Local Fun on a Budget: Orange County, CA Staycation Ideas!

by Lori. LAST UPDATED ON

staycation orange county

If this is your first visit to More with Less Today, let me say hello and welcome to my little corner of the blog world. I am blessed to live in Orange County, California and I love to share my favorite, inexpensive places to visit with friends, visitors, and readers.

Whether you have lived in Orange County for decades (like me), are new to southern California, or are just passing through, I hope my ideas will inspire you to get out and explore the OC and see our beautiful county through the eyes of a tourist. From the mountains to the sea, southern California has it all!

As gas prices climb higher this summer, (they almost always do), we don’t have to settle for staying home. It is easy to forget that we live in an amazing part of the country with so much to do, right in our backyard.

So get in the vacation mindset, take pictures, buy souvenirs, eat fattening vacation foods and make some memories!

Be sure and bookmark this page or pin it to your Pinterest board. I welcome your additions and comments for Local Fun on a Budget, Orange County, CA Staycation ideas!

Check back tomorrow as I will be sharing a HUGE list of 2014 Staycation Ideas from fellow bloggers from all across the country!

Life in the OC – Known for More Than Bickering Housewives!

Most people know that the top Orange County attraction is Disneyland, followed by Knott’s Berry Farm and then our beautiful beaches. To help stretch your vacation dollars, be sure and visit some of our other lesser known attractions and enjoy all of what Orange County, CA has to offer!

:: My Top 3 Picks

Riding the Balboa Ferry – You can walk on, take your bike, or drive your car onto the Balboa Ferry for a lovely, pleasant and cheap boat trip of 1,000 feet.

Downtown Disney District – just steps away from Disneyland, a lively promenade with great shopping, entertainment, restaurants, and a great place to watch the nightly Disneyland fireworks.

Fullerton Arboretum – A 26 acre botanical garden located on the campus of California State University, Fullerton.

:: Beaches and Beach Activities

Board a boat to watch the Blue Whale migration during the spring and summer at Newport Landing.

Balboa Fun Zone - ride the waterfront Ferris Wheel, play arcade games, tour the nautical museum and enjoy a world famous Balboa Bar, (a chocolate dipped banana with toppings and worth every calorie.) This is also a popular place to rent bikes, take a harbor cruise, or catch a boat to Catalina Island. You can also reach the Balboa Fun Zone by the Balboa Ferry, mentioned in my top 3 favorites.

Catalina Island  – 26 miles across the sea, Catalina Island is accessible by passenger ferries from Newport Beach and Dana Point. The trip takes approximately 1 hour. You can also take a helicopter from Long Beach or San Pedro.  Activities include swimming, snorkeling, kayaking, fishing, horseback riding, or just enjoy strolling the quaint shops and galleries. You can ride the Catalina Express Ferry for free on your birthday but you must  pre-register at www.catalinaexpress.com. Visit the CatalinaChamber.com website for more discounts and tours.

King of the World on a Duffy Boat!

King of the World on a Duffy Boat!

Rent an Electric Duffy Boat  and tour Newport Bay with up to 12 people. You can tie up your boat and dine at several restaurants or bring your own food and beverages.

Sportfishing – Davey’s Locker, located in Newport Beach is a popular option for deep sea fishing trips, both full day and half-day as well as whale watching excursions and private boat charters.

Paddleboarding -the Newport Aquatic Center offers both paddleboarding and kayaking rentals and instruction. Located in the Back Bay of Newport Beach, the calm waters are a popular spot for paddleboarding newbies. This is on my bucket list for this summer! Stay tuned for what I am sure will be some funny photos.

Surfing – take a surf lesson and hang 10! Experts say that one of the best beaches for beginning surfers is Doheny State Beach located in Dana Point.

Rent a beach cruiser bicycle and ride around Balboa Island and the boardwalk. There are several places to choose from at the Balboa Pier.

:: Fairs and Festivals

Orange County Fair – The 2014 dates are July 11 – August 10th, Wednesday through Sundays. Be sure and check out their daily promotions for discounted fair admission here.

Laguna Beach Summer FestivalsGet a Summer Passport to the Arts  for unlimited summer admission. Take the free trolley which operates from June 27th to August 31st. It operates each day from 9:30 AM to 11:30 PM.

laguna pageant of the masters

Pageant of the Masters – a magical, annual tradition. The Pageant of the Masters is a living tableaux with live actors recreating paintings and art work. You won’t believe your eyes! My tip – it can be a bit chilly – bring a wrap or coat!

Sawdust Art Festival - family friendly and free admission for kids 12 and under.

Art – a Fair  - open daily from June 27 – August 31, 2014 with live entertainment Thursday through Sunday.

:: Summer Concerts, Theater and Live Performances

Pacific Amphitheater at the Orange County Fairgrounds – Summer Concert Series featuring current bands and nostalgic favorites,

Pacific Symphony – Summer Festival of Concerts at the Verizon Amphitheater in Irvine.

