The Best Wallet-Friendly Experiences in OC

While Orange County is known for its "dream” destinations like Disneyland in Anaheim, the region also offers budget-savvy business travelers plenty to explore before and after meetings. Whether you’re looking to dine, drink or play, discover the top attractions in five Orange County cities that deliver a SoCal experience without breaking the bank.

Anaheim

Downtown Anaheim is the city’s cultural and culinary hot spot for those on a budget. The Packing House food hall provides diverse international bites and snacks that deliver epicurean innovation with fast-casual service. With a handful of full-service restaurants offering scaled-down menus here, it’s a great way to get a taste of local flavor at a fraction of the price. Just a few minutes down the road, Muzeo Museum and Cultural Center invites visitors to immerse themselves in Anaheim’s rich history. Admission is free for Carnegie Gallery exhibitions, with access to the main gallery available for a small fee.

 

Irvine

What better way to take in all the sights of Orange County than 400 feet in the air? A visit to the Orange County Great Park is easy on the wallet with a $10 ride on the iconic orange hot air balloon offering 360-degree views spanning 40 miles. The former Marine Corps Air Station also houses the Palm Court Arts Complex with free admission to a rotating gallery, a walkable historical timeline and aviation exhibition with artifacts that chronicle the growth of the park from its agricultural roots to the military presence.

 

Huntington Beach

A free weekly street fair adds to the beach town appeal of Surf City USA. While Huntington Beach promises plenty of sun, surf and sand during the day, pop into town on Tuesday nights to peruse the farmers market and specialty wares from local artisans while enjoying live entertainment from musicians and street performers. On warm nights visitors can also stroll down the pier or cozy up around a bonfire—the city has 500 fire rings available for free on a first-come, first-serve basis.

 

Newport Beach

Visit two iconic neighborhoods in Newport Beach for a nostalgic excursion filled with coastal charm. For $1, adults can take a 6-mile ride on the Balboa Island Ferry, a Newport Beach institution that has serviced the community for nearly 100 years. The free Balboa Island Museum is a good starting point for exploring the area’s history before window-shopping and indulging with a frozen banana treat. Back across the water, take part in another Newport tradition with a slow ride on the iconic Balboa Fun Zone Ferris wheel that affords views of the sparkling harbor.

 

Orange

An official destination on the National Register of Historic Places, Old Towne Orange is a spot in O.C. where time seemingly stands still. Traverse the one square mile on foot to view an array of historical architectural styles ranging from Craftsman-style bungalows to Spanish Colonial and Victorian homes. Antique stores, restaurants, bars and coffee shops line the streets surrounding the traffic circle, and visitors can grab a milkshake from the old-fashioned Watson’s Soda Fountain to enjoy from a bench in the town square. Just outside the historic district, within walking distance, is the free Hilbert Museum showcasing the cultural development of art in California.