Whether you’re here for a quick trip or an extended vacation, you don’t have to go all out for a jam-packed experience. Orange County offers a plethora of pricey attractions – Disney parks, Universal Studios, and exciting activities like whale watching. However, there are just as many (if not more) options for fun things to do in OC that won’t take another hit to your wallet.
1. Enjoy The Beach
We truly have some of the most beautiful beaches to take in the ocean air and set your soul to relax. With 42 miles of coastline, there are a number of beach towns to explore, offering a sandy escape from your busy life. Some of our favorite Orange County beaches are Laguna, Newport, Huntington, and San Clemente. The best part? Each beach town, each beach, has its own unique vibe. So even if you’ve experienced one beach, you certainly haven’t fully experienced them all.
If you happen to have your furry, four-pawed friend along, don’t forget to check out the Huntington Dog Beach. Not only does your pup get over a mile of their own paradise to frolic through, and waves to catch, but perhaps they’ll make a few new dog friends to play with. And if you’re lucky, you may end up there during Corgi Beach Day, which happens a few times a year. No corgi ownership required to attend!
2. Take A Hike
Stretch your legs and take in the fresh air and scenery! It’s nothing new that we simply don’t get the exercise we need in today’s fast-moving culture. But also, how rejuvenating is it to feel the sun on your skin, a cool breeze on your face, and wildlife all around? At least let your mind be off duty for an hour or so before diving back into the grind.
Orange County’s hiking trails and beach hikes offer a wide range of scenery and difficulty levels. From family friendly trails to challenging canyon terrains, you’ll be able to find the best one for your experience and interests. Some trails are located within local and national parks and may require a fee (as low as $3), but plenty are completely free. Depending on the weather, you may be able to spot a waterfall at the end of your hike, such as at Harding Falls Trail. Or, if you’re looking for both mountain and ocean views, Crystal Cove State Park is a great option to get the best of both worlds.
3. Peruse Downtown Disney
Maybe the price of admission is a little steep to get into the park. However, Downtown Disney is still free to explore to quench that Disney magic thirst. Excite your taste buds at one (or two. Or maybe three) of the many restaurants available for handcrafted cocktails, gourmet sweets, and satisfying sit-down dinners. Or pop into some shops and add to your collection of Disney treasures. Downtown Disney also has live entertainment in an open-air venue. Kick back in the outdoor lounging environment and enjoy live music from local musicians for a chill atmosphere. Even if you simply spend your time wandering the street, you’ll have plenty to take in.
4. Explore Old Towne Orange
If you’re a fan of restaurants, antique stores, and independently owned shops, Orange is perfect to explore. Old Towne is the historic district of the city of Orange, lined with countless antique and collectible shops (including records and comics), original architectural structures, charming bungalow homes, and orange trees in the center of the city circle! It’s simply a charming area with a hipster vibe, unlike many concrete areas of Orange County. Plus, if you’re getting hungry on your walkabout, Old Towne Orange offers a number of unique and delicious restaurants to try – from brunch to dinner and drinks.
5. See OC from Above in a Balloon
Yes, a balloon! The Orange County Great Park isn’t just known for its balloon ride, an attraction of the park that lifts visitors up 500 feet in a gondola for an amazing view of the whole county. It also is home to The OC Great Park Farmer’s Market held every Sunday, as well as a number of trails, a sports complex, and the Palm Court Arts Complex. You can also catch a number of family friendly events, such as Movies on the Lawn and garden workshops during the summer!
Experiences don’t have to break the bank. Orange County offers much more than the fantastic attractions it’s known for. Get out and explore all the inexpensive things to do in OC (and save the extra cash for a really nice dinner and some wine)!