Disneyland, one of the biggest tourist attractions in California, calls Orange County its home. Luckily Orange County brings other affordable fun activities to college students without needing to spend the hefty fee to enter the Disneyland theme park or deal with enormous crowds of people—unless you have the funds, of course. Explore the many areas of Orange County such as Santa Ana, Newport Beach, Costa Mesa, Irvine, Laguna Beach and Anaheim.
You will find yourself sporting your bathing suit, sunglasses, sunscreen and jeans as you enjoy the classic Californian beauty of beaches and palm trees.
6 a.m. Hipster breakfast at Urth Café Laguna Beach
Want a healthy morning meal? The organic coffees and teas come from Peru and go straight to your cup. The organic, gluten-free and vegan options taste anything but bland. Urth Cafe makes healthy truly delicious with vegan chocolate cake, eggs salmone and granola bowls.
7 a.m. Surf by the Huntington Pier
Watch your California dream come to life and see surfers in action or even hit the waves yourself. The most photographed pier in California, Huntington Beach Pier makes the Hawaiian surfing tradition possible any day of the year. Surf in the circling Californian waves and refresh yourself in the ocean breeze. “Huntington Beach has a beautiful view of the coastline from the pier and a good place to watch the waves, sunset and surfing. The pier is nice to walk along as you can get some great pictures,” University of California Irvine senior Mojtaba Sadeghi said. If you don’t surf yourself, admire the surfers while digging your feet into the sand or watch the surfers from above on the high-rise walkway.
8 a.m. Sun bathe under Newport Rays
Get your tan on any time of the year at the sands of Corona Del Mar. The least populated beach in Newport gives you privacy while enjoying the sunshine and marveling at the boulders on the shore. “Corona Del Mar offers a romantic getaway in Irvine. Its pale blue waters are very pure and offer a great reason to visit the city of Irvine,” UC Irvine senior Jessica Stone said. Afterward, take the staircase at the end of coastline to see the magnificent homes and enjoy the view of the bay.
9 a.m. Italian Rotunda
Tour a Greco-Roman temple and admire the beach waves from afar at Pelican Hill. Take a scenic walk, play golf with an ocean view and get that perfect Insta post to impress all your friends. “Pelican Hill is a pleasant location for a picnic on a clean beach or organizing a lavish wedding. This picturesque location would do well on anyone’s landscapes on Instagram,” UC Riverside senior Sam Chen said. The enchanting scenic view might inspire you and your friends to request a villa for an all-night stay at the Pelican Hill resort.
10 a.m. Decorative arts in Santa Ana
Get insider access to the history of fashion without jetting to New York, Paris, London or Milan. The Bowers Museum of Cultural Art offers decorative design from history, film and the fashion industry. Admire costumes from your favorite films or historical garb from across the world such as Tribal Art from North America, Japanese Wood Art, Mummies of Ancient Egypt and modern Haute Couture. Past exhibitions include Chinese couture by Guo Pe, the designer famously known for Rhianna’s 2016 yellow Met Gala gown, and artwork by Harold Van Pelt, a quartz carver recognized for his quartz eggs. The wide variety of daily lectures on fashion include topics like hand-embroidery, construction of couture, wooden fans and Italian Cinema to transform you into a mini fashion historian.
11 a.m. Downtown Anaheim Farmers Market
Get your health on and score fresh food at a fraction of Whole Foods’ prices while supporting local farmers at the Downtown Anaheim Farmers Market. The medicinal and restorative Zen tea stand has delectable teas made with fresh flowers and herbs and local vendors sell succulents and fresh flowers you can use to add a little extra decor to your home. There’s even live music to brighten the mood while you enjoy the variety of snack options ranging from Mexican food to Mediterranean food to BBQ, hot dogs, lemonade, pizza, kettle corn and more.
12 p.m. Take a midday break with nature
Get a hands-on learning experience at the most welcoming natural reserve in Orange County, the Environmental Nature Center. Go ahead and get your hands and feet dirty with the small walking paths, oak woodlands, redwood forests, cacti, ponds and mini waterfalls in an atmosphere of ease. Let the butterflies in the Butterfly House bring joy to your day. The love you will have for nature at the end of your visit will inspire you to purchase and bring home your own local plant, free from harmful pesticides and fertilizers.
