Want to plan a summer of fun for the little people in your life? Good news! An over-the-top summer doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg or take tons of prep work. With this list of our ten favorite things to do with kids under 5, we prove the old axiom that the best things in life FREE (or at least very cheap).

5. Play in the Waves at Natural Bridges State Beach

If a day at the beach is what your little surfer dude desires, then you must head to Natural Bridges State Beach for some sandy fun! Just off Highway 1 in Santa Cruz, Natural Bridges offers a big beach, gorgeous coastline and lots more for families to explore. Park for free on Swanton Blvd. or pay to park in the state beach parking lot. The visitor center offers loads of information on local natural history (and also a public restroom). After digging in the sand, take a walk through the Monarch Butterfly Nature Preserve. Beautiful year-round, the preserve comes alive with thousands of monarch butterflies in late-October as they take roost in the eucalyptus trees until the spring.

2531 West Cliff Dr.
Santa Cruz, Ca
Online: parks.ca.gov

Photo: Kate Loweth