The Huntington Beach Pier silhouette during sunset, one of the best things to do in Orange County California

35 Best Things to Do in Orange County in 2023 (By a Local)

If you’re looking for a quintessential Southern Californian experience filled with theme parks, professional sports games, beaches, and more, then you’ll have a blast discovering the best things to do in Orange County.

Located within the greater metropolitan Los Angeles area, Orange County encompasses 34 cities such as Irvine, Anaheim, Santa Ana, Orange, Huntington Beach, and more. Orange County has some of the best surfing in the world and is home to the original, world-famous Disneyland. 

I’m a Southern California local and I’m here to tell you about my favorite things to do in Orange County from personal experience.

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35 Best Things to Do in Orange County

Knott’s Berry Farm

Ride intense roller coasters and eat the best chicken dinner

People outside the Knott’s Berry Farm
(photo: Juan Camilo Bernal / Shutterstock)

📍 Google Maps | Website | Phone: (714) 220-5200 | Entrance: $69 adults, $99 water park | Knott’s Bery Farm Skip the Line ticket

Located in Buena Park CA, Knott’s Berry Farm is one of the best amusement parks in Orange County and one of the top day trips from LA.

For older thrill-seekers, Knott’s has intense roller coasters including adrenaline-inducing upside-down and backward rides. But there are also rides and activities for the whole family to enjoy such as the kid rides at Camp Snoopy. The delicious Knott’s chicken dinner restaurant is also a popular family option. 

Be sure to check out the annual special events at Knott’s Berry Farm as well. Ghost Town Alive! is a summer cowboy show complete with a hoedown and staged robberies, and Knott’s Scary Farm during Halloween is also a fun time.

Thousand Steps Beach

Sunbathe on one of Laguna’s most beautiful beaches

View from a hidden cave in Thousand Steps Beach
Laguna Beach’s hidden cave

📍 Google Maps

Don’t let the name deter you, there are only 218 steps at Thousand Steps Beach, not 1,000. Still, the name is enough to discourage many tourists and this beach is less-crowded than other Orange County California beaches.

The sand area at Thousand Steps Beach is much larger than the small downtown Laguna beaches, and it’s surrounded by gorgeous sandstone cliffs that meet the edge of the water.

One of the main attractions is a full walk-through cave a few hundred feet down the shoreline. There are also tide pools along the shore – but watch for high tides and heavy shore breaks while exploring the area.

This beach is one of the best stretches of sand in Southern California, is open year-round, and allows dogs in the summer before 9 am and after 6 pm. 

Balboa Island

Take the ferry from Newport Beach to Balboa Island

Boats on the water of Balboa Island
The many boats of Balboa Island

📍 Google Maps | Website

Take the ferry from Newport Beach to the small (but charming) Balboa Peninsula for a quiet day at the beach. This island is one of the lesser-crowded things to do in Orange County and is truly a hidden gem. 

Balboa Island has an array of some of the best shopping and restaurants in Orange County. Many visitors love to rent paddle boards to explore the island’s channel. 

Stop for a tasty treat of frozen bananas on the main street or grab lunch at the famous Wilma’s Patio Restaurant with your family.

Balboa Island also has an assortment of carnival games and rides for the whole family to enjoy. Your kids will love to ride the Ferris wheel and play arcade games.

Costa Mesa Lab (Anti-Mall)

Shop for unique items at this anti-mall

View of an alley in The LAB Anti-Mall
The “Anti-Mall” posing for a photo (photo: The Image Party / Shutterstock)

📍 Google Maps | Website | Hours: Sunday-Thursday 10 am-9 pm, Friday & Saturday 10 am-10 pm

The Costa Mesa Lab, aka “The Lab” is an urban “anti-mall” that attracts hipsters and boutique lovers from all over Southern California. 

The streets are lined with art and are very photogenic for Instagram stories, but this unique retail and hang-out spot also has non-mainstream stores, cafes, and restaurants.

A popular boutique is Buffalo Exchange – a bargain vintage store with affordable prices and unique clothes. For java, stop by Nook Coffee (it’s the perfect place to relax with a book) and for an adult beverage, Bootleggers Brewery is the place to be.