1 p.m. Take time to smell the roses
Take an afternoon stroll through the Sherman Library & Gardens and walk along the 2.2-acre promenade to find a Tropical Conservatory, Rose Garden, Fern Grotto, Japanese Garden and Herb Garden. The variety of plants provides a pleasant walk to slow down and admire nature. If your walk tires you out, Café Jardin has a traditional tea service to enjoy a moment of relaxation. By the end of your visit you will surely learn the name of your newly favorite plant.
2 p.m. Hot air balloons in Santa Ana
Take a peaceful and colorful ride in a hot air balloon with a view of Santa Ana from 400 feet in the air. You’ll get 360-degree views of Orange and Los Angeles County to admire from above. It’ll surely make all your friends jealous and make you more adventurous on social media. Riding in a balloon is a once in a lifetime experience.
3 p.m. Sweet Paradise
Amazing Cakes in Anaheim or the dessert caterers of Sheraton Hotel and Knott’s Berry Farm, fuses gourmet and creativity into their delicious treats. The trip to Amazing Cakes brings you the irresistible deal to taste scrumptiousness without paying the high admission price of Knott’s Berry Farm. The most creative desserts to date satisfy your sweet tooth at this hidden gem of dessert shops. Indulge in cannolis, chocolate covered pretzel sticks, cake pops and lemon bars all guaranteed to give you a sugar high.
4 p.m. Daydream through a window
Love dreaming about the highest premium fashion houses or of having your very own Breakfast at Tiffany’s moment? Visit South Coast Plaza’s boutiques like Chanel, Dior, Christian Louboutin, Oscar de la Renta and much more. “South Coast Plaza is an amazing choice for people who love an amazing view while shopping. South Coast Plaza has many options from basic clothing to high end designs, so anyone can go enjoy the experience. It is not limited to shopping, food is amazing as well if you feel a bit snacky after walking,” California State University Los Angeles senior Emily Tam said. If you are leaving inspired and tempted to make a purchase, you can find Macy’s and Nordstrom nearby for the ultimate but much more affordable shopping experience.
5 p.m. A taste of the sea
Excite your taste buds with seafood from BlueWater Grill while gazing at the shore of Newport Beach. All dishes cultivated come from the local, sustainable and fresh Newport sea to benefit local fishermen. “Bluewater grill caters to the people that want a different experience not only when it comes to the food but also its service for a good time and delicious food,” UC senior Kelly Lee. The relaxing view will have you gazing out the window while enjoying your afternoon meal.
6 p.m. Dolce Vita
Under the California sun, savor some tasty Italian gelato at Dolce Gelato. This family-owned gelato shop brings original flavors to your mouth such as the famous Beach Bum collection with flavors like Caribbean Breeze, Tahitian Pineapple, Barbados Rum Cherry, Coney Island Dipped Banana and Maui Coconut Crunch. The variety of flavors will make you feel overwhelmed and come back wanting to taste the next one.
7 p.m. Whale-watching
The shortest and cheapest whale-watching cruise from Newport Beach guarantees two to three hour-long sessions of relaxing and watching sea creatures. Watch the site of grey whales, dolphins, blue whales and seals in their natural habitat. “Newport Beach is a fantastic place to spend a few hours of whale watching. I love relaxing and feeling the boat glide across the surface of the water as the captain steers the boat and comments on where to spot dolphins, whales and sea lions,” UC Irvine senior Connie Loo said. You will have adorable sea friends in your heart forever.
8 p.m. Run into your new favorite artists
Art Walk at Laguna Beach happens on the first Thursday of every month between 6 p.m. and 9 p.m. for art galleries and organizations to promote an educational appreciation for the arts. This venue gives a voice to unknown artists and enhances anyone’s interest in the contemporary art scene. No need to spend a dime while admiring the beautiful artwork and enjoying an evening stroll.
9 p.m. Experience a blast from the past with Medieval Times
Jousting, fencing, weaponry, lords, and knights on horseback in the Dark Ages come to life again at Medieval Times in Buena Park. Unleash your inner passion for a moment in medieval fantasy with a show of horseback knights in battle while eating chicken with your own bare hands. The two-hour show brings everyone’s inner childhood spirit to life, and you will hear the entire crowd go wild as they cheer for their favorite knight. Falcons fly throughout the arena to make you take part in a royal tradition without leaving the country.
