15 Free Things to Do in Santa Clara, CA

Free Things to Do in Santa Clara, CA
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The City of Santa Clara in California is home to many big companies, including Intel, and Santa Clara University, the oldest university in the state.

Incorporated in 1852, it's part of Santa Clara County with a total population of 127,647 as of the 2020 census.

Indigenous Californians, called the Tamien Tribe, were the first settlers in the area until the Spanish settlement in 1769.

In 1777, the Mission Santa Clara de Asis was founded in the area, and the city was named after Saint Clare of Assisi.

The big companies headquartered in the area have drawn the attention of many people to live and work in the city.

These companies have contributed to the city's progressive economy, not to mention its rich history, culture, attractive tourist destinations, and more.

There are plenty of activities to do in the city without spending a dime.

Check out this list of free things to do in Santa Clara, California:

Visit the Mission Santa Clara de Asís Chapel

Exterior of the Mission Santa Clara de Asís Chapel
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Founded in 1977 by the Franciscan Order, the Mission Santa Clara de Asís Chapel is a Spanish mission located on the grounds of Santa Clara University.

It was led by Roman Catholic Priest Fr. Junípero Serra and was built to bring Christianity to the first settlers in the area.

The post was rebuilt six times due to natural calamity, but it still remains the Spanish mission to this day.

Interior of the Mission Santa Clara de Asís Chapel
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Today, it serves as the university chapel for Santa Clara University.

See the historic structure and learn more about its inception and story since its founding.

There's also a garden in bloom, which is a sight to behold.

The Mission Santa Clara de Asís Chapel is located at El Camino Real.

Ceiling of the Mission Santa Clara de Asís Chapel
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Take a University Walk at Santa Clara University Pedestrian Mall

Founded in 1851, Santa Clara University is the oldest university in the Golden State, where the Mission Santa Clara de Asís is located.

The Pedestrian Mall that leads to the chapel is surrounded by beautiful statues, palm trees, gardens in bloom, and fountains.

From a distance, you'll see the mission church, beautifully adorned by palm trees along the paved path.

You'll be amazed by how the university has maintained and preserved its historic structure while enhancing its modern buildings.

Take a university walk at the Pedestrian Mall and see the century-old trees on the campus.

Enjoy Hiking at the San Tomas Aquino Creek Trail

Santa Clara is drained by three different creeks, which have paved trails connecting to the San Francisco Bay Trail.

These include the San Tomas Aquino Creek Trail, which features a meandering 12.6-mile out-and-back paved trail.

You'll pass through Levi's Stadium, the Santa Clara Convention Center, and popular California's Great America amusement center.

The San Tomas Aquino Creek Trail is great for everyone of all ages as it offers easy flat walking with lots of birds to see and beautiful woodlands.

Its official trailhead is located off Monroe Street.

Learn about Intel at Intel Museum

Exterior of the Intel Museum
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Intel, a multinational technology company, features a museum where you can learn more about technology and the internet.

At Intel Museum, you'll discover the impressive technology that the company produces, such as the production of silicon chips.

You can even try on the company's infamous bunny suit, which quickly became Intel's iconic suit.

Although self-guided tours are great, it's recommended that you book free guided tours by one of its staff to learn more about the achievements of the company.

Interior of the Intel Museum
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You'll also learn about Moore's Law, an observation by one of the company's founding members.

Gordon Moore, Andrew Grove, and Robert Noyce founded Intel in 1968.

The museum is on Mission College Boulevard.

Explore the Grounds of the Santa Clara City Hall

The abundance of history in the city doesn't end in museums.

Even on the grounds of the City Hall, you'll see more than 20 plaques documenting Santa Clara's history, from its first settlers to the present day.

Called Stroll into the Past, you'll see banners at the backside of the City Hall.

At each station, there are four plaques showcasing the significant figures that shape the city today, which is ideal for those who love history.

