Orange County, California
Orange County, California: It seems like anyone with cable television has heard of the place. Unbeknownst to some, there is more to do in Orange County besides shopping, drinking lattes, or driving down the PCH (pacific coast highway) with the top down. Between the beaches, amusement parks, sports arenas, music venues, art, food, history, housewives, and weirdos, there are plenty of fun things to do. Some of these activities cost money and some are free; some require physical activity and some don't. In the end, no matter what your interests, or where you come from, I'm confident you can find something on this to-do list that tickles your fancy.
Fun Things to Do in Orange County
- Visit Theme Parks: The O.C. has a ton of fun theme parks that are suitable for all ages, including Disneyland, Disney California Adventure, Adventure City, Knott's Berry Farm, Knott's Soak City, Adventure City, and Medieval Times.
- Take the Ferry: Ride the ferry over to Balboa Island for the day.
- Art and Free Wine: Cruise the galleries and sip free wine on the 1st Thursday of every month at the Laguna Beach Art Walk.
- Rent a Duffy Boat: Cruise around the waters of Newport Beach with your friends. You can bring drinks and food onto the boat.
- Go Shopping!: People take shopping seriously here. The best places to shop are South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa, Fashion Island in Newport Beach, the Irvine Spectrum, and The Outlets in Orange.
- Catch a Drive-In Movie: Enjoy a movie from the backseat of your car at Star Vu Drive-In at the OC Fair & Event Center.
- Deep-Sea Fishing: Take a trip out of Newport Landing or Dana Warf.
- Have Lunch With the Hell's Angels: Join them at the most famous biker bar in Southern California: Cook's Corner, located just off El Toro Rd.
- Enjoy America's Favorite Pastime: Catch a foul ball at an Angels baseball game.
- Go Snorkeling: Laguna Beach has some really spectacular snorkeling spots. The best ones are Crescent Bay, Shaw's Cove, Fisherman's Cove, and Diver's Cove.
- Shooting Range: Fire away at the Orange County indoor shooting range.
- Ride a Goofy 4-Man Bicycle: Stroll through Doheny State Beach in Dana Point with your friends (or your kids).
- Marina Park: Swim in the calm waters, watch the boats go by, or play in the playground. It's a great place for a picnic or a romantic stroll.
- Catalina Island: A visit to this beautiful island feels like a trip to the Mediterranean. Go boating, scuba diving, or snorkeling. Or take a guided tour and visit the Catalina Casino (a museum; no gambling here) to learn about its rich history.
- Spend the Day Dolphin and Whale Watching: You can buy tickets to go whale watching out at sea from locations in Newport Beach or Dana Point. They range from $13 to $40.
- House of Blues in Anaheim: Try their Southern dishes and cocktail drinks and/or see a show. Great place for a date night!
- Sherman Gardens: Read a book while smelling the roses at Sherman Gardens in Corona Del Mar, Newport Beach.
- Balboa Island Fun Zone: Get a double scoop of ice cream and ride the attractions.
- Sawdust Art Festival in Laguna Beach: Every summer this art show exhibits unique art: screenprinting, glasswork, jewelry-making, and ceramics.
- The Swallows Inn: Get your cowboy gear on and head to San Juan Capistrano's finest watering hole for some country-western-style drinks.
- Jet Ski: Rent some jet skis and have a blast riding off the coast of Dana Point or Newport Beach.
- Los Rios Street: Take a step back in time and tour Los Rios Street in downtown San Juan Capistrano. It has great food and antiques too.
- Watch a Hockey Game: Watch the Ducks at The Pond of Anaheim a.k.a. the Honda Center.
- Hot Air Balloon Ride: Ride 500 feet in the air on the Great Park Balloon Ride in Irvine.
- International Surfing Museum in Huntington Beach: Learn something new and then visit the beach afterward.
Best Places for Kids (or for the Kid at Heart)
- Disneyland and Disneyland California Adventure in Anaheim: This one is obvious, but it's still fun. Stay at night for the fireworks.
