Blake Walsh

15 Free Things to Do in Anaheim, CA

  • Published 2022/11/18

Anaheim may be primarily known for Disneyland, but this city also boasts many recreational spots.

Located in Orange County, California, this city bristles with life through its convention activities and exquisite dining centers.

To top it all off, most of its walkable shopping districts are free to the public!

Before it became the avenue of free and affordable entertainment, it was also the home of many early German settlers in 1857.

Anaheim came from the words “ana,” an allusion to the nearby Santa Ana river, and “heim,” the German word for home.

Incorporated in 1867, Anaheim’s tight-knit small town welcomed a school and an opera house, the first public buildings in the area.

Several decades later, Anaheim combined innovation and economic success, becoming the second-largest city within Orange County.

Without further ado, here are the free things to do in Anaheim, CA, that might help you plan your budget-friendly trip.

Try Local and International Cuisine at Anaheim Packing District

Exterior of Anaheim Packing District

Joppi Martin /

Anaheim Packing District showcases the distinctive food culture in Anaheim.

This upscale dining center on South Anaheim Boulevard brings together this city’s tastiest dishes all in one place.

Established in 2014, this center is inside the historic Anaheim Packing House.

You might think it has become a forest-inspired wonderland because of its twinkling fairy lights and greenery decorated to depict a smooth urban-chic environment.

Interior of Anaheim Packing District

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Best of all, Anaheim Packing District’s restaurants enjoy variety so that you will find a meal according to your preferences.

Travel to many places, including Japan, India, and France, with the delectable dishes and treats onsite.

Whether you’re staying for a heavy meal or a snack, this district has everything you need.

Watermelon shaved snow at Anaheim Packing District

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Watch the Ducks Swim at Yorba Regional Park

A wood duck at Yorba Regional Park

Mike’s Birds from Riverside, CA, US, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Yorba Regional Park should be on your itinerary if you plan to relax with the whole family.

This historic mile-wide park offers a stunning view of the Santa Ana River.

Established in 1976, this public park spans 140 acres of grass and includes a lovely grove of trees standing in the backdrop.

Bicycle trails circle the park with over 40 picnic areas for your much-needed break.

Yorba Regional Park’s expansive lawns are also ideal for some kite-flying and frisbee activities.

On top of all these, four lakes connect along some parts of the park, offering better spots for fishing and boating.

If you’ve got your eye set on this refreshing park area, drive down East La Palma Avenue to reach the Yorba Regional Park.

View the Exhibitions at Carnegie Gallery

Exterior of the Carnegie Gallery

mikeledray /

Located on South Anaheim Boulevard, Carnegie Gallery is a city treasure you are free to explore!

This historical landmark was once called Carnegie Library in 1908 and served as the city library until 1963.

Afterward, it housed the Anaheim Museum in 1987.

By 2007, it had become part of the Muzeo Museum and Cultural Center as a historical and art refuge for locals and travelers.

While you can’t access the rest of Muzeo without paying a small fee, the Carnegie Gallery is free and encourages donations.

View current exhibits at this gallery and learn something new from the artifacts and works displayed there.

Follow Various Trails at Oak Canyon Nature Center

Anaheim’s array of urban entertainment may catch your eye, but nothing beats nature for outdoor recreation cravings.

Oak Canyon Nature Center can satisfy all your senses while also getting you closer to nature, untouched and beautified.

This natural park in Anaheim Hills on East Walnut Canyon Road extends to 58 acres.

With three adjoining canyons flanking its side and hiking trails past four miles, it’s an ideal spot for those not experienced in nature exploration.

You are in for a nature-filled surprise from the Stream and Heritage Trail to the Roadrunner Ridge.

Its most photographed spot is an area underneath the canopy of wide-spaced branches on oak woodland.

The spot feels like a scene from a fairytale, with sunlight streaming through the cracks between the branches.

If you want to take a photo of this oak tree phenomenon, you must secure a permit at the Oak Canyon Nature Center.

If you’re lucky enough, you might spot a gold-spotted oak borer beetle along your journey.