You'll learn about the Santa Clara Valley, the Mission Santa Clara de Asis, the California Gold Rush, agriculture, and more.

It's a simple stroll that provides lots of learning about the city and its huge significance in the history of California.

The Stroll into the Past walk tour is on  Warburton Avenue and takes about 20 minutes to finish.

Bring a Picnic to Santa Clara Central Park

The pond of Santa Clara Central Park
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There's nothing more fun than having a picnic with your family and friends at Santa Clara Central Park.

The 52-acre park offers picnic areas for small and large gatherings with barbecue grills, perfect for those spending a day with the entire family or friends.

There's a big pond with fountains where you can see lots of ducks and geese.

Enjoy the beautiful redwood groves, mature trees, meadows, and the overall relaxing atmosphere of the park.

The grounds of Santa Clara Central Park
Tomwsulcer, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

If you're here on the 4th of July, experience one of the best fireworks displays in the Valley and the state!

The park wouldn't be a boring place for the kids since there are two playgrounds where they can have fun.

Santa Clara Central Park is located on Kiely Boulevard.

Let Your Dogs Play at Reed Street Dog Park

If you're traveling with your pet dogs, let them enjoy, play, and interact with other dogs at Reed Street Dog Park.

The 1.5-acre park features two fenced areas for small and large dogs with turf grass; both are off-leash, so your pet canines can run freely.

There's a wash station for dogs between the two areas, as well as water fountains for the people to use and for the dogs too.

The park also offers free waste bags for dogs so you can clean up after your pets.

Reed Street Dog Park is nicely lit at night if you prefer taking your dogs during sunset.

It also has a nice open green space with beautiful shady trees, adding a relaxing ambiance to the park.

The park is located on Reed Street.

Admire the Contemporary and Historical Artworks at the Triton Museum of Art

Exterior of the Triton Museum of Art
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Highlighting Bay area artists, the Triton Museum of Art showcases a permanent collection of 19th and 20th-century artworks.

Most of these artworks are by Greater Bay Area artists, including the works of the painter, poet, and activist Lawrence Ferlinghetti.

The museum aims to promote and support the diversity of art in California, particularly in the Bay area.

Students and the community can also learn more about art through the museum's education and community programs.

Eyeglasses sculpture on the grounds of Triton Museum of Art
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Also, the larger-than-life pair of eyeglasses sculpture outside the museum is not to be missed!

W. Robert Morgan founded the Triton Museum of Art in 1965.

It's nestled in the beautiful seven-acre property inside a spacious building with high ceilings, dramatic lighting, and pyramidal skylights.

You can find it on Warburton Avenue.

Horse sculpture in front of the the Triton Museum of Art
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Enjoy the Golden Hour at Fremont Park

Santa Clara also offers unmatched sunset views at its city parks, including Fremont Park, where you can enjoy a stunning golden hour.

The shady seven-acre park offers an amazing sunset with a pretty backdrop of the beautiful trees surrounding the area.

You can sit on one of the shady trees at sundown to catch the gorgeous Santa Clara sunset, whether you're reading a book or watching people wander.

Don't forget to take beautiful photos of the sunset!

Fremont Park sits on Santa Clara Senior Center on Fremont Street.

Be One with Nature at Ulistac Natural Area

Trail at Ulistac Natural Area
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Boasting seven natural habitats, the Ulistac Natural Area is the last 40 acres of the undeveloped area from the 2,217-acre land grant in 1845.

Opened in 2001, the area showcases seven beautiful natural areas of grassland, riparian woodland, coastal scrub, oak savannah, sycamore woodland, wetlands, and oak woodland.

The butterfly and hummingbird garden features gorgeous native species, including California buckeye, Cedros Island verbena, and coffeeberry, among others.

There's also an abundance of wildlife, such as birds, Baltimore oriole, checkerspot butterflies, Anna's hummingbird, and more.