👉 Need a Hotel? Check out my guide to the best hotels in Orange County.

Disneyland and California Adventure Park

Enjoy thrill-seeking rides at the world-famous amusement park

Colorful Mickey Mouse ears shaped balloons in Disneyland
Disneyland’s famous Mickey Mouse ears in balloon form

📍 Google Maps | Website | Disneyland tips | Entrance: $104-200, Children under 2 are free

No trip to Orange County is complete without visiting Disneyland. Disneyland Park and Disney California Adventure Park are among the most popular things to do in Orange County and receive millions of visitors every year.

There are Disneyland rides for small children to enjoy and bigger rides at California Adventure for adults. Disneyland also recently opened the new Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge land, which is one of my favorite parts of the park. You don’t have to be a Star Wars fan to be in awe of the set magic and high-tech rides in the area.

Disneyland is always crowded, so get there early to enjoy some rides without hour-long wait times. To bypass long lines, I suggest going to Disneyland in the middle of the week, preferably on a rainy day. It’s the best time to visit Disneyland in my opinion!

🛏️ Looking for a Disneyland hotel? A multi-day adventure is the best way to experience everything the park has to offer. The Best Western Plus Anaheim Inn is only 0.2 miles from the park, making it one of the top places to stay near Disneyland.

House of Blues Anaheim

Watch your favorite artists perform and dance the night away

View of the House of Blues Anaheim sign outside
(photo: The Image Party / Shutterstock)

📍 Google Maps | Website | Hours: Sunday-Wednesday closed, Thursday 5-9 pm, Friday & Saturday 5-10 pm

Right around the corner from Disneyland, the House of Blues in Anaheim is a popular restaurant, bar, and concert venue. It showcases famous performers and has special events such as themed dance nights. 

Some big-name performers in the past have been B.B. King, The Go-Go’s, Willie Nelson, Etta James, and Britney Spears.

I suggest trying their delicious cajun-inspired menu with meals like Jambalaya, various shrimp dishes, and other soul foods.

Nick’s Laguna Beach

Dine on the beachfront at this 4.5-star restaurant after a day on the beach

Empty wine glasses on a table in Nick’s Laguna Beach
A fine dining table beacons

📍 Google Maps | Phone: (949) 376- 8595 | Website | Hours: Sunday-Wednesday 11 am- 10 pm, Thursday-Saturday 11 am-11 pm

Located near the Thousand Steps Beach, this high-end restaurant is just what you need after a day of sunbathing and body surfing. Nick’s prioritizes high standards and perfectly-crafted dishes. 

Customers love to enjoy a glass of wine with a high-quality dinner right on the beach. The popular menu items include the buttermilk fried chicken sandwich, house-made veggie burger, and shrimp taquitos. 

Their bar selection is also well-equipped. You can choose from a large selection of cocktails, wines, and local beers.  

👉 Pro Tip: Change out of your beach clothes and take off your baseball hat before dining at Nick’s. Business casual attire is preferred, but not required.

Mission San Juan Capistrano

Explore a historical Californian landmark

The Mission San Juan Capistrano under the clear blue sky in California
The historic mission walls are hundreds of years old (photo: Eddie J. Rodriquez / Shutterstock)

📍 Google Maps | Website | Hours: Closed Monday, Tuesday-Sunday 9 am-5 pm, Monday 10 am-4 pm | Entrance: $14 adults, $12 seniors, $9 youth/student.

Built by the Spanish in 1776, Mission San Juan Capistrano is a historic California landmark. It has a chapel, a historic museum, and botanical gardens which make for a very relaxing visit. 

It is the 7th of 21 California missions and celebrates its Native, Spanish, Mexican, and European roots. 

The mission receives over 300,000 visitors a year, many of which are school field trips. For the best mission experience, I suggest going early on a weekday morning to enjoy the serenity of the botanical gardens and the solitude of the prayer chapel.

Huntington Dog Beach

Play with exuberant pups as they explore the Pacific Ocean

A dog walking on the shoreline of Huntington Dog Beach during sunset

📍 Google Maps | Website | Parking: $2 per hour

Just outside of downtown Huntington, Huntington Dog Beach is the perfect place for animal lovers to relax. This beach is calmer than the crowded Huntington Beach pier and has tons of energetic dogs to play with.

