The cost of living in Orange County is notoriously high, so when it comes to having fun, you want to keep your expenses as low as possible. Orange County is blessed with an abundance of free activities and attractions.
If you’re looking for something to do and you don’t have much money, but you still want to get out of the house, check out our list of 21 free activities and attractions. Adventure awaits!
What is there to do in Orange County for free
- Go to beach
- Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve
- Explore Downtown Disney
- Art Galleries in Laguna Beach
- Enjoy Old Towne Orange
- Muckenthaler Cultural Center
- Crystal Cove & 5. Doheny
- Take a Hike
- Enjoy Old Towne Orange
- The Noguchi Garden
- Art Walk
Go to beach
You really can’t go wrong when choosing a beach to visit in Orange County since there are so many of them along the Pacific Coast Highway. Bring a buddy and a towel with you, find a parking spot on the street to avoid having to pay, and take advantage of everything that makes Southern California the ideal place to live. Additionally, San Clemente and Seal Beach, which are close to Sunset Beach, also provide free parking at the beach.
Huntington is an excellent option to consider if you are interested in activities like as surfing or beach volleyball. Newport Beach is calling your name if you want to make pit stops at bars as you’re walking back from the ocean. Or, if you’re in the mood for some creativity, you might travel down to Laguna for some beach, sun, and art galleries (which is number six on our list!).
Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve
Huntington Beach, often known as Surf City USA, is home to the Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve, also known as the Wetlands. This reserve is managed by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. The beach is on the other side of the road from this area, and there is a path that leads into the interior of the marshes and out to the road. It is a wonderful location for seeing birds in their natural environment and for going bird watching.
Explore Downtown Disney
If you don’t have enough money to get inside the park, you may still experience the Disney magic by going to Downtown Disney. The first 3 hours of parking are free, and there is a variety of live music and other activities to keep you entertained throughout the year. In addition, you may build and play with Legos outside of the shop where they are sold.
Art Galleries in Laguna Beach
There are a large number of galleries in the arts community in Laguna Beach that are both free and available to the public. However, some of the artist studios will be closed during the summer months because the artists will be participating in various art festivals. Begin to go about the neighborhood and notice what draws your attention.
Enjoy Old Towne Orange
Old Towne Orange, located in the middle of Orange County, is the ideal destination for an unhurried walk because of its relaxed atmosphere. In addition to the many antique, collectible, and specialized stores that can be discovered in the neighborhood, there is also a stunning plaza near the area’s geographic center that may be appreciated.
In addition, all of the real estate in Old Towne Orange that surrounds the plaza has been well maintained and looks just stunning. The homeowners take a lot of interest in repairing and preserving their historic houses, which are often decorated in classic craftsman and Victorian designs. As a result, the area is an excellent location for taking a lovely old-school real estate tour.
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Muckenthaler Cultural Center
The Muckenthaler Cultural Center was once the house of a rich Fullerton family, the Muckenthalers; Walter and Adella Muckenthaler. It is currently used as a museum and offers free exhibitions, performances, and educational events. The museum is affectionately referred to as “The Muck,” and because of its stunning grounds and gardens, it has become a well-liked location for weddings. It’s a nice free museum where you can experience some local art, some green gardens, and a lovely old home all in one place. Check out our article where we cover all 40 of Orange County’s museums for additional information about the county’s museum scene.
Crystal Cove & 5. Doheny
You should definitely check out the tide pools if you’re in the mood for the beach and if you want to get up and personal with some marine species. Doheny Beach at Dana Point and Crystal Cove State Park, which is located between Newport Beach and Laguna Beach, is considered to have the finest tidal pools in all of Orange County to explore.
Take a Hike
Even though Orange County does not have a very large amount of wilderness, there are still a number of areas where you can go hiking that is both free and good for you to do, so that’s a plus. Check out this list of the top 8 hikes in Orange County if you’re looking for some inspiration on where to begin your outdoor adventure. If you’re just starting out, we recommend that you start in Crystal Cove; if you’re an experienced surfer, try out Holy Jim or Black Star.
Enjoy Old Towne Orange
Old Towne Orange, located in the middle of Orange County, is the ideal destination for an unhurried walk because of its relaxed atmosphere. In addition to the many antique, collectible, and specialized stores that can be discovered in the neighborhood, there is also a stunning plaza near the area’s geographic center that may be appreciated. In addition, all of the real estate in Old Towne Orange that surrounds the plaza has been well maintained and looks just stunning. The homeowners take a lot of interest in repairing and preserving their historic houses, which are often decorated in classic craftsman and Victorian designs. As a result, the area is an excellent location for taking a lovely old-school real estate tour.
The Noguchi Garden
In reality, the Noguchi garden is a concealed sculpture garden located close to the South Coast plaza. The tranquil atmosphere, the artwork, the tiny river, the seats, and the trees in the garden all come together to make it the ideal place to relax and read or think. Even if it doesn’t take up a whole day, it’s still a fantastic opportunity to discover something new. It is also properly termed the “California Scenario” since it encompasses the harsh deserts, trickles of water, jagged rocks, and tranquil woods that are so frequent in California.
Each month, a number of communities in Orange County have art walks, which are open to the public, do not cost anything, and are an excellent, pleasurable, and educational opportunity to explore dance, local art, and culture. Each month’s art walk presents a new lineup of artists, a unique selection of exhibitions, and something fresh and entertaining for visitors to enjoy.
When to Visit Orange County
The wonderful thing about Orange County, California, is that no matter the season, there is never a bad time to travel there. Southern California is a destination for all four seasons due to its practically ideal weather 365 days a year.
In Orange County, there is always something lovely to see and enjoy, ranging from world-class shopping and beaches to Disneyland and Knott’s Berry Farm, as well as a number of other attractions. In addition, both San Diego and Los Angeles may be reached within a little over an hour by automobile.
The United States Surf Open takes place at Huntington Beach throughout the summer, and an art festival can be found nearby Laguna Beach. Because there are fewer tourists on the beaches throughout the autumn, and because the weather is still quite nice at such beaches, you may take a walk on the sand whenever you choose.
You may celebrate the winter holidays in Southern California style by attending a Holiday Boat Parade at Huntington Harbor or Newport Beach during the colder months of the year. And in the springtime, you may go hiking, visit an outdoor shopping center like Fashion Island, or just take a walk down the Huntington Beach pier. Another option is to travel to Orange County Great Park.
What to Pack for Orange County
Don’t leave home without your swimsuit, and always keep in mind that lightweight layers are your best friend. Your choices for what to wear are almost unbounded when you live in Southern California since the temperature seldom drops below 72 degrees and the sun shines virtually every day of the year. It doesn’t matter what time of year you go, you should always be prepared for a day at the beach.
When you want to project an air of cool sophistication without sacrificing comfort, a casual-chic outfit is a way to go. Maintain a light, pleasant, and fashionable air about you. The majority of residents in San Clemente wear flip-flops, particularly those manufactured by Rainbows, a company whose headquarters are situated right here in the city. You should also remember to carry a light jacket with you just in case you wind up spending the night near the water when it’s cold.