Orange County, or “The OC,” is one of the most iconic counties in the United States, in huge part thanks to its gorgeous beaches, trails, upscale communities, and countless mentions in the film and television industry. Orange County has everything necessary for a great holiday or weekend trip. Beaches, museums, restaurants, and shopping malls offer something for everyone, and of course the sunny weather of Southern California is a major draw.
More ideas: Best Beaches, Best Weekend Getaways, Best Day Trips
1. Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve
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More than 1,300 acres of coastal estuary await guests at the Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve with the possibility to spot a wide variety of animals. While exploring the open water, salt marsh, coastal dunes, freshwater marsh, mudflats, seabird nesting islands, and riparian habitat, it is more than likely that guests will observe at least a few of the 200+ avian species located within the reserve. The site, which is now under continual restoration to reverse degradation, was historically used for natural gas and oil production activities. Hiking and tours are available. Things to Do in Huntington Beach
Huntington Beach, CA 92648, Phone: 714-846-1114
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© Adventure City
Adventure City is a family-themed adventure park with a variety of attractions to keep everyone entertained. Attractions are offered for children and adults of all heights, ages, interests, and energy levels; everything ranging from a small rollercoaster to a climbing wall, an arcade, party station, and even a petting zoo. Adventure City is available for large groups as well as corporate events, and no matter how many or how few guests come together, parking is always free. After an adventure-filled day, guests can enjoy all their favorite theme park foods such as pizza, corn dogs, ice cream, churros, and more. Things to Do in Anaheim
1238 South Beach Blvd, Anaheim, CA 92804, Phone: 714-236-9300
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Angels Stadium is a unique way to experience America’s favorite pastime. The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim have been working to perfect their sport since 1961, entertaining millions of fans over the years in Angels Stadium. There are a variety of ways to customize the baseball experience, and Angels Stadium offers many economical options. Single, group, military and first responder, season, and discount tickets are all offered as well as special promotions and events that can be found on the Angels website. Day and evening games are available depending on the schedule, but both offer a great way to experience a day out at a ball game.
2000 E Gene Autry Way, Anaheim, CA 92806, Phone: 714-940-2000
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4.Balboa Fun Zone
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Dating back to 1936, the Balboa Fun Zone Ferris wheel has been a prominent day and night landmark on the Newport Harbor scene. Whether patrons are searching for a fun date to the beach, a special night out on the town, or perhaps a picturesque ride high above the skyline, the Balboa Peninsula of Newport Beach is a wonderful destination choice. Ferries are available to carry passengers to surrounding islands and a historic pier still stands in the sight of Glen Martin’s historic first water-to-water flight from Balboa to Catalina Island in 1912.
600 East Bay Ave #R, Newport Beach, CA 92661, Phone: 949-438-6273
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© Bowers Museum
The fine arts have never been more accessible in Orange County than they are now, thanks to the prestigious Bowers Museum. Accredited by the American Alliance of Museums, an honor only 5% of museums nationwide receive, the Bowers Museum strives to celebrate world cultures through their respective arts, and has been doing so since 1936. All ages are welcome and there is a special “Kidseum” available for children as well as the options for special events for groups. Visitors to Orange County won’t want to miss the opportunity to visit this world-renowned attraction. Things to Do in Santa Ana
2002 North Main Street, Santa Ana, CA 92706, Phone: 714-567-3600
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6.Crystal Cove State Park
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Crystal Cove State Park is one of the largest remaining natural seashores in Orange County. With almost 2,500 acres of land and over 3 miles of beach, Crystal Cove State Park is a peaceful respite from the rest of busy Southern California, with 15 miles of established trails ranging in difficulty from easy to strenuous. Lovers of trekking, bike riding, or even equestrian sports will never be bored on Crystal Cove State Park’s expansive trails, while those who love the water will adore the beaches and the offshore underwater area. For the more historically inclined, the park contains a federally listed Historic District. Visitors will also an old seaside colony of picturesque cottages from the mid-20th century. Things to Do in Laguna Beach
8471 N. Coast Highway, Laguna Beach, CA 92651, Phone: 949-494-3539
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7.Discovery Cube Orange County
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Inspire, Educate, Impact. These are the three goals of Discovery Cube and they feature a huge collection of varying exhibits, tours, galleries, research stations, and engaging activities for children of all ages. Parents are encouraged to take the back seat and allow their children to explore the many facets of their imaginations, curiosity, and senses. The Discovery Cube is perfect for birthday parties, field trips, and simply allowing children to experience new and enthralling things; it’s a trip they’re sure to remember. More information about special events and exhibits can be found on the website or by phone.