- Discovery Cube Science Center in Santa Ana: Check out their exhibits and learn something new.
- Ride the miniature railroad through Irvine Park: Explore Irvine's beautiful park on a miniature train. You can even rent paddle boats if you want to enjoy the lake there.
- Knott's Berry Farm: They've got rides, shows, and even a waterpark called Soak City.
- Santa Ana Zoo: 20 acres of cute animal exhibits, including the exotic anteaters, guanacos, and rheas
- Orange County Zoo: Learn about and look at local wildlife. This zoo is located right in the middle of Irvine Park.
- Ocean Institute in Dana Point Harbor: Learn about and look at local marine life.
- Irvine Spectrum IMAX Theatre: See a movie in 3D.
- Orange County Fair: It's open for 23 days every summer. Come watch pig races and eat deep-fried twinkles.
- K1 Racing Indoor Go Karts in Irvine or Anaheim: Get your speed fix on!
- Boomers!: Hit the batting cages, go miniature golfing, or play arcade games at this awesome amusement center in Fountain Valley.
- Adventure City: This family-themed park is great for kids, with rides, petting zoos, and other fair-like attractions.
- ZOOMARS Petting Zoo: Get a pony ride or pan for gold at this Western-style attraction located on Los Rios Street in San Juan Capistrano.
- Prehistoric Pets in Fountain Valley: Check out some neat reptiles. Many of their reptile displays rival the best zoos!
Best Places to Eat and Drink
- Orange Hill Restaurant: Amazing food + incredible view = an unforgettable dining experience.
- The Hobbit in Orange: Have dinner in this small home that's been transformed into a restaurant.
- St. Regis Monarch Beach Resort: Have tea and martini's on Saturdays.
- The Beachcomber in Crystal Cove: Best place for a romantic sunset dinner right on the beach.
- Roscoe's Chicken & Waffles in Pasadena: An iconic soul food restaurant with really really good fried chicken.
- Farmer's Markets: Buy and eat locally grown fruits and vegetables at one of the many farmer's markets.
- Ruby's Diner: Shooby dooby down to Ruby's, a 40s-style diner on the end of the Balboa Island Pier in Newport.
- The Rooftop Bar in Laguna Beach: Drink a cocktail and watch the sunset.
- Lobby Lounge: Sip some cocktails and enjoy the panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean while pretending you're rich.
Things to Do in Orange County at Night
- Imperial Ballroom: Dance the night away at the Imperial Ballroom in downtown Fullerton.
- Downtown Disney: Take a moonlit stroll through Downtown Disney in Anaheim.
- OC Night Market in Costa Mesa: They've got rainbow churros, rainbow elote, and rainbow grilled cheese sandwiches.
- Tessmann Planetarium: Gaze at the night sky and learn more about our universe. Located on the campus of Santa Ana College in Santa Ana, California.
- GlowZone in Huntington Beach: Play bowling, mini-golf, and other arcade games in the dark with glowy lights. Super retro!
- Mission Control in Santa Ana: Play some old-school arcade games and sip some adult drinks. If you have kids, they are allowed inside for the kids' games.
- Dana Point's Live Music Cruises: Jam out on a boat Friday or Saturday evening. The boat also features a full bar.
- Gaze at the Stars: Hike to the top of the world in Laguna to enjoy unobstructed views of the night sky.
Fun Things to Do on a Date in Orange County
- Take a Romantic Ride on Catalina Island: Rent a golf cart and drive around Catalina Island.
- Jam Out to Some Music: See a show at the Orange County Performing Arts Center or the Observatory.
- Laugh Out Loud: See a comedy act or local music group at The Coach House in San Juan Capistrano.
- Laguna Canyon Winery: Get drunk but stay classy.
- The Grove of Anaheim: See your favorite band perform.
- Tour the Coast: Jump on the Amtrak Surfliner and head north or south for the day.
