A Local’s Guide to the Top 12 Things to Do in Orange County
Being a local to Orange County, one simple, yet terribly difficult question always pops up. What should we do today? This article is intended to help provide you an answer that question. Well, 12 answers to that question. Whether you are a teenager looking for things to do with your friends, a mom looking for a getaway with (or without) your children, or an individual visiting the most beautiful county in the country, this guide is for you.
If you are looking for more specific day-to-day events (like a local pottery class or movie in the park night), check out this link and this link for city-wide events. Wanna have a great day? Try to get through all activities in the Entertainment section and then end your day with a sunset at Top of the World. You can thank me later.
1. Dress Fancy and Go House Hunting
One of my favorite things to do with my family is to explore areas like Coto de Caza, Dove Canyon or Covenant Hills in Ladera Ranch, and follow the open house signs. Whether you land in a 5,000 square foot 3 bedroom house with a built-in wine cellar or a 7,000 square foot house with 7 bedrooms and a backyard oasis, you will never cease to be amazed at some of the beautiful homes right around you.
2. Go to a Trampoline Park
My kids love this one. Heck, I love this one. The best trampoline park in OC is Big Air. What isn’t fun about a whole warehouse-sized building full of trampolines?
3. Go Karts
4. Escape Rooms
5. Zoomar's Petting Zoo
Bored at home today? Go play with the animals at Zoomar’s Petting Zoo. The zoo has ponies, pigs, llamas and more! Aside from the zoo, you can ride the train or explore Mission San Juan Capistrano.
6. Go to the Bars in Newport
If you’re looking for more of an adult activity, the bars in Newport Beach will definitely provide you a great time. Some of the best local bars include Sharkey’s, Mutt Lynch’s and Malarkey’s Irish Pub. Here are a few more great bars in Newport for you.
America’s favorite past time. There are so many great places to eat in Orange County – this really depends on where you are located and the type of food you are craving. To my family and me, some of the best places to eat in Orange County include Selma’s Pizzeria (try the Buck’s BBQ salad), Minato Sushi (the BEST all-you-can-eat sushi in town), and Matsu (try one of their “Gondola Dinners”).
Ocean / Outdoor
The following entries in this list are still entertainment activities, but all relate to the ocean and/or outdoor activities. Check them out below!
8. Visit the Beaches
This is arguably one of the best things that OC has to offer. Orange County simply has the best beaches. Period. Don’t believe me? 128,000 people came to Orange County between 2010 and 2014. I’d bet the beaches have something to do with it. I’ll take a deeper dive into some of my favorite beaches up the coast as I truly feel that this is the best thing to do in Orange County.
I will tell you a few of my favorite beaches, but this is strictly a matter of opinion. As long as you are on the shore, you cannot go wrong. Starting at the south and working up the coast, some of the best beaches in San Clemente include T-street and Calafia. San Clemente has about 4 miles of shoreline so you really can’t go wrong anywhere in San Clemente. I like these beaches because the vibe is pretty mellow, you can hang out on the shoreline, take a swim without being in the surfer’s way, watch surfers and boogie boarders, take a stroll along the walking paths, or eat and walk the pier. If you don’t want to walk the shoreline, there are a number of shops in the downtown area, all walking distance from the beach. For a little added thrill, take the train to one of the San Clemente beaches!
If San Clemente is too far for you, check out Doheny State Beach in Dana Point. While this beach does not have large waves, it is a state beach and that is pretty cool. This beach is also close to Dana Point Harbor and let me tell you, I could spend hours walking the harbor and exploring the stores. Also in Dana Point, is Salt Creek Beach. I like this beach because it is one of the easiest beaches to get to from South Orange County. Crown Valley simply meets with PCH, make a left and wala, you are there.This beach has large, closeout style waves most of the time, so it may not be the greatest place for small children, but the views of this beach are simply breathtaking.
If it is a perfect summer day (as most days in Southern California are) parking may be a bit of a hassle. The easiest parking method is to find someone who has just walked up the hill from the beach and follow them to their car. After you park, head toward the steep hill to walk down (or ride the golf cart for $1/person) to the beach. At the bottom, stay to the right (the left side is more for surfers) just past the delicious snack shack. Set up base camp here and enjoy the rest of your day at one of the best beaches in Orange County!
If instead of turning left at PCH to head to Salt Creek, turn right. This will take you to some of the best beaches in Laguna Beach. My favorite spot in Laguna Beach is called 10th street beach. Some people also refer to it as 1,000 steps because you guessed it, there are about 1,000 steps (or what feels like 1,000) to get down to the beach. This hike down (and back up) are what most people dread and as such, the beach tends to be less crowded. I’d recommend getting to the beach early because parking consists of driving around the local neighborhood until a spot is found. After parking, take the beautiful hike down to the beach and enjoy your day. When on the shore, you can play sand volleyball at the volleyball court or if you stay to the right, you can swim out around some rocks and end up at Table Rock Beach.
If you have young children, the best beach to visit is definitely Crystal Cove. When arriving at the beach, a nice trick my family does is drop off all kids and accessories (chairs, umbrellas, coolers, etc.) by the beach and then have mom or dad go park the car. This allows for an easier trip down and is also cheaper if you decide to take the bus back down to the shore. After getting set up, wander over to the awesome tide pools or boogie board in the small-medium sized waves. The best part of this beach comes around lunchtime: the Ruby’s Shake Shack. Grab your lunch and head back to your base camp or eat at the Shake Shack and enjoy the amazing views.
Aside from the beaches, you may also visit downtown Laguna Beach and explore the boardwalk or the many shops throughout the town.
My favorite part of Newport Beach is the accessibility of all activities. Whether you want to shop, walk the boardwalk, rent bicycles, go to the bars, eat, or simply relax on the beach, you can do all of this in one central location.
Don’t feel like any of the activities above? Take a stroll over to The Wedge and watch some of the largest waves in California. Swim at your own risk at this beach.
While there are plenty of other beaches throughout the Southern California coast, the ones mentioned above are the ones that have made the most lasting impression on me over the years.
9. Ferry to Catalina
All aboard the Catalina Express! The boat leaves from San Pedro, Long Beach, and Dana Point. Who knows, you might even get lucky and see some whales in the process.
10. Go Fishing
Check the fish counts and get out on water. You can take a half day, ¾ day or even an overnight trip out of Dana Point Harbor. Hope you catch a big one!
11. Top of the World
Top of the World in Laguna Beach offers breathtaking views of Orange County. Look out west and you can see all the way to Catalina Island and look North, East or South and you view the beautiful landscape. For an even more impressive view, visit Top of the World around sunset and be ready to be amazed by the beauty. It is even a great visiting spot when the sun is down as you are able to see the starry sky and the plethora of lights throughout Orange County.
12. Orange County Great Park
The Great Park is one of the up and coming attractions in OC. Read more of the thing to do at the park here.
The above list is some of my favorite things to do when I am bored in Orange County. Hopefully, this list provides you with a few enjoyable activities. As I said when starting this article, challenge yourself to get through all activities in the Entertainment section and then end your day with a sunset on Top of the World.