15 Family Things To Do In Orange County, California

15 Family Things To Do In Orange County, California

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Orange County has a reputation as a great place on the west coast of the United States and a glamorous area based on television shows like ‘The O.C.‘ and ‘The Real Housewives of Orange County’. The southern California county of 3 million, however, isnít just about glitz and laidback lifestyles. The county, which is the state’s second-largest behind Los Angeles County according to the U.S. Census Bureau, offers physical kid-friendly activities and has some of the best things to do for the entire family.

Things to do in Orange County as a family

These are just a few things that can be done, on a budget, with the family in Orange County. So with a little sense of adventure and a willingness to try something new, you are sure to find something that pleases everyone.

Crescent Bay of Laguna Beach, Orange County, California
Crescent Bay of Laguna Beach, Orange County, California

Favourite Beaches

The weather in Orange County is amazing for outdoor activities. Going to one of the area’s many beaches is an inexpensive way to have fun with the family. This can be the perfect place to do a couple of things for a couple of hours or you can even turn it into a full-day event. Just make sure that you get there early to insure that you get a parking place in one of the public parking areas.

If not you can find metered parking, this will cost you more money and you will have to make a few trips to the meter. Most of the beaches will have affordable snack stand or fast food restaurants nearby. To save even more money you could always pack a picnic with all your favourite lunchtime foods and snacks. Going to the beach is a great way for parents to lay back while the kids do their favourite things.

Orange County boasts world-renowned beaches and open water throughout the region. Families and kids of all ages who enjoy the ocean will surely have a good time visiting any of Orange County’s beaches and tide pools. For instance, if you are a fan of activities such as boogie boarding, surfing, tanning, and biking, Huntington Beach is a great attraction for the whole family. Other popular beaches to consider visiting in The OC include beautiful beaches such as Laguna Beach, Newport Beach, San Clemente, Dana Point, and Sunset Beach.

Beach Sports

Orange County beaches have more options than just sitting on a blanket all day sunbathing. The beaches of the Pacific Ocean are a playground for skin divers, surfers, and swimmers. You can also play basketball and volleyball at some of the venues.


Orange Countyís bike trails extend beyond the boardwalk. The county has approximately 1,000 miles of bikeways. The routes include paved, off-street bike paths and separate and shared bike lanes on the road. Dozens of bike shops are littered throughout the county to assist riders.

Bicycle cruiser bike by ocean beach, California coast
Bicycle cruiser bike by ocean beach, California coast

Water Sports

Boaters, kayakers, and sailors flock to the county’s harbours. Private companies lead treks and rent equipment to individuals. The Sunset Harbour area contains five marinas and 3,000 boats. The Orange County Sailing and Events Center is one of the best places to have some sailing lessons for young kids, teens, and adults at the Dana Point Harbor.

Kayaking Dana Point Harbor

Located in Southern California is a city called Dana Point, a bustling coastline/portside community. Dana Point’s harbor is comprised of two marinas that, although occupied with boats and yachts, also offer visitors kayak rentals by the hour or 30 minutes at a time. Your family can cruise the ocean and harbour in either single or shared kayaks and take in the oceanic beauty while getting a workout. Kayaking in Dana Point Harbor is a fun family activity that can be a relaxing outing for casual paddling around the harbour or may be done as an exercise for cardiovascular, aerobic, and upper-body strength.

Wilderness Parks

Walking through an Orange County wilderness park combines a healthy activity with the chance to see a natural habitat. The 8,000-acre Ronald W. Caspers Wilderness Park in San Juan Capistrano is the county’s largest such venue. The park’s valleys include California Sycamore trees, seasonal wildflowers, and wildlife. The 4,300-acre Limestone Canyon and Whiting Ranch Wilderness Park in Trabuco Canyon provide views of the Red Rock Canyon and other rock formations.

Wildlife walks, learning adventures, and summer camps are offered by most of the area’s regional parks. One of the best programs for younger kids interested in marine life can be found at Dana Point Harbor. This popular spot offers everything from day week-long learning camps to overnight pirate adventures on an 1800s replica sailboat. These overnight adventures will have your pirate lovers doing pretty much everything except walking the plank.

