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7 Free Things to do in Orange County


Having fun with the family doesn’t have to break the bank. If you're on a budget, there are options for fun activities everyone can enjoy. Here’s a list of free things to do in the Orange County area.

Visit the Bowers Museum

While admission to the Bowers Museum isn't exactly what one would consider expensive, there are a couple ways to get in for free. Every third Tuesday, Santa Ana residents are offered free admission to the museums permanent exhibits, with proof of address. However, on the first Sunday of each month, anyone can visit Bowers for free, including the Kidseum and other museum activities. Special exhibits are limited to 1,500 tickets per day. Visit the museum website for additional details.

Tour the Bolsa Chica Wetlands

You can visit the Bolsa Chica wetlands at any time. However, on the first Saturday of every month, the Bolsa Chica Conservancy offers a free guided tour of the wetlands and ecological reserve. The two-hour tour covers five points of interest including the history, birds, endangered species, ecology and restoration of the wetlands. Tours are provided on a first come, first come basis, begin every 15 minutes and last for two hours.

Visit the Great Park in Irvine

The Great Park is located in Irvine, and is billed as the first great metropolitan park of the 21st century. While the park is currently under development, there are still plenty of things to do and see, many of which are free. Get a birds-eye view of the park from 400ft in the air on the The Great Park Balloon, ride the carousel, check out the Museum of Heritage & Aviation, or explore the arts exhibits in the Palm Court Arts Complex. There are also free special events year round. Visit the website for more information.

Free Museum Days & Art Walks

You may think experiencing the arts is out of reach, but the artists communities and museums throughout the county have gone above and beyond to make the arts and culture experience accessible for everyone. Whether you’re looking for a fun and educational activity for the kids to enjoy, or an inexpensive evening out on the town -- there a free museum days and art walks every month in cities across the county.

Free Summer Concert Series

Every year cities all over Orange County sponsor free concerts, movie nights and even Shakespeare in the park. Dates, times and locations vary. Check this listing to find events near you.

Spend the Day at the Beach

O.C. beach cities are probably some of the best attractions in the county. Best of all, the only fee to visit the beach is usually for parking. Depending on where you live, biking might actually be the best way to ensure your trip to the beach is completely free. Even without a car, there are several OCTA buses servicing beach communities including routes 1, 25, 71, 29, 33, 35, 47, 89, 85, 90, 91, and 191. A great way to make the most of your trip to the beach is to make sure to pack a lunch, towels, lots of sun block and beach toys. Hats and umbrellas are always a good idea too.

Go to the Park

Often taken for granted are the local green spaces, nature reserves, hiking trails and camp sites around Orange County. Most parks provide an abundance of opportunities for family fun, but require no fee for admittance. Check out this listing of Orange County parks for locations in your area.
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