Get the Most Out of the OC Fair on a Budget with Kids

the OC Fair opens today, and if yours kids are anything like mine, they are already begging to go. the OC Fair is an icon of summer here in Orange County, and every year there is a month long celebration of fair favorites. i love almost everything about the fair except for the prices. not everything is expensive, but with four kids, everything can add up. so i am sharing a list of ways on how you can Get the Most Out of the OC Fair on a Budget with Kids.

for our family, we usually go to the Fair 2-3 times each year. we usually go once, and splurge a little bit one food, rides and activities, but the rest of those day are most definitely budget days. a typical budget day will include: going on Opening Day for free or a Kids Free Day. the kids will get three free rides doing the Read & Ride program (more info below), sharing a treat, visiting Centennial Farm, checking out the exhibits, playing in the Explorium, and watching the free shows happening around the fairgrounds.

sometimes i give each kid $10 to spend how they like. if they know ahead of time, that it’s the only extra money we will be spending, i curb any begging for extra items at the Fair. plus, they get to learn about budgeting and really getting what they want.

OC Fair Ticket Deals

visit the OC for free or almost free. the OC Fair has free days, free kids days and discounts on admission prices. first things first, on Friday, July 13th, Opening Day, everyone is Free ‘Til Three (12-3 p.m.). and did i mention FREE PARKING.

• We Care Wednesdays run from noon to 3:00 p.m. just donate the specified items to each Wednesday Non-profit partner and get a FREE admission to the OC Fair and one carnival ride per person.

July 18th – School Supply Drive
(bring new school supplies valued at $5 or more, such as pens, pencils, crayons, notebooks (items must be sealed; no coloring books or workbooks)

July 25th – Share Our Selves Canned Food Drive, benefitting Second Harvest and OC Food Bank
(bring 5 canned food items)

August 1st – Children’s Book Drive, benefitting THINK Together
(3 new or gently used children’s books

August 8th – Clothing Drive, benefitting Goodwill OC
(bring 5 gently used clothing items)

Thursdays Wear Overalls Day
Guests in overalls will receive FREE admission. Valid noon to 3 p.m.

Thursdays Kids Day
Children 12 & under receive FREE Fair admission all day.


OC Fair Discount Tickets

• on Fridays, it’s Seniors Day (60+). Seniors get in for $5 plus FREE Ferris wheel and merry-go-round rides all day.

• First Responders and Law Enforcement get free admission the Week of August 8th through 12th. this includes active-duty and professional staff of the police, sheriff, fire and emergency services departments.

• on Saturdays, the OC Fair offers the “Best Deal Ever” from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. general admission is half price AND carnival rides are half off ticket redemption – that’s half the number of tickets, same amount of fun!

Sunday Fun Day is 11 a.m.-1 p.m. general admission is half price AND carnival rides are half off ticket redemption – that’s half the number of tickets, same amount of fun! or get a $35 unlimited ride wristband.

How to Save Money on OC Fair Rides

the rides are so much fun and they are one of the things that the kids beg for the most. but tickets can really add up, and each ride can cost anywhere from 3-10 tickets! yikes. here are some ways that you can get some free or discounted tickets.

did you know that your kids can get 3 free rides just for reading?!!! it’s a great deal and worth as much at 20 tickets. the OC Fair Read & Ride program allows kid ages 5-11 can read two books to earn three free carnival rides by writing a short book report on this form. and just so you know, i don’t think they are strict on ages, because i made all my kids read and write the reports last year and they all got free rides. such a great deal. completed book report forms can be redeemed for ride tickets at the Centennial Farm Information Booth during Fair hours.

• Wednesdays $35 Unlimited Carnival Ride Wristband
Enjoy all the rides you can handle for one price. (Sold until 5 p.m. Valid until 8 p.m. Wristbands must be purchased onsite. Required Fair admission sold separately.)

• on Fridays, get $2 Rides and $2 Games noon to 4:00 p.m. in the Main Carnival and Kiddie Carnival.

• Saturday Carnival Special is half off ticket redemption – that’s half the number of tickets, same amount of fun! Valid 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

• Sunday Carnival Special is half off ticket redemption – that’s half the number of tickets, same amount of fun! Or, get a $35 unlimited ride wristband. Valid 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Free Things to Do at the OC Fair

there are lots of free things to do at the Fair, you don’t even really need to buy anything to enjoy it. our favorite things are Centennial Farm, the Explorium (Kid Zone), acrobatic & hypnotists shows, arts exhibits, Culinary Exhibits, Reptile House, Pet Center, 4H exhibits, water area, garden and farm area, free rides for kids with the Read & Ride program, and browsing vendor booths.

seeing the baby animals is the most favorite activity on our list, followed by the Explorium Kid Zone shows.

