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17 Outdoor-Places-to-Go Gifts for Southern California Families

17 Outdoor-Places-to-Go Gifts for Southern California Families

They say the best gift is one you want yourself! I could go for ANY of these outdoor-places-to-go gifts perfect for Southern California families. Some are annual passes. Some are museum memberships. But they can all provide for an entire year of family fun!

Picking just two or three of these outdoor gifts is probably plenty to keep you entertained for under $300 per year. That’s about $25 a month. We routinely invest in #2 and #3 in our family (but you can now check out #3 as a CA State Parks Library Pass from the library so maybe you can save on that one if you don’t go too often?).

Then, we switch off years when we add on one or two of the others. Rotating out our 3rd or sometimes 4th choices, keeps things fresh since that means we don’t get access EVERY year.

Just so you know, my family has personally invested in EVERY spot on this list (except #13 and #15) for at least one year and in the case of #2 and #3 EVERY YEAR.

$$ vs. $$

The thing that strikes me about my list of 16 places is that if you choose everything on my list, it will cost your family of four approximately $2600 for a full YEAR filled with all sorts of outdoor fun. However, I DON’T EXPECT YOU TO GET EVERYTHING ON THE LIST! It’s just WAY too many places to visit in one year. Pick 3 if you are ambitious with a max of 4 and stick around the $300-$500 mark which comes out to $25-$42 a month? Otherwise, you won’t really get the value out of investing in the whole list because these passes really pay off when you go multiple times over the year.

Compare that to a one year reservation-based Magic Key Pass to Disneyland (only when actually available or for purchase or renewal), which will cost a Southern California family of four between $1800+ to $6400 for just ONE place with blockout dates, Genie+ add-on expenses, PARKING fees, and the hassle of reservations, of course. Even Knott’s Berry Farm Season Passes with parking for the 2 adults would cost a family of four around $1000/year.

Another thing to think about with the passes on my list is that many of the places are nonprofits or membership dollars go to support the nonprofit entities related to these places.

Outdoor Places-to-Go Gifts for Southern California Families

This list and the prices are assuming a family of four.

A lot of places also have memberships for grandparents or “unnamed adults” so aunts/uncles or grandparents can bring the kids at separate times as the parents.

Don’t get too freaked out by the numbers, because you can modify to fit your budget and if your kids are under 2 or 3 years old they may get in free and not need a pass.

I also want to mention that the San Diego Zoo and Safari Park seem like quite the chunk of change – and they are. However, we go ALL the time to BOTH places during the years when we purchase this one. We love it and they treat their members great!

This list is for Southern California families — so not ALL experiences are in Orange County. We have regularly travelled to San Diego or up to LA to take advantage of these passes in a year!

17 Experience Gifts for Orange County Families

  1. I’m going to shamelessly plug my own ORIGINAL creation of my OC Tiny Hikes newsletter. Paid subscribers to get one short & sweet trail guide EACH WEEK for family “hikes” — which are more like bite-sized nature connections — here in Orange County. ($5/month or $39/year to subscribe – which comes out to about $1 per trail guide. Perfect for pairing with #2 and #3 on this list.)
  2. OC Parks Annual Day Use Pass — available for purchase online (get parks one for $55/year). Wondering where you can use this pass? Go to my post on the OC Parks Annual Pass.
  3. California State Parks – California Explorer Annual Pass ($195 – or check out for a week or two at a time from your library for FREE). Wondering where you can use this pass? Go to my post on the 7 Best State Parks in Orange County.
  4. America the Beautiful – National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Annual Pass ($80)
  5. Santa Ana Zoo Family Club Membership ($129 for 2 named adults and max 4 children)
  6. Sherman Library & Gardens in Newport Beach ($120 for 2 named adults plus dependent grandchildren 18 and under)
  7. South Coast Botanic Gardens in Rancho Palos Verdes ($85 – Unlimited FREE admission for TWO adults and your children and grandchildren under 18 with up to 4 children per visit)
  8. Los Angeles County Arboretum & Botanic Garden Family Membership ($95)
  9. The Huntington: Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens–Gift Box Membership ($175 for 2 named adults in household, free admission for children 18 and under when accompanied by cardholder)
  10. Descanso Gardens Family Membership ($99 for 2 named adults and max 4 children under 18)
  11. San Diego Botanic Garden Membership ($105 for 2 named adults plus 6 children/grandchildren under 18 or bump up to Family Plus for $165 and 4 named adults plus 12 children/grandchildren under 18)
  12. California Botanic Garden Membership ($85 for 2 named adults and dependent children/grandchildren under 18)
  13. Gift Certificate to Island Packers for a Day Trip to Santa Cruz Island ($216)
  14. Aquarium of the Pacific Family Membership ($249 – this one jumped a lot – used to be $169)
  15. Los Angeles Zoo & Botanical Gardens Family Membership ($150)
  16. Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County Family Membership ($169 – 2 named adults and up to 4 named children between the ages of 3 and 17)
  17. San Diego Zoo AND Safari Park – ($480 Wildlife Protector PREMIUM for Adults [$169 each + Includes Parking + No blockout dates] + Wildlife Explorer for Youth [$71 each])

I also have a post called the Cheat Sheet to Park and Beach Passes for OC Families which drills down on your options INSIDE Orange County.

If you want these gift memberships in time for Christmas, hurry and order today. Otherwise, just write your gift on a card and the actual pass or membership will arrive later. Better yet, wrap them up for yourself and get outdoors!

All photos in this post feature Huntington Library & Gardens