The great thing about the dog beach is you don’t need to bring a dog to play with or watch the happy pups.

There are public restrooms at the beach, paid parking lots, free doggie waste bags, and grassy areas with picnic tables to have lunch with the family. 

Santiago Peak

Hike Orange County’s highest mountain

Overlooking view from the Santiago Peak
Orange County’s mountains on a perfectly sunny day

📍 Google Maps

Known as Saddleback Mountain by locals, Santiago Peak is the highest peak in Orange County, California at 5,689 feet (1,734 meters). This 15-mile hike is a good workout because it has 4,000 feet of elevation gain. 

The Santiago Peak hike often takes 8 hours to complete, so I recommend getting good hiking shoes and looking through this hiking packing list before you go. The trek is worth it, however, because there are scenic views of Catalina Island, Orange County, and Riverside County from the summit. 

Pets are allowed on the trail but be aware of Southern California mountain lions. 

Huntington Beach Pier

Stroll along Huntington’s pier to watch the surfers below

The Huntington Beach Pier silhouette during sunset

📍 Google Maps | Website

Check out the Huntington City beach pier after you’ve explored Huntington Dog Beach. People watch, fish, or buy an ice cream cone in surf city, USA.

Depending on when you visit California, you may happen upon the Huntington City beach pier during one of their many hosted events such as airshows, car shows, and farmer’s markets. Be sure to check out their calendar for a full schedule.

Huntington Beach attracts millions of tourists a year, especially in the summer months during the U.S. Open. Get planning with our guide to what to do in Huntington Beach.

San Clemente

Visit California’s “Spanish Village by the Sea”

A bridge with yellow railings in San Clemente
The San Clemente trail wraps around the whole beach

📍 Google Maps

San Clemente is one of the most gorgeous beaches in Orange County CA. Downtown San Clemente establishments are decorated with red stucco roofs and adobe-style buildings. There are many photo opportunities in this Spanish Village by the Sea, so go dressed to impress.

Visit the San Clemente pier to enjoy beautiful coastal views or bike along the city’s beach trail. Another popular attraction is whale watching – most tours will pick you up right from the San Clemente pier. 

After a day of exploring or lounging on the beach, unwind with a nice cold beer from Left Coast Brewing Company. Don’t feel like a beer? Fisherman’s restaurant is a great place to grab a fresh seafood meal with your family.

OC Brewery Tours

Taste some of the best local beers in Orange County

Close up view of beer flight on a table
A beer flight at an OC brewery waits to be consumed

If you are looking for fun things to do in Orange County, brewery tours should be on your radar. There are almost a thousand breweries in California, many of which are in Orange County. 

Bring your 21+ friends or family to sample some of California’s finest beers on this OC brewery tour. Taste award-winning lagers, IPAs, and blonde beers from top breweries in the area.

These are some top Orange County breweries:

  • Unsung Brewing Company, Anaheim 
  • Helmsman Ale House, Newport Beach
  • Green Cheek Beer Company, Orange 
  • Gunwhale Ales, Costa Mesa

👉 Pro Tip: Hire a ride-share service ahead of time or choose a designated driver before you go brewery hopping in Orange County. DUIs are no fun and drinking and driving is illegal in the U.S.

Crystal Cove State Park

Lounge on the beach, explore the tide pools, and go hiking

Waves coming through the shoreline in Crystal Cove State Park
The perfect wave crest at Crystal Cove

📍 Google Maps | Entrance: $15 per day

Crystal Cove is located on the scenic pacific coast highway in Newport Beach and is one of the best SoCal beaches. The state park is open between 6 am and sunset every day of the year.

Take a stroll through the historic district, which has 45 coastal cottages from the 1930s, or trek some of the 18 miles of hiking trails. The most popular hike is the dog-friendly Moro Canyon hike, an easy 3-mile hike along the coast. 

Another good trail is the Park Perimeter Loop, a long 9-mile trek around the whole state park. The views are incredible, though, so don’t let the distance deter you. Parking for the historic district is at the Crystal Cove State Park Los Trancos entrance.

