Creating Really Awesome Free Trips: Orange County, CA

Creating Really Awesome Free Trips is back, and it will happen most Thursday’s from now until the end of August. Hopefully you will find a few fun, free family friendly things to do in a city near you! Or use these lists to plan an unforgettable road trip the whole fam can enjoy!
Hey there C.R.A.F.T. ers! 
I’m Barbara from Chase the Star and I’m STOKED to share
10 fun, free (or almost free!) things to do
in my town, the beautiful
Orange County, Californ-I-A!

California is mostly known for flashy things like movie stars, silicon valley, mansions, lots of ‘bling’ etc.  Those of us who live here know that there is so much more to it!  California is naturally beautiful, has amazing weather, and friendly natives, in my opinion, a perfect combination!  While many things in Cali, namely the OC, can be costly (i.e., housing and gas!), there are many things to do for free! 
Here’s a short list of free outings my family enjoys on a regular basis:
1.  Balboa Island Ferry/Beaches – Newport Beach
We’re blessed to have miles and miles of sandy beaches where you can spend the day surfing, or enjoying all sorts of water sports.  Enjoy a bonfire at one our OC beaches, or swing by Balboa Island Fun Zone for a stroll along the boardwalk; for about a buck, you can take a scenic ride across the bay on the ferry!
2. Angel Stadium Tour – Anaheim
Spend an almost free summer afternoon experiencing our nation’s favorite pass time, baseball!   For only $3 for adults and $2 for kids, you can take a tour of Angel Stadium in Anaheim!  You’ll gain access to areas normally restricted to the public like the press box, press conference room, club house, and dugout.  Learn about the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim’s history, including notable players like Nolan Ryan, Rod Carew, and more recently Jared Weaver and Albert Pujols. This is an especially fun experience for kids, or the sports fan in your life!
3. OC’s Great Park – Irvine
This is by far the most free fun for kids in the OC!  OC’s Great Park has a carousel, food and flower gardens, a farm, weekly farmer’s markets, several playgrounds, lots of open space for picnics, and their biggest attraction of all, the balloon ride!  This is a helium balloon tethered to the ground that goes up 400 ft. in the air, where you get a breathtaking view of marvelous Orange County!  Every attraction is completely free, and there is no charge for parking.  If you visit Orange County, don’t miss OC’s Great Park in Old Town Irvine! 
4. Hiking at Chino Hills State Park – Yorba Linda
Why not get a little exercise in during your visit to the OC?  Enjoy a day of hiking at picturesque Chino Hills State Park!  There are plenty of flat areas where you can stop for photos and if you park off of Rim Crest Drive in Yorba Linda, you’ll have free access to this exquisite trail covering miles of beautiful terrain while overlooking the city lights on one side and the gorgeous canyon on the other.
5.  Bowers Museum – Santa Ana
Named after a land developer in the 1800’s, Bowers Museum has something for the whole family!  There are exhibitions, children’s art programs, lectures, and many other avenues that emphasize on learning cultural diversity through the arts in their state-of-the-art facilities!  The  Kidseum focuses on children’s education and creativity.  The first Sunday of every month is FREE for all!
6.  Surf City Nights – Huntington Beach (a.k.a., Surf City, U.S.A.)
If you’re in town on a Tuesday night, head on down to Main Street in Huntington Beach for the street fair and farmers market.  You’ll enjoy restaurant samplings, street performers, bounce houses, sidewalk sales, and much more!  Across the PCH, you’ll find the famous Surf City Pier and take in the gorgeous socal sunset over the Pacific.

7. Nightly Fireworks at Downtown Disney –  Anaheim
So you’re in town but don’t want to have to have to take out a second mortgage to afford Disneyland tickets?  Well how about free access to their fireworks display?  Every night of the week there is a brilliant fireworks display at the Disneyland castle that can be clearly viewed from Downtown Disney.  Parking is free for the first 3 hours, up to 5 hours if you validate at one of their participating restaurants, and you can stroll through the shops as you enjoy free live music in several spots throughout the complex.  There are beautiful fountains, and sidewalk exhibits as well.  So much Disney fun, for FREE!
8.  Centennial Farms – Costa Mesa
Located at the OC Fairgrounds, this year round farm gives you a fair like atmosphere, for free!  There is a fully functioning farm, barns, tractors, livestock (pigs, chickens, goats, and more).  There is a lot to be learned as each pen has a sign chock full of information on each animal.  It’s an incredible experience, and did I mention it costs zero dollars?  That goes for parking too!

9. Orange County Zoo at Irvine Park – Orange
For a day of fun under a sun filled southern California sky, visit the OC Zoo and other attractions at Irvine Park.  For just $2 per person you can visit the zoo, which has a vast array of animals to include black bears, mountain lions, bald eagle, porcupines, turkey vultures, and many more!  Other things to do at the park include, a ride on the railroad, paddle boat rentals, bike rentals, pony rides, and more!  You can even take a picnic and enjoy the lush grounds.  There is a $3 parking fee per vehicle, but you can use a coupon for the other attractions to offset that!  This place especially comes alive during holidays and the summer months!