How to Save Money on Food at the OC Fair

out of all the attractions and amusements at the OC Fair, the food is what can cost the most. it really adds up if everyone wants a meal, and a drink, and a treat, and another treat.

if you are on a budget and want to spend as little as possible on food, i suggest eating first and then visiting the Fair. a fair isn’t a fair without food, so plan on at least getting a treat to share. some suggestions of my favorite sharable Fair treats are – Funnel Cake (with ice cream topping), Caramel Crack Fries, Berry Treat Bowl from Sherri’s Berries, Giant Donuts (look for the Unicorn Cotton Candy Donut), Giant Foot-long Corn Dogs, Loaded Curly Fries, Fried Zucchini and the Big Skillet Cookie.

plus, on Thursdays, you can get $3 Taste of Fair Food from noon t0 4:00 p.m. its a great way to get to enjoy a variety of select fun-sized Fair treats for a value price. samples include funnel cake, tri-tip, lemonade, cinnamon rolls, tacos, gelato, cotton candy and more.

How to Save Money on OC Fair Parking

general parking is $10 everyday. you can always park for free offsite at some of the free parking lots and walk to the Fair. or you can get FREE Off-Site Parking on Saturday & Sunday and Free shuttle service from 10 a.m. to 1 a.m. at the Experian parking structure located off the Bristol Street exit of the 405 Freeway. follow the signs to “Experian.”

the OC Fair Express costs $2 each way, or 75¢ for seniors 60+ and persons with disabilities. when you ride the OC Fair Express, you will receive a coupon for $4 OC Fair admission, that’s a $10 savings! OC Fair Express buses depart from nine locations on Saturdays and Sundays throughout the duration of the Fair. if riding Metrolink, you can connect to the OC Fair Express at the Anaheim Canyon, Santa Ana, Irvine or Anaheim-ARTIC Metrolink stations. show your valid Metrolink ticket and ride the bus for free.

Now it’s time to enjoy the OC Fair!

the OC Fair runs for a whole month, this year it runs from July 13th through August 12th. hopefully with these tips and tricks, you can visit multiple times and not break the bank.

The Kids Loved Visiting Bricks & Minifigs in Fullerton

Bricks & Minifigs in Fullertontoday, i surprised the boys and took them to the newest store in Orange County – Bricks & Minifigs in Fullerton. as you probably guessed, Bricks & Minifigs sells LEGOS! but it’s not like “the” Lego Store. it’s an aftermarket LEGO shop specializing in only new and used LEGO® items. they buy and trade all kinds of LEGO products, from tubs of bulk to storage unit sized collections. as long as it’s LEGO® brand, they will take it!

Bricks & Minifigs is actually a change store, but it is the first one located on Southern California. inside, you will find hundreds of individual minifigs, bulk bricks, components and accessories. if you are looking for a rare piece or minifig, or if your kids want to sell their extra Legos, then this is a fun store. my boys loved looking at all the minifies in the display cases. and they took over deciding what they wanted to buy.

all of the minifigs on display have prices according to their popularity, rarity and condition. you can find minifigs for $5 and minifigs for $25+. many of the minifigs were once part of larger Lego sets that are no missing pieces or found for sale on eBay. or maybe someone had two of the same and wanted to trade. there were even animals, accessories, and base plates.

another fun area is the bulk brick section. you will find thousands of pieces of Lego here. and it’s better that the Lego Store’s bulk section, because there are lots of unique and rare pieces….not just bins of the same color of overstock pieces. you can fill up tubs or bags for as little as $10 up to $40. there is everything in there, so be prepared to have kids take a long time to make their selections.

when you sell your Legos to Bricks & Minifigs, they will either give you cash or store credit to buy more Legos. you will get more store credit than cash, and the amount of cash/store credit is based on multiple factors – condition, rarity, availability, how old, etc. you can even sell Lego sets (with or without missing pieces) or anything that is Lego brand. you can buy it all too! this store has a lot of unique things…and it’s going to get better and better as time goes on. right now, the selection is small (actually there is quite a bit)…but as more people buy and sell, the more variety there’ll be.

best of all, this particular Bricks & Minifigs happens to owned by a local Orange County mom. so head on down and check out the store. your kids will be very excited and it makes a fun couple hours out. bring your extra Lego sets or some minifigs to sell. my boys were so excited to spend their allowance money.

a fun and colorful store, with lots to explore.

and while you are in Fullerton, head over to my favorite bulk popsicle store, Deelite Distribution, and get a box of popsicles. it’s literally less than two miles away. we stocked up. SUCH. A. FUN. DAY.