If beach lounging is more your thing, then take advantage of the 3.2-mile coastline of Crystal Cove State Park. Bring your beach towel, an umbrella, and whatever else you need from this beach packing list, and let the ocean breeze caress you into the perfect beach-side nap. 

The Observatory Concert Venue, Santa Ana

Dance your booty off to your favorite performers 

View of performers in The Observatory Concert Venue
(photo: Harmony Gerber / Shutterstock)

📍 Google Maps | Website | Phone: (714) 957-0600 | 🛎️Best nearby hotel: Sonesta Simply Suites

Established in 2011, The Observatory is an Orange County concert staple. It’s located near the South Coast Plaza on Harbor Boulevard, in the heart of downtown Santa Ana.

It is easily one of Orange County’s best music clubs with two stages and a 1,000-person capacity. The concerts are inexpensive and many offer general admission tickets. 

Forgot to eat beforehand? No worries. The Observatory Santa Ana has a food bar inside, complete with beer, wine, and liquor.

Although you must pay for parking at the venue itself, you can often find free parking on the nearby streets. 

Pretend City Children’s Museum

Watch your kids play like grown-ups

The Pretend City Children’s Museum building from the outside
Playing grown-up (photo: Steve Cukrov / Shutterstock)

📍 Google Maps | Website | Phone: (949) 428- 3900 | Hours: Tuesday closed, Wednesday- Monday 10 am-4 pm | Entrance: $19.95 Adults & children, $17.95 seniors, $16.95 military & family, members & infants under 12 months free

The Pretend City Children’s Museum is a one-of-a-kind museum and one of the best things to do in Orange County for kids. It’s where kids can play “grown-ups” with real props and sets. 

The museum is set up so children can go to work, shop for groceries, take out money from an ATM, and go to the doctor. For a small fee, your child can get a glimpse into the future of the exciting tasks and chores they have to look forward to.

Old Orange County Courthouse

Visit Southern California’s oldest courthouse

The Old Orange County Courthouse building from the outside under the clear blue sky

📍 Google Maps | Website | Phone: (714)-973-6605 | Hours: Monday-Friday 8 am-4:30 pm

Located in downtown Santa Ana and built in 1901, the Old Orange County Courthouse is the oldest in Southern California. Be a part of history by visiting this historic Orange County landmark on your next trip to Southern California. 

Inside the building, you’ll find the Orange County History Center which has the old courthouse museum, Orange County archives, and an archaeological library. There are always history exhibits and interactive activities for visitors year-round.

Los Angeles Angels Game

Catch a fly ball and take it home as an Orange County souvenir 

The Angel Stadium of Anaheim from the outside
(photo: Steve Cukrov / Shutterstock)

📍 Google Maps | Website | Phone: (714) 634-2000

Formerly known as the Anaheim Angels, a Los Angeles Angels game is sure to give you a true Orange County experience. Mid-summer games are my favorite because there are often firework shows after winning games, and the camaraderie among fans is unbeatable. 

I recommend attending an Angels vs Los Angeles Dodgers game to witness some of the best competitive baseball around. The city of Los Angeles is torn between supporting the two teams, so the fans and games are usually intense.

Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve 

Photograph over 200 bird species in this protected area

View from the Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve during sunset

📍 Google Maps | Website | Phone: (714) 846-1114 | Hours: Monday-Sunday 6 am-8 pm

Bolsa Chica is notorious for both its amazing surf and its incredible ecological reserve. The Bolsa Chica ecological reserve encompasses 1,300 acres of protected wetlands and is the biggest wildlife preserve in Orange County. 

The animal habitats include open water, salt marshes, mudflats, coastal dunes, riparian, seabird nesting islands, and freshwater marsh. 

This is a popular area for Orange County locals and foreign visitors to photograph the 200 wild bird species of the reserve. If photography is one of your passions, then you will enjoy this magical place.

Orange County Zoo

Witness great beasts of the Southwest such as black bears and mountain lions

The Orange County Zoo from the outside
OC Zoo mountain lions pose for onlookers (photo: Steve Cukrov / Shutterstock)

📍 Google Maps | Website | Phone: (714) -973-6840 | Hours: Monday-Friday 10 am-3:30 pm, Saturday & Sunday 10 am-4:30 pm | Entrance: $2 for children and adults, under 2 free, $3 parking on weekdays, $5 on weekends

This zoo is one of the best things to do in Orange County with your family. It’s less crowded than the Los Angeles Zoo, so there are fewer lines.

