Looking for Best things to do in Orange County? The sunny town in Southern California offers more than just beaches and theme parks . Art, culture, history, rugged adventure, and entertainment can be found throughout the area.
Situated between Los Angeles to the north and San Diego to the south along California’s Pacific Coast, Orange County shares its borders with Los Alamitos, La Habra, Modjeska Canyon, and San Clemente.
Long Beach is just a short distance away. The well-known cities of Anaheim, Costa Mesa, Huntington Beach, Irvine, Laguna Beach, and Seal Beach are all located within Orange County.
Top Things to Do in Orange County, California
As a local from Southern California, I want to share with you my personal favorite activities in Orange County (What I most love things to do in Orange County) .
These are recommendations based on my own firsthand experiences.
1. Enjoy Disneyland in Orange County
A visit to Orange County would not be complete without a trip to Disneyland. Both Disneyland Park and Disney California Adventure Park are top attractions in the area, drawing millions of visitors annually.
At Disneyland, there are rides suitable for young children as well as thrilling attractions at California Adventure that cater to adults. One of the highlights of the park is the newly opened Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge land, which personally stands out as one of my favorite parts. Even if you’re not a Star Wars fan, you can’t help but be amazed by the incredible set design and cutting-edge rides in this area.
|Park||Ticket Price (Adult)||Ticket Price (Child)||Operating Hours|
|Disneyland Park||$109||$103||Varies, typically 9:00 AM – 11:00 PM|
|Disney California Adventure Park||$109||$103||Varies, typically 9:00 AM – 9:00 PM|
2. Water Ride in Dana Point Harbor
Located in south Orange County, Dana Point is a city renowned for its exceptional dolphin and whale watching opportunities, boating, paddleboarding, and convenient express ferries to the nearby Catalina Island. The harbor serves as a hub for these maritime activities, as well as offering waterfront dining, shopping, yoga classes, and various events. During the winter months, visitors can witness the magnificent gray whale migration, while spring and summer provide an excellent chance to observe blue whales in the vicinity.
With Dana Point Harbor just minutes away from the ocean, you can quickly embark on an oceanic adventure, with numerous vendors providing whale watching cruises, including a sailing schooner dating back to 1926.
Travelers adore the inviting ambiance of the harbor, often finding themselves happily spending the entire day strolling along the waterfront, exploring the diverse range of restaurants and shops available.
|Whale Watching||Prices vary by vendor||Varies by season and vendor||– Excursions to observe dolphins and whales|
|– Knowledgeable guides|
|– Opportunities to see gray whales during winter and blue whales in spring and summer|
|Boating||Prices vary by rental type||Varies by rental provider and duration||– Boat rentals for personal exploration and fishing|
|– Marina facilities for dockage and storage|
|Paddleboarding||Prices vary by rental type||Varies by rental provider and duration||– Paddleboard rentals and lessons|
|Express Ferries||Prices vary by destination||Varies by season and ferry company||– Convenient transportation to Catalina Island|
|– Scenic views during the ferry ride|
|Dining||Prices vary by restaurant||Varies by restaurant operating hours||– Waterfront dining options|
|– Various cuisine choices|
|Shopping||Prices vary by store||Varies by store operating hours||– Retail shops offering a range of merchandise|
|– Souvenirs and local products|
|Yoga||Prices vary by class||Varies by class schedule and instructor||– Yoga classes with waterfront views|
|– Experienced instructors|
|Events||Varies by event||Varies by event schedule and location||– Various events throughout the year|
3. Hang ten at the Huntington Beach International Surfing Museum
The Huntington Beach International Surfing Museum, established several decades ago, has an interesting backstory. It was founded by Natalie Kotsch, a woman who had never surfed before.
Surprisingly, Natalie hailed from a region in Canada where surfing wasn’t prevalent at all.
However, upon arriving in Huntington Beach, I was captivated by the extraordinary beach culture and the warm, inclusive atmosphere that brought her immense joy.
I quickly found herself caught up in the contagious passion that often engulfs those living in coastal communities worldwide.
|General Admission: $5||Monday: Closed|
|Student/Senior: $3||Tuesday-Sunday: 12:00 PM – 5:00 PM|
4. Marconi Automotive Museum
Attention all car enthusiasts, this one is tailored just for you! Situated in Tustin,
This automotive museum showcases an extraordinary array of classic cars, renowned vehicles (including iconic cars from film and television such as the Batmobile and Knightrider), and rare automobiles.
In addition to the remarkable collection of cars exhibited, the museum organizes Cars & Coffee events and occasionally presents exhibits that delve into diverse facets of automotive history.
