This rustic park, extending to almost 10 acres, sits on the city's famous hills.

Its collection of amenities includes an amphitheater and a volleyball court.

A wooden bench at Chabot Park
Mogador / Shutterstock.com

Let your kids wander and run around the playground area and the grassy field.

Plan a family gathering at the picnic tables within the park.

Bring yourself—and your group—to the streets of Estudillo Avenue and Sylvian Circle to reach Chabot Park.

Join the Festivities and Parade at the San Leandro Cherry Festival

Both a historical tradition and a community gathering, the San Leandro Cherry Festival is an event you wouldn't want to miss!

This annual festival started in 1909 and offers many activities and entertainment open to the public.

Start the festivities by watching the parade along San Leandro Boulevard.

Among the parade highlights are floats, bands, and street performances.

Downtown San Leandro picks up the celebration with live entertainment, rides and attractions, and free activities for everyone in booths.

Marvel at the cherry-themed artisan stores and vendor stalls.

Keep your first Saturday of June free for the San Leandro Cherry Festival.

Go on an Impromptu Nature Study at Root Park

Opened in 1996, Root Park is one of downtown San Leandro's subtle attractions.

With its vast green spaces, the park is an ideal spot for idle nature study.

It also has garden beds and sitting benches that offer scenic views of San Leandro Creek.

During the warmer seasons, the trees of the park can provide refreshing shades for your walks and strolls.

At the entrance of the park is the Statue of the Portuguese Immigrant.

This sculpture aims to honor the Portuguese population still residing in the city.

You can find Root Park on Dan Niemi Way and East 14th Street.

SeeVarious Artworks for Sale at San Leandro’s ArtFest

ArtFest is an annual festival that gathers artists to showcase their pieces and works in exhibits and booths.

Various art styles, from traditional to abstract concepts, are on display during the festival.

It also features a fundraising event and live art demonstrations that everyone can learn from.

San Leandro's ArtFest happens every September and is free to everyone.

Head to the plaza in front of the city's main library to join the celebration.

Learn a Few Skating Tricks at Thrasher Park

San Leandro's parks all have features that are unique to them, and at Thrasher Park, the skatepark is its distinct feature.

This park, also known as San Leandro's oldest park, underwent renovations in 1992.

Now it boasts a collection of unique amenities, including a lighted softball diamond and the depot of the San Leandro Historical Railway Society.

With its grassy fields, picnic areas, and tot lots, it's also a hit for children and toddlers.

For extreme sports hobbyists, the skatepark is free to use.

Thrasher Park is on Davis Street.

Other Things to Do Nearby

Read Books by Inspiring Artists at the African American Museum and Library at Oakland

Exterior of the African American Museum and Library
Sanfranman59, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The African American Museum and Library at Oakland is a library and museum in one that features works by African Americans within the city and the Bay Area.

Interior of the African American Museum and Library
Almonroth, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Started as a collecting project by Eugene and Ruth Lasartemay and Jesse and Dr. Marcella Ford in 1946, this museum soon grew to be the first one of its kind in Oakland in 1982.

Aside from books, there are also digital resources and archived research materials.

The African American Museum and Library at Oakland is on 14th Street, which is about 14 minutes away from San Leandro.

Exhibit in the African American Museum and Library
Almonroth, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Explore the Shinn Historical Park and Arboretum

Exterior of Shinn Historical Park and Arboretum
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On Peralta Boulevard in the city of Fremont, a historical and nature-focused adventure awaits.

Shinn Historical Park and Arboretum is a recreational space set within a 19th-century house.

This site, originally built in the 1850s, was the home of Joseph and Florence Mayhew Shinn.

Initially acting as a ranch, the property soon became a paradise covered with native flowers and the staple old Japanese maple tree.

Flora at Shinn Historical Park and Arboretum
JeffBond824 / Shutterstock.com

Now, this free park and garden features nursery plants and shrubbery.

While tours at the mansion of the Shinn Historical Park and Arboretum come at a fee, exploring the gardens is free.

Come by this one-of-a-kind site only 26 minutes away from San Leandro.

Spot Wildlife at Sulphur Creek Nature Center

Within Hayward is Sulphur Creek Nature Center, home to a discovery center and immersive animal exhibits.

The center was established in 1970 after an animal sanctuary dedicated to a stray rabbit opened.

The community at that time helped the rabbit find a home.

Now, years later, Sulphur Creek Nature Center has served as a refuge for many animals—not only rabbits—and plant species.

While you're there, be sure to check out the center's animal enclosures.

There are also other interactive activities and programs you can join.

You can find this nature oasis on D Street, a 14-minute drive from San Leandro.

Join Free Telescope Viewings at Chabot Space & Science Center

Exterior of Chabot Space & Science Center
The original uploader was Daniel Olsen at English Wikipedia., CC BY 2.5, via Wikimedia Commons

Are you interested in learning more about astronomy?

Chabot Space & Science Center's free telescope viewings may be for you.

This space center, founded in 1833, promotes STEM learning through various shows, including planetarium programs and science exhibits.

But what makes this place truly special is its observatory complex, which is free for the public to use.

Mercury capsule in Chabot Space & Science Center
Don DeBold from San Jose, CA, USA, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Free your Friday and Saturday evenings for a date with the stars at the center's free telescope viewings.

With its three large-scale telescopes on deck, you can observe constellations and even planets!

Reaching Chabot Space & Science Center on Skyline Boulevard in Oakland will only take about 15 minutes from downtown San Leandro.

Solar clock at Chabot Space & Science Center
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Explore the Beauty of The Japanese Gardens

Trail lined with bonsai trees at The Japanese Gardens
Mercurywoodrose, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Hayward's The Japanese Gardens boasts traditional architecture in a modern-day landscape.

Considered the oldest Japanese garden in California, this site is open to the public without a fee.

There's a sturdy pagoda and a koi fish pond within the site.

Wooden bridge at The Japanese Gardens
Mercurywoodrose, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Its serene environment makes it a popular wedding site.

If you want a private walk with a loved one, keep this garden in mind.

Only a 12-minute drive from San Leandro, The Japanese Gardens is on North 3rd Street.

Observation deck at The Japanese Gardens
Mercurywoodrose, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Final Thoughts

From serene natural landscapes and parks to esteemed museums and art festivals, San Leandro has it all.

This city offers various attractions and activities, most of which are free.

The list above of the free things to do in San Leandro, California, can serve as your guide for a budget-friendly trip!

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