75 Things To Do with Orange County Kids Before They Grow Up

Photo courtesy of OC Fair & Event Center
Photo courtesy of OC Fair & Event Center
5/19/23 - By Li Starr

Orange County is a paradise for kids. It wasn't hard to construct a bucket list of 75 things to do with your children in Orange County before they grow up. The OC is home to iconic spots like Disneyland and Knott's Berry Farm, but that isn't the end of the fun. Whether you are looking for play places, museums, theme parks and water parks, or something unique, LA's next-door neighbor is full of incredible spots to make timeless family memories. If your kids are growing up the OC way, here are some awesome things to do with kids in Orange County. 

There are so many reasons why Orange County is the best place to raise kids, and several of those reasons are in our Around the OC Guide


1. Explore the little-kid versions of grown-up stuff at Pretend City in Irvine.

Your tot can "shop" at a darling mini Trader Joe's and then be a fully functioning member of society with a career, a classy outfit, and maybe even a sweet ride at Pretend City

2. Celebrate Summerfest in Fountain Valley. 

This classic summer festival features carnival rides, fair-style food, fireworks on Friday, and a drone show on Saturday. It's the perfect spot for a weekend of warm-weather good old-fashioned fun. 

3. Shop for fresh produce near the water at the Huntington Beach Farmers Market.

The Surf City Nights Certified Farmers Market takes over Main Street in Huntington Beach every Tuesday evening. Families can find fresh produce, enjoy a meal out, or purchase some fresh-cut flowers, and vibe to the live music. 

4. See the pros hit some gnarly waves at the US Open of Surfing in Huntington Beach.

Little groms will love watching pros shred the waves at this epic annual surfing competition held in Huntington Beach. 

5. Take preschool kids to Adventure City in Anaheim for a theme park experience that's just their size.

Disneyland always seems to win out when we're talking theme parks, but smaller tots may enjoy their trip to this spot geared towards preschoolers. A bonus? You won't have to spring $30 for mouse ears. 

6. Conquer the obstable course at The Adventure Lagoon

Experience the thrill of water slides at this floating aqua park atop an always-warm lake. 

7. Skip the sunscreen and enjoy the wet indoors at Great Wolf Lodge.

Your family is sure to have a howlin' good time at this incredible hotel and indoor water park. The best part? Parents can relax with a drink while the kids splash away within eyesight. 

8. Get your kids excited about science at the Discovery Cube OC.

Have you seen the giant dinosaurs off the 5 freeway in Santa Ana? My kids certainly have. The Discovery Cube OC promises a day of all things science with lots of hands-on fun. Bubblefest is an annual favorite, which normally happens in March and April. 

9. Ride the carousel as many times as you want at the Children's Museum in La Habra.

This tiny museum features a science station, a caboose from the 1940s, and a little carousel where kids can enjoy unlimited rides with admission. 

10. Disneyland... need we say more?

No. We don't need to say anymore. Grab your ears and autograph book, and gear up for a magical day with the mouse (and some churros).  

11. Exploration awaits at Disney California Adventure

While Disneyland may get all the spotlight, there's a whole other second theme park next door with a Cars Land, Pixar Pier, and Avengers Campus. 

RELATED: Disneyland with Baby? All You Need is This Game Plan

Things To Do with Orange County Kids Before They Grow Up: Sawdust Art & Craft Festival

Get crafty in an art class. Photo courtesy of the Sawdust Art & Craft Festival

12. Let kids get in touch with their inner Picasso at the Sawdust Art & Craft Festival in Laguna Beach.

This Laguna Beach tradition features "Pageant of the Masters,", showings where famous paintings are recreated with statuesque actors and actresses. 

13. Grab a funnel cake, then ride "the zipper" at the Orange County Fair.

The OC Fair is the perfect outing for creating classic memories and having good times with all the deep-fried fair food your heart desires.

14. Try a boysenberry pie with Snoopy and the gang at at Knott's Berry Farm and Soak City.

This beloved theme park offers delectable food, some killer coasters, and a fantastic water park in the summer. 

15. Monkey around at an OC zoo: The Santa Ana Zoo or The Orange County Zoo.

Orange County has not one but two small zoos where you can see everything from wild cats to parrots, monkeys to anteaters. 