Spanish Mission in San Juan Capistrano, California
Spanish Mission in San Juan Capistrano, Orange County, California

Talbert Nature Preserve

For a day of connecting with nature, consider visiting a nature preserve in Orange County. Thanks to its setting, Orange County delivers amazing beaches as well as nature preserves located inland. A popular destination for a family vacation day with the family is Talbert Nature Preserve. The preserve offers an ìecological staircase, fresh and saltwater marshes as well as wooded areas and grasslands, offering visitors a truly diverse natural life setting.

Farmers Market

Proper nutrition fuels those doing physical activity. Orange County has several farmers’ markets selling fresh foods throughout the county. Customers should look for certified markets–ones that the countyís agricultural commissioner inspected to verify the food is grown by the vendor. The Fullerton Certified Farmers Market is thought to be the countyís oldest farmers market, according to the city of Fullerton. The market attracts farmers and vendors from out of the county that sells items like eggs, fruit, honey, and vegetables.

Angel Stadium

When the Angels are playing take a trip to Angels Stadium it is always fun with the family. Most of the time you can check their website and they offer great deals for families. Most of the time you can get tickets that will come with a drink and a hot dog for under ten dollars.

Angel Stadium in Anaheim with the distinctive giant red baseball caps
Angel Stadium in Anaheim with the distinctive giant red baseball caps

Long Beach Aquarium

The Long Beach Aquarium is a great place to head if your family enjoys marine life. The aquarium offers so much to see and learn. Again you can find family deals for fewer than ten dollars a ticket. Close by there is Downtown Long Beach where you can enjoy a nice walk and a good lunch. While in the area don’t forget to stop by the Queen Mary. This is an old English ship that has a tours historical tours and shopping.

Orange County Museum of Art

On the second Sunday of every month, the Orange County Museum of Art is free to all patrons. The museum features collections of art as well as ever-changing exhibitions to entertain new and repeat visitors alike. The collection holds over 3,000 pieces with a focus on both modern and contemporary art. The Orange Country Museum of Art also offers a shop with a full range of products from prints of famous art to refrigerator magnets.

Centennial Farm

Centennial Farm, open seven days a week offers tours through the 3-acre farm. The tour features all of the animals one would expect on a farm such as pigs, chickens, goats, and cattle. After viewing the animals, visitors can walk through the gardens that the farm has to offer. Both admission and parking are free, and older visitors can also volunteer to give tours of the farm.

Bridge on pacific coast highway, Torrey Pines beach sunset, California
Bridge on the pacific coast highway, Torrey Pines beach sunset, California

The Fullerton Arboretum

The Fullerton Arboretum features four different regions of plants: Mediterranean, desert, woodlands, and cultivated. These four regions sprawl over a 26-acre plot of land that includes waterfalls, flowers, and plants from all over the world. Fullerton even offers a free salsa contest with each visit for a filled family fun day. They also offer classes and workshops for both young children and adults. Admission to the arboretum is free, however, donations are appreciated.

The Ortega Highway

Located in San Juan Capistrano in South Orange County, the Ortega Highway is a pacific coast highway that runs 43 miles into and through the Cleveland National Forest and ends at Lake Elsinore in West Riverside County. This winding strip of highway offers lush green surroundings, impressive natural rock formations, panoramic views, and countless outdoor fun activities and top things for active families to do. A popular location along the Ortega Highway is Casper’s Wilderness Park, an 8,000-acre protected wilderness preserve with camping grounds, barbecues, and shower areas and has running springs, lush surroundings, and numerous hiking trails.

Sawdust Festival

Located along the Laguna Coast Wilderness Park in the Laguna Canyon, you will find the Laguna Beach Sawdust Art Festival. The outdoor festival features numerous winding walkways paved with fluffy sawdust and various booths selling local artwork, jewellery, clothing, and pottery and offering live entertainment, food, and interactive art classes. While enjoying all of the outdoor activities and sights within the Sawdust Festival, you might forget you are meandering up and down numerous trails and slopes paved in sawdust, giving you and your family a new and fun approach to leg and cardiovascular exercise while stimulating your mind.

Final Thoughts

Orange County, California, offers 42 miles of year-round beaches with a warm climate that provides many places to sunbathe, swim, and surf among other beach and coastal activities such as bicycling.

The Orange County area has been used as the setting in numerous movies and television shows and is well-known for its tourism and being home to theme parks like Knott’s Berry Farm, Disneyland, and the Wild Rivers water park. The great thing about the OC is that it has all the best free things that you and your family will surely enjoy. You can do the most fun things and have the best time visiting. Orange County has much to offer for couples and families who enjoy outdoor activities and lead active lifestyles.

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