Even bears ride free. (credit: ocmetrains.org)

Fun. Free. Local. Check out this list of family friendly activities in the OC.

(credit: ocmetrains.org)

Orange County Model Engineers

2480 Placentia Avenue
Costa Mesa, CA 92626
(949) 548-7246
More Info

This non-profit train-enthusiast club operates a 7 1/2″ gauge railroad over a 5 mile track at Fairview Park. On the third Saturday and Sunday of each month, the public can take the 12 minute ride through two loops of the park. The trains are made up of 5-6 bench cars and can seat 5-6 adults and children.

(credit: bolsachica.org)

Bolsa Chica Wetlands Tour

3842 Warner Avenue
Huntington Beach, CA 92649-4263
(714) 846-1114
More Info

On the last Saturday of each month, the public can take a free tour of the Bolsa Chica Wetlands, hosted by the Conservancy. The Bolsa Chica includes over 1200 acres of undeveloped wetlands, lowlands, and lower mesa. Some of the wildlife that can be spotted include migratory waterfowl and shorebirds, salt marsh plants, tall egrets and herons, horn snails and crabs. Be sure to wear close-toed shoes.

(credit: ocair.com)

John Wayne Airport

Thomas F. Riley Terminal
18601 Airport Way
Santa Ana, CA 92707
(949) 252-5200
More Info

Every wonder how planes fly? Or the inside workings of a modern day airport? Take a free guided tour of the Thomas F. Riley Terminal at John Wayne Airport. Tour guides include private pilots, teachers, executives and airport employees who donate their time to educate the public. The tour concludes with a view of planes taking off and landing. Be sure to schedule at least 2 weeks in advance.

(credit: muzeo.org)


241 S. Anaheim Blvd.
Anaheim, CA 92805
(714) 95-MUZEO
More Info

Southern California’s newest museum features three international traveling exhibits, special events, classes, and weekend festivals. Housed in Anaheim’s original Carnegie Library, Muzeo seeks to engage the public in the arts, entertainment, and culture. On the first weekend of the month, Bank of America cardholders get in free.

(credit: santaanaartwalk.com)

Santa Ana Artwalk

200 N. Spurgeon
Santa Ana, CA 92701
(949) 394-5699
More Info

On the first Saturday of each month, downtown Santa Ana streets are lined with the work of local up and coming artists. Dine and shop for original art from 7-10 pm.

(credit: hbdowntown.com)

Surf City Nights

Downtown Huntington Beach on Main St.

1st-3rd blocks between PCH and Orange Street.
Huntington Beach, CA 92648
More Info

Every Tuesday, Main Street is closed off for Huntington Beach’s weekly Street Fair and Certified Farmer’s Market. This free, family-friendly event features a bounce house, street performers, restaurant samplings, sidewalk sales, and more. Park in the City Lot off Walnut and Third (200 Main St).

(credit: library.nixonfoundation.org)

Free Concerts at the Richard Nixon Library & Birthplace

18001 Yorba Linda Boulevard
Yorba Linda, CA 92886-3949
(714) 993-3393
More Info

Every Sunday at 2:00 pm, the Richard Nixon Library opens its doors to the public for its weekly free family concert series. You can view the complete 2011 schedule of upcoming performances online.

(credit: Gregg Pastore/fullertonarboretum.org)

Fullerton Arboretum

1900 Associated Road
Fullerton, CA 92831
(657) 278-3407
More Info

Admission is free, however, voluntary donations are encouraged.

The Fullerton Arboretum features over 4,000 unique and unusual species of plants from around the world, and is the largest botanical garden in Orange County. This peaceful retreat, complete with ponds, streams, and wildlife, serves the public by providing education and an understanding of the world’s plant life. Special events are held throughout the year including their upcoming Plant & Garden Show. Educational classes are held monthly for adults and children. Be sure to visit the children’s garden which was just completed last fall.

(credit: hortensemillergarden.org)

Hortense Miller Garden

22511 Allview Terrace
Laguna Beach, CA 92651
(949) 497-0716
More Info

Hortense Miller, who recently passed away just before her 100th birthday, started a garden in 1959. Today it is a floral wonder, preserved and open to the public for free tours every Tuesday through Sunday. The site is lovingly maintained by the city of Laguna Beach, which you must call to arrange a tour. You can’t even drive to the house – docents meet you at the gate and walk you up for the tour, which lasts over 2 hours and covers steep terrain over almost 2 acres, but yields views of gorgeous, lush, gardens.

(credit: ocparks.com)

George Key Ranch Historic Park

625 W. Bastanchury Road
Placentia, CA 92870
(714) 973-3190
More Info

Celebrate Orange County’s agricultural history as you take in the sights and lore at this preserved 1898 ranch home. Two of the original trees remain from what was once a 12-acre orange grove. On the first Saturday of the month, tours of the gardens, the home and the orange grove are free.

(credit: danawharf.com)

Free Kids’ Fishing

Dana Wharf
34675 Golden Lantern
Dana Point, CA 92629
(949) 496-5794
More Info

Every Sunday at noon, the fishing experts at Dana Wharf, a popular anglers’ launching point, hold a fishing clinic for novice fisherkids. No reservations needed. Kids fish free on the ½ day fishing trip that follows immediately afterwards, and rental gear is included at no charge.

(credit: Ben Byassee/Rudyland Photography)

Maple Boys Jam Program

Maple Conservatory of Dance
1824 Kaiser Avenue
Irvine, CA 92614
(949) 660-9930
More Info

See if you’ve got a closet Billy Elliot in your house by enrolling your 7-10-year-old boy in the Maple Boys Jam Program. This class is free and open to any boys of that age. Every Wednesday from 5:30-6:30PM they will learn the basics of movement, flexibility, coordination and strength.

Caryn Bailey pounds the pavement and the internet in search of free fun. When she’s not doing that, she blogs at Rockin’ Mama.