10 Free things to do in Orange County, Calif.

Extras — By on June 27, 2012 at 2:31 pm
By Connie K. Ho
Special to Lost Girls

Sandy beaches line the coast. Music, art, culture fill pockets of the area. These are just a few things you’ll find in Orange County if you’re on a trip in southern California. Check out a few of the unique places the region has to offer to locals and visitors alike.

Disney Orange County, Calif.1. Walk through Downtown Disney

One of the first things that comes to mind when people think of Orange County is Disneyland. For those who consider the admission ticket to be a bit pricey, enjoy the magic of the amusement park at Downtown Disney. There’s a ton of live entertainment to enjoy and stores to window shop. Plus, there’s a fantastic view of the fireworks at night.

2. Check out the bonfires at Huntington Beach

Orange County wouldn’t be complete without the number of bonfire pits that litter its beaches. Grab a blanket because the night time can be a bit chilly. If you’re musically inclined, you can also bring a ukulele or a guitar to break into song.

3. Hike Upper Newport Back Bay

The trail at Upper Newport Back Bay is suitable for beginners who want a taste of hiking. It’s a lovely way to commune with nature; the Back Bay gives you a view of grasslands and a local lake. Hikers can take a snapshot of the wildlife and birds that make its home in Orange County.

4. Take the hot air balloon in the Orange County Great Park

Visitors to the OC Great Park in Irvine can have their own “UP” moment with an orange hot air balloon. Those who are afraid of heights don’t need to be–the basket of the balloon stays attached to the station, lifted above the ground but doesn’t fly away. It’s also particularly busy in the summer, so make sure to come early to reserve your spot.

5. Visit the Bowers Museum

The Bowers Museum is home to art exhibits that give viewers a taste of global regions and cultures. Some of the exhibits include Native American art, art of Africa, art of Asia, decorative arts, and Orange County history. On the first Sunday of every month, Bowers offers free museum admission.

6. Attend a summer concert

Cities throughout Orange County celebrate live music with free summer concerts. A variety of music is on display, including jazz, rock, and pop. Dates and times vary depending on the town.

7. Wander among antique shopping at the Orange Circle Antique Mall

The Orange Circle Antique Mall, located in the historic part of downtown Orange, offers a variety of booths of handicrafts. Find anything from vinyl records to retro clothing. Hours vary based on dates.

8. Pick up seashells at Crystal Cove:

Crystal Cove State Park features miles of beach and undeveloped woodland. Visitors can explore tidepools and sandy coves. For the lucky few, dolphins can be spotted at this idyllic location.

9. Stroll the Newport Beach Pier

The Newport Beach pier has a historical Boardwalk that’s part of Orange County that includes mom-and-pop shops. Off in the distance, visitors can get a glimpse of Balboa Island. Those who drive around Newport Beach will also witness a number of film and television locations, including locales featured in “Jerry Maguire” as well as “Romy and Michelle’s High School Reunion.”

University of California 10. Visit the observatory at the University of California, Irvine

Orange County is known for its many higher education institutions and the University of California at Irvine (UCI) is one of them. The observatory has a number of telescopes. It also has open Visitor Nights about six times throughout the year where people can look at stars and plants to learn a little more about astronomy.


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