Orange County Summer Bucket List and Free Printable

Orange County is truly unique. our weather is beautiful, we have great beaches, lots of fun family-friendly amenities to enjoy in our communities, and did i mention the beaches…oh yeah, i did! well, i often get asked what are my favorite activities to enjoy with kids in Orange County, so i decided to put together an Orange County Summer Bucket List of things to do with the kids during the summer, so that you can experience OC like i do. the list includes a bunch of freebie activities, some cheap or moderately priced activities, and just a couple more pricey activities. this way you can budget out your summer accordingly and not break the bank. i have even included this FREE PRINTABLE so you can enjoy this bucket list as much as us!

 Click Here to Download the Orange County Summer Bucketlist Free Printable

feel free to swap out any activities that don’t look like they will work for your family. here are my TOP PICKS!

Orange County Summer Bucket List

1. Go to the Beach – we have tons of beaches that are great for families. my top picks are Corona Del Mar, Newport Pier and Balboa Beaches. these all have restrooms near the sand, and close parking. i also love Victoria Beach because of the unique castle tower and cement pools, Treasure Island Beach, and Crystal Cove (all in Laguna)…although the walks are a bit of a hassle. Or if you want to go to the tide pools, here is a list of family-friendly tide pools in Orange County.

2. Ride the Balboa Ferry and Visit the Balboa Fun Zone – we love the Balboa Fun Zone. i love to take the kids across to the island on the ferry and go to the little park or walk along the beach. the ferry is very cheap, and if you pack a picnic, it can be a very inexpensive day. back on the boardwalk there are fun things to do like the ferris wheel or arcade, and there is a candy store where you give the kids a couple dollars to get a few pieces of candy.

3. Go to Adventure Playground in Huntington Beach – this is a tradition of ours every year. the Tom Sawyer Rafts are so much fun. i dread the day when my kids are too old to go. Kids are $4 and adults are free. You can get more information about Adventure Playground here.

4. Go to a Concert in the Park – check out this list of over 100 outdoor concerts in the park or beach to find a concert near you.

5. Visit a Splash Pad – there are lots of great splash pads in Orange County. My favorite is the splash pad at Crown Valley Community Park, but you can find some more on my list of 101 Things to Do With Kids in Orange County.

6. Go to Adventure Playground in Irvine – this is an awesome park where kids can play to their hearts content. there are giant legos to build with, play structures, water fun, games, books, dirt, mud, and so much more. if your kids like to get dirty, they can, if they don’t, you can definitely play without getting too messy. you can read more about Adventure Playground here.

7. Experience Ghost Town Alive! – happening Knott’s Berry Farm. at this is the best interactive fun you can get at an amusement park. the Ghost Town characters help you solve mystery, play games, tell stories, and give you tasks all over Calico. you can dress up or just follow along. it’s definitely one of my favorites at Knott’s. you can read about it here.

8. Go to a Movie in the Park or Beach – grab some beach chairs, a blanket, a picnic and some movie snacks and head to one of these OC Movies in the Park for and evening under the stars.

9. Go to Zoomars – this little petting zoo is located in the historic district of San Juan Capistrano. you can feed the guinea pigs and animals fresh veggies, ride a train, play in the corn pit or ride a pony. check it out here.

10. Get a Box of Popsicles at Deelite Distribution – this is the best popsicle wholesaler in Orange County. you can get all the fancy ice cream treat you find at your local ice cream truck, except for better prices so that you can stock your freezer. don’t forget to bring cash.  read about Deelite Distribution here.

11. Go to Irvine Regional Park – Ride the train or go to the OC Zoo. there is a lake where you can rent a paddle boat or trails to rent out bikes and surreys. make sure to check out the Irvine Park Railroad website for some fun deals.

12. Get an Ice Cream Treat from a Local OC Hotspot – there are so many places to get a magical, awesome ice cream treat. here is a list of great OC treat places to help you find one.

