Things to Do in Orange County

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    Top Things to Do in Orange County, CA

    Huntington Beach Sunset
    ••• Huntington Beach Sunset. Photo © 2009 Kayte Deioma, licensed to About.com

    There are lots of interesting reasons to venture beyond the Orange Curtain to explore the many attractions in Orange County. Aside from famous theme parks, there are gorgeous beaches, world class shopping, sporting events and a thriving arts community.

    Orange County -  also known as OC, or the OC -  is just south of Los Angeles County. Parts of Orange County are closer to downtown LA than some neighborhoods of the city of LA. Los Angeles and the OC have an interesting love-hate relationship. Half the population takes advantage of the vast entertainment opportunities in the neighboring county, and the other half looks disdainfully on the residents across the county line – in both directions.  

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  • 02 of 14

    The Disneyland Resort in Orange County, CA

    Cars Land at Disney California Adventure
    ••• Cars Land at Disney California Adventure. Photo © 2012 Kayte Deioma, licensed to About.com

    Although people traveling from other parts of the country and the world consider the Disneyland Resort a Los Angeles attraction, as do a lot of LA locals, it's actually firmly across the Orange County line in Anaheim.

    The Disneyland Resort includes Disneyland, Disney California Adventure and the Downtown Disney District.

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    Knott's Berry Farm and Soak City

    Knott's Berry Farm Entrance
    ••• The entrance to Knott's Berry Farm in Buena Park, CA. Photo © 2014 Kayte Deioma, licensed to About.com

    Disneyland isn't the only popular theme park in Orange County. Knott's Berry Farm is another favorite for locals and visitors, with plenty of family fun and thrills for half the cost of Disneyland. The adjacent Knott's Soak City water park is a popular summer destination.

    Resources:

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    The Beach in Orange County

    The Beach at Crystal Cove
    ••• The Beach at Crystal Cove State Park in Laguna Beach, CA. Photo © 2004 Kayte Deioma, licensed to About.com

    With 40 miles of ocean-front, technically the beach is the largest attraction in Orange County, crossing through seven cities, changing personality along the way.

    Learn about the many Beaches of Orange County

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    South Coast Plaza

    South Coast Plaza
    ••• South Coast Plaza. Photo © 2007 Kayte Deioma, licensed to About.com

    There are many amazing Places to Shop in Orange County, but the South Coast Plaza is the one where the Japanese and Chinese tour buses stop. It's Orange County's answer to Rodeo Drive, with many of the same high end designer shops in an indoor mall that crosses two city blocks, including 30 restaurants.

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    Segerstrom Center for the Arts

    Segerstrom Center for the Arts
    ••• Segerstrom Hall at Segerstrom Center for the Arts in Costa Mesa, CA. Photo © 2013 Kayte Deioma, licensed to About.com

    If you're planning a shopping day at South Coast Plaza, you can stick around for a show in one of several theatres at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts across the street. Touring Broadway shows, ballet, family programming and other events keep their calendar full.

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  • 07 of 14

    Laguna Beach Arts is a Top Orange County Attraction

    Artist Michael Situ Painting at the Festival of Arts
    ••• Artist Michael Situ Painting at the Festival of Arts. Photo © 2014 Kayte Deioma, licensed to About.com

    During the summer, Laguna Beach can almost compete with Disneyland for the number of visitors per square foot. Three simultaneous arts and crafts festivals and the famous Pageant of the Masters run all summer long.

    The rest of the year, you can still visit dozens of galleries and artists studios, as well as the Laguna Art Museum. Catch a show at the Laguna Playhouse.

    The beach is also one of the most scenic around.

    More about the Laguna Beach Art Festivals

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    Huntington Beach - Surf City USA

    Longboard Restaurant and Pub
    ••• Longboard Restaurant and Pub in Huntington Beach. Photo © 2009 Kayte Deioma, licensed to About.com

    You can surf all up and down the Orange County Coast, but Huntington Beach is known as Surf City USA for a reason.  Its 8 miles of surf breaks are more accessible than some other stretches of sand, with plenty of public parking lots.  Surf lessons are available and recommended for beginners to keep you from straying out of your league. For advanced surfers, stopping by local surf shops or surf bars to get the lo-down on  the best breaks and intro into the local scene is a good idea.