16. Construct with giant Legos at Adventure Playground in Irvine.

This free playground trumps them all with innertubes, mudslides, and hundreds of giant Legos ready to be assembled. 

17. Learn some local history, then play the day away at Heritage Park Play Island

This darling little park at a historic building will keep your kids entertained in a beautiful setting for hours. 

18. Learn about what you're eating in an interactive, all-ages, outdoor classroom at Farm + Food Lab in Irvine.

Farm + Food Lab is focuses on educating kids about health and food acquisition. Sign up for a class to learn more about how our food gets from the garden to our table. 

19. Take a ride in the orange Great Park Balloon at Orange County Great Park.

You've probably seen this giant orange orb in the sky from the 5 freeway, but did you know you and your kids can ascend into the sky in this balloon for free? 

20. It's all aboard a mini-train for a ride on the Irvine Park Railroad.

Take a leisurely ride around Irvine Park while searching for wildlife, then wander the grounds (or check our calendar) to see if there is a seasonal festival (there usually is!). 

21. Discover the Bowers Museum's impressive Native American art collection.

The Bowers Museum is also home to art and artifacts from ancient China, silver jewelry, gemstone carvings by Harold Van Pelt, and more. 

22. Harken back to ye olde days at Medieval Times in Buena Park.

Root for a knight in shining armor and watch a jousting tournament with a plate of piping hot chicken legs and veggies at this fantastic, family-friendly dinner show. 

23. Pet some new friends at Zoomars Petting Zoo in San Juan Capistrano.

There are 100 animals to befriend at this family-owned petting zoo. 

RELATED: Orange County Fun: Things to do in Irvine with Kids

Things To Do with Orange County Kids Before They Grow Up: Strawberry Picking at Tanaka Farms

Pick your own strawberries at Tanaka Farms. Photo by Michelle McCoy Photography courtesy of Destination Irvine

24. Pick strawberries and take a wagon ride at Tanaka Farms

Tanaka Farms makes our strawberry-picking list every year, as it is one of the best pick-your-own farms in Orange County. When the strawberries are gone for the summer, plenty of other fruits and veggies are ripe for the picking. 

25. Discover some scaley, wriggling critters at Prehistoric Pets in San Juan Capistrano.

The massive collection of reptiles at Prehistoric Pets rivals reptile exhibits at local zoos. For a small cover charge, kids can gaze at 350 lb snakes and may get to feed some turtles. 

26. Visit a real working farm complete with animals at Centennial Farm

This farm on the OC Fairgrounds is known for its' darling pigs, which are available for viewing on a pig cam 24/7. 

27. Ride the Ferris wheel and play in the arcade at the Balboa Fun Zone in Newport Beach. 

This colorful, retro-style boardwalk by Balboa Island is the perfect place for a day of play. Kids will love the classic arcade, the seaside rides, and a cone of creamy soft serve. 

28. Climb a wall at Sender One in Santa Ana.

Conquer your fear of heights or learn your strength while scaling walls at this premier climbing facility. 

29. Ride the Balboa Island Ferry.

It's less than $5 per person to ride across the channel between Newport and Balboa. 

30. Get your bounce on at Pump it Up.

Kids thrill at the sight of an inflatable bounce house, and Pump it Up has more than a few giant inflatable climbing structures to keep your little ones busy. 

31. Your little historian can get the lowdown on Watergate at the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum in Yorba Linda. 

Kids will especially enjoy the room dedicated to the moon landings, all of which took place under President Nixon's watch. 

32.  Jump and Slide at Scooter's Jungle in Placentia.

Another popular inflatables spot, Scooter's Jungle offers open play hours in addition to hosting the coolest birthday parties. 

33. Stage a foam ball shoot-out at Seascape Kids Fun in Anaheim Hills. 

With 13 ball cannons and a three-story play structure, kids can stage an all-out (gentle and innocent) war with hundreds of foam balls at this epic play place. 

34. Take a kid (adults aren't allowed in without them) to the aquatic-themed Atlantis Play Center in Garden Grove.

This ocean-themed park will have your kids pretending to sail the seven seas. 

