Last updated on April 19, 2023 by Wandering our World
The city of Anaheim, along with the district of Orange County, is usually buzzing with tourists because of the many many tourist attractions there. Although Anaheim is most known for one thing in particular: being the location of the first ever Disneyland!
If you’re in Anaheim and you’ve spent all your money on Mickey and co., don’t worry! There are other things you can do – many on a budget.
And because we know the city well, we’ve comprised a list of some of the best things to do in Anaheim for free. All so you can enjoy a great vacation without breaking the bank!
24+ Things To Do In Anaheim For Free: Fun Without Breaking The Bank
1. Spend An Afternoon In A Picturesque Park
While there are countless parks in Anaheim, Yorba Regional Park takes the crown for the people’s favorite park. And the reason is simple, it’s truly gorgeous!
Spreading out over 140 acres of land surrounding two clear lakes, Yorba Regional Park offers many possible activities. There’s a playground, bike rental, and a walking trail where you can walk your dog. Another thing you can find in the park is a group of wood ducks!
All in all, spending some downtime in this park can do wonders for your mental state. Entry is free but parking does cost $3.
2. View Art & Learn History At The Same Time
Muzeo Museum & Cultural Center showcases a variety of art and artifact exhibits from both local and international artists.
In this museum, visitors can learn the history of Anaheim including its Disney roots. They also often hold activities, events, and special (temporary) exhibits.
If you want to see the whole museum, the entry fee is $10 for-non Anaheim residents. But you can enter the Historic Carnegie Galleries for free.
3. Get In Touch With Nature In An Oak Forest
Spanning over 58 acres, the Oak Canyon Nature Center is a nature preserve comprising three adjoining canyons. The site is divided into 3 zones: coastal sage scrub, oak woodland, and riparian.
Walking through this nature center is real a feel-good experience. You will be surrounded by huge trees and may even find wildlife like ducks, squirrels, many kinds of birds, and orange algae in the pond. It’s a good place to forget about the world and just soak up nature.
4. Learn The City’s History In A Park
Turns out history doesn’t have to just be learned in a museum. In downtown Anaheim, there’s a park called the Anaheim Founders’ Park, where tourists can learn about Anaheim’s history.
Instead of seeing pictures and framed texts only, in this park visitors actually get to see restored historic buildings such as Mother Colony House – the first house built in Anaheim. Another hotspot for visitors is the gorgeous and humongous Moreton Bay Fig tree.
5. Go To A Plant Research & Conservation Site
Less than 4 miles to the north of Anaheim stands Fullerton Arboretum, Orange County’s largest botanical garden. They have a large collection of beautiful plants and flowers, and you will also see ducks quacking about in the area.
They have a fruit tree area (from apples and oranges to kumquats and grapefruits!) and you can buy fresh fruits if you want. Just take a bag at the entrance, pick your own fruits, and pay for it when you leave.
Entrance to the garden is free, but each person is encouraged to make a donation. Keep in mind that the arboretum is closed to the public on Tuesdays.
6. Hang Out In Downtown Anaheim’s Hottest Spot
At the heart of Anaheim is a popular hangout place called The Packing District. It’s a cluster of many restaurants and food stalls loved by locals and tourists alike. There is often a band playing live music in the area, livening up the atmosphere.
Because it’s a complex of restaurants, needless to say you’ll have to pay if you’re going to eat. But if you want you can just check out the place, listen to the band, hang out a little bit, or maybe buy a cheap snack or cup of coffee.
7. Visit A Train Museum
Attention to all railfans and train buffs! We’re gonna take another detour just a little outside of Anaheim because around one mile to the north of the city there is a train museum called Fullerton Train Museum. We 100% think you should check it out while you’re in Anaheim.
There are many train-related things to see there, from their caboose and lounge car collection to the history of railways in Orange Country. The museum is located to the left of Fullerton Train Station, so you will even feel the thrilling vibration of trains passing by.
Please note that the museum is only open on the 1st and 3rd Saturdays of each month.
8. Take Your Kid To Ride A Paddle Boat or Kayak
The Adventure Lagoon is a floating waterpark on top of Miraloma Basin. It’s filled with tons of fun water activities including obstacle courses, kayaks, and paddle boats. The temperature stays 74 to 78 degrees all year round so it’s a refreshing destination when the Californian summer gets too much.
So why did we put a waterpark on a list of free things to do in Anaheim?
Because they offer a free attraction as the paddle boat is free for kids aged 5 and below! General admission is also free for kids aged 2 and under. For the full pricelist, please refer to their official website.
9. Window Shop In The Downtown Disney District
If you can’t afford Disneyland itself, why not visit the free part of Disneyland Resort?
Downtown Disney is a shopping district filled with boutiques and restaurants, and it’s always packed with people.
10. Walk Along A Riverside Trail
Even though Anaheim isn’t on the coastal side of California, visitors can still find a trail that follows a beautiful water body. Anaheim Coves Trail is a 3 mile clean paved trail that goes along Santa Ana River.
The trail is good for walking, running, and cycling, and there are several benches if you need a breather. It’s not crowded either so it’s a nice space for a quiet morning walk.
11. Take Your Kid To Play In A Big Outdoor Playground
Near the Anaheim Coves Trail, there’s a playground park named Explorer’s Cove Park. We think it’s the perfect place to take your kid to play, especially as it’s completely free of charge. The playground is large with plenty of things to do.
There are of course slides, swings, and seesaws. There’s also a small rock climbing spot, rope course, and jungle gym. We recommend bringing sand toys so your kid can play digging for dinosaur fossils. For adults, the park provides some exercise equipment too.
12. Watch A Drive-In Movie For FREE
Are you a fan of drive-in theaters? If so then we have good news as Anaheim Town Square sometimes holds free drive-in theater events!