The Orange County Zoo is in the Irvine Regional Park in the city of Orange and sits on 477 acres of wilderness land. The zoo houses plants and animals that are native to the Southwest including black bears, mountain lions, owls, and coyotes.

The Orange County Zoo has only injured and recovering animals, which means that your trip to the zoo is sustainable.

👉 Pro Tip: The zoo gets crowded during the weekends, so try to go during the week. There still may be school field trips but it’s still the better bet.

Discovery Cube Orange County

Check out scientific phenomenon with your children at the Discovery Cube

The colorful building of Discovery Cube Orange County from the outside
(photo: Steve Cukrov / Shutterstock)

📍 Google Maps | Website | Phone: (714) 542-2823 | Hours: Monday-Sunday 10 am-5 pm | Entrance: $14.95 Kids 14 and under, $159.95 adults 15+, $16.95 seniors 62+

This museum/science center is one of the best things to do in Orange County California for children. Many schools in the area have annual field trips to the Discovery Cube and the children absolutely love it. 

This hands-on science center teaches kids about the inner workings of the body, how electricity works, and secrets about space. Some current exhibits at the Discovery Center Orange County are a bed of nails and an aerodynamics chamber. 

Sawdust Art Festival, Laguna Beach 

Shop for the best arts and crafts in Orange County

People at the Sawdust Art Festival during winter
(photo: Kit Leong / Shutterstock)

📍 Google Maps | Website | Phone: (949) 494-3030 | Hours: Seasonal, summer and winter

Walk the streets of Laguna Beach and shop for some of the best-handcrafted art in the area at the Sawdust Art Festival. Here, more than a thousand artists display their art, jewelry, and photography during the summer festival. You can also listen to live music and take art classes.

Many visitors love taking the pottery and sculpture classes at the festival. Visit the Sawdust Festival to connect with local artists and be involved in the Orange County California art community.

I do recommend renting a car with Discover Cars to fully explore Laguna Beach. It’s the best way to get from the beach to the Sawdust Art Festival. 

Our Pick
Discover Cars

To get around Orange County and Los Angeles as a whole, you’ll need to rent a car. Discover Cars is a trusted resource for finding and booking the best car at the best rate.

Anaheim Packing House

Taste the finest food and drinks in Orange County California

View of the entrance to Anaheim Packing House
(photo: Steve Cukrov / Shutterstock)

📍 Google Maps | Website | Phone: (714) 533-7225 | Hours: Sunday-Thursday 11 am-9 pm, Friday & Saturday 11 am-11 pm

Established in 2014, the Anaheim Packing House has some of the greatest restaurants in Orange County. The Packing House’s reputation is hip, modern, and is the “go-to” food place in Anaheim. 

The Packing House’s historic building is an old Sunkist factory that dates back to 1910. There’s a diverse array of dishes available and an Instagram- worthy aesthetic that draws most people to the area. 

Bowers Museum

Travel abroad through Bowers international art exhibits 

View of the entrance to Bowers Museum
(photo: Steve Cukrov / Shutterstock)

📍 Google Maps | Website | Phone: (714) 567-3600 | Hours: 10 am-4 pm Tuesday-Sunday, Monday closed | Entrance: Members and children under 12 free, $15 adults, $12 seniors

Bowers Museum was voted the best of Orange County in 2021 and is a convenient 4 miles south of Disneyland. Bowers celebrates world history and different international cultures through art. 

Established in 1936, Bowers Museum has housed over 150 different exhibits from all over the world. These include the Jade & Gold Masterworks from Taiwan exhibit and the Frida Kahlo “Her Photos” exhibit. 

This international Spanish-style museum also has a botanical courtyard and a top-notch restaurant. 

Seal Beach 

Escape the crowds of Long Beach with this quiet beach gem

View of a pier in Seal Beach
Seal Beach is away from the crowds

📍 Google Maps | Website

Just outside of Long Beach, Seal Beach is a hidden beach gem in Orange County California. This beach is a favorite among locals for great surf spots and fewer crowds than surrounding Orange County beaches. 

