Leaving your wallet at home may seem impossible in Orange County, but there are actually loads of things to do without spending a dime. Nature, art, culture and beaches are free and open to all – if you know where to look. Here are a few hints.
Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve
Most commonly known as “the Wetlands,” the enormous Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve spreads across Huntington Beach near the ocean and is part of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. You can meander along paths twisting around the wetlands while spying birds and small animals in natural habitats. It’s just across from the beach, so bring along a blanket and enjoy some sand time or a free beach bonfire in dedicated fire pits.
The best way to get some Disney action without dropping some big bills is to hang out at Downtown Disney. There’s free entertainment, seasonal concerts and events throughout the courtyards, and it’s pretty common to see Disney characters roaming about and interacting with the little ones. Outside the Lego store, kids are invited to create little Lego masterpieces and play to their heart’s content, all at no charge. You’ll get free parking for three hours and can bring a picnic to avoid pricey meals.
Laguna Beach is known for being a high-priced residential community – but not for visitors. The charming cliff-side beach doesn’t cost anything, and it’s the perfect people-watching spot. Join an impromptu game of volleyball on the sand, or just lounge on one of the oceanfront benches and enjoy the action. Art studios galore string the small downtown area just steps from the beach and are open to anyone for enjoying eclectic art by renowned or upcoming artists.
Old Towne Orange
Inland Orange County often gets overlooked, but you’re missing out on some architectural and cultural treasures if you bypass Old Towne Orange. The original downtown of the city of Orange is remarkably preserved with vintage buildings reflecting Victorian, mission and classic arts-and-craft designs. The old-fashioned plaza just begs for a lazy stroll through gardens and shops stocked with antiques and collectibles. Check the schedule for special free concerts and exhibitions.
Orange County Parks
Parks in Orange County are notoriously friendly, well-kept places where you’d be hard-pressed to find anything with a price tag. Even the parking is free and easy at most locations. Some of the more interesting ones include Citrus Ranch Park in Tustin, which spans 17 acres with walking paths and one of the last remaining citrus groves in the county. Dinosaur Park in Laguna Hills features a fossil-and-dinosaur themed playground with reproductions of a 33-foot bowhead whale skeleton, saber-toothed cat and a duck-billed dinosaur. Top of the World in Laguna, also known as Alta Laguna Park is a community park with multiple hiking trails and a lookout with some of the best views of Laguna Beach.
Consider making your home in one of our well-loved Orange County apartment communities, which puts you in the heart of laidback Southern California. Call today for move-in information and a personal tour.