Those have been held in the parking lot near Wells Fargo. Go to their official website to get information on what movie is playing and to RSVP (it’s required).
13. Cast A Rod
In town with your fishing rod? Then why not head to the many lakes in Anaheim where you can go fishing for free.
The most popular ones are Anaheim Lake and Santa Ana River Lakes. You can also fish in the lakes in Yorba Regional Park.
14. Visit A Cactus Garden
I’m sure you’ve been to many gardens before but have you ever been to a cactus garden? Boysen Cactus Garden is located at Pearson Park (a big city park in downtown Anaheim) and is well worth a visit.
The park contains many species brought back to Anaheim from expeditions to the desert. Visitors can learn a little history about the cacti while there.
15. Go To A Kobe Bryant Tribute Basketball Court
Still at the same location, Pearson Park has a basketball court which is a tribute to the late Kobe Bryant and his daughter who was also an aspiring basketball athlete, Gianna “Gigi” Bryant, who died in a tragic helicopter crash.
The court was built by Vanessa, Kobe’s wife, as a way to honor her husband’s legacy and help underprivileged kids get the resources to play basketball.
The centerpiece of the court is a butterfly sculpture with Kobe and Gigi’s faces on it. On top of that, the whole court is painted with Lakers’ signature purple and gold colors.
16. Swim In A Swimming Pool For Free
Pearson Park is seriously an awesome park. We’ve covered their cactus garden, Kobe Bryant basketball court, and now for something even more amazing: there’s a completely free swimming pool!
The Pearson Park Pool is open seasonally from April to October. Make reservations at anaheimymca.org if you want to join in with one of the best things to do in Anaheim for free.
17. Take An Instagrammable Photo In ARTIC
Need an addition to your Instagram feed? Then why not take a picture at one of Anaheim’s best pieces of architecture, the Anaheim Regional Transportation Intermodal Center (ARTIC).
ARTIC is a station for three kinds of public transportation: the Amtrak intercity rail, Metrolink commuter rail, and buses.
The glass building is a combination of heritage, modern architecture, and majestic size. Whether from inside or out, there are many spots to take a pretty picture around the station.
18. Have A Picnic
Wherever you are, a free activity we’ll always recommend is sitting outside on a mat and enjoying the outdoors with good food!
Luckily all parks in Anaheim allow visitors to picnic for free, including Pearson Park, Pioneer Park, and Riverdale Park.
And in the aforementioned Yorba Regional Park, there are readily available picnic tables if you don’t have a picnic mat.
19. Go To A Cars & Coffee Event
Are you a car enthusiast? Then why not bring your baby to this weekly gathering of car owners!
Auto Owners of America (AOA) invites owners of classic, antique, exotics, streets, tweaked for speed, lifted & lowered, and more to show off your car or simply look at others’ and chat.
Anaheim GardenWalk Cars & Coffee is held every Saturday from 8 AM to 12 PM at STC Anaheim GardenWalk. Entry is free through Disney Way entrance, but you must RSVP first through this site.
20. Read A Storybook With Your Child In The Library
I’m sure bookworms will agree with us when we say checking out local libraries is a must when traveling. For this list, we will recommend the two big libraries in Anaheim: Central Library and Anaheim Public Library. Both libraries offer a good collection with great service and comfortable spaces.
Of course, you can check out other sections in the libraries too, but we especially recommend these libraries if you happen to be in town and running out of ideas for activities to do with your kids.
The children’s book collections in these two libraries are always updated so you and your child won’t run out of things to read.
21. Visit Anaheim’s Historic Gothic Revival Church
Standing on 311 West South Street is a beautiful white piece of architecture actively used for worship. St. Michael’s Episcopal Church in Anaheim is a Gothic Revival style catholic church built in 1876. The architecture of the church emphasizes vertical lines and arch doors and windows.
Unlike other places in the US, there actually aren’t a lot of old churches in the city, so this church is a rare gem. In 2004, the church was registered as a National Historic Place.
22. Visit The Crystal Cathedral
Another iconic church in Orange County is a cathedral in Garden Grove, just 4 miles from Downtown Anaheim.
Unlike most cathedrals that have Gothic style with stones and high arches, the Crystal Cathedral has a modern style with glass panels.
The concept of the building is to virtually have no walls and no ceiling, making it feel like you fell from the sky. With this in mind, the Crystal Cathedral was built with transparent walls and roof, as well as clear glass.
It has now been officially renamed the Christ Cathedral, but most people still call it the Crystal Cathedral due to its appearance.
23. Go To A Free Night Club Live Music Event
For our last recommendation of things to do in Anaheim for free, we’re giving you something 21+.
Heat Ultra Lounge nightclub holds Lifestyle Saturdays and Rewind Fridays with special DJs. RSVP on their website for free entry before 11 pm.
24. Play Team Sports In A Park
Stay healthy by spending your afternoon playing sports. Here is a list of parks in Anaheim where you can play sports.
Parks with a basketball court: Pearson Park, Peralta Canyon Park, Citrus Park, Betsy Ross Park, and Chaparral Park.
Parks with a volleyball court: Peralta Canyon Park, Walnut Grove Park.
Parks with a baseball field: Pearson Park, Peralta Canyon Park.
Parks with a tennis court: Pearson Park.
Things To Do In Anaheim For Free: Our Final Thoughts
Those are our top recommendations for things to do in Anaheim for free. From museums to special events, we hope you find an activity to your liking.
For more options, if you’re in Anaheim during the holidays, we suggest you look out for seasonal events. There are often fun free events on Christmas, New Year’s Eve, Halloween, etc in the city. Happy exploring!