Please note that the museum is closed on Sundays and Mondays.
|General Admission: $15||Tuesday – Saturday: 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM|
|Seniors (65+) and Military: $12||Sunday – Monday: Closed|
|Children (5-12): $10|
|Children (Under 5): Free|
5. Catch some waves at Huntington Beach
Situated in the vibrant downtown area of Huntington Beach, this renowned pier holds a special place in the hearts of locals and visitors alike.
Known as one of the longest and most picturesque piers on the west coast, it has become an iconic symbol. At the end of the pier, you’ll find Bud & Gene’s, a relaxed American restaurant offering breathtaking views.
This popular spot allows you to soak in the essence of “Surf City, USA.”
Surrounding the pier, there is a bustling array of shops, restaurants, and bars, creating a lively atmosphere. Additionally, you can explore nearby attractions such as the beachfront mall, Pacific City, the Huntington Beach International Surfing Museum, and enjoy the cozy fire pits directly on the beach, providing a perfect setting for relaxation and enjoyment.
|Downtown Huntington Beach||– One of the longest and most photographed piers on the west coast|
|– Bud & Gene’s casual American restaurant at the end of the pier with stunning views|
|Nearby Attractions||– Pacific City: Beachfront mall offering a variety of shops and dining options|
|– Huntington Beach International Surfing Museum: Showcasing the history of surfing|
|– Cozy fire pits directly on the beach for a warm and relaxing experience|
|– Abundance of shops, restaurants, and bars in the surrounding area|
6. Experience a slice of Old California at Tanaka Farms
Immerse yourself in a delightful U-pick experience at Tanaka Farms in Irvine, where you can gather baskets full of delicious produce to your heart’s (and stomach’s) content. Depending on the season, you can pick vibrant strawberries or plump pumpkins. If you prefer a more relaxed experience, there’s a convenient gift shop and walk-up market available where you can find freshly picked produce.
For the little ones, the Barnyard Educational Exhibit at Tanaka Farms is a must-visit. They’ll be thrilled to meet and interact with rescued chickens, goats, sheep, donkeys, and even a charming mini cow! Animal lovers will find this to be one of the most enjoyable activities in Orange County.
Additionally, Tanaka Farms has a sister site called Flowers at Hana Field located in Costa Mesa.
Here, depending on the season, you can partake in the delightful experience of picking sunflowers and marigolds. Please note that flowers have their own growth cycles, so availability may vary throughout the year.
|Tanaka Farms U-pick farm||Admission fee varies by season||Check website for current hours of operation|
|Flowers at Hana Field||Admission fee varies by season||Check website for current hours of operation|
7. Step back in time to the early 1900s at the Heritage Museum of Orange County
Delve into the captivating origins of Southern California, particularly Orange County, at this museum that promises to be a haven for local history enthusiasts and anyone eager to immerse themselves in the past.
Occupying two distinct historic mansions, namely the H. Clay Kellogg House and John Maag Farmhouse, the museum offers a treasure trove of artifacts and exhibits that vividly depict life in the early 20th century. Inside, visitors can engage with interactive displays showcasing traditional furniture, architectural styles, and the unique way of life during that era.
Beyond the main houses, the museum grounds feature additional attractions including a water tower, a blacksmith shop, and a delightful selection of nature trails.
These outdoor elements provide an opportunity to enjoy a refreshing breath of fresh air while exploring the enchanting surroundings.
|Museum Admission||Adults: $10||Monday: Closed|
|Seniors (65+) and Students: $7||Tuesday-Saturday: 10:00 AM – 4:00 PM|
|Children (5-12): $5||Sunday: 12:00 PM – 4:00 PM|
|Children (Under 5): Free|
|Nature Trails||Free||Open during museum hours|
8. Take a day trip to Santa Catalina Island
For those seeking a refreshing change of scenery in sunny Orange County, Santa Monica Bay and, particularly, Santa Catalina Island are absolute must-visit destinations. Boasting a rich history and an abundance of outdoor activities, they offer an unforgettable experience.
Nestled in the embrace of the Pacific Ocean and blessed with a pleasant Mediterranean climate, Santa Catalina Island is easily accessible via a short ferry ride from Long Beach. Adventure-seekers will be delighted by the array of thrilling activities available.
Explore the diverse wildlife and soak in panoramic views on the Trans Catalina Trail, embark on underwater explorations at captivating dive sites, conquer the summit of Mt. Orizaba (the island’s highest peak), enjoy the adrenaline rush of a zipline tour, or rent a jet ski or kayak for some exhilarating water adventures.
