Top 10 places for kids in Orange County, California

With it’s year-round beautiful weather, Southern California is an ideal place to vacation. There are no shortage of activities that will appeal to the whole family.

1. Beachesso cal graphics

Everyone enjoys a trip to the beach and there are plenty to choose from here in Southern California. Parking fees vary depending on the beach. Most have bathrooms and showers close (some are cleaner than others). If you aren’t familiar with the beaches in Cali you should know the water is a bit chilly. It never gets very warm. But that doesn’t deter my 5-year-old from boogie boarding for hours.

Laguna Beach is one of our favorites. The bathrooms and showers are clean, which is a huge plus! There are tide pools to explore and plenty of restaurants and shopping close by.

Crystal Cove is another beach we love. We park at El Moro State Park ($15/ day) and then walk through a fun tunnel to the beach. It is clean and usually not very crowded. You can also park at Crystal Cove State Park and walk down the stairs to the beach.

Huntington, Newport and Corona del Mar are other fun beaches. Mother’s Beach, in Long Beach, is a beach with no waves. There are several lifeguards and it is very safe for kids. There’s also a large playground and plenty of restrooms and showers.

2. Irvine Regional Park

This is a large park and wildlife area with many fun things to do. There are paved trails for bike rides along with playgrounds, picnic areas and lakes. There is a small zoo with pony rides and a train ride. They offer fun activities for the holidays. We recently went to the pumpkin patch there and it was a blast. The kids enjoyed the hayride, the games, the face painting, the corn maze and the haunted house. We will definitely be going back.

3. Balboa Island

This is a fun area, sure to delight the whole family. The Balboa Fun Zone is located on one side, where you can play arcade games or ride the ferris wheel. You can also take advantage of whale-watching tours or rent a boat or personal watercraft. Everyone will enjoy the ferry ride across to the island where you can walk along the water and enjoy the beautiful homes. There are plenty of charming restaurants and shops that will interest everyone.

4. Disneyland

This magical place doesn’t need much of an explanation. With Disneyland Park and Disney California Adventure, the whole family will find lots to enjoy. Downtown Disney is a fun place to eat, shop and still enjoy the magic without needing a ticket or paying for admission.

5. Farmer’s Market

There are several fun farmer’s markets throughout the week. Our favorite is in San Clemente on Sunday mornings. It is small but has a good selection of produce, breads, flowers, and other goodies. We made a fun day by starting at the farmer’s market then heading to San Clemente Pier. Several other cities such as Laguna Nigel, Irvine, Seal Beach, Huntington Beach, Orange, Tustin, Costa Mesa, along with many others also have farmer’s markets.

6. Mission San Juan Capistrano

This is a mission that was founded in 1776. You can take a tour through and see first hand the history that is there. There are also beautiful gardens surrounding it. Zoomars petting zoo is a must-do activity while you’re in San Juan Capistrano. Here you will find a fun, hands-on place for kids to pet, feed, and play with the animals. Caspers Wilderness Park is a great place if hiking and camping are your thing. There is a great playground and a nature center with fun exhibits.

7. Los Angeles

There are so many things to do in Los Angeles. You could spend several, fun-filled days there. The highlights are Universal Studios, shopping at The Grove, Venice Beach seeing the Hollywood sign and visiting the Hollywood Walk of Fame. If you do venture into LA, be prepared for traffic. Lots and lots of traffic.

* These last 3 activities are in or near San Diego but it’s worth the nearly 2-hour drive down the coast from Orange County to visit these places.

8. San Diego Zoo

This year, Trip Advisor ranked the San Diego Zoo the top zoo in the world. And I have to agree, it’s pretty amazing. We spent a few hours here, and could have spent many more. Any animal you wish to see will be here.

There are fun double-decker bus tours and Skyfari trips. Be prepared, it is a LOT of walking. But it was beautiful scenery. Our favorite exhibits were the koalas, the pandas (who are on loan from China) and the tigers. There is also the Safari Park which is about a 30-minute drive inland from the zoo. It is smaller, less walking and mostly safari animals. There are opportunities to camp out there also, which is super fun. If time allows, there are plenty of other things to enjoy around the zoo. Balboa Park is full of museums, theaters, and botanical gardens. It would be easy to spend a whole weekend here.

9. Legoland

This amusement park is a place where kids of all ages will enjoy themselves. There are castles, pirates, islands to explore, shows, a water park, shopping, and even a Legoland resort to stay at. There are fun events around the holidays, too!

10. SeaWorld

Animal lovers will find SeaWorld a great place to spend the day. There are several shows each day- dolphins, whales, sea lions and pets. You can pet sea creatures, get an up-close view of sharks, polar bears, and turtles, and even enjoy rides. My 5-year-old and 2-year-old had a blast here.

Whatever interests you and your family, you are sure to find plenty to keep you entertained in Southern California.

– By Sarah Pappas

A little about Sarah: I am a midwest girl who has been transplanted to California. I have 2 sweeties who call me mom, Levi and Ellie, and my main squeeze, Matt, who is a wonderful provider, husband, and dad. I love the quote, “Not all who wander are lost”. For 10 years we have been wandering, but I don’t feel lost. I am constantly having to remind myself to leave the directions to God. He is leading me on a journey unlike any I’ve ever been on. And I would love to have you follow with me at

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