10 p.m. Theme park by the sea
The Balboa Fun Zone satisfies your own child-like desire for amusement and fun by the Newport shore. You can play arcade games all night to bring out your competitive spirit as you challenge your pals. Have your heartbeat excel to the giant Happy Swing that presents an out of this world view of the Pacific Ocean. “If you are by Newport Beach, I recommend visiting the Balboa Fun Zone to feel like a kid again. It’s a great place for families to have some amusement park fun while also taking in the beautiful beach,” UC Santa Barbara senior Karen Ha said. The Bayside Bungee jump will get you out of your comfort zone and inspire you to continue doing outrageous activities.
11 p.m. Ride the Ferris wheel
The Irvine Spectrum offers fun Ferris wheel rides after a long day. Watch the city below your feet and admire the outdoor shopping plaza with numerous chain restaurants. “As a first-time mom, I’m glad Irvine spectrum is a baby friendly place to go to. [There is an] adequate amount of seating, restrooms and play structures. The best part is the outdoor mall where you can enjoy the warm bright sun of Southern California no matter what time of the year,” UC Irvine senior Milmar Gaboy said. The family friendly fun at Irvine Spectrum has something for everyone; after the Ferris Wheel ride and shopping, stay a little longer to have a laugh at the Irvine Improv, welcoming stand-up comedians of all ages.
12 a.m. Dine with American classics
Fine dining at an affordable price point at a venue you can stay casual and comfy. After a long day outdoors, you do not have to worry about an outfit change but just simply relax and eat a good meal at Nick’s Laguna Beach. The restaurant serves American comfort food with classics like a crispy chicken sandwich but also throws in some twists like Scottish salmon. The vegetarian and vegan options also entice health-conscious folks to walk in the door.
1 a.m. Relive your Disney dreams
Want the Disney experience without going to Disneyland or California Adventure Park? Downtown Disney offers shops and restaurants inspired by your favorite Disney characters without paying the entrance fee for the actual theme park. Don’t want to shop and eat? Downtown Disney should still top your list because every weekend you can go swing dancing in the middle of the town square and hear live jazz bands. “Downtown Disney is an amazing place to visit not only for the variety of food and shops but the live bands that play onstage. They play a large array of music, and there is a chance that you’ll catch people lindy hopping to the upbeat jazz that the bands sometimes play. The beignets there are also to die for,” Pasadena City College senior Kathryn Pang said. If dancing is not your forte, you can explore Pop Up Disney where you can see interactive displays of Mickey Mouse and take silly photos at the galleries.
2 a.m. Twist and shout at the Atomic Ballroom
Calling all dance lovers, the Atomic Ballroom hosts dances and classes for different types of dance every day of the week. On Monday’s, ease your nights with ballroom dancing, Tuesday’s jive your mood to 50s swing, Wednesday’s spice your way with Bachata and Salsa (I don’t mean the flavorful sauce), Thursday’s dance your way into your favorite western with the country stomp, Friday means American classics with the Lindy Hop and Charleston, Saturday’s invite romance with the Viennese Waltz and Sunday’s call rock n’ roll lovers to Shake, Rattle and Roll. All classes invite the public to dance for a price of eight dollars, making an incredibly fun time for anyone who wants to learn how to dance.
3 a.m. Late-night movie magic
Watch the latest film at The LOT at Fashion Island with a hint of luxury. The leather seats, truffle fries, grilled cheese and filet mignon mixed with cinema will have you feeling a part of your favorite awards show. Still looking for fun without necessarily watching a film? The activities like Trivia Nights every Monday and Taco Tuesdays with live music will keep you staying up late for comfort and entertainment.
4 a.m. Indulge in a late-night feast in Little Arabia
In Anaheim, the large Middle-Eastern community welcomes anyone to discover their cuisine. Restaurants are region specific, and you’ll find a variety of cuisine from Syria, Lebanon, Morocco and the United Arab Emirates to name a few. “Little Arabia is a hidden gem full of great eats and great people. People there welcome anyone interested in learning more about the many types of Arabic cultures and cuisines with open arms. If you want to try something new and have a unique experience, Little Arabia is definitely worth a visit,” UC Los Angeles senior Mona Es said. The best part, most restaurants stay open late into the night.
5 a.m. Laguna Beach Wilderness Park
The wilderness invites you in to begin the day with a morning hike. See the sycamore, oak trees and coastal canyons of Laguna Beach. “I really enjoy making trips to Laguna Beach because there are so many activities to choose from such as walking, I love to hike, [it feels like] the Top of the World because of the spectacular mountain views,” UC Irvine senior Minakshi Sharma said. Make it to the top and breathe in the fresh ocean breeze while you soak in the feeling of great accomplishment.