Live Santa Ana
Credit: Kambria Fischer

11 Date Ideas in Orange County That Cost Less Than $25

Here’s How to Treat Your Sweetheart in OC Without Spending a Fortune

Listen up, friends! We put together a guide that guarantees fun and romance in Orange County without breaking the bank. Pin it, save it, share it—from galleries and gardens to grub, these are partner-friendly pursuits your wallet will worship. Here are 11 date ideas in OC that promise champagne taste on a beer budget.

YouTube video


Explore Sherman Library & Gardens

Price: $5

Sure, you’ve probably passed this Corona del Mar landmark on a coastal cruise down PCH. You may have even explored their annual Halloween boutique or Night of 1,000 Lights event,  but there is so much more to discover at this horticultural oasis. Admission to Sherman Library & Gardens costs $5 per person, so you can easily admire the beauty of this special place at an affordable price. While you’re here, you’ll want to wander through the Tropical Conservatory, the Succulent Garden and the Tea Garden—a charming patio with delicate blooms of begonias, fuchsias and impatiens. Sherman also offers creative classes and story time for all ages. While there’s an on-site restaurant called 608 Dahlia, you’ll likely want to stick to your low-key plan and walk across the street for a budget-friendly slice at Johnny’s The Bronx Pizza.

Location: Corona del Mar


Visit the Orange County Museum of Art

Price: Free

Who doesn’t love free admission? At the Orange County Museum of Art (OCMA), art enthusiasts and creative curiosos alike are welcome to appreciate this dynamic gallery, which is located next to the Segerstrom Center for the Arts. Check out OCMA’s calendar to scope out current exhibits, like Tony Lewis’ “CASUAL T” and Alice Neel’s “Feels Like Home.” When you’ve worked up an appetite, head over to Hashigo Korean Kitchen and share a plate of curry fries and a bottle of soju, or if you’re thirsty, look up any number of dive bars in the area that’ll keep the thrift theme going.

Location: Costa Mesa


Spend a Day at The OC Zoo

Price: $2 

Cheap Date Ideas OC
Credit: Danielle Kennedy

This might be one of the least expensive options on the list (other than free): a visit to The OC Zoo for only $2 per person! Located in Irvine Regional Park, this mini-zoo is an approachable and responsible way to meet some of our native wild animals—think black bears, mountain lions, ocelots and more. Many of the animals here were found injured or orphaned and are not able to be released back into the wild, so this sanctuary is now their home. Be sure to walk over to the train for a leisurely ride through the plentiful acreage, and be on the lookout for the free-range peacocks that frequent the park. If you’re feeling extra flirty, you can partake in the paddleboat rentals and surprise your paramour with a picnic by the pond. Parking is $3 during the week and $5 on the weekend.

Location: Irvine



Grab a Latte at Hidden House Coffee

Price: $12 and up

Cheap Date Ideas OC
Credit: Hidden House Coffee

Take note: This is the ultimate day-date itinerary. For $12 (roundtrip), you can hop on the Metrolink Orange County Line in Irvine and take a short ride down to San Juan Capistrano, where you’ll exit in the heart of the ultra-charming Los Rios District. Directly adjacent to the train station is Hidden House Coffee, a quaint cafe serving up buzzy beverages and pastries. Once you’re both caffeinated, get curious and explore the nearby town. Stop and shop at some of the local purveyors that feature historic relics from San Juan’s Western days. And if you’re feeling cute, grab a photo inside The Tea House on Los Rios’ pink phone booth.

Location: San Juan Capistrano



Take the Ferry Across to Balboa Island

Price: $1.50 and up

Cheap Date Ideas OC
Credit: Balboa Island Ferry

Want to relive your childhood? Hit up the iconic and nostalgic fun zone on Balboa Island, and try to score a smooch at the top of the Ferris wheel. Show off your Skee-ball skills in the arcade and split a Jane’s Corndog before boarding the Balboa Island Ferry for a quick cruise across the channel. At $1.50 per person, this is one boat ride that won’t empty your wallet. Once you get on the island, stroll the boardwalk all the way around to Marine Ave, where you can stop for a frozen banana or famous chocolate-dipped Balboa Bar—the ultimate wallet-friendly treat! The ferry runs until midnight daily.