If you prefer a more relaxed pace, the island also offers a variety of museums and beach clubs, perfect for unwinding and immersing yourself in the island’s charm. Whether you’re seeking excitement or tranquility, Santa Catalina Island has something for everyone.
|Ferry from Long Beach to Santa Catalina Island||Adults: $40 – $75 (round trip)||Varies by ferry company and schedule|
|Children (2-11): $30 – $65 (round trip)|
|Trans Catalina Trail (Hiking)||Free||Open all year, sunrise to sunset|
|Diving and Snorkeling||Prices vary based on services||Varies by dive shop and availability|
|Mt. Orizaba Summit||Free||Open all year, sunrise to sunset|
|Zipline Tour||Prices vary based on package||Varies by tour operator and availability|
|Jet Ski or Kayak Rental||Prices vary based on rental duration||Varies by rental company and availability|
|Museums and Beach Clubs||Admission fees may apply||Timing varies by establishment|
9. Visit the Sawdust Art Festival
Regardless of the time of year, culture enthusiasts should not miss the opportunity to visit the Sawdust Arts Festival, a cherished event in Laguna Beach.
Hosted twice a year, once during winter and once during summer, this vibrant local festival showcases the talents of creators within the community. Prepare to be enthralled by an eclectic mix of exhibitions, immersive classes, and an impressive variety of items available for browsing and purchase.
The festival presents a captivating assortment of artistic creations, ranging from exquisite woodwork and stunning jewelry to intricate ceramics, sculptures, and beautifully woven pieces. The breadth of artistic expressions guarantees a treasure trove of delightful discoveries, with a focus on high-quality craftsmanship.
|Sawdust Arts Festival||Winter||Check official website for specific dates|
|Summer||Check official website for specific dates|
10. Break out of an escape room
Calling all aspiring detectives! If you’re ready to put your wits to the test and showcase your problem-solving skills, escape rooms are the perfect interactive experience for you. Gather your friends or family and embark on an exhilarating adventure to determine who among you is the true Sherlock Holmes of the team.
These brain-teasing, team-based activities will challenge you to find clues and solve puzzles within a given time frame, pushing your limits to progress through the game.
It’s a thrilling and rewarding experience that will leave you with a newfound appreciation for the brilliant minds of fictional detectives like Morse, Holmes, and Poirot.
|Escape Room Theme||Location|
|Prison Break||Multiple locations available|
|Heist||Multiple locations available|
|Gold Rush||Multiple locations available|
|Jester’s Escape||Multiple locations available|
|American Revolution||Multiple locations available|
11. Have a Pirates Dinner Adventure
Prepare to embark on an unforgettable adventure at Pirates Dinner Adventure, the ultimate attraction that reigns supreme in Orange County.
This captivating experience blends live theater, delectable cuisine, and non-stop entertainment for the entire family. Step into a world of swashbuckling excitement where aspiring pirates of all ages become part of an immersive dinner show, leaving you with satisfied appetites and tales to recount!
The grand theater stage sets the scene for an extraordinary spectacle reminiscent of a Broadway production.
Witness awe-inspiring swordplay, mesmerizing aerial artistry, and gravity-defying acrobatics, all while indulging in a lavish pirate feast fit for the most ravenous of sea-farers.
Transport yourself to the golden age of piracy aboard an authentic 18th-century Spanish galleon, gracefully floating in a colossal 250,000-gallon lagoon.
Brace yourself as over 150 enthusiastic volunteers join forces, bringing this epic production to life, earning it the prestigious title of the “world’s most interactive dinner show!”
As a crack of lightning illuminates the sky and thunder rumbles ominously, prepare to be swept away in a timeless battle of good versus evil.
Captain Sebastian the Black and his band of rebel pirates kidnap you and your crew, setting the stage for an unforgettable journey filled with intrigue, daring escapades, and unforgettable memories.
General Admission Tickets
From $68.95 for Adults | 1.5 Hours | Dinner Included
VIP Level Tickets
From $105.95 for Adults & $78.95 for Children| 1.5 Hours | Guaranteed Seating in the First Two Rows!
Treasure Level Tickets
From $90.95 for Adults & $63.95 for Children | 1.5 Hours
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In conclusion, Orange County offers a treasure trove of unforgettable experiences for any traveler. Whether you’re seeking pristine beaches, thrilling theme parks, vibrant cultural attractions, or delectable dining options, this Southern California gem has it all.
From exploring the iconic Disneyland Resort to basking in the sun-kissed beauty of Newport Beach, Orange County promises adventure, relaxation, and endless entertainment. So, embark on your Orange County trip and indulge in the best this captivating destination has to offer, creating memories that will last a lifetime.
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