Orange County, is a beautiful part of California that encompasses the beach cities and surrounding areas between Los Angeles and San Diego. Bursting with foodies, adventure junkies, yogis, students, sailors, surfers, and working professionals, there is always something for anyone. Although often given a bad rep in the media for being stuck up, expensive, and full of plastic people, Orange County is thankfully much more than that. After living there myself for a hand full of years, I can honestly report that Orange County is a surprisingly rewarding and affordable option for the budget traveler. Below are 7 alternative and authentic things to do in Orange County.
#1 Cruise Newport Harbor
Whether on a tour or private rented boat, people from all over the area flock to cruise the Newport Harbor. In about 2 hours you can ride around Lido and Balboa Island, seeing wildlife and famous houses along the way. Do as the locals do, and bring lunch and some beers onto a boat to have your own party, or hop aboard one of the many daily tour boats.
#2 Enjoy a Theme Park
Go to Disneyland! Although it’s a crazy $100+ for admission, it is pure magic and an iconic experience worth every penny. However, Southern California also has many other great and cheaper theme park options. Knott’s Berry Farm, Six Flags Magic Mountain, and Universal Studios, admission ranges from $30-$85 with discount options on tickets and accommodation through pre purchasing via their websites.
#3 Bar Hop from Huntington Beach to Newport
A new and amazing party bus, the HBtoNewport shuttle people between Newport Beach, Costa Mesa’s Triangle Square and Huntington Beaches Main Street for only $8 dollars a night or $3 each way. In addition to helping reduce drunk driving, the bus provides a fun and cheap way to bar hop your way around these Orange County hot spots. If you prefer more private transport, check out Lift, a new, alternative cab company who offer cheaper cab rates and even sport pink mustaches.
#4 Mission San Juan Capistrano
Dating back to 1775, Mission San Juan Capistrano was the 7th mission built in California by the Spanish and the Catholic Church seeking to convert the Native people to Christianity. A mere 5 minutes inland from the beach, a trip to the mission makes a great day trip to explore some history and relax in the beautiful gardens. Admission is $9 but is well worth it for this unique experience.
#5 See a Movie
I know you might be thinking, gosh I could do this anywhere. However, whenever I go to a new country I always check out a cinema. In Thailand, you can opt for a reclining couch complete with blankets, pillows and beer service for $10. I saw the Hangover, in India; just imagine experiencing that, an already shocking movie, in a room full of Indian teens. Culturally, movies bring people together, but experiencing a movie in another country can provide a good glimpse into local, average lifestyle. In Orange County you can splurge for the fancy, Fashion Island Theater, complete with table service ($25) or go budget and head to Costa Mesa’s Triangle Square on Tuesday or Thursday for $4 movies.
#6 Go Camping
Orange County has amazing beach camping sites for between $25-$35 per night depending on the season. Both locals seeking refuge from the city or for tourists, camping is a budget friendly, fun activity. Check out sites and booking info on reserveamerica.com for more information.
#7 Indulge in the Foodie Scene
Orange County is a melting pot of ethnicities. Home to the largest Vietnamese Community outside Vietnam, Orange County’s Little Saigon is a great place to grab a huge and delicious $5 bowl of Pho noodle soup. There is also a lot of great sushi restaurants featuring fresh Californ-iental cuisine. Like some spice? Head to Costa Mesa for some fresh, authentic Mexican food. If you can, go on a Tuesday, and experience what Americans coined as Taco Tuesday, where most places offer $1 tacos and cheap beer.