Other popular activities here include windsurfing, kitesurfing, and building sandcastles. The Seal Beach pier is clean and the locals are friendly. Bring your fishing rod and fish right off of the pier to catch a fresh dinner.

There are outstanding restaurants, boutiques, and souvenir shops by the beach. You can also find free 1 or 2-hour parking on the main street and free all-day parking in residential areas by the beach.

👉 Pro Tip: Check out this awesome guide to the best time to visit Long Beach for more information on the area!

Irvine Spectrum Center 

Shop ‘til you drop in Irvine’s biggest shopping center

View from Irvine Spectrum Center during a sunny morning
(photo: The Image Party / Shutterstock)

📍 Google Maps | Website | Phone: (949) 790-4871 | Hours: Monday-Thursday 10 am-9 pm, Friday-Sunday 10 am-10 pm

Orange County’s Irvine Spectrum is a mecca of shopping, dining, and entertainment. This outdoor mall even has a movie theater and Ferris wheel to meet all your date night needs. 

The shopping center is open year-round but the most popular time to visit is in the summer. There are over 160 stores, restaurants, and entertainment venues for all-day entertainment.

There are also beautiful fountains and courtyards surrounding The Spectrum to lounge in and give your feet a rest from shopping all day.

Honda Center

Watch amazing concerts or thrilling sports games

The Honda Center building from the outside
(photo: Steve Cukrov / Shutterstock)

📍 Google Maps | Website | Phone: (714) 704-2400 

Home of the Anaheim Ducks hockey team, the Honda Center also hosts concerts and other entertainment events year-round.

The stadium has seen some of the biggest performers in the world like Paul McCartney, Madonna, and The Who. When there are no concerts or hockey games scheduled, you can also attend a rodeo, the supercross, or a live WWE performance.

Parking is an additional $20, so budget accordingly. 

Fullerton Arboretum

Take a stroll through peaceful botanical gardens

View of cacti in Fullerton Arboretum
Native California cacti are the highlight of the arboretum

📍 Google Maps | Website | Phone: (657) 278-3407 | Hours: 9 am-4 pm everyday except closed on Tuesday | Entrance: Free ($5 donation is suggested) | Parking: Adhere to hourly parking signage

This 26-acre botanical garden at Cal State Fullerton sees thousands of visitors a year thanks to its dense beauty. The Arboretum has plants from around the world and also hosts special events and weddings.

Wander through four different plant collections at the Fullerton Arboretum: Cultivated, Woodlands, Mediterranean, and Desert collections. You can push a stroller through the gardens but pets are not allowed. 

Heisler Park

Have a picnic by the beach with the family 

Scenic view of the Heisler Park under the clear blue sky

📍 Google Maps | Website | Hours: 5 am-12 am everyday

Heisler Park is a perfect picnic spot among the bluffs of Laguna Beach, and is a great place to get away from the crowds. The park is right on the oceanfront and has magnificent views of the ocean, walking trails, and park gardens.

Many locals go to Heisler Park for a picnic and take advantage of the picnic tables and barbeques. There are also public restrooms available and trash cans to maintain the park’s clean reputation.

📚 Related Reading: Laguna Beach also makes this list of the best weekend getaways from San Diego!

Mariner’s Church Farmers Market, Irvine

Purchase the freshest fruits and vegetables in Orange County 

Different kinds of vegetables in Mariner’s Church Farmers Market
Seasonal farmers market vegetables are the freshest

📍 Google Maps | Website | Hours: Saturdays from 8 am-12 pm rain or shine

The Mariner’s Church Farmers Market is the biggest market in Irvine. Local produce, dairy, and meat vendors are sourced from all over Orange County, and there are ready-made food booths selling kettle corn, coffee, and tamales. Look nowhere else for the freshest summer strawberries and the most delicious mushrooms.

There is plenty of free parking available so you don’t have to get there early to find a space. 