13. Go to Discovery Cube OC – we love visiting the Cube all summer long. there are lots of exhibits to explore, and the cooking classes are the best. highly recommend getting an annual pass for the family. and right now there is a dinosaur exhibit. get more information here.

14. Go to Crystal Cove and Get a Shake from the Shake Shack – Crystal Cove is a great beach for the whole family. read about it here, and make sure to top it off with a milkshake from the Ruby’s Shake Shack!

15. Visit the Oso Creek Fairy Trail – this is my new favorite here in the OC. there are over 30 fairy houses to find on the family-friendly trail. read about it here.

16. Go to Knott’s Soak City – Orange County’s biggest water park. located across from Knott’s, there are lots of water slides, a wave pool, kiddie area and lazy river. you can read about it here.

17. Go Swimming – this will be an easy one to cross off the list. summer is all about swimming.

18. Go Bowling for Free – there are two programs that let your kids bowl free or almost free all summer. check them out here and here.

19. Go to Marina Park in Newport – if you have little kids, Marina Park is a great park to let them swim in the ocean or play on the playground. there is a sandy area with a bay to enjoy and the restrooms and parking are close. read about it here.

20. Go Indoor Rock Climbing – Sender One has some great indoor rock climbing courses. try your hand at the big kid/adult course, or take the family and kids to Sender City! read about it here.

21. Sign-up for the Summer Reading Program at the Local Library – did you know that most of the local library have games and prizes included in their summer reading programs? our gave out coupons for free kids meals at one of our favorite restaurants. its a great way to get out of the house and encourage those kids to read!

22. Visit Pacific Marine Mammal Center – you can read about it here.

23. Have a Beach Bonfire – one of my best memories as a child is roasting hotdogs and marshmallows on sticks over a bonfire at Corona Del Mar beach. the ocean breeze blowing cool air as we warmed up against the hot blazing fire. here is a great list of all the places you can have a bonfire in Orange County and some great tips too!

22. Go to the OC Fair – the fair begins in the middle of July and goes through the middle of August. it has all sorts of things to do….everything fair related you can think of. it’s a tradition of so many OC families. you can check it out here. make sure to look for the deals and specials to save some moola.

now that you have checked out my Orange County Summer Bucket List, you can print out your own bucket list. just print the FREE PRINTABLE below. then, put it into an 8 x 10″ frame. have the kids check off the activities as you finish them…see how many you can complete before summer’s end. if you don’t prefer one of the activities, just swap it out. ENJOY!!!!

 Click Here to Download the Orange County Summer Bucketlist Free Printable

Celebrating Dad at Dana Point Harbor

This is a sponsored post.

 this Father’s Day, you can celebrate dad at the Dana Point Harbor in Orange County. there will be a Father’s Day Fine Art Sale begging at 9:30 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. created by local award-winning artists. there will be watercolors, oils, colored pencil drawings, photography, and more. you can enjoy the artwork or spend some time with dad trying some fun ocean activities, enjoy one of the dining specials, and shop along the boardwalk. there are some great gift shops, boutiques, jewelers, and more art stores. (Read to the bottom for an awesome giveaway!)

we recently took our dad to the Dana Point Harbor and went whale watching at Dana Wharf Whale Watching. we had a blast. the cruise was so much fun – we got an in depth tour of Dana Point Harbor while we scanned the ocean for whales and other sea life.

my kids are all ages, and each of them had a unique experience and enjoyed different parts of the cruise best. most of all, they were super happy to get to hang out with dad all day long.

during our whale watching cruise, we got lucky and saw 3 different whales, sea lions and a bunch of dolphins.

the views didn’t disappoint either. the ocean was sparkling under the OC sun, and the fresh ocean breeze spoiled us! the whole family had an amazing time.

plus we ended our day with a yummy dinner at one of the many dining spots at Dana Point Harbor. there are many options for ocean front dining, plus there are options of family-friendly, fine dining and quick and easy. here is a complete list of restaurants. and we made sure to leave room for dessert…ice cream of course!

on Father’s Day, Dana Wharf Sportfishing & Whale Watching will be having a special Father’s Day Dinner Cruise featuring live music, a barbecue dinner and more. if your dad likes sport fishing, you could book a fishingtrip to celebrate. get 25% off a fishing or whale watching trip in June for dad if you head over to the website to book. additional whale watching excursions are also available from the Captain Dave’s Dolphin & Whale Watching Safari or the Ocean-Institute.