35. Check your reflection in the iconic Crystal Cathedral.

Now known as Christ Cathedral, this architectural feat is now a Catholic Church run by the OC Diocese. 

36. Catch a live show at the open-air, all-ages Garden Amp in Garden Grove.

This outdoor venue hosts musicians of all genres and cultures weekly. 

37. Be impressed by a collection of Impressionist works by California artists at the Irvine Museum.

Aspiring painters or art appreciators can gaze at these stunning works by talented locals. 

38. Dinner with a Side of Swordfight? Try the Pirate's Dinner Adventure in Buena Park.

You'll watch Mutiny on board and live to tell the tale at this energizing performance in Buena Park. 

39. Discover prehistoric Orange County at the Ralph B. Clark Interpretive Center.

Newly reopened, this interpretive center hosts a collection of fossils and unique gemstones. 

40. Learn some ninja moves from a real America Ninja Warrior at Firestorm Freerunning.

This gym offers classes and lessons for aspiring ninjas, but they also have great "parents' night out" nights where kids can play on the equipment while parents sneak away for a date. 

41. Stay cool at the Lemon Park Spray Pool in Fullerton.

This great little splash pad is fully gated, so kids can run free while Mom doesn't have to worry about losing them. 

42. Discover life underwater at the Ocean Institute in Dana Point.

You can even take a guided tide pool hike to look for ocean friends near the shore. 

43. Strap on some ice skates and spin around the rink at Yorba Linda Ice

Have your kids ever ice skated? Yorba Linda Ice is the perfect spot to introduce them to the rink. 

44. Splash, bounce, and balance on a giant inflatable playground at the Newport Dunes Summer Inflatable Water Park

This water park is a "Wipeout" style obstacle course that kids can climb, bounce, and jump on all summer long. 

45. Learn new ways to save the earth at The Ecology Center in San Juan Capistrano.

There are strawberries to pick and flowers to plant at this eco-friendly spot teaching kids the power of conservation and caring for the earth. 

46. Walk the trails and do some bird watching at Shipley Nature Center.

These easy-to-trek trails are home to flora, fauna, fliers, and furry critters.  

47. Mosey through acres of botanical gardens at the Fullerton Arboretum.

Botanists and babies alike can bask in the beauty of this arboretum with gardens, tree groves, and wildflowers. 

RELATED: 25 Things to do in Anaheim with Kids: To Disneyland and Beyond

Things To Do with Orange County Kids Before They Grow Up: Catch an Anaheim Angels baseball game

The Angels are OC's home team. Photo courtesy of Angels Baseball

48. Catch a baseball game at Angels Stadium in Anaheim. 

This iconic stadium is the place to grab a hot dog and sing a rousing rendition of "Take Me Out to the Ball Game." 

49. Learn about 240 years of history at the Mission at San Juan Capistrano (and maybe spot the swallows returning).

Kids can even feed the koi, so long as they buy their food before the fish have reached their daily limit. 

50. Bowl a strike at Concourse Lanes, Splitsville, or Lucky Strike, in Anaheim. 

Luxury bowling alleys are all the rage nowadays. Your kids will love knocking down those pins with a pizza and waiting their turn in a comfortable booth. 

51. Spin a pot to take home at a kids' ceramics class at The Ceramics Studio

Wait until your kiddo reaches age 12 for this one, as teen classes start at that age and run until the kids are 18. 

52. Take a ride on the carousel or the Big Wheel at Irvine Spectrum

While you're at it, you might as well get a bit of shopping in too. 

53. Rummage for antiques and take a scenic stroll in Old Towne Orange

Time your visit with one of the Old Towne festivals, such as the Christmas tree lighting, the Treats in the Streets Autumn Festival, or the Orange International Street Fair. 

54. Enjoy the flora and fauna at the cozy Pitcher Park

In the summer, kids can visit the Beehouse and the Firehouse Museum.

55. Make a pit stop at the Marconi Museum in Tustin. 

You'll discover rows and rows of colorful cars that are sure to fulfill and resonate with Hot Wheels fans. 

56. See the fossil exhibit at Laguna Hills Community Center.

Take an audio tour to learn more about the many fossils discovered in Laguna Hills before the city got built. 

