19 Best Things to Do With Kids in Orange County

Rollercoaster ride
Knott's Berry Farm.

rarpia / Getty Images

Orange County is the vast upscale suburbia in southern California that also happens to be home to the biggest family tourist attraction in the area: Disneyland. It's worth noting, however, that there are also tons of other fun things to do in Orange County with kids. From riding coasters at Disneyland and nearby Knott's Berry Farm to learning about science at the Discovery Center, there's no shortage of entertaining activities you can do on your trip to this suburban sprawl an hour south of Los Angeles.

01 of 19

Take a Surfing Lesson in Huntington Beach

Kids learning how to surf at Little Surf Co.

Little Surf Co.

If you're spending some time in Huntington Beach—otherwise known as "Surf City, USA"—let the kids learn how to hit the waves properly with a surfing lesson or two. Beginner classes are offered by many area surf schools or you can sign them up for a surf camp if you'll be sticking around the area for a while.

Corky Carroll's Surf School, Wavehuggers, HB Surf School, Banzai Surf School, and Surfriders Academy Surf School each offer a variety of options for kids and adults of all ages, whether you prefer hourly one-on-one private instruction, group lessons or daily board rentals. Another popular surf school, Little Surf Co., offers ocean and science educational programming just for kids in addition to traditional surfing classes.

Huntington City Beach, Huntington Beach, CA 92648, USA
02 of 19

Pick Your Own Fruit at Tanaka Farms

Tanaka Farms in Irvine, Orange County, California

Tanaka Farms

5380 3/4 University Dr, Irvine, CA 92612-2944, USA
Phone +1 949-653-2100

In Irvine, Tanaka Farms offers families the chance to pick their own fruit, visit barnyard animals, learn about life on the farm, take farm-to-table cooking classes and cookout tours, sit in on educational workshops, go on a hayride, and plant their own sunflowers to take home. Pickable crops change by the season—strawberries typically can be found from March to June, while melon are available June to September and pumpkins and other fall veggies are popular in November and December. Either way, it's a fun way to make memories and introduce kids to sustainable farming and the taste of freshly picked fruits and vegetables.

03 of 19

Wander Among Plants and Flowers at the Fullerton Arboretum

Fullerton Arboretum in Orange County, California

YoungkKwon / Getty Images

1900 Associated Rd, Fullerton, CA 92831, USA
Phone +1 657-278-3407

If you're seeking some time outdoors or just need a break from the hustle and bustle of Orange County, head to the Fullerton Arboretum, where you can spend some time relaxing among the more than 100 varieties of plants and flowers. Stop by one of the biomes—coniferous forest, deciduous forest, rainforest, or desert—to learn more about their specific environments, or spend some time checking out the potting shed, orchard lawn, pond lawn, heritage house, south lawn, or the Children's Garden.

04 of 19

Spend the Day at Disneyland and Disney California Adventure

people visit disneyland and walk over commemorative bricks with names in terracotta

travelview / Getty Images

Disneyland Dr, Anaheim, CA 92802, USA
Phone +1 714-781-4636

The biggest attraction for families in Orange County is obviously the Disneyland Resort, which can keep a family with little ones busy almost indefinitely. Between the Disneyland and Disney California Adventure Park theme parks, there are plenty of rides and attractions perfect for kids of all ages to enjoy.

While many Los Angeles area residents purchase an annual pass and go regularly, you can usually score a great discount if you book a vacation package with Disney. Both parks are open year-round, offer unique seasonal celebrations throughout the year, and are easily accessible from anywhere in Orange County.

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05 of 19

Make a Splash at Knott's Berry Farm and Soak City

Knott's Berry Farm Entrance

TripSavvy / Kayte Deioma

8039 Beach Blvd, Buena Park, CA 90620, USA
Phone +1 714-220-5200

Not far from Disneyland in Buena Park, and about half the price of admission, the Cedar Fairs Company operates the Knott's Berry Farm theme park, offering a great combination of rides for younger children and thrill seekers, along with Knott's Soak City, an adjacent water park.

Billed as "America's First Theme Park," Knott's Berry Farm offers a combination of Old West ghost town charm with a "Peanuts" theme and family-friendly rides, perfect for a full day of adventure. For the adrenaline junkies out there, stop by Xcalerator, the Silver Bullet, and the GhostRider wooden coaster. Knott's Berry Farm is open year-round, but hours vary slightly by season.

Next door, Soak City offers nine rides and 17 different water slides, as well as a wave pool, kiddie play area, a floating river, and a variety of flumes and chutes for all ages. Soak City, however, is only open on select days from May through September each year so check the schedule online to avoid disappointment.