there are also lots of fun activities that you can experience – take to the water in a kayak or paddle board and experience the harbor in a whole new way. dad might event love to go jet-skiing for Father’s Day weekend! and if you are looking to relax, you can head down to the beach for some good old sunshine.

if you don’t have time to head over for Father’s Day, head over any day during the summer….OR consider spending the 4th of July there. Dana Point Harbor will be having a July 4th Fireworks Extravaganza!!!! it’s one of south Orange County’s best aerial fireworks displays on the 4th and lights up the harbor with fantastic views from Baby Beach, the Island, and the many waterfront eateries within the harbor. you can even tune the radio to listen to patriotic music that follows the show.

Celebrate summertime holidays at Dana Point Harbor and experience the ultimate seaside adventure all summer long. For more information visit

Happy Father’s Day Dad!

Giveaway Time!

here is your chance to win a family 4-Pack of Tickets to go Whale Watching at Dana Wharf  Sport Fishing & Whale Watching!!! just enter via Rafflecopter below or on Facebook. contest ends June 14, 2018 at midnight. winner will be chosen randomly and must be 18 years or older and a resident of the United States. Good luck!!!!

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Fun with Inside the Outdoors Plus a Giveaway

Inside the Outdoors is a awesome hands-on environmental education program that’s mission is to empower kids and adults in the community to explore natural areas and expand their knowledge. the curriculum created for the Inside the Outdoors programs is aligned with California Science and Social Science standards and allows participants to experience real-life nature experiences. last year, the kids and i were invited to visit one of the Inside the Outdoors Summer Day Camps and had a blast! so i wanted to tell you a little bit about it. (Make sure to read to the end for a free camp giveaway!)

Inside the Outdoors offers lots of different nature programs to the community – from field trips to day camp to community events. they make nature fun and exciting to learn and experience. the summer day camps are especially fun. my kids didn’t want to leave! and if we lived a bit closer, we would be going to every session. the summer camps take place weekly at either Rancho Soñado, Shipley’s Nature Center, or Irvine Park. each week has a different theme, so your kids could go to every session and still have a great time.

my little campers attended the Inside the Outdoors Summer Camp at Shipley’s Nature Center. it took place in both the park and inside the nature center…it was a day full of fun!

we started out our day crafting…making name tags on slices of tree logs. we got to pick our camp name which was a lot of fun. each of the camp counselors had a fun nickname, which the kids loved to call them by. and i especially loved to see how much the kids admired and loved their camp counselors.

then we got to tie dye shirts. we learned the different methods to get the different patterns, and also colors. the counselors were very patient with Vann. he was really shy and also nervous to do the tie dying. by the end, he was having a blast.

next up we did crafts and then had lunch.

at lunch, they have a contest each day to see which group brought the lunches with the least garbage. the kids recycled all their trash and weighed the non-recyclable items to find out who had the least garbage. it was a great learning lesson.

then it was game time. the counselors played all sorts of fun games in the park with the kids. it was great to see the kids having so much fun out in nature, and they got all sorts of exercise and fresh air.

finally, to end the day, we went on a nature walk through Shipley’s Nature Center. it’s really beautiful and you can see all sorts of wildlife. there is also a creek, and different trails to explore. and there is a nature center with interpretive activities and information on the creatures you will spot in the nature center.

it was pretty amazing to look up and see so many egret nests in the trees. these are the kind of experiences i want my kids to enjoy!

the Inside the Outdoors summer day camps are great for kids who want to enjoy the outdoors and be with other kids their own ages. the counselors are great and plan fun activities for the kids. there is no time for the kids to get bored or to play electronics! also, if a high schooler wants to get service hours for school, they can volunteer to be a Jr. Naturalist, and help out at one of the camps.

it was such a fun day for the kids. we met so many nice people and learn lots about nature…one of the things i love most about living in Orange County. hopefully, i can enroll the boys in one of the weekly camps this summer. they are priced competitively too. and if you need extended care, they also offer that.

Inside the Outdoors Summer Camp Giveaway!

two people have the chance to win a 1 week campership to Inside the Outdoors summer camp!!! just enter via Rafflecopter below or on Facebook. contest ends June 6, 2018 at midnight. winner will be chosen randomly and must be 18 years or older and a resident of the United States. Good luck!!!!
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{Disclosure: We were invited guests of Inside the Outdoors. All thoughts and opinions are 100% my own.}