2500 N. Main Street, Santa Ana, CA 92705, Phone: 714-542-2823
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8.Things to do in OC: Disney California Adventure
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Disney California Adventure has similar things to offer as the more famous Disneyland, except with far more opportunities to experience specifically themed rides and adventures. Characters stretching over the course of Disney’s creative spectrum are featured, so everyone is able to find something or someone they relate to and love. There are seasonal special attractions so it is recommended by Disney to check their website or call their hotline for more detailed information, as Disney associates are more than willing to help create the perfect vacation.
1313 Disneyland Dr, Anaheim, CA 92802, Phone: 714-781-4636
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Rollercoasters, cartoon characters, fine dining, and interactive play spaces will all come to life at the most magical place on earth. With old favorites and new discoveries, Disneyland is a fun-filled adventure perfect for anyone and everyone. Disneyland offers it all, from highly rated hotel suites, exquisite dining options, and immersive tickets to budget hotel rooms, classic theme park food, and shaking hands and taking photos with a seemingly endless cast of characters. To plan the perfect vacation, it is highly recommended to reference the website or call the Disney hotline, as speaking with a trained Disney associate can help create the perfect bundle for any family or individual.
1313 Disneyland Dr, Anaheim, CA 92802, Phone: 714-781-4636
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10.Doheny State Beach
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Doheny State Beach is a California State Park that specializes in the viewing of and public education about marine and avian creatures native to the area. There is an interpretive center designed to help guests receive the most from their visit by offering interpretive programs, maps, and general information about the park and wildlife. Camping, hiking, and swimming are all available at the park, and large picnic areas can be rented out for group events and outings. There is an aquarium for more convenient viewing of marine animals, and children's programs are offered throughout the year.
25300 Dana Point Harbor Drive, Dana Point, CA 92629, Phone: 949-496-6171
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© Downtown Disney
Downtown Disney is the place to go to for distinctive Disney-themed eateries, unique Disney-themed shops, and a range of exciting Disney-themed entertainment. Located very near to both Disneyland and Disneyland California Adventure, it is a convenient stop for guests to purchase all the Disney merchandise they could ever want. Free parking is offered for up to 2 hours, or 4 hours with a verified purchase. There is always a new event or program running, so it is recommended that guests check out the website or call ahead to hear about varying specials and deals.
1580 Disneyland Dr, Anaheim, CA 92802, Phone: 714-781-4565
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12.Things to do in OC: Fullerton Arboretum
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Located in Fullerton, California, the Fullerton Arboretum is a 26-acre botanical garden with a wide collection of plants from around the world. Claiming the title of largest botanical garden in Orange County with over 4,000 plants, the arboretum specializes in saving species that are near extinction. Guests can peruse the large collection while wandering through four distinct sections: Cultivated, Woodlands, Mediterranean, and Desert. For plant enthusiasts, this is a very educational place, including a rare fruit grove, cycad and conifer collections, and a palm grove. Families, individuals, children, and students are all welcome. Things to Do in Fullerton
Arboretum Visitor Center, 1900 Associated Rd, Fullerton, CA 92831, Phone: 657-278-3407
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13.Knott’s Berry Farm
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Knott’s Berry Farm is far more than a place to pick fruit. What started as a small family farm grew over the years to become an extensive theme park, Wild West ghost town, and large assortment of unique experiences. Families will find nearly endless entertainment and accommodation between the historically recreated ghost town, the theme park with many thrilling rollercoasters, the onsite Knott’s Berry Farm Hotel, and the “famous” Mrs. Knott’s Chicken Dinner Restaurant. Specials, deals, and events can be found on their website and those with dietary restrictions can find relevant information on the website as well.
8039 Beach Blvd, Buena Park, CA 90620, Phone: 714-220-5200
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14.Knott’s Soak City
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Knott’s Soak City is a wonderful alternative to Knott’s Berry Farm when the weather is hot and nothing is more appealing than spending time in the water. Thrilling guests with over 10 unique water slides, Knott’s Soak City is likely to offer something for the whole family to enjoy. If spending time by the pool is preferred, there are semi-private cabanas for rent. Each cabana can accommodate up to eight guests and includes extra amenities. Soak City is located next to Knott’s Berry Farm, and it is easy to have fun at both parks in one stay.
8039 Beach Blvd, Buena Park, CA 90620, Phone: 714-220-5200
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15.Mission San Juan Capistrano
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Founded by Father Lasuen on October 30th, 1775, Mission San Juan Capistrano has been a place of cultural, historical, and religious significance for over 240 years. Also known to be a place of inspiration and education, the Mission has strived to preserve its history and the history and cultures of others in California since its inception. In modern times, the Mission has become a beacon of art exhibits and conservation, a sought-after place for filming and photography, and a prestigious location for events and gatherings. Guided tours are available for guests and audio tours are included in the price of admission.