- Rock Climb: Sender One is the biggest climbing gym in Orange County.
- The LAB a.k.a. The Anti-Mall: A hidden mall in Costa Mesa designed for hipsters. It is filled with hip restaurants, clothing stores, and shops that cater to the quirk-artsy type.
- Ride the Ferris Wheel: At Irvine Spectrum Center, you can ride the ferris wheel, shop, eat, and get to know each other in this cute and fun location.
- Old Towne Orange: Visit the cute shops and sit by the fountain in this lovely historic downtown area in Orange.
- Camelot Golfland: A huge miniature-golf complex. Great for kids or a first date.
Best Beaches/Surf Spots
- The Wedge: You might recognize this location from the cult documentary The Endless Summer. The Wedge delivers 30 feet waves and is the hottest spot in Newport for surfers.
- Thousand Steps Beach: Take the steep stairs and enjoy this beautiful beach, perfect for surfing and volleyball.
- Pirate Tower at Victoria Beach: This beach is not well-known to tourists and boasts a 60-foot pirate tower.
- Crystal Cove State Park: Blue waters, nice waves, tide pools, and sloping hills makes this beach a very picturesque "vacation spot," even for the locals.
Places to Visit
- Take a tour of the Mission San Juan Capistrano.
- Browse the shops on Main St. in Surf City USA, Huntington Beach.
- See the birthplace and now library of former President Richard Nixon.
- See the Crystal Cathedral in Garden Grove.
- Visit the Fullerton Arboretum.
- Visit Bowers Museum of Cultural Art.
Free Things to Do in the O.C. (Mostly Outdoor Activities)
- Stroll down the Seal Beach pier (the longest in Orange County).
- Read a book on the beach.
- Ride the free trolley through Laguna Beach in the summer.
- Fly a kite at Main Beach in Huntington.
- Visit Little Saigon in Westminster to stock up on all your Vietnamese-made supplies.
- Pay your respects to lost loved ones at the historic Yorba Cemetery in Yorba Linda.
- Go bird watching around the Bolsa-Chica Wetlands.
- Get together with friends for a beach bonfire.
- Hike Carbon Canyon in Brea.
- Get friends together for a game of beach volleyball.
- Hike Saddleback mountain and other surrounding trails.
- Hike Trabuco Canyon.
- Roast mallows and tell ghost stories at Twin Harbors camping on Catalina Island.
- Rollerblade by the beach, with your shirt off, of course.
- Hike, bike, surf, or swim at Crystal Cove State Park located just north of Laguna Beach.
- Have a picnic at O'Neill Regional Park.
- Go RV camping at the Newport Dunes.
- Hike or bike through Aliso Woods Canyon.
- Enjoy the boardwalk along Main Beach in Laguna Beach.
- Take Fido for a day of fetch at the dog beach in Huntington.
- Check out one of many Christmas boat parades during the holidays.
- Find great deals at the Orange County Swap Meet in the OC Marketplace every weekend.
- Go skate one of the many skate parks located in Orange County.
- Take a drive on Ortega Highway; one of the most dangerous highways in the U.S.
Cities in Orange County
The Aliso Viejo Library clock tower
Public art displayed around the city
Knott's Berry Farm theme parks
Costa Mesa art work (Segerstrom Center for the Arts)
Oak Knoll Park
Dana Point Harbor
The Reptile Zoo
Huntington Beach Pier
Safe and friendly neighborhoods
Festival of Arts Pageant of the Masters
Laguna Niguel Regional Park
Safe retirement community
Lake Mission Viejo
Sailing and other boating activities
Rancho Santa Margarita
Rancho Santa Margarita lake
San Clemente beach
San Juan Capistrano
The large cliff swallow population
Bowers Museum and Santa Anna Zoo
Seal Beach Pier
Sherman Stevens House
Richard Nixon Library and Birthplace
I appreciate your dedication for reading through the entire list, but what are you still doing here? Grab your friends, family members, pets, and lovers, and go do something!