57. Search for T. Rex at one of Orange County's five dinosaur hot spots.

Your dino-lover will want to check out all these excellent odes to the Jurassic period. 

58. Grab a ticket for the OC Night Market and try foods from around the world in Costa Mesa.

These 626 Night Market nights are popular—grab your admission before the event sells out. 

59. Take in the stars at the Tessman Planetarium at Santa Ana College. 

There are 100 seats in the dome, which displays a memorable astronomy lesson on the ceiling for astronomers of every age. 

60. Soak in the art and culture at OCMA.

Orange County's newest museum has an Art + Play class for preschoolers, and regular family craft and art activities. 

61. Order a cotton candy creation at Polar Playground.

These cotton candy works of art based on beloved characters have quickly become a TikTok sensation. Order a favorite character of your own (they have so many to choose from), as long as you're willing to brave a long line. 

62. Meet a Mermaid at Once Upon an Island.

On Balboa Island, there is a wonderland filled with mermaids, princesses, and magical memories. Once Upon an Island is the perfect spot for a birthday surprise, where your little pirate or princess can transform into a mermaid or sea monster. 

63. Spend a few hours in the arcade wonderland at Dave & Buster's.

Dave & Buster's isn't unique to Orange County, but what little boy wouldn't light up in a room filled with video games as far as the eye can see?   

64. Wander the Lido Village Marina

This charming spot is the perfect place to wave at boats in the harbor, do some reading in a local bookshop, and grab delicious pizza as a family. 

65. Crack some crustaceans at The Crab Cooker.

If your family likes seafood, this charming restaurant from the 1950s is a must. Kids and adults alike can dine on crab, lobster, and fish.   

66. Search for Dolphins and Whales in Dana Point. 

During whale season, it shouldn't take long to spot one of these giant sea creatures off the Dana Point coast. If you don't find whales you are almost guaranteed to meet friendly dolphins, and may even run into a super pod (hundreds of dolphins together).

67. Give a standing ovation at a show at the Segerstrom

Many popular Broadway tours stop at the Segerstrom Concert Hall in Costa Mesa. Some of these shows are great for kids, and it's worth keeping an eye on the calendar and snagging tickets to a hit musical.

68. Have your cake and eat it too at Duff's Cake Mix

Design your cake at the first-ever DIY dessert design studio. Visitors purchase a cake-design kit featuring a blank canvas cake by Ace of Cakes star Duff Goldman and decorate away.

69. Experience a new reality at Odyssey VR

Gamers will love exploring the metaverse of ultra-immersive games at this spot in the Irvine Spectrum. 

RELATED: 25 Things to do in Newport Beach and Costa Mesa with Kids

Things To Do with Orange County Kids Before They Grow Up: Sugar n' Spice on Balboa Island 
Treat yourself and the kids to a frozen banana. Photo courtesy of Sugar N' Spice on Balboa Island

70. Decide whether Dad's or Sugar n' Spice is the original Balboa Bars. 

Two vendors within 100 feet of each other compete to be the "original" Balboa Bar on Balboa Island. These delicious vanilla ice cream bars are a hit no matter which eatery you side with. 

71. Take to the skies at the Lyon Air Museum.

Aspiring pilots and plane-loving toddlers will love exploring the unique war-era aircraft, military vehicles, and more at this museum in Santa Ana.  

72. Take a stroll by the ocean at Crystal Cove State Park.

Stunning views and breathtaking sunsets await at Crystal Cove, a sprawling beach with plenty of seaside trails for a blissful, easy walk

73. Enjoy the cutest tea ever at Hello Kitty Cafe

Book an afternoon tea at this charming spot in the Irvine Spectrum and enjoy a variety of baked goods, tea or coffee, and more, all themed around the beloved Sanrio character. 

74. Meet seals, sea lions, and other water-logged friends at the Pacific Marine Mammal Center

This rehabilitation center is all about caring for the animals that share our ocean, and some of the cute critters living there are ready to receive visitors. 

75. Pretend you are in Top Gun: Maverick with a flight simulation at the Air Combat Center

You'll feel like Tom Cruise when you perform the flight of your life in this simulator. This one is for kids who are ten years old and older. 

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