Location: Newport Beach


Explore Noguchi Garden

Price: Free

Located inside the Pacific Arts Plaza in Costa Mesa is a hidden gem called Noguchi Garden. This small, contemporary sculpture garden was created to represent the state of California and incorporates organic materials and photo-friendly backdrops. The artist behind these striking designs is Isamu Noguchi, who based each piece on six California elements: Land Use, Desert Land, Forest Walk, Water Use, Water Source and Energy Fountain. Explore this serene architectural oasis (for free!) any day of the week between 8 a.m. and midnight.

Location: Costa Mesa


Enjoy a Sunset Picnic at Salt Creek Beach Park

Price: Free (plus parking and provisions)

Credit: T M on Unsplash

Salt Creek Beach is known as a surfer’s paradise, but it is also known for the gigantic hill that separates the city from sand. This grassy knoll is the ideal spot for soaking in a California sunset. Here’s the scoop on how to make your date memorable. Step 1: Pack a blanket or something water-resistant to sit on. Step 2: Assemble provisions. (Monarch Beach Market is located up the road and has all the right snacks and sips to keep you satiated during your sunset soirée.) Step 3: Park in the Salt Creek Beach parking lot, which costs $1 per hour. Step 4: Get cozy and enjoy the epic views!

Location: Dana Point



See a Comedy Show at The Rec Room

Price: Free to $20


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Jonny Loquasto (@jquasto)

Do you want to know the No. 1 ingredient of a successful date? Laughter. That’s why seeing a comedy show at new venue The Rec Room is your secret to winning date night. Shows range from free (for open mic nights) to $20 for more well-known performers, and they serve you dinner and drinks while you enjoy the routine. They have a strict two-item minimum per guest; all shows are 21+, unless otherwise noted. And while most of their shows are stand-up, they do host magicians every now and again if you’re looking to add a little magic to your next date night. Check out their event schedule here.

Location: Huntington Beach


Grab Sandwiches at Wigz

Price: $10-16

There’s a new sandwich shop in town, and they are serving up some of our favorite hoagies. Grab a classic like the turkey bacon avocado or pesto grilled cheese, and take it to-go for a picnic in Bluebird Park or down at Woods Cove Beach. Just be sure to pack out what you pack in. These loaded sandos range from $10-16 and will give you the proper sustenance to keep your day-date going strong. After some fun in the sun, walk up to Mozambique to enjoy their happy hour. All sunsets should be served with a side of sangria!

Location: Laguna Beach


Attend the Santa Ana ArtWalk

Price: Free

The Santa Ana ArtWalk is a free showcase that takes place from 6-10 p.m. every first Saturday of the month and includes live art, gallery shows, live entertainment, local vendors and a whole lotta fun. You’ll get to witness art being created while meandering through the arts village. Visit some of our favorite mom-and-pops like Comadres Cookies and Bad Sissy Crochet. Check out the ArtWalk’s map to pick your pit stops!

Location: Santa Ana


Grab Beers at Everywhere Beer

Price: $5 and up

For the couple that loves a day date on draught, there’s Everywhere Beer in Orange. Open from 11 a.m. until 10 p.m. daily, you won’t be able to help but smile at the happy face-adorned interior as you sip on a pint of hazy goodness. You can get a half-pour for $5 and a full pour for $9. They host food pop-ups—so you aren’t drinking on an empty stomach—and they offer seltzer alternatives for non-beer drinkers.

Location: Orange


+ posts
Jane Adler is a marketing and branding consultant by trade, but a writer by preference. She shares a name with Meryl Streep's iconic character from It's Complicated and is presently trying to manifest that life (particularly that Santa Barbara house) for herself. Jane is an avid consumer of content and carbs and often used the latter to write on the former.




Related Content

Azure Palm Hot Springs
Skip to content