10. Fullerton Arboretum – Fullerton
The Fullerton Arboretum houses a collection of over 4000 plants encompassing 26 acres on the well known Cal State Fullerton campus.  They have a rare fruit garden, native Californian vegetation, an 11,000 sqft. organic vegetable garden, and so much more! Admission is free but a donation is suggested (about $1 per child, $2 per adult). The Arboretum is a serene and tranquil experience nestled in the middle of the OC burbs! 
We take full advantage of outdoor activities here in Orange County!  So much to do on the cheap, or FREE!  Stop by for a visit, we’d love to meet ya!  

Love, Barbara

ps Check out more fun stuff from Barbara over at  her blog, Chase the Star!

TRIPS: Free things to do in NYC, NY

Starting May 3rd, every Thursday throughout the summer, creative bloggers from around the web are going to guest post and show us 10 fun, free, family friendly things to do in their city!  Today we’re kicking off the upcoming series with one of my very favorite cities! I bring you 29 free things to do in NYC, NY!

29 fun, free, family friendly things to do in NYC…
1: Take a cheesy, sweet picture in front of the love sculpture at 6th Avenue and W. 55th.

Free things to do in nyc, ny

2: Borrow a bag of funfrom north meadow recreation center. A photo ID will get you a wealth of bats, balls, Frisbee, jump ropes, and hula hoops. Just ask for it!  Call 212-348-4867 for more information.  The address is mid-park at 97th st.
Central Park
3: Walk/jog/skip/rent a bike across the Brooklyn Bridge. Bring a camera and take pictures of the Manhattan skyline… or the bridge :)
Free things to do in NYC, NY
4: Take the free Staten Island ferry for great views of Lady Liberty. Try to avoid the rush hour ferry from 5-6.  Enjoy a free ride around the New York Harbor and lots of fun photo ops. You will never have to wait more than 30 minutes for the next ferry!

Picture of Staten Island Ferry  - New York City - Free Pictures - 

5: Visit the Hello Deli from David Letterman take a picture with Rupert. The sandwiches are yummy too.
Free things to do in NYC, NYFree things to do in NYC, NY
6. Get free tickets to live taping of a live TV show! We’ve been to David Letterman. Remember, this requires planning ahead.
Here are some shows to see:
  1. The Daily Show
  2. Late Night w/ David Letterman
  3. The Dr. Oz Show
  4. Late night with Jimmy Fallon call: 212-664-3056
  5. Saturday night live email: [email protected] Enter a lottery for the entire season in August.
  6. The Martha Stewart Show
  7. The Rachel Ray Show
  8. Good Morning America


7: Sony Wonder Technology Lab. It’s free admission to a 4 story interactive technology wonderland! This is a must do for kids.  Call (212) 833-8100 to reserve tickets 7 days to 3 months before you plan to visit. The hours are: Tue- Sat 10-5 Sun 12-5. The address is 550 Madison Ave. at 56th St.
8: Roosevelt Island is a tiny island between Manhattan and Queens. The tram from Manhattan to the island is a 4 minute ride and offers spectacular views. It  has been praised in the New York Times as “the most exciting view in New York City!” It costs $2.25 each way ($4 for a round trip) and students with tram permits ride free.
THIS fun restaurant is right around the corner from the tram [on the Manhattan side]…
have you ever tried frozen hot chocolate? YUM!


9: Visit the World Trade Center Site and check out the memorial at the St. Paul’s Chapel 
FYI: Century 21…a wonderful discount department store is right across the street.
HERE is a post I recently did on 9/11.
I took this picture in 2008. The WTC site looks drastically different now.
10: Kayak in the Hudson for free at the Downtown Boathouse.They offer free kayaking from middle of May to the middle of October, and on many weekday evenings, weather permitting. Check the Calendar for specific dates. You can launch a free kayak from Pier 40, Pier 96 and 72nd Street. Be prepared to get a little wet!
11: Relax in the Strawberry Gardens, a 2.5 acre area of Central Park that pays tribute to the late Beatle, John Lennon, singer, songwriter, musician and peace activist of Central park. Strawberry gardens is on the west side at 72nd st].
Strawberry Fields Memorial
12: A fun free, night time summer event activity requires a little patience– stand in line, for tickets to  Shakespeare in the Park for FREE @ the Delacorte theatre :) This summer there are 2 shows playing –always starts at 8…The Merchant of Venice and The winter’s Tale!
13: Brooklyn Botanical Gardens. Free admission. 
14: Prospect Park- a 585-acre oasis in the heart of Brooklyn!! with lots of FREE fun for the kiddos including playgrounds, nature trails, carousel ride [$2.00], paddle boats, picnic tables, BBQ pits, and lots more!
Prospect Park


15: Bronx Zoo – Pay what you want on Wednesdays! This zoo and can definitively be an ALL day event [take the subway: #2 or #5 train to East Tremont Ave/West Farms Square. At street level, walk straight ahead (follow train uptown) on Boston Road 21⁄2 blocks to the Zoo’s Asia gate entrance (Gate A)]
Bronx Zoo
16: Socrates Sculpture garden– Always free admission- Take the subway- Monday through Friday take the N or W train to the Broadway stop in Queens and walk eight blocks west on Broadway (toward the East River) to the intersection of Vernon Boulevard. On Saturday and Sunday, take the N train to the Broadway stop.
17:  Grand Central Station. The current look of Grand Central was completed and open to the public in 1913. Grand Central is “constructed of glass and steel, the 100-foot wide by 650-foot long structure rivaled the Eiffel Tower and Crystal Palace for primacy as the most dramatic engineering achievement of the 19th century”.  There are lots of shops. My must stop place is Magnolia Bakery for a cupcake.

