Looking for a fun Summer yet trying to save a dime? Orange County may be known for its expensive real estate and theme parks, but there is still plenty of free things to do in Orange County. From nature walks to historical allures the county has it all and more, so take a moment to learn about all the no-cost culture and attraction that Orange has to offer!
A Day at the Beach
Orange County is known for having the most spectacular beaches in Southern California! Go to the “Surf City” of Huntington Beach to enjoy the waves, or Pirate’s Cove for more gentle shores. An endless list including Newport Beach, Laguna Beach, Dana Point, Corona Del Mar capture the glory of the Summer at no cost to you or your family! Try to nap some free street parking so that you can avoid expensive beach lots, although San Clemente, Seal, and Sunset beaches all have free beach parking. If that was not enough check out the free art galleries at Laguna Beach that pop up all year around! There are also tidepools at Crystal Cove and Doheny beaches if you or your family would love to meet starfish and other sea creatures. Don’t miss out on the sun and surf that Orange County has to offer, take the opportunity to enjoy the best of Southern California’s beaches this summer for free!
Explore Downtown Disney
We all know that the happiest place on Earth is not necessarily the most affordable, but thankfully that is where Downtown Disney in Anaheim comes in! The shopping and entertainment area right outside the park is free to the public and offers the same Disney atmosphere that we all love. Besides a whole host of fun shops and delicious restaurants, the area offers 3 hours of free parking so that you avoid all the hassle and hustle of street parking. There is also free musical performances and entertainments throughout the year! The most famous landmarks include the Disney and Lego stores.
Get Stuck at the “Muck”
Enjoy the famous and much-loved Muckenthaler Cultural Center (“the Muck”) in Fullerton! This former-estate of Walter and Adella Muckenthaler is now a museum hosting art exhibits, performances, as well as educational programs. Its grounds and gardens are renowned as some of the most beautiful in all of Southern California and have become a popular venue for weddings and other events. Admission is free from 12:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday to the public, and is a great way to absorb the artistic and cultural heritage of Orange County. Enjoy the free things to do in Orange County like the Holiday Festival, Spring Family Arts Night, Dia de Los Muertos Festival and many more hosted at the Muck!
Free Movie Nights and Concerts
There are tons of free movie screenings and concerts throughout the year in Orange County, including Free Movie Mondays at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts Argyos Plaza! The Center offers outdoor screenings of family favorites including “Back to the Future” and “Star Trek” that allow you to enjoy the cinema under the Southern California stars. The Center also hosts numerous free community music events throughout the year including Karaoke and Jazz events. If that wasn’t enough the Orange County Parks and Recreation Department also hosts its own free summer lineup of movies and concerts at its parks, including the Sunset Cinema Movie Series. Fairview Park is famous for hosting every Tuesday evening in July its Concert in the Park series, with a bunch of free performances from local bands as well as community booths with food and drink!
Take a Hike
If your an outdoors enthusiast than Orange County is perfect for you! The county possesses a bunch of high-quality trails that range in difficulty from amateur to pro. For those who prefer a more relaxed, family-oriented hike than Fairview Park and Talbert Regional range through flat and beautiful Southern California wilderness. For the more experienced, however, the El Moro Canyon provides an easily accessible yet rigorous trek that culminates with a breathtaking view of Crystal Cove beach below. And if your hiking skills are insane then there is the daunting Holy Jim Canyon and Black Star trails, the former of which encompasses a 6 mile-round-trip and includes a 620-foot climb. There is no better way to save and have fun than exploring the outdoors of Orange!
Take a Walk on the Old Towne
Check out the square-mile historically preserved Old Towne in the City of Orange! Situated around the Orange Plaza Circle, the area is lined with historic buildings preserved in their quaint Victorian architecture with innumerable vintage and antique shops that offer the perfect opportunity for (window) shopping. The area will take you back in time to enjoy the feeling of old Orange, all capped off with a beautiful plaza center that is ranked among the favorite of Orange County’s attractions. Feel free to also attend for free numerous events of the summer including Orchard Walk’s Oktoberfest and the Taste of Orange Festival!
Dive into the Bolsa Chica Wetlands
Okay so you cannot actually swim there, but the Bolsa Chica Ecological Preserve is right off the Pacific Coast Highway in Huntington Beach and offers visitors the opportunity to explore one of the best-preserved wetlands in California. A paradise for bird-watchers, the Wetlands is completely free and offers a trail to venture across the reserve to experience nature in a light and accessible location close to the beach, a must go for the nature lover in all of us!
Get Captivated at the Old Courthouse Museum
The museum in Santa Ana is the oldest standing courthouse in Southern California, being built in 1901, and now hosts a free museum for the public. In the Museum you will find the Orange County Archives, Orange County Historical Center, and the Library of the Pacific Coast Archaeological Society. The Courthouse is built in beautiful granite-and-sandstone and offers another great example of the world-renowned architecture that Orange County is famous for. The location is perfect if you are interested in taking yourself or your family on a historical trip!
Adventure in the Fullerton Arboretum
The Fullerton Arboretum is an enormous 26-acre botanical garden, the largest in all of Orange County, and is completely free although a $5 is requested. The Arboretum houses nearly 4,000 different plant species from all over the world and includes a woodland collection, Mediterranean collection, desert collection, children’s garden, community garden, as well as a Heritage house. While you’re in the neighborhood we also recommend you check out the OC Agricultural and Nikkei Heritage Museum. A great center for some care-free fun for the whole family!
Go Down to the Centennial Farm
The Centennial Farm is a 3-acre farm in Costa Mesa that offers free exhibits where you and your family can interact with the chicken, cattle, pigs, goats, and crops for free! It is open to anyone on the afternoons and weekends, but weekday mornings are reserved for school groups. In addition, when the Orange County is open you can only enter with fair admission.