When it comes to family vacations, no destination in the world can beat Orange County, California. The OC offers some of the most famous theme parks and historic sightseeing in the state.
Top 10 Orange County Attractions & Destinations
Here’s a mix of the best classic and new, grown-up and family-friendly attractions in The OC:
1. Visit the original Disneyland
You can’t visit Orange County without meeting Mickey Mouse in person! The most famous theme park of all time opened right here in Anaheim by Walt Disney himself back in 1955. Disneyland Resort now offers multiple theme parks and resorts, but those simple childhood memories can still be found at “The Happiest Place on Earth.”
2. Learn about early California history at the Mission San Juan Capistrano
Known as “the birthplace of Orange County,” the Mission San Juan Capistrano is a historic landmark, chapel and museum. Founded in 1776 by Saint Junipero Serra, the Mission is a beautiful cultural destination where families can learn about early California history. Crowned “Jewel of the Missions” for its lush gardens and well-preserved architecture, the Mission also offers family events and programming throughout the year. Visitors can opt for a self-guided audio tour or a free docent-led guided tour to learn about Orange County’s rich past.
3. Window shop at South Coast Plaza
Famous for being the first-ever “shopping mall,” this designer dream destination is an Orange County icon and recently celebrated its 50th anniversary. Families can (window) shop til they drop and take in ultimate luxe designer brands like Dolce & Gabbana, Fendi, Gucci, Prada, Saint Laurent, Tiffany & Co. and much more; plus mainstream stores like The Gap, H&M, Zara and Nordstrom make everyone’s fashion dreams come true.
4. Eat like a hipster at one of the many fabulous food halls in The OC
For all of the foodies families out there, there are a few new hot spots that will make you want to sink your teeth in everything.
- The Anaheim Packing House is a must for all food lovers! Transforming a retro citrus packing house into a stylish food hall, the Anaheim Packing House gives foodies a taste of everything under the sun, from poutine fries and to barbeque to French crepes and Instagramable sweet treats with offerings from more than 20 different vendors all under one roof.
- Stop by Buena Park’s newest open-air mall, The Source OC, as it continues to grow its 600,000-square-foot space with exciting new Asian food vendors.
- Along the iconic PCH (Pacific Coast Highway) in Huntington Beach, artisanal food hub Lot 579 offers exciting dishes that will satisfy every family member.
- The OC Mix in Costa Mesa brings a fresh take on gourmet dining and drinking. The “City of Arts” giving foodies a taste of authentic Orange County.
5. Take a Pedigo electric bike tour through Irvine
Take a tour from the bike trails to the beach. Pedigo Electric Bikes offer high-quality electric bikes for rent. The company offers guided bike tours for families, leading visitors through the lush hills of Irvine to the coast of Newport Beach.
6. Walk the famous Huntington Beach Pier in Surf City USA
Huntington Beach aka Surf City USA boasts the famous pier located off Main Street. A central landmark for the city and Orange County itself, people flock to the pier to eat, fish, bike, walk and enjoy the sun reflecting off the water. Be sure to visit during sunset!
7. Watch as art comes to life right before your eyes at the world-renown Pageant of the Masters
The love for art is strong in Laguna Beach. Starting in the 1960’s, the natural beauty of South Orange County inspired local artists to flock to the coastal town for inspiration. The Pageant of the Masters is arguably one of the most unique productions in the entire world. Audiences are amazed by 90 minutes of tableaux vivants (“living pictures”), incredibly faithful re-creations of classical and contemporary works of art, with real people posing to look exactly like their counterparts in the original pieces. An outdoor amphitheater, professional orchestra, original score, live narration, intricate sets, sophisticated lighting, expert staff and hundreds of dedicated volunteers have won recognition for the Pageant of the Masters as the best presentation of its kind.
In addition to the Sawdust, Laguna Beach hosts the Laguna Beach Music Festival in conjunction with the Philharmonic Society; Fete de la Musique, Laguna Art-A-Fair, Festival of Arts, Laguna Dance Festival, Art & Nature, the Laguna Plein Air Painting Invitational, and Sawdust Art Festival which features 200 artists who live and work in Laguna Beach.
8. Enjoy a professional baseball or hockey game
Orange County is proud to be home to two major MLB and NHL sports teams, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and the Anaheim Ducks. Throughout the year, the county roars with excitement seeing their favorite teams, live and in action. Angel Stadium welcomes baseball fans to enjoy America’s pastime with peanuts and cracker jacks as the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim battle against opposing teams while the Anaheim Ducks take the ice at Orange County’s premier events space, the Honda Center.
9. Ride the fastest wooden roller coaster on the West Coast and see a Wild West Stunt Show – live!
Knott’s Berry Farm pulled inspiration from history when it created Ghost Town, an Old West-themed land which has the fan favorite roller coaster, GhostRider – the longest, tallest and fastest wooden roller coaster on the West Coast. The excitement continues at the outdoor Wagon Camp theater as daredevils perform the Wild West Stunt Show, a live-action performance with western gun-slinging and exciting stunts, showing kids what it could have been like living in the wild west.
10. Ride the Ferris wheel on the Balboa Peninsula
Catch a ferry to Balboa Peninsula in Newport Beach for family day at the Balboa Fun Zone. This classic slice of Americana packs in the excitement of a carnival by the ocean. Since 1936, the Fun Zone at Balboa Village has been providing affordable entertainment for all ages. With no admission costs, you can stroll the bayside boardwalk and play as you like. Take a long, relaxing ride on the iconic Ferris Wheel, which offers fantastic views of the Newport Harbor and Pacific Ocean.