Catch a Free Outdoor Concert at Pearson Park Amphitheatre

Exterior of Pearson Park Amphitheatre

Steve Cukrov /

For outdoor entertainment, Pearson Park Amphitheatre brings you the best of Anaheim and more.

Since 1933, this amphitheater on North Lemon Street has become the go-to venue for many free festivals and concerts within the area.

Its Spanish-style outdoor architecture is a breathtaking change from the modern buildings across downtown Anaheim.

Chairs at Pearson Park Amphitheatre

Steve Cukrov /

Mexican fan palms also line the outside, offering a refreshing atmosphere on your way in and out of the venue.

This 1927-built amphitheater houses over 2,000 guests.

One of Pearson Park Amphitheatre’s most recent concerts was the Santanaways, the culmination of the 2022 Summer Nights Under the Stars festival series.

Enjoy the Murals at Anaheim GardenWalk

Signage of Anaheim GardenWalk

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Anaheim GardenWalk on Disney Way is the city’s best spot for your outdoor shopping adventure.

This center is home to many shops, boutiques, bakeries, and more.

Go up the rainbow-colored steps from its entrance to a circular platform where a pavilion sits.

However, the centerpiece of this outdoor center is Art on the Walk.

The plaza of Anaheim GardenWalk

The Image Party /

Art on the Walk is an art-centered program that features over 30 artists and their masterpieces in murals and art in windows.

Anaheim GardenWalk also hosts a quarterly event where artists can put up their works for sale.

Come by for the holidays and find the entire place decorated with extravagant lights and enchanting decor.

Enjoy the Night Lights at the Center Street Promenade

Street sign of Center Street Promenade

Steve Cukrov /

If you prefer to explore central Anaheim on foot, the Center Street Promenade has your back.

This fashionable district exposes you to the best chic shops and new loft apartments, providing the best California urban getaway.

Find yourself lost in the lively streets with palm trees around you and the calming view of the sky ahead.

You can head over to Look Boutique if you need a new addition to your wardrobe.

Shops at Center Street Promenade

Steve Cukrov /

Home Eco:nomics keeps you up to date on the most modern jewelry and housewares.

Gypsy Den and K&A Downtown Café are your best options for a lovely snack and a quick break from your city expedition.

Make room in your itinerary for a relaxing walk on the Center Street Promenade.

Good Food restaurant at Center Street Promenade

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Join a Free Public Tour at Founders’ Park

Celebrate Anaheim’s heritage with a stop at Founders’ Park.

This site features two historic homes: the 1857 Mother Colony House and the Woelke-Stoffel House.

A Carriage House is among the newest onsite buildings, with a vegetable garden and sundial supply opportunities.

In the new outbuildings, there’s more space for activities and exhibits depicting Anaheim in its earliest and thriving years.

The Moreton Bay Fig Tree, amidst the 19th-century landscape, provides the ideal backdrop for your immersive historical excursion.

Besides its historical significance, this park is a worthwhile venue for tea parties, corporate events, and weddings.

Find Founders’ Park on North West Street, admission-free!

Walk along the Magical Streets of the Downtown Disney District

Shops at Downtown Disney District

Kit Leong /

Your little one will love Anaheim more when you take them around Downtown Disney District.

This avenue combines some of Disney’s prominent characters and storylines in a modern district of shops and stalls.

From eateries to apparel stores, this shopping center has everything you could look for in the streets.

Marvel at the fresh, aromatic bread at La Brea Bakery Cafe.

Bright umbrellas at Downtown Disney District

Kit Leong /

For quick bites, go for the pretzels served at Wetzel’s Pretzels.

Hand-in-hand, your and your little one’s amusement is guaranteed when walking along this district’s streets.

Unlike other Disney-focused venues, including theme parks, you don’t have to pay anything in this district.

Downtown Disney District is right on Disneyland Drive, awaiting your arrival.

Lego store at Downtown Disney District

Kit Leong /

Admire the Anaheim Regional Transportation Intermodal Center

Exterior of the Anaheim Regional Transportation Intermodal Center

Kit Leong /

Anaheim Regional Transportation Intermodal Center, or ARTIC, is a transportation provider hub on East Katella Avenue.