18. 5th Avenue. Window shop at all the fancy stores, check out St. Patrick’s Cathedral, see the famous Plaza Hotel, dare to go in the Apple Store glass cube (there is usually a long line), go into the famous FAO Schwarz toy store, admire the fancy uptown apartments as you head north along Central Park. 

FAO Schwartz:

FAO Schwarz

Apple retail store is open 24/7:
The Plaza is right across the street from the Apple Store:


19: MoMA: Free every Friday from 4 pm to 8 pm. Get there early, the line can wrap around the block! This is my favorite museum in NYC. The address is:11 West 53 Street. Call

212-708-9400 for more information.
20: Whitney Museum of American Art: Pay what you want Fridays from 6 pm to 9 pm! Under 18 is always free.
Whitney Museum Address
21:  Hudson River Park: Bring a picnic and enjoy the grass, sunshine, and great people watching!

22: Try to find the NYC Naked Cowboy in Times Square. I’ve also seen him roller skating the streets around Union Park! HERE is a little preview via you tube!
23: The New York City Fire Museum has free admission and is located on 278 Spring Street. The New York City fire Museum occupies a renovated 1904 Beaux-Arts firehouse built for Engine Company 30. The original apparatus doors, house watch entrance, stone floor, brass sliding pole and hose tower remind visitors of the building’s former role.Call (212) 691-1303 for more information.
24: Take a FREE tour of The Federal Reserves Bank of NY. Take the Gold Vault Tour Monday through Friday, except Bank holidays, at 9:30 a.m., 10:30 a.m., 11:30 a.m., 1:30 p.m., 2:30 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. The tour lasts approximately 60 minutes. To accommodate for security screening, arrive 20 minutes before your tour.

Electronic board on Markets floor.
25. Rent bikes. While this is not free, it is personally one of my favorite things to do in Manhattan. You can usually find a groupon to help with cost. You can rent bikes from lots of places including Bike and Roll, Gotham Bikes, or Hudson Urban Bike Rentals (this is the cheapest I’ve found for $30 a day). Ride the  Manhattan Waterfront Greenway. A 32- mile long walking and bike path around the island of Manhattan. I suggest the Hudson River Greenway because the entire path is separated from traffic and follows the river. You can rent tandems too :)
26. Union Square. Take a free, 90-minute walking tour Saturdays at 2 PM. The tour departs from the Abraham Lincoln Statue located along the 16th Street transverse. Here are the details. I love attending the farmers market every Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday from 8 AM – 6 PM. Union square comes alive at night and hosts street performers every night of the week.
27.  Self Guided Walking Tours through the neighborhoods. Here is fun map of all of the Manhattan neighborhoods. I suggest the China Town walking tour. This route is 1.6 miles and should include a stop for dumplings. I also love Greenwhich Village where you can see John Wilkes Booth and Mark Twains houses, the “Friends” Apartment building, and the narrowest home in NYC (10 feet wide)! This is a 3.5 mile stroll. 
File:Manhattan neighborhoods.png
China Town:

And there you have it, 27 fun, free, family friendly things to do in NYC. Do you have any other must do things to add to my list? I’d love to hear…

28. The High Line Park. The High Line was originally built to ensure safer travels for trains and cars in the early 1930’s. Before 1930, 10th avenue was nicknamed Death Avenue because of all of the train and street traffic accidents. The growth of interstate trucking led to a decline in the use of railroads and the high line. The last train runs on the high line in 1980. The park is renovated and fully opened to the public in June of 2011. Read more history here
Free things to do in nyc, ny

29. Chelsea Market. This market is located below the High Line at 15th Street. This is an always changing venue complete with restaurants, bakeries, markets, artists, and a flea market. Grab the kids lunch and a cupcake, while you browse the cuteness. It is open Monday – Saturday from 7am to 9pm and Sundays from 8am to 7pm.

Free things to do in nyc, ny


And there you have it… 29 free things to do in NYC. Have you and your family ever been to NYC? Do you love it? Do you hate it? Would you ever want to live there? What’s your favorite thing to do in in NYC? I’d love to hear…p.s. take a cupcake tour of downtown Manhattanp.p.s. Tales of a Trophy Wife let me know that “NYC loves the military. With a military ID you can get your entire family in free to: Museum of Natural History, and the MOMA. The USO often times gives away free Broadway tickets. The Navy Lodge on Staten Island is great and well under $100/a night for the entire family.” Check out the comments for more great tips!