06 of 19

Find Cheaper Thrills at Smaller Area Amusement Parks

Adventure City amusement park California
Adventure City
1238 S Beach Blvd, Anaheim, CA 90680-4828, USA
Phone +1 714-236-9300

If the idea of Disneyland is overwhelming or not within your budget, Adventure City's 17 smaller-scale rides and shows will keep young kids entertained for quite a while for about a quarter of the price. Note that it's only open seasonally and hours may vary so check the schedule online before you go.

About 25 minutes away, Boomers Amusement Parks Irvine is significantly cheaper than Disneyland if you're looking for a fun way to spend the afternoon playing games with your kids. You'll find a variety of activities and attractions that are perfect for varying ages, including a miniature golf course, go karts, bumper boats, a rock wall, laser tag, batting cages, an arcade, a carnival, and several smaller roller coasters.

07 of 19

Geek Out at the Discovery Science Center

Discovery Science Center

Discovery Science Center 

2500 N Main St, Santa Ana, CA 92705, USA
Phone +1 714-542-2823

Visiting Discovery Cube Orange County is another great option for families staying near Disneyland. With the giant cube on top and over 100 interactive exhibits to help kids learn about scientific concepts, it's one of the best places to go if you want to spend the day immersing your child in interactive, educational environments. Discovery Cube Orange County is open year-round except for Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day.

08 of 19

Go to the Beach

Kids at the Beach in Orange County

TripSavvy / Kayte Deioma

Huntington Beach, CA, USA

Orange County is home to plenty of beaches, from Seal Beach all the way down to San Clemente, where you can spend a few hours playing in the sand and teasing the waves on the shore on a hot summer day. Huntington Beach is especially family-friendly, with its beaches sporting huge parking lots, restrooms, and concessions on-site. Balboa Beach in Newport Beach also has a Fun Zone with a couple of kiddie rides. Be aware that temperatures by the beach are usually lower than they are farther inland and the water is always cold.

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09 of 19

Discover Native American Culture at the Bowers Museum

Kids' Story Time at Bowers Museum

TripSavvy / Kayte Deioma

2002 N Main St, Santa Ana, CA 92706-2731, USA
Phone +1 714-567-3600

In Santa Ana, the Bowers Museum's exhibits on Native American culture and artifacts from China and South America can be fascinating for older kids. A block away, the Kidseum offers special hands-on exhibits designed to give younger audiences an early appreciation of art and culture. The Bowers Museum also hosts free family festivals in the courtyard on select Sundays throughout the year. Note that admission varies depending on special exhibits and whether you're planning on visiting both attractions.

10 of 19

Indulge Your Inner Pirate at a Dinner Show

Pirate's Dinner Adventure

Pirate's Dinner Adventure 

7600 Beach Blvd, Buena Park, CA 90620, USA
Phone +1 714-690-1497

If you're looking to create a pirate-themed day of adventure for your little ones, "take to the high seas" in Orange County with a swashbuckling dinner show. Bring the kids to the Pirates Dinner Adventure in Buena Park, which features a thrilling performance and fun for the whole family from a stage modeled after an 18th-century Spanish galleon.

11 of 19

Let Your Kids Play at Pretend City

Pretend City in Irvine

Pretend City

29 Hubble, Irvine, CA 92618, USA
Phone +1 949-428-3900

Located in Irvine, California, Pretend City is Orange County's premier Children's Museum, set up to mimic a small town complete with local businesses lining mini-streets. Younger kids can play at the post office, library, or supermarket, or even go to a miniature beach. Note that members have access to the museum one hour before general admission.

12 of 19

Attend a Sporting Event

Tampa Bay Rays v Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

Jayne Kamin-Oncea / Getty Images

2000 E Gene Autry Way, Anaheim, CA 92806, USA
Phone +1 714-940-2000

During the spring and summer months, bring the kids to a baseball game at Angel Stadium and get their picture taken under the giant baseball hat. During the fall and winter months, opt for a hockey game at the Honda Center. Both are located in Anaheim, not far from Disneyland, and require tickets if you wish to attend any sporting event. Special events and celebrations are sometimes held at both arenas, so check their individual websites for a full calendar of events before you head out.

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13 of 19

Cheer on the Knights at Medieval Times

Medieval Times

Medieval Times 

7662 Beach Blvd, Buena Park, CA 90620, USA
Phone +1 714-523-1100

Enjoy a two-hour jousting tournament featuring six competing knights, real weapons, beautiful horses, and a live flight of the royal falcon at the Medieval Times Dinner and Tournament in Buena Park. Popular across the country as a dinner-and-a-show attraction, Medieval Times is a great way to introduce your kids to a bit of history while enjoying a hot meal of turkey, potatoes, and garlic bread with your fingers. It's also located inside a building modeled to look like an authentic medieval castle.

