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Fun (and Free!) Things To Do In Orange County This Fall

Posted on September 3, 2019 | 6:23am | Travel Costa Mesa

Orange County might be known for its “forever summer,” but there is still plenty to do during the autumn months—and tons of free events and activities. From Oktoberfest to free museum admissions to hiking, here are our picks for what to do in Orange County during fall.
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Best of all? Costa Mesa is your perfect central location to stay for the weekend, but quickly get to all the top spots of The OC. There are plenty of great hotel deals in Costa Mesa that can act as the perfect springboard for your fun fall Orange County activities.

Take the Kids to the Orange County Children’s Book Festival

Grab the kids and go to this family-friendly event, which has free admission. On September 30, head to Orange Coast College, where more than 125 authors (this year, Kobe Bryant is a special guest) and 25 illustrators will be in attendance. See how popular characters are illustrated, attend readings and discussion panels, and visit the petting zoo and wild animal stage. It’s a great (and free) way to get your children interested in literature.

Celebrate Oktoberfest in Huntington Beach

You don’t have to go to Germany to celebrate Oktoberfest! Every Wednesday through Sunday throughout September and October, head to Huntington Beach’s huge Oktoberfest celebration. From oom-pah bands to bratwurst to pretzels to, of course, tons of beer, this fun festival has it all, including a parade and a special Kinderfest celebration for families. Best of all? Admission is free on Wednesdays and Thursdays, making this celebration budget-friendly.

Attend a Free Event at Argyros Plaza

The free events at Argyros Plaza have become a huge draw to Costa Mesa, and they continue into the fall. September 21 is National Dance Day, which will feature live performances and interactive lessons. Also on the calendar are a Silent Disco on October 11, a special fall celebration with storytelling, tunes, dance and more on October 19, and the All Abilities Celebration with art-making and performances on October 26. There’s something for everyone at the Argyros Plaza.

Visit Newport Bay and Muth Interpretive Center

A walk around Newport Bay is always a good idea, especially when temperatures cool off. Wander down the various paths or cycle around the area, and don’t forget to stop at the Muth Interpretive Center, where you’ll learn all about the species that can be found at the bay. Parking is also free and ample around the area.

Attend the Laguna Beach Plein Air Painting Invitational

From October 5 to 13, attend this classic Laguna Beach event. Watch painting demonstrations and learn all about art from these master plein air painters. You can also enjoy refreshments and meet the artists at certain events and attend special Q&As, all for free.

Take the Family to the Environmental Nature Center

The Environmental Nature Center in Newport Beach is always a fun place to spend a few hours visiting the butterfly house and learning about Orange County’s habitats. But in the fall, they host the Fall Faire and Pumpkin Patch on October 13, which features plenty of games, a petting zoo, live animals, DJs, face painting and a plethora of pumpkins. This yearly event is a huge draw, so get there early.

Attend an Art Walk in Costa Mesa, Santa Ana or Laguna Beach

On the third Saturday of the month, Costa Mesa offers an art walk at Lions Park, including offerings from great local artists, live music, DJ, food trucks and end the afternoon with an awesome Dance battle! Every first Thursday of the month, head to Laguna Beach for their local art walk, when the town’s galleries stay open later so guests can check out art artwork and nibble on refreshments. This is also a great day to check out the Laguna Art Museum, which offers free admission on first Thursdays and boasts an absolutely amazing collection of California art. Meanwhile, Santa Ana hosts their own Art Walk on the first Saturday of the month, and just opened a free trolley earlier this year that can take visitors to the city’s myriad galleries. Both days are also a good opportunity to explore the respective cities and all they have to offer.

Take a Hike!Cooler temperatures means hiking just got a whole lot easier. Head out to local trails in Orange County like Talbert Regional Park Nature Preserve in Costa Mesa, Quail Hill in Irvine, challenging Whiting Ranch in Trabuco Canyon, Peters Canyon Regional Park in Orange, Laguna Coast Wilderness Park in Laguna Beach, Black Star Canyon in Santa Ana, or Salt Creek Trail in Laguna Niguel. Learn more about OC Parks here!

There are plenty of trails for all fitness levels around Orange County and street parking is typically available for free. You can also bring your bike to cycle around the trails; here’s a map of Costa Mesa bike trails. Experienced hikers will love Whiting Ranch and Laguna Coast Wilderness Park, while those looking for a more low-key hike will love exploring Bommer Canyon and Quail Hill.

Visit Discovery Cube OC

Are you a Bank of America cardholder? Then head to Discovery Cube OC on the first Sunday of the first full weekend of the month for free admission to this fun, kid-friendly museum. There are always cool exhibits at this interactive museum, covering everything from superheroes to healthy cooking to dinosaurs and rockets. This is another fun way to get kids interested in STEM subjects.

Check Out Sherman Library & Gardens

Admission is free at this cool library and garden on the first Monday of every month. Check out their amazing collection of cacti and succulents, herbs, flowers like orchids, roses, and heliconias, and more. Meanwhile, the library documents the development of Southern California with books, photographs, maps and newspapers. You can spend an afternoon whiling away the hours at this informative (and beautiful) spot in Newport Beach, learning all about Orange County.

Visit California Scenario (and Take Some Pictures)

You’ve seen it all over Instagram: California Scenario, created by Isamu Noguchi (locals call it “Noguchi Garden.”) Spend an hour or two checking out this tranquil sculpture garden located in the heart of Costa Mesa’s Arts District, which documents the various elements that make up our state. Situated on 1.6 acres, the garden in its design symbolizes various geographical characteristics in California, incorporating indigenous plants and materials. Not only is it a great photo opportunity, but a nice place to spend some quiet time and maybe even enjoy lunch.

Stroll the OC Great Park

Free parking means visiting the OC Great Park is a great deal. This gigantic park has plenty of space to cycle, skateboard, or just stroll around. There’s also plenty of free art to check out, including a gigantic walkable timeline that outlines the history of the park and Orange County in general. Also check out the rotating contemporary art exhibits at the Palm Springs Courtyard and the cool, old-school planes at Hangar 244.

Celebrate Halloween

There’s plenty of fun, free Halloween-themed events in Orange County! Check this list for some ideas, but we’ve got some too. Go trick-or-treating at Anaheim Plaza, where stores and restaurants will be dishing out candy. There will also be face painting, a kid-friendly DJ, and a balloon artist. Or head to the Halloween Spooktacular & Trunk or Treat in Dana Point, which will have free refreshments, crafts, entertainment, carnival games, movie showcases, and plenty more.