A bird at Ulistac Natural Area
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It's a popular spot for those who love to seek refuge in nature.

Don't forget to take photos for this adventure, and always respect the wild!

Ulistac Natural Area is located on Lick Mill Boulevard.

Flora at Ulistac Natural Area
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Read a Book at Santa Clara Public Library

In Santa Clara, it doesn't take much to make a traveling bookworm happy.

At Santa Clara Public Library, you get to read anything from their huge collections of books for kids, teens, and adults.

The collection includes movies, magazines, music, journals, and more.

Enjoy an hour or two at one of the library's peaceful and comfortable reading nooks overlooking the beautiful green foliage of Central Park.

If you're taking the kids with you, they can enjoy the children's activities on the first floor, like coloring and crafts.

Visitors love the library's natural light, which adds to the welcoming ambiance of the entire building.

Choose your favorite author and find solitude at Santa Clara City Library!

It's located on Homestead Road.

See the Statue of Saint Clare of Assisi

Daytime view of the Statue of Saint Clare of Assisi
Scottveirs, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

On the campus of Santa Clara University stands the symbolic Statue of Saint Clare of Assisi, whose story is forever etched in the city's history.

Anne Van Kleeck, a well-known sculptor in the 19th century, made the 20-foot-tall sculpture in 1965.

The statue stands at the center of a huge reflecting pool with a beautiful landscape of flower beds, fountains, and benches to sit on.

It's a great reminder from the then 19-year-old wealthy woman who ran away from her home in 1212 and chose to serve the people and the church.

Saint Clare is considered the natural patron saint of Silicon Valley.

You can find the Statue of Saint Clare of Assisi at the corner of Lincoln Avenue and El Camino Real.

Relax at Live Oak Park

Enjoy some quiet time at one of the relaxing spots in Santa Clara.

Head to Live Oak Park and sit on the grass under a shady tree and bask in tranquility.

The park also has small picnic tables where you can enjoy a meal.

Mornings are great here as it doesn't get crowded yet, and the air is cooler, allowing you to refresh for another day of adventure in Santa Clara.

You'll also see some guests taking morning strolls in the park.

Live Oak Park is located on Moreland Way.

Other Free Things to Do Nearby

As soon as you get past the city borders, you get to see equally gorgeous destinations, such as the following:

Join the Alviso Boat Tour at Alviso Marina County Park

Scenic view of Alviso Marina County Park
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Enjoy a boat tour at Alviso Marina County Park around Alviso Slough.

The 20.6-acre bayside park offers a free interpretive boat tour, where you can learn more about the South San Francisco Bay shoreline.

Find out how the bay's shoreline changed as the years passed and get a chance to get closer to the water and wildlife.

Boardwalk at Alviso Marina County Park
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Enjoy watching the birds, fish, and all other unique wildlife, all for free!

Alviso Marina County Park is only 16 minutes from Santa Clara.

Red salt pond at Alviso Marina County Park
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Step into the Beautiful San Jose Municipal Rose Garden

A beautiful rose at San Jose Municipal Rose Garden
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Established in 1927, the San Jose Municipal Rose Garden features more than 180 rose varieties.

The 5.5-acre garden was once a prune orchard, which was transformed into a rose garden by the Santa Clara County Rose Society.

It's the All-America Rose Selections' official display garden and has received awards, including "America's Best Rose Garden."

Daytime view of San Jose Municipal Rose Garden blooms
Grey3k, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The garden especially blooms from April to November, which is the best time to visit.

The San Jose Municipal Rose Garden is only an eight-minute drive from Santa Clara.

Water fountain at San Jose Municipal Rose Garden
John Menard, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Final Thoughts

Santa Clara, California, offers a variety of exciting attractions for both outdoor enthusiasts types and leisure travelers.

From beautiful libraries and museums to stunning parks and trails, the city has a lot to offer.

Try these free things to do in Santa Clara, California, to make the most of your trip!

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