Doheny State Beach, Dana Point

Relax, play volleyball, or have a picnic

The Doheny State Beach under the clear blue sky

📍 Google Maps | Website | Phone: (949) 496-6171 | Hours: 6 am-10 pm everyday | Entrance: $15 per person | 🛎️Best nearby hotel: Dana Point Marina Inn

Part of the California State Parks system, Doheny State Beach is a clean, maintained area for you to enjoy with your family. The beach has incredible surf spots and a 5-acre lawn with picnic tables and beach volleyball courts. 

This Dana Point state beach also offers campsites, a paved walking trail, and public restrooms to make your visit as perfect as possible.

👉 Looking for more beaches? Our guide to the best beaches in LA is an excellent resource for finding the best stretches of sand.

South Coast Plaza

Shop from over 250 boutiques 

People wandering inside the South Coast Plaza
(photo: Steve Cukrov / Shutterstock)

📍 Google Maps | Website | Phone: (800) 782-8888 | Hours: Monday- Saturday 10 am-8 pm, Sunday 10 am-7 pm

Located in Costa Mesa, this global shopping destination boasts over 250 boutiques and restaurants. The plaza has thrived as a center for shopping, performance arts, and culinary experiences for 55 years.

If your feet need a rest from shopping, then stop for a bite at the Corner Bakery or have a fancy meal at either Antonello Ristorante or Seasons 52. Most of the restaurants here source their produce from local south coast farms.

Enjoy live theater and other performing arts shows at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts located in the plaza as well.

Famous Homes Boat Tour, Newport Beach

Cruise down steady waters to view some of Newport’s most expensive houses

A red boat canopy on a dock used for Famous Homes Boat Tour
Newport’s tour boats

📍 Google Maps | Website | Phone: (949) 673-0240 | Hours: 9 am-6 pm everyday | Entrance: $15 adults, $5 children

Operated through the Fun Zone Boat Company in Newport, this premier harbor and sunset boat cruise is the highlight of any trip to Newport Beach. Cruise Newport Bay to view famous beach houses of current and past celebrities.

You’ll visit famous Newport mansions and yachts, learn about movie star history, and view seals on this harbor tour. The duration is 45 minutes and you are guaranteed to learn fun Orange County celebrity facts.

Tours leave approximately every hour after 11 am until sunset, so plan your Newport visit accordingly. 

Peters Canyon Hike, Orange

Hike in the beautiful rolling hills of Orange County

View while on a hike in Peters Canyon
Beautiful views from the Orange County mountains

📍 Google Maps | Website | Phone: 714-973-6611 | Hours: 7 am to sunset everyday | Entrance: $3 parking fee

Peters Canyon Regional Park offers hiking trails suitable for any age. This 5.9-mile Peters Canyon hike takes an average of 2.5 hours to complete and is rated as a moderate hike.

There is a $3 parking fee that you can pay with either cash, coins, or a card. It is one of the most popular hikes in Orange County because it has panoramic views and wildlife spotting opportunities. 

There are two trailheads but I advise parking in the smaller one because it is closer to the start of the actual hike and has public restrooms.

Orange County Great Park

Entertain yourself with sports, movies, or rides

Aerial view of the Orange County Great Park
The many sports fields of the Great Park (photo: mikeledray / Shutterstock)

📍 Google Maps | Website | Phone: (949) 724-6247 | Hours: 8 am-10 pm daily 

Irvine’s Great Park comprises 1,300 acres of athletic fields, playgrounds, and attractions for families and individuals in Orange County. The Great Park is popular year-round, but it’s one of the best things to do in Orange County in the summer months when they showcase outdoor movies on the lawn. 

This recreation area includes:

  • Balloon and carousel rides
  • Basketball courts 
  • A food court
  • Walking trails
  • A weekly farmers market &
  • An art gallery


Thanks for reading my picks for the best things to do in Orange County! I hope my list helps you plan the perfect trip to Orange County to discover all this area has to offer. Up next, check out this guide to the best things to do in Los Angeles!

Enjoy discovering all the fun things to do in Orange County!

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One Comment

  1. We moved to Huntington Beach in 1968 because our son was so sick from L.A. smog. Homes were priced within our budget and our 5 children thrived. Schools are tops, medical facilities including Hoag are some of the best in the state if not the nation. I doubt we could have found a better place to raise our family, a half mile from the Pacific Ocean. Every advantage for families has been ours for 55 years. A real blessing to have lived here.

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