Segerstrom Performing Arts Center - see Jersey Boys from June 24th to July 13th.

Shakespeare Orange County - 7 Summer Shows for the 2014 season, performances are held at the Garden Grove Amphitheater.

South Coast Repertory - several summer productions geared toward the younger set.

Many Orange County cities offer free summer concerts. Call city hall or search online for more specific schedules. Grab a picnic basket and enjoy a free concert!

Brea ~ Buena Park ~ Costa Mesa ~ Cypress ~ Dana Point ~Fountain Valley ~ Fullerton ~ Garden Grove ~ Huntington Beach ~ Irvine ~ Laguna Niguel ~ Lake Forest ~ La Palma ~ Los Alamitos ~ Newport Beach ~Orange ~ Placentia ~ Rancho Santa Margarita ~ San Clemente ~ San Juan Capistrano ~ Seal Beach ~Tustin~ Yorba Linda

:: Movies

Many Orange County cities offer free summer movies in a city park. Check the city websites for dates and times:

Brea ~ Dana Point ~ Fountain Valley ~ Irvine ~Lake Forest ~Placentia ~ Tustin

Segerstrom Center Art Plaza – Free movie Mondays on large outdoor screens from July 7th to August 4th.

Summer Family Movies for $1 – Regal Theaters on Tuesday and Wednesday mornings for 9 weeks. See the times, dates and locations here.

Museums and Art Exhibits

Brea – Art in Public Places – tour over 150 outdoor sculptures which are on permanent display throughout the city.

Dana Point – The Ocean Institute is a great place to learn about oceanography, view the tide pools, experience hand-on exhibits, plus it has beautiful views. Bring your own food and have a picnic on their benches and tables. A popular option is taking an evening Bioluminescence Cruise.

Fullerton’s First Friday Art Walks – from 6 to 10 pm., the free walk offers locals an evening of community and culture.

Fullerton Museum – View the works of the OC’s iconic guitar maker, Leo Fender in the Fender Gallery.

Fullerton Muckenthaler Cultural Center- free exhibit; A Look at Mexican Postcards from the Early 20th Century

Huntington Beach Art Center – the Art and Soul of Surfing on display from July 19th through September 20, 2014.

Irvine – Pretend City Children’s Museum -  A great place to spend time with the little ones who love to pretend.

Laguna Beach Art Walk – the first Thursday of the month, member galleries offer a festive, cultural evening starting at 6:15 PM with a free shuttle from the Laguna Art Museum to the art walk.

Laguna Art Museum -  The California art of Rex Brandt: In Praise of Sunshine from June 29th through Sept. 21, 2014.

La Habra Children’s Museum - a favorite for young children and toddlers with exhibits, hands on galleries, a caboose, a model train village, pre-school play park, science station and an outdoor dinosaur topiary. Through a grant from the Target Corporation, the first Sunday of each month is free.

Santa Ana -Bowers Museum – the lure of Chinatown through August 31, 2014. Through a grant from the Target Corporation, the 1st Sunday of each month is free.

Santa Ana – First Saturday Free walking tours when all the downtown museums, galleries and venues are open. Take a free self guided tour and get more information at santaanaartwalk.com

Tustin – Marconi Automotive Museum – take self-guided tours of a car collection valued at 30 million dollars!

Don’t Miss These Additional Orange County day trips and Staycation ideas!

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim stadium tour - visit the press box, press conference room, visitors clubhouse, dugout and more.

 The OC Zoo – located inside beautiful Irvine Regional Park in the city of Orange.

 San Juan Capistrano Mission – an historic landmark and museum, you can take a guided tour, a self-guided tour, or reserve a tour with a docent.

Richard Nixon Library and Birthplace – located in Yorba Linda, on a beautiful nine acre campus. See the magnificent full size replica of the White House East Room and the humble birthplace of America’s 37th President.

National Register of Historic Places Listings for Orange County, California.

 Find Farmer’s Markets and Food Festivals Happening in Orange County at Localharvest.org.

 Sleep on the beach in a restored cottage at Crustal Cove Beach. Reserve well in advance at www.crystalcovebeachcottages.org.

Jilleen from SoCal Field Trips has put together a list of the Best Places in southern California for a Tea Party.

pink's hot dogs

Laura from FamilyVacationHub.com has put together a list of 10 Classic southern California Eateries. How many of these have you enjoyed? Which one is your favorite?

YOU MAY ALSO ENJOY:

Staycation Ideas from All Across the USA!

 Don’t forget to check for deals, discounts and special rates from, Groupon, Amazon Local, LivingSocial,  and Goldstar tickets.

Be sure and ask for student discounts, AAA discounts, and senior discounts if they apply. With a little prior planing you can have fun on a budget!

 Did I leave out a favorite staycation idea? Please leave a comment so I can update this post, and please share this with your friends and family. Happy Staycation!

 

 

 

 


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