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Free and discounted things to do in Orange County this Summer with kids

Best of Orange County

Free and discounted things to do in Orange County this Summer with kids

Summer in Orange County is a magical time, especially for families. With its sunny beaches, beautiful parks, and myriad of cultural attractions, there’s no shortage of activities to keep kids entertained.

Free and discounted things to do in Orange County this Summer with kids

The best part? Many of these activities are free or discounted. Here’s a guide to some of the best cost-effective things to do with kids in Orange County this summer.

Scripps Park La Jolla Cove Family at La Jolla Cove in San Diego : Visiting La Jolla Cove in the perfect Summer shoes : LivingMiVidaLoca.com (photo credit: Pattie Cordova)

Explore the Great Outdoors

Irvine Regional Park (ocparks.com/irvinepark)
Located in the heart of Orange County, Irvine Regional Park offers a variety of activities. Families can enjoy hiking, biking, picnicking, and even paddle boating on the lake. The park also features the Orange County Zoo, where admission is only $2 per person.

Balboa Island (livingmividaloca.com/balboa-fun-zone-balboa-island)
Take a stroll around Balboa Island, where you can walk along the waterfront, enjoy the charming shops, and take a ride on the Balboa Island Ferry for just $1.25 for adults and 50 cents for kids. Don’t forget to try the famous frozen bananas!

Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve (wildlife.ca.gov/Lands/Places-to-Visit/Bolsa-Chica-ER)
A great spot for bird watching and enjoying nature walks, the Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve in Huntington Beach is a free attraction. There are several walking trails where you can spot various bird species and other wildlife.

Adventure Playground (huntingtonbeachca.gov/business_detail_T9_R348.php)
Located in Huntington Beach, Adventure Playground is a unique spot where kids can raft on a pond and navigate a rope bridge. The entry fee is $4 per child, making it an affordable adventure. Individuals 16 and older are free when accompanying a child.  

Educational Adventures

Bowers Museum (Bowers.org)
The Bowers Museum in Santa Ana offers free admission to Santa Ana residents on the first Sunday of every month. This family-friendly museum features exhibits on art, history, and culture from around the world. Kids will love the Kidseum, which offers hands-on exhibits and interactive learning experiences.

Fullerton Arboretum (FullertonArboretum.org)
The Fullerton Arboretum is a beautiful 26-acre botanical garden located on the campus of California State University, Fullerton. Admission is free, and families can explore a wide variety of plants, take nature walks, and participate in educational programs.

Summer Reading Programs at Public Libraries (OCPL.org)
Orange County’s public libraries are treasure troves of free activities. Many branches offer storytimes, craft sessions, and educational programs for children of all ages. Check your local library’s calendar for upcoming events and information on Summer Reading Programs.

Summer Reading Program at Barnes and Noble (bn.org)
The Barnes & Noble Summer Reading Program is popular with students in first through sixth grades. Participation is a fun and easy way for kids to earn free books. They simply read a designated number of books, write about their favorite part in our Reading Journal, and bring a completed Reading Journal to a Barnes & Noble bookstore. Children then choose their free book from the books listed on the Reading Journal. 

Discovery Cube (DiscoveryCube.net)
This science center offers interactive exhibits that captivate children’s imaginations. Check their website for special discount days and promotions. Often, they provide discounted tickets for certain events or reduced prices for late afternoon visits.

Orange County Museum of Arts (OCMA.art)
OCMA offers free admission and has an established reputation as an innovative art museum with a history of actively discovering and engaging with living artists at pivotal points in their careers. Since its inception, OCMA’s commitment to artists and audiences has been at the core of its activities, presenting the voices and work of influential artists and creative thinkers through innovative and ground-breaking exhibitions and programs.

Hilbert Museum (hilbertmuseum.org)
Visitors will find a striking new two-building ensemble offering 26 galleries for rotating displays of the more than 5,000 oils, watercolors, illustrations, drawings, pieces of movie production art and more in the growing Hilbert Collection. Admission to the Hilbert Museum is free.

Seasonal Events

OC Fair (livingmividaloca.com/oc-fair-discounts-tickets)
The OC Fair is back at the OC Fairgrounds at 88 Fair Dr., Costa Mesa, CA 92626, with a new theme, “Always a Good Time.” The 2024 OC Fair starts July 19th and ends on August 18 (that’s 23 days and nights!), and to make your visit more budget-friendly, we are sharing ALL the OC Fair discounts available this year.

Summer Concerts in the Park (livingmividaloca.com/oc-summer-concerts)
Summer concerts are bigger and better because theaters are open AND cities are hosting outdoor movies in Orange County! Twice as many movies to see this season.

Summer Movies in the Park (livingmividaloca.com/oc-summer-movies)
Summer is a time for fun, sun, and music, and there’s no better way to experience all three than by attending a summer concert in Orange County. With a plethora of outdoor venues and talented performers, Orange County is the perfect destination for anyone looking to enjoy some live music this season.

Water Play

Visit a beach (livingmividaloca.com/orange-county-beaches)
Orange County is renowned for its stunning coastline, offering numerous family-friendly beaches where you can soak up the sun, play in the sand, and splash in the waves. Maybe this is the year you find a new favorite beach in Orange County!

Day Pass at Great Wolf Lodge (https://livingmividaloca.com/great-wolf-day-pass)
Day passes are available in half day (4pm to close) or full day (open to close) increments. Like most outings, it’s cheaper to go during the week.

Splash Pads and Public Swimming (https://livingmividaloca.com/orange-county-splash-pads)
Splash pads and open swimming at public pools are a grat way to get the family out and cool off at the same time.

Indoor fun

Arcades (livingmividaloca.com/arcades-in-orange-county)
If you’re looking for a unique way to pass the time, Orange County has a number of fun arcades that are sure to delight both kids and adults. From classic pinball machines to cutting-edge virtual reality games, these list of best arcades in Orange County offer something for everyone.

Free meals for kids (https://livingmividaloca.com/kids-eat-free-orange-county)
This list is for all the parents who ask themselves, “where do kids eat free today?” It’s a must-have – so make sure to bookmark it for those days when you’re eating out.

Indoor playgrounds (https://livingmividaloca.com/indoor-playground-orange-county)
Sometimes the Summer weather is more than we can handle – but the kids still need to play. This list is great when you’re looking for things to do in Orange County when it rains, or when the temperature reaches triple digits.

Orange County Summer Guides

Originally published on May 20, 2024. Last Updated on June 5, 2024 by Pattie Cordova

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