Budget Friendly Anaheim
By AAA Travel Editor Frank Swanson | June 01, 2023
There's no question that Southern California's theme parks are some of America's favorite destinations, but they aren't exactly budget friendly. Find out more about low-cost or no-cost options for fun things to do in Anaheim and the surrounding area.
Courtesy of Angels Baseball
Angel Stadium Tours
2000 E. Gene Autry Way
When it comes to fun things to do in Anaheim, one of the best deals in town is a tour of the Big A, aka Angel Stadium, home of the Los Angeles Angels. The stadium’s 75-minute behind-the-scenes tour varies somewhat, but typically includes the field, dugout, visitors’ clubhouse, press conference room and broadcasting booth. You can’t miss the towering letter A crowned with a halo in the parking lot, but call ahead since the tour is offered only during baseball season when the Angels are out of town.
flickr / CC BY SA/Brian Sterling
Balboa Fun Zone
600 E. Bay Ave.
Newport Beach’s Balboa Peninsula has been a vacation and seaside recreation destination for more than 100 years, and while prices have increased somewhat since then, they are still very reasonable. The area known as Balboa Village includes a pier, fantastic beaches, restaurants and the historic Balboa Pavilion and adjacent Balboa Fun Zone. A waterfront carnival from yesteryear, the Fun Zone isn’t big, but there’s no admission and it’s loaded with such old-fashioned pastimes as an arcade and a small Ferris wheel that’s been showing off views of Newport Bay for 80 years.
Dana Point Headlands
34558 Scenic Dr.
If you want to enjoy one of Orange County’s best bargains, take advantage of the area’s protected natural areas, many of which are free. Among the fun things to do outdoors near Anaheim: a visit to Dana Point Headlands, a conservation area with a small interpretive center. The views from sandy, scrub-covered bluffs high above the Pacific are spectacular, and you might even see migrating grey whales December to mid-May.
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flickr / CC BY/Scottb211
Downtown Disney® District
1530 S. Disneyland Dr.
While the world-famous journey into make-believe that is the Disneyland® Park and Disney California Adventure® Park is not exactly free, a stroll through the Downtown Disney District next door is. Feeling very much like an extension of the neighboring parks—with bright colors, festive lights and playful, kid-friendly signs and statues—Downtown Disney is one of the most fun things to do in Anaheim that doesn’t charge admission. Shops sell LEGOs, toys and Disney merchandise of every description, and themed restaurants, a bowling alley and a movie theater round out the awesome entertainment offerings.Read More
Huntington Beach Pier
317 Pacific Coast Hwy.
Huntington Beach boasts the fun of a theme park without the admission price, only here the theme is all things surfing-related with a side of just about anything else you can do at the beach including volleyball, fishing and biking, courtesy of the paved, 10-mile-long Ocean Strand. You can’t beat the views from the long, long, loooooong Huntington Beach Pier, and you can spend an afternoon exploring the cool shops and restaurants in the downtown area. Don’t miss the giant surfboard, said to be the world’s largest, outside the International Surfing Museum. In 2015 no fewer than 66 surfers managed to catch a wave and ride it together, breaking a world record.
Mission San Juan Capistrano
26801 Ortega Hwy.
AAA GEM® Mission San Juan Capistrano is an especially good deal considering the hours you can spend wandering through the gardens and centuries-old historic buildings. Snapping photos of the picturesque bell wall and The Great Stone Church ruins, destroyed by an earthquake a few years after being built, is just one of the fun things to do here. Imagine yourself living and working within the confines of the San Juan Capistrano’s walls 200 years ago, and learn what role Spanish missions played in California’s early history.Read More