From trains, buses, and taxis, many transportation options will help you reach your destination quickly and effortlessly.

Before departing for your next destination, marvel at the architecture of Anaheim Regional Transportation Intermodal Center first.

Interior of the Anaheim Regional Transportation Intermodal Center

Kit Leong /

This center’s innovative architecture calls attention to its dome shape.

Diamond-shaped arches blend in an impressive display of artificial lights complementing natural daylight.

If that isn’t awe-inspiring enough, this transit center is also one of the first LEED Platinum-certified centers in the world.

View of the Anaheim Regional Transportation Intermodal Center at night

Kit Leong /

Practice Your Skating at Manzanita Park

Established in 1972, Manzanita Park offers a refreshing break from Anaheim’s busy, crowded streets.

This park spans 7.5 acres and houses a large play area for your children.

It also has a football field, a soccer field, and walking trails.

Remarkably, its skate park is wide enough for you to practice your skateboarding skills and tricks.

Enjoy the peace and solitude at Manzanita Park on North Riviera Street.

Other Things to Do Nearby

If you’ve toured all the spots listed above, worry not because Anaheim’s neighboring cities also have free memorable sites.

View Unique Plant Collections at Fullerton Arboretum

Bacon pavilion at Fullerton Arboretum

Steve Cukrov /

Have you got an eye for plants and flowers?

Then, a stop by Fullerton Arboretum may offer you a scenic escapade in Fullerton, California, eight minutes from Anaheim.

This arboretum is a free center that upgrades your wildlife exploration and research to the next level.

With over 4,000 plant species, this botanical garden may be your best bet for afternoon recreation.

Cactus at Fullerton Arboretum

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Bring your camera as you stroll around the Desert Collection and meet a variety of native desert herbs and greenery.

There’s a Child’s Garden and other exciting trails and exhibits to look out for.

From Anaheim, it will take you about 11 minutes to reach Fullerton Arboretum on Associated Road in Fullerton.

Flowers at Fullerton Arboretum

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Explore the Railcar Collection at Fullerton Train Museum

At the neighboring city of Fullerton, brush up on your train and railroad history knowledge with a trip to Fullerton Train Museum.

This museum showcases a growing collection of railcars.

From the 20s transit cars to the decorated lounge cars of the 40s, the diversity in equipment can make you feel nostalgic for the rail industry.

Notably, most of the rail equipment on display still works.

Sign up for a guided tour to make the most of your trip to this remarkable outdoor museum.

It only takes six minutes from Anaheim to reach Fullerton Train Museum on East Santa Fe Avenue, Fullerton.

Check Out the Local Art at the Hilbert Museum of California Art

Exterior of the Hilbert Museum of California Art

Steve Cukrov /

In Orange, California, add a splash of color to your adventure by going to the Hilbert Museum of California Art.

The Hilbert Museum of California Art perfectly brings the California Scene Painting movement to life with its displayed artworks.

Since 2016, this museum has celebrated 20th-century California artists and their use of oil, watercolor, and other media.

The figurative art tells the story of change within the borders of California, both in art style and muse.

Take your partner on a romantic date to this museum and get to know them better while exploring exquisite art.

Scheduled rotating exhibits are also available, so watch out for them!

This art gallery on North Atchison Street takes about 12 minutes by car if you travel from Anaheim to Orange.

Bring Your Kids to the Spray Pool in Lemon Park

Lemon Park is a city park that promises fun and excitement for the whole family.

With its shaded playground areas, your little one’s afternoon fun is guaranteed.

This park also has picnic areas, sports courts, and barbecue facilities to ensure the best for your visit.

Best of all, Lemon Park has a Spray Pool where you and your children can come and play, especially when the summer Fullerton sun hits full force.

Come and join the fun for free!

Take a seven-minute drive from Anaheim to reach this park on South Lemon Street in Fullerton.

Final Thoughts

Without a doubt, Anaheim’s collection of public nature preserves and parks make the city a must-see travel destination for those within their budget.

There’s always something to do in this city that requires your presence and curious mind.

Whether you follow this guide or play it by ear, you should enjoy the best things to do in Anaheim, California!

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