26801 Ortega Hwy, San Juan Capistrano, CA 92675, Phone: 949-234-1300
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16.OC Brewery Tours
© OC Brewery Tours
OC Brewery Tours makes it very easy to tour a collection of breweries in many of Orange County's distinct neighborhoods by offering simple packages and transportation. Booking a tour with OC Brewery Tours includes transportation from your doorstep and back again at the end of the tour, making it easy to fully experience the brews worry-free. There are various tour packages available, ranging from basic to all-inclusive, allowing guests to customize their experience to their needs. For availability, reservations, and more information, OC Brewery Tours can be reached by phone or through their website.
Costa Mesa, CA, Phone: 949-203-3982
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17.Orange County Great Park
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Orange County Great Park is a 1,300-acre park that specializes as a hub for arts, sports, and recreation, located in the City of Irvine. Among its many attractions are a farmers market, a carousel, a sports and fitness complex, a viewing pier, an aviation exhibition, and an arts complex. The Great Park Balloon attraction offers guests the opportunity to see the world from 400 feet in the air in a giant orange balloon. With a wide array of special events and activities, there is something for everyone at Orange County Great Park. The park’s general areas are open daily, with more limited hours for some of the special amenities.
6950 Marine Way, Irvine, CA 92618, Phone: 949-724-6247
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18.Orange County Zoo
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Orange County Zoo focuses on animals, plants, and nature that is specific to the southwest region of the United States. In Orange County Zoo, guests will find bald eagles, black bears, mountain lions, ocelots, and porcupines as well as many more. The zoo offers tours with an experienced guide, who will lead visitors around the park and introduce them to some of its many animals while teaching about native wildlife to the region. Also offered are hands-on programs for toddlers and young kids, educational programs about birds, and story time beneath the oak trees. All programs are available by reservation in advance.
1 Irvine Park Rd, Orange, CA 92869, Phone: 714-973-6847
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19.Pretend City Children's Museum
© Pretend City Children's Museum
At Pretend City Children’s Museum, kids can take part in a world of educational and interactive activities designed to teach them how the real world works by engaging and expanding their skills in reading, math, teamwork, and problem-solving. Children will engage in imaginative play situations like pretend cafes, banks, and grocery stores, or explore career options like construction, medical professions, or farming in a series of in-depth play settings. Other activities, like playing in the marina and discovering which items float and which items sink, will teach kids about science in ways that are fun and hands on. Pretend City is open daily, and offers free admission for guests with a membership pass. Things to Do in Irvine
29 Hubble, Irvine, CA 92618, Phone: 949-428-3900
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20.Richard Nixon Library & Birthplace
© Richard Nixon Library & Birthplace
Richard Nixon served as the 37th president of the United States and his life and legacy are on full display at the Nixon Library and Birthplace. Inside the museum, visitors will find over 70 exhibits and attractions regarding the life of Richard Nixon, including films, interactive experiences, multimedia aspects, and more. Visitors can explore the farmhouse where Nixon was born, complete with its original furnishings, and learn about policies that Nixon stood for during his presidency in addition to the famous Watergate scandal that brought it to its end. The museum is open daily, and tours are available from one of the museum’s many knowledgeable volunteer docents. Read more
18001 Yorba Linda Blvd, Yorba Linda, CA 92886, Phone: 714-993-5075
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21.Things to do in OC: Salt Creek Beach Park
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Salt Creek Beach Park is well known as a popular destination for surfing, located along the famous and scenic Pacific Coast Highway. A small reef located just offshore creates some impressive swells for surfing and other water sports. At Salt Creek, beachgoers can swim, body surf, explore the tidepools, or sunbathe on the beach’s sandy shores. With a concession stand open in the warmer months offering food, snacks, and basic beach items like sunscreen and towels as well as outdoor showers and restroom facilities for its guests, Salt Creek Beach Park is a great place to spend a day on the water or in the sand.
33333 S. Pacific Coast Hwy. Dana Point, CA 92629, Phone: 949-923-2280 or 949-923-2283
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22.Sherman Library and Gardens
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The Sherman Library and Gardens are more than just a garden, they are a living museum that provides their guests with the opportunity to view a wide variety of plants, gardens, and conservatories within their grounds. At Sherman Library and Gardens, guests are welcome to stroll the wide red brick walkways amidst blooming flowerbeds and exquisitely arranged horticultural life. The facility offers events like yoga, painting classes, and seminars on gardening, which are all listed on the website. The Sherman Library and Gardens Shop is also on the premises and contains useful and quirky items for gardening enthusiasts and plant lovers. The Gardens and Shop are both open daily from 10:30am until 4:00pm.
