Free (or almost free) things to do with kids in Orange County

Maruska —  February 18, 2017

There are so many free things to do with kids in Orange County, so to make your life a little easier, I created this list of affordable family outings in Orange County. Of course you can find most of the kid-friendly OC venues on my website,, but this list should help you narrow your search down. Once you find something interesting, make sure to click on the venue’ s name to find more details.


Centennial farm: free
Working farm which is home to pigs, chickens, cattle, goats, and fruit/vegetable gardens. Once or twice per month they offer Discovery Days during which you can also see a milking demonstrations, pet a chick, plant and take home a radish and stop at the many educational stations located around the farm. Cow milking schedule: 9:30am and 2:30pm. Guest can only view milkings that take place during public hours.

Pacific Marine Mammal Center: free
This is an amazing organization that rescues and rehabilitates marine mammals. You can visit the facility for free and watch the sea lions splashing away in the pools.

Laguna Koi Ponds: free
See hundreds of colorful Koi fish

Irvine Regional Park: can be free.

  • Look at horses next to the train station, feed the ducks at the lake, go search for peacocks that are roaming around the park, visit the interpretive center (weekends only).
  • Also you can visit OC zoo where you can see black bears, mountain lions, bald eagles, foxes, red-tailed hawks, owls, coyotes and more. They also have a great petting zoo where you can brush goats and sheep. The OC Zoo is only $2. You can also take one of their fun classes for $5 which includes OC zoo admission for kid and adult plus arts and crafts, and live animal presentation.
  • The train ride is definitely a favorite of most toddlers and preschoolers. The train is a one-third scale train that takes both children and adults on a scenic, 12-minute ride through the 477-acre park. $5.
  • Parking is $3 during the week and $5 during weekends. Parking is free on Tuesday morning during the Farmer’s market.

The reptile zoo: $8-$10 ages 4+ on weekdays, or visit the store for free.
This zoo is filled with all kinds of reptiles: iguanas, alligators, tons of snakes, a two-headed snake, Python Twinkie (the world’s largest snake), lots of Asian Water Monitors, and more. Best part is the interactive booth where kids can hold snakes, geckos and other reptiles. Or visit their retail store for free where they have a 2,000 gallon indoor pond with turtles and many huge fish. Kids can feed lettuce or live worms to the turtles ($5)

Santa Ana Zoo: $8 for adult/ $5 ages 3-12. Mon-Fri after 2pm.
The zoo features over 80 species of animals, mainly monkeys

Arts and Crafts:

Arts And crafts at local Lakeshore stores: free, every Saturday 11am-3pm.

Wooden Workshop at local Home Depot: free 1st Saturday of every month 9am-12am
Super fun hands-on workshops where kids get to build great wooden projects all on their own

Kid’s Art Studio at Laguna Art Museum: free 3rd Sunday of every month.
Kids’ Art Studio is a hands-on art-making program offered by Laguna Art Museum on a drop-in basis

Mini Model Build at Lego stores: free 1st Tuesday and 1st Wednesday of every month.
Learn how to build a cool mini model and take it home for free.


Pretend City:

Discovery Cube Orange County: free for BofA/Merrill Lynch cardholder first Sunday of every month. Free for kids under 3.

Orange County Museum of Art: Now free every Friday.
Also they occasionally offer free family Day. During this special day, you can visit their current exhibitions and collections which comprises 3,000 works of modern and contemporary art. You can also enjoy their amazing family program which normally includes hands-on art projects, interactive story time, family gallery tours, performances, and much more!

Children Museum at La Habra: free 1st Sunday of every month
Visit the museum for free and enjoy their special family event.

All museums with free admission day in Orange County, Los Angeles County and San Diego County.


Nature Centers: free
Find all kinds of neat stuff to explore including different species of taxidermy, live animals, touch table, and beautiful trails for a great outdoor adventure. 

Little Naturalist at Environmental Nature Center: $8.
Outdoor educational classes for ages 3-5.

Wild Tales at Muth Interpretive Center: $5
Arts and crafts, hands-on activities, live animals, nature walk. Every Friday. Ages 2-5.

Animal Feeding @Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve: Free, Saturday 12pm-1pm.
Feed reptiles and marine animals

Free Kids Fishing Clinic @Dana Wharf: free every Sunday 12-12:30

Train rides at Fairview Park:
Third weekend of every month 10am-3:30pm.

Free model train rides that lasts around 12 minutes and covers two loops of the park. Kids need to be able to walk and be at least 31″ tall.


Toddler Time at Big Air: $8 per jumper, ages 7 and under. Wednesday and Thursday, 10am-1pm.
Trampoline Park

Rockin’ Tots at Rockin’ Jump.  $15 for parent and 1 child up to 6 years old for two hours of jumping. Tuesday: 9am-11am. Saturday 8am-10am.

Open Play at local bounce houses: $7-$8

Jump’n Jammin: Toddler Admission $6.49. Good for all day use and includes one free adult. For children 23 months or younger. 

We Rock the Spectrum Kids Gym. This is a sensory gym that is amazing for all kids!

We Play Loud. 12,000 square facility designed to keep your children entertained for hours. They also have a 3,000 square foot gated toddler section.

Other Indoor Playgrounds in Orange County.


Airport: Watch take-off and landing at John Wayne Airport. Park on level 4 of the A1 parking structure ($2/hour).

Trash Truck outing: Visit Construction Circle in Irvine to see lots of trash trucks, excavators, mixer trucks.

Movies: $3-$6
The Irvine Woodbridge Movie 5, Santa Ana Picture Show, and Brea Plaza 5 show second run movies for $5 or less. Anaheim Hills Cinema City, Costa Mesa Triangle Square, Garden Grove 4 Star Cinemas show new movies for $6!

Story time: free
Over 100 storytime listed on my website. stories, fingerplays, puppets, songs, and crafts. Fun, educational and most of the time free.

Irvine Spectrum Center: Train rides, carousel, ferris wheel.

Storytime in the Garden @Orange County Great Park. Creativity and imagination are stimulated through stories about the wonders of life in the garden. Free. 

Children’s Garden Workshop @Orange County Great Park. Explore science, technology, engineering, art, math and music in a fun and stimulating outdoor environment. Ages 3-9. 

Carousel @Orange County Great Park. $3 all day pass.

Webble Wobble Wednesday @Heritage Park Community Center. Drop in for a variety of self-directed parent and child activities including musical instruments, crafts, puzzles, movement, games and circle time. Activity stations are designed to expose and encourage the development of motor skills, socialization, language and cognitive abilities. Includes a coffee station for grown-ups too. Ages 1-4. $5.

Tot Walk @Aliso and Wood Canyons Wilderness Park. Join Ranger Zak along with Laguna Canyon Foundation volunteers and bring your young ones (infant to age three) to explore Aliso’s wild backyard. We will see bugs, animal tracks, plants, birds and have all kinds of outdoor fun!. Free.

Winter Months:

(List is updated in October) Check out our comprehensive list of kid-friendly holiday celebrationsYou can choose from Christmas tree lighting celebrations, Santa’s visits, carols, holiday concerts, Christmas train, boat rides, crafts, snow fun, and so much more.

Summer Months:

Splash Pads: If you are looking for a place to cool down,check out this comprehensive list of splash pads and water parks in Orange County.

Summer Family Movies: Free or almost free summer movies shown in local movie theaters or in local parks. (updated in May)

Summer Family Concerts: Free family concerts that are held this summer around Orange County. (updated in May)