Orange County is a vast upscale suburbia filled with families with children and happens to be home to the biggest family tourist attraction in the area, Disneyland. There are also tons of other fun things to do in Orange County with kids. There are so many that they run on to two pages!
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Disneyland and Disney California Adventure
The biggest attraction for kids in Orange County is obviously the Disneyland Resort, which can keep a family with kids busy for a week between Disneyland and Disney California Adventure. Many LA and Orange County families purchase an annual pass and go regularly.
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Knott's Berry Farm and Soak City
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Discovery Science Center
Discovery Science Center with the giant cube on top has over 100 interactive exhibits to help kids learn about scientific concepts
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Go to the Beach
Going to the beach is always a fun thing to do with kids, and Orange County has plenty of beaches from Seal Beach all the way down to San Clemente. Playing in the sand and teasing the waves on the shore is a great way to while away a few hours on a hot summer or winter day. The beaches in Huntington Beach are especially family friendly, with huge parking lots, restrooms and concessions. Balboa Beach in Newport Beach also has a Fun Zone with a couple kiddie rides. Be aware that temperatures at the beach are usually lower than inland and the water is always cold, so when your kids' lips start turning blue, bundle them up. There are lots of other fun things to do at the beach besides playing in the sand and water.Continue to 5 of 19 below.
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The Bowers Museum exhibits on Native American culture and artifacts from China and South America can be fascinating for older kids, but for younger kids they have the Kidseum a block away with special hands-on exhibits designed to give children an appreciation of art and culture. The Bowers Museum also hosts free family festivals in the courtyard on select Sundays.
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Explore Your Pirate Side
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Pretend City in Irvine
Pretend City is a children's museum set up to mimic a small town with local businesses set up along mini-streets. Younger kids can play at the post office, the library, the supermarket or go to the beach.
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Attend a Sporting Event
You can take the kids to see a baseball game at Angel Stadium – and take their picture under the giant baseball hat, or in the fall and winter see a hockey game at the Honda Center. Both are in Anaheim, not far from Disneyland. More on Angel Stadium and the Honda Center.Continue to 9 of 19 below.
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Cheer on the Knights at Medieval Times
Disney has more princesses, but the Knights hang out and have sword fights and joust on horseback for your pleasure at Medieval Times Dinner and Tournament in Buena Park. A bonus for the kids – you get to eat with your fingers.
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The Mini Zoos of the OC
Orange County has two small zoos, the Santa Ana Zoo at Prentice Park and the Orange County Zoo in Irvine. They're both overshadowed by the LA Zoo and the San Diego Zoo and Wild Animal Park so people who don't live nearby have never heard of them. But for kids who love animals, there is plenty to do.
The Santa Ana Zoo focuses on animals of South and Central America and is best known for its 50 monkeys, but they also have a petting zoo of farm animals. They also have a train ride and carousel.
The Orange County Zoo showcases animals native to the Southwest United States. It's located in Irvine Regional Park, where you'll find other kid-friendly activities like a train ride, bike rentals and paddle boats.
There's also a Reptile Zoo in Fountain Valley where kids can get a close up and personal reptilian experience.
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Kayaking is a great activity to do with kids. As long as they're old enough to swim a bit, not be afraid of the water, and understand the danger of leaning over the side of the kayak, they're big enough to go kayaking with parents in a tandem or 3-seater kayak. I've gone with kids as young as 5, and I've seen people paddling around with toddlers in their laps. Life jackets are available at the rental locations in children's and adult sizes. The best places for calm, stillwater kayaking in Orange County are Sunset Beach, which has two outfitters, OEX and Sunset Kayaks, and further south in Newport Harbor and Newport Back Bay.
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Adventure City Amusement Park
If the idea of Disneyland is overwhelming, or not in your budget, Adventure City's 17 smaller scale rides and shows will keep the young ones entertained for quite a while for about 1/4 the price.Continue to 13 of 19 below.
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Family Entertainment at Segerstrom Center for the Arts
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The Marconi Automotive Museum
If your child has an extensive Hot Wheels collection or is a fan of Disney's Cars movies, he or she will love the Marconi Automotive Museum, which has all those race cars and hot rods full size. Unlike the Disney's Cars Land versions, these cars don't have eyes or talk.
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Boomers Amusement ParksBoomers is an old school amusement park with go karts, miniature golf, batting cages, a rock wall, bumper boats, kiddie rides and arcade games. They have two locations in Orange County in Fountain Valley and in Irvine, each with some different rides and attractions. Irvine is bigger and has laser tag and a water play area.
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Sky High Sports Indoor Trampoline Park
Do you ever feel like your kids are bouncing off the walls? At Sky High Sports in Costa Mesa you can let them. The floors and walls are all made of trampoline. It's not just for kids though. Adult bouncing is encouraged and AIRobics classes are available. Fees are by the hour. Multi-hour prices are lower Monday through Thursday.Continue to 17 of 19 below.
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Whale Watching in Orange County
As long as your kids don't suffer from motion sickness, whale watching is a great adventure to take them on. There's no guarantee that you'll actually see a whale, but chances are pretty good, especially in winter. Even if you don't see whales, the pods of dolphins and the sea lions basking in the sun are also fun to see and just going out on the boat is an adventure.
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The Flight Deck Air Combat Center
Kids 11 and up can have a flight simulation adventure at the Flight Deck Air Combat Center in Anaheim. Strap yourself into a mock cockpit to engage in a virtual combat battle.
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Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve
The Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve is a protected wetland along Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) at the north end of Huntington Beach, between Seapoint Street and Warner Avenue. It features a wildlife viewing bridge and over five miles of dirt trails where you can 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. There are even special breeding islands for endangered species. The Bolsa Chica Interpretive Center is at the corner of PCH and Warner with additional parking.
Upper Newport Bay, also known as Newport Back Bay, is another wetlands conservation area. You can't go out on the water at Bolsa Chica, but the Newport Bay Conservancy offers weekend kayaking tours of Upper Newport Bay.