2647 East Coast Hwy, Corona Del Mar, CA 92625, Phone: 949-673-2261
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23.The Ranch Anaheim
© The Ranch Anaheim
Located in South Anaheim, on the ground floor of the Extron Electronics headquarters building, The Ranch is a sophisticated restaurant offering fine dining and country music at The Ranch Saloon next door. The main dining room is elegant and luxurious, with dark gleaming woods, leather banquettes, a majestic marble top bar, and exposed beams. The Ranch also has a lavish private dining space and an event center on the sixth floor. The restaurant is best known for its first-class steaks, seafood, chicken, and fresh produce harvested from their own organic farm. Their impressive wine cellar houses 14,000 bottles of first-class wines from all over the world.
1025 E Ball Rd #101A, Anaheim, CA 92805, Phone: 714-817-4200
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At Star Tours in Disneyland, guests can explore a galaxy far, far away. Located in the Tomorrowland park at Disneyland, Star Tours will take guests out of this world and into the world of the Star Wars franchise. Once aboard this 3D flight simulator, the iconic droid R2-D2 will guide passengers through the galaxy as they fight off enemy starfighters and face off against an AT-AT. Star Tours is a “choose your own adventure” type of experience, as the vast number of story combinations means every experience will be completely different. Access to Star Tours is available with any valid Disneyland pass.
1313 S Harbor Blvd, Anaheim, CA 92802, hone: 714-781-4636
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Built in 1916 by the Army Corps of Engineers to protect Newport Harbor from storms, the Wedge is Newport Beach’s hottest spot for body surfers, surf boarders, and skimboarders. Featured in the cult classic film Endless Summer, the Wedge has been delivering waves up to 30 feet since its creation. The best months for big waves are during the summer and fall, but the Wedge Newport Beach offers picturesque sunsets all year round, a favorite for locals and tourists alike. On the website, it is possible to find information about hours, view current conditions through the “wedgecam,” and read up on potential hazards as well as safety tips and recommendations.
Balboa, CA 92661, Phone: 949-644-3309
25 Best Things to Do in Orange County
- Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve, Photo: Courtesy of William - Fotolia.com
- Adventure City, Photo: Adventure City
- Angels Baseball, Photo: Courtesy of Michael Flippo - Fotolia.com
- Balboa Fun Zone, Photo: Courtesy of thestroms - Fotolia.com
- Bowers Museum, Photo: Bowers Museum
- Crystal Cove State Park, Photo: Courtesy of Byron Moore - Fotolia.com
- Discovery Cube Orange County, Photo: Courtesy of Monkey Business - Fotolia.com
- Things to do in OC: Disney California Adventure, Photo: Courtesy of Earl Robbins - Fotolia.com
- Disneyland, Photo: Disneyland
- Doheny State Beach, Photo: Courtesy of Gabriele Maltinti - Fotolia.com
- Downtown Disney, Photo: Downtown Disney
- Things to do in OC: Fullerton Arboretum, Photo: Courtesy of Mark - Fotolia.com
- Knott’s Berry Farm, Photo: Courtesy of spiritofamerica - Fotolia.com
- Knott’s Soak City, Photo: Courtesy of tinadefortunata - Fotolia.com
- Mission San Juan Capistrano, Photo: Courtesy of littleny - Fotolia.com
- OC Brewery Tours, Photo: OC Brewery Tours
- Orange County Great Park, Photo: Courtesy of wedninth - Fotolia.com
- Orange County Zoo, Photo: Courtesy of Mark - Fotolia.com
- Pretend City Children's Museum, Photo: Pretend City Children's Museum
- Richard Nixon Library & Birthplace, Photo: Richard Nixon Library & Birthplace
- Things to do in OC: Salt Creek Beach Park, Photo: Courtesy of Sebastien Burel - Fotolia.com
- Sherman Library and Gardens, Photo: Courtesy of LOBO - Fotolia.com
- The Ranch Anaheim, Photo: The Ranch Anaheim
- Star Tours, Photo: Courtesy of serhiibobyk - Fotolia.com
- The Wedge, Photo: Courtesy of rouda100 - Fotolia.com
- Cover Photo: Courtesy of Gabriele Maltinti - Fotolia.com
South Coast Plaza
South Coast Plaza is a shopping mall facility that sells upscale goods from recognizable names such as Nordstrom, M.A.C., and Chanel. South Coast Plaza prides itself on offering a luxury shopping experience to its customers, complete with personal service and an award-winning variety of restaurants. Inside the plaza are more than 250 shopping boutiques, restaurants, and even the celebrated Segerstrom Center for the Arts, which hosts concerts and touring productions from Broadway to the ballet. Located only a short drive from some of the most beautiful beaches and vacation resorts in the region, South Coast Plaza has everything needed for a glamorous and upscale shopping experience.
3333 Bristol St, Costa Mesa, CA 92626, Phone: 800-782-8888