14 of 19

Take a Quick Trip to a Small Zoo

Santa Ana Zoo

Justin Ennis / Flickr CC BY 2.0

1801 E Chestnut Ave, Santa Ana, CA 92701, USA
Phone +1 714-836-4000

Orange County is home to two small zoos—the Santa Ana Zoo at Prentice Park and the Orange County Zoo in Irvine—which are often overshadowed by the Los Angeles Zoo and the San Diego Zoo and Wild Animal Park. While not as many people visit these smaller zoos, kids who love animals will find plenty to do at either one.

The Santa Ana Zoo focuses on the animals found in South and Central America and is best known for its population of 50 monkeys. There is also a petting zoo full of farm animals as well as a train ride and carousel. Meanwhile, the Orange County Zoo showcases animals native to the southwestern United States. It's located in Irvine Regional Park, where you'll find other kid-friendly activities such as a train ride, bike rentals, and paddle boats. There's also a Reptile Zoo in Fountain Valley, where kids can get an up-close and personal reptilian experience.

15 of 19

Take the Family Kayaking

Kayaking with Kids

Roberto A. Sanchez / Getty Images

16910 CA-1, Sunset Beach, CA 90742, USA
Phone +1 562-592-0800

Kayaking is a great activity to do with kids, and as long as they're old enough to swim a bit and understand the dangers of leaning over the side, they're big enough to go with parents in tandem or three-seaters. Children as young as five are able to enjoy this popular activity freely with a paying adult as long as everyone uses a life jacket, although those traveling with small infants may want to sit this one out.

The best places for calm, still-water kayaking in Orange County are Sunset Beach, which has two outfitters, OEX and Sunset Kayaks, and farther south in Newport Harbor and Newport Back Bay.

16 of 19

Be Entertained at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts

Segerstrom Center for the Arts

TripSavvy / Kayte Deioma

600 Town Center Dr, Costa Mesa, CA 92626, USA
Phone +1 714-556-2787

In addition to hosting family-friendly productions on their main stage, the Segerstrom Center for the Arts in Costa Mesa has a full schedule of programming for kids in its smaller Samueli Theater, including some of the best children's performers in the country. Opened in 2006, the Samueli Theater hosts a variety of special performances throughout the season. Past and future productions include "The Very Hungry Caterpillar," "They Called Her Vivaldi," "Emily Brown," and "Sanjata Kamalenya." Tickets are required to attend most shows.

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17 of 19

Get Revved Up at the Marconi Automotive Museum

Marconi Automotive Museum

Jim Steinfeldt / Michael Ochs Archives / Getty Images

1302 Industrial Dr, Tustin, CA 92780-6416, USA
Phone +1 714-258-3001

If your child has an extensive Hot Wheels collection or is a fan of Disney's "Cars" movies, they will love the Marconi Automotive Museum, which features full-sized versions of a number of race cars and hot rods. Kids will love learning about the history of racing cars and attending a variety of fun events scheduled throughout the year. It's located in Tustin, California, and although entry is free for kids under 12, older guests will need to purchase a ticket. Check the schedule online before you go, as the museum is sometimes closed for private events.

18 of 19

Take to the Sky at the Flight Deck Air Combat Center

Flight Deck Air Combat Center

Flight Deck Air Combat Center

400 West Disney Way, Anaheim, CA 92802, USA
Phone +1 714-937-1511

Kids ages 10 and up can experience a flight simulation adventure at the Flightdeck Flight Simulation Center in Anaheim. At this popular attraction, opt for a riveting battle in a F/A-18C Hornet fighter jet or learn more about commercial aircraft by flying a Boeing 737—you'll don a flight suit, strap into a mock cockpit, and take off on a simulated flight following some general instructions and mission briefings. While your kids are taking to the skies, those who aren't flying can relax in the Officers Club, where you can watch the aerial adventures on large screens or browse through other informational exhibits.

19 of 19

Hike Through Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve

Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve

TripSavvy / Kayte Deioma

18000 CA-1, Huntington Beach, CA 92648, USA
Phone +1 714-846-1114

Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve is a protected wetland that features a wildlife viewing bridge and over five miles of dirt trails. Take a self-guided tour or join a docent-led group to watch some of the more than 300 species of migratory birds that rest or stay on this stretch of the Pacific Flyway. The reserve is also home to special breeding islands for endangered species. You'll find it along the Pacific Coast Highway at the northern end of Huntington Beach between Seapoint Street and Warner Avenue. Stop by the Interpretive Center at the corner of the Pacific Coast Highway and Warner Avenue, which also offers additional parking, to join a group or start your tour.

Upper Newport Bay, also known as Newport Back Bay, is another nearby wetland conservation area. Since you can't go out on the water at Bolsa Chica, you may want to visit the Newport Bay Conservancy, which offers weekend kayaking tours of Upper Newport Bay.

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19 Best Things to Do With Kids in Orange County