Things To Do in Orange County Beyond Disneyland
Visiting Orange County, California, located between Los Angeles and San Diego, is usually associated with families spending time at Disneyland Resort. But, there’s also a thriving community of 34 cities surrounding it with so much to offer. Go out and explore these attractions and things to do in Orange County beyond the Disney parks.
Knott’s Berry Farm
The nearby Knott’s Berry Farm amusement park often gets overlooked by visitors. This over 70-year-old park has an old-world feel, but is also filled with roller coasters for the thrill-seekers and easygoing rides and kids’ activities at Camp Snoopy. Reasonable wait times and ticket prices make it a locals’ favorite park. Some of the best times to go are during Halloween and the holidays when it transforms into Knott’s Scary and Knott’s Merry Farm. Don’t miss the nearby Knott’s Soak City Water Park for plenty of slides, rides and water fun especially during the summer.
Take a scenic drive down 40 miles of coastline along Pacific Coast Highway and explore the boardwalks, piers and sun-kissed beaches. Don’t miss popular hotspots like Laguna, Newport to Huntington Beach aka Surf City. My kids also enjoy the tide pool’s marine wildlife at Crystal Cove State Park and Dana Point Marine Life Refuge. Winter months and low tides are ideal times to visit the tidepools.
Irvine Regional Park
This historic park offers a myriad of family activities. Kids can enjoy horseback, train and wagon rides and plenty of bike paths. There are also many playgrounds and short hiking trails. My kids’ favorite part is the lake for aqua cycles and paddleboats.
OC Great Park
The Orange County Great Park is a huge, planned metropolitan park. We love going on the giant helium balloon for the area’s beautiful panoramic views. The Food + Farm Lab shows kids the benefits of urban agriculture. Kids can also ride the carousel and enjoy the park’s large open spaces.
The arts come alive at one of Orange County’s most popular museums. The Bowers Museum contains over 120,000 works of art, artifacts and priceless objects representing many world cultures. Fascinating rotating exhibitions on display range from Terra Cotta warriors to Egyptian Animal Mummies. One of the best areas is the Kidseum for children to learn about the world’s cultures through masks, languages, costumes and hands-on craft making activities. The museum offers free admission during the first Sundays of the month.
Discovery Science Center
There are many reasons this is a popular place for elementary school field trips. Also known as “The Cube,” it is filled with interactive and fun educational exhibits. Kids can go on research adventures at Dino Quest, be hockey players or broadcasters at the Science of Hockey or learn about rockets and space. There is always something new and interesting here with rotating exhibits like Star Wars, Lego, Indiana Jones.
Mission San Juan Capistrano
For some history and a glimpse into the past, the Jewel of the California’s 21 restored Spanish missions is worth a visit. The California missions were established as religious and cultural centers for the Spaniards and Indians. The mission has many rooms showing how the priests and Indians lived in the 1700s. We love exploring the gardens and kids can do a variety of activities. Time your visit for the return of the cliff swallows every March accompanied by a parade and festival.
Go back in time to the world of royalty and knights within a Spanish castle to witness battles, skilled horsemanship, falconry and a jousting tournament at Medieval Times. Cheer on your knights while enjoying a four-course meal. It’s great entertainment for the whole family.
Explore More in Orange County:
- Read out about other family vacations to Anaheim.
- Find out about other family trips to Huntington Beach.
- Explore our Orange County hotels: Hilton Orange County/Costa Mesa, The Waterfront Beach Resort in Huntington Beach, and Hilton Anaheim.
Do you have other Orange County attractions to add?
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Mary lives in San Diego, California with her husband, 13 year-old daughter and 10 year-old son. She was born in the Philippines, grew up in the U.S. territory…