    Aside from the waves themselves, the International Surfing Museum, the Surfing Walk of Fame street plaques, the Surfer Hall of Fame with its statue of Duke Kahanamoku and bare footprints and handprints in the pavement,  and a bevy of surf shops and surfer bars pay tribute to the city's favorite pastime.

    The small-town feel of Main Street is giving way to more upscale dining and nightlife options around the city.

    More on visiting Huntington Beach

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    The Bowers Museum - A Top Orange County Attraction

    Bowers Museum
    ••• Bowers Museum in Santa Ana, CA. Photo © 2008 Kayte Deioma, licensed to About.com

    The Bowers Museum in Orange County is a combination of art and history museum. They bring in world-class traveling exhibits to complement their own pre-Columbian, South Pacific, Chinese, Native American and California Art collections. 

    More on Visiting the Bowers Museum

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    Balboa Island and Balboa Peninsula in Newport Beach

    The Car Ferry to Balboa Island
    ••• The Car Ferry to Balboa Island. Photo © 2014 Kayte Deioma, licensed to About.com

    Balboa Island is one of several islands in Newport Harbor. The other islands are purely residential, but Balboa Island has a quaint commercial zone along Marine Avenue with a few boutiques and restaurants, including a little piece of Switzerland, Basilic, one of the Most Romantic Restaurants in Orange County.

    Marina Avenue is the only road onto Balboa Island from Pacific Coast Highway. You can also reach the island via the car ferry from Balboa Peninsula.

    Most of the beach in Newport Beach is along Balboa Peninsula, which, being a peninsula, has limited access. During summer months, the road onto the peninsula can crawl to a standstill. That doesn't stop people from joining the throng.

    The inside of the peninsula is lined with a small-boat residential marina, which is home to Newport Landing Whale Watching and Sport Fishing, Davey's Locker Whale Watching and Sport Fishing and the Balboa Fun Zone, with a few kiddie carnival rides. Boat rentals and the Catalina Flyer ferry to Catalina.

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    Play a Round of Golf in Orange County

    Pelican Hill Golf Course
    ••• Pelican Hill Golf Course. Photo: John Connell/Getty

    Orange County has some of the top golf courses in Southern California, including Pelican Hill Golf Club in Newport Beach, Monarch Beach Golf Links in Dana Point, Tustin Ranch in Tustin, Arroyo Trabuco Golf Course in Mission Viejo, to name a few.  

    More LA and OC Area Golf Courses

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    Explore Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve

    Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve
    ••• Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve. Photo © 2013 Kayte Deioma, licensed to About.com

    Bird watching is the number one activity at the restored Bolsa Chica wetlands in huntington Beach, but it's also a popular place for walking and trail running. No dogs or bikes though.

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    Attend an Event at the Honda Center

    Honda Center in Anaheim
    ••• Honda Center in Anaheim. Photo © 2008 Kayte Deioma, used with permission

    The Honda Center in Anaheim is home to the Mighty Ducks hockey team and a line-up of top concerts and arena events like the Harlem Globetrotters and Ringling Bros Circus.  

    See what's playing at the Honda Center

    Check for discount tickets for the Honda Center at Goldstar or ScoreBig

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    Take in a Baseball Game at Angels Stadium

    Angel Stadium in Anaheim, CA
    ••• Angel Stadium in Anaheim, CA. Courtesy of the Anaheim/OC VCB

    Take the whole family to a ball game at Angels Stadium, AKA the Big A, or just stop by for a photo op with the giant baseball cap. The fourth oldest active major league stadium in the country, Angels Stadium also offers stadium tours.

    Check the Angels schedule.

    Look for discount Angels tickets at Goldstar and ScoreBig.