Newport Beach may be synonymous with surf, sun, and sand, but there's plenty more to do in this scenic community beyond lying on the (admittedly inviting) beach. From sports fishing to skate parks and petting zoos, there are countless kid-friendly activities to engage a family in the heart of Newport Beach—plus a wide variety of enriching options in adjoining Costa Mesa as well. And when SoCal's version of winter rolls around, some of the season's most memorable events take place in these two communities, including one of the oldest holiday traditions in the country.
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There's nothing like a winter day in LA, when you can see the snowy mountaintops from the traffic on the Santa Monica Freeway. It makes you want to grab a sled and head for the hills. This season brings back another way to get up there and enjoy the snow: Skypark at Santa's Village in Lake Arrowhead. Christmases may come and go, but Santa's sleigh bells keep on ringing year-round at this 230-acre, holiday-themed amusement park, which recently reopened its doors after nearly 20 years. And don't let the name fool you; while Christmas is a wonderful time of year to visit, outdoor adventures from ziplining to archery make Skypark worth the drive at any time of year.
Sadly, this location has closed as of 2019.
The answer to this tantalizing question is yes and no—but mostly yes.
Down the 5 freeway, in a nondescript Orange County strip mall past the Irvine Spectrum, is one of SoCal's best-kept secrets. ChocXO is a bean-to-bar chocolate factory, complete with direct trade cacao beans, organic chocolate, and an on-site retail store that whips up steaming mugs of decadent hot chocolate. But most remarkable of all is that your kids can go behind the scenes and witness for themselves the magic that turns those little beans into the most revered food in their diet. It's the closest thing to Mr. Wonka's factory this side of Hershey.
Disneyland may be the Happiest Place on Earth, but it's far from the only reason locals brag about living in Orange County. Great beaches, picturesque parks, and close proximity to the desert and mountains are just a few of the many perks of raising your kids within a stone's throw of Mickey Mouse. That, and the fact that it's not LA. Here are the top 10 reasons why children and parents alike love growing up in The OC.
If your kid bounces off the walls even after a full day of activities, you might be raising a little ninja warrior, and a candidate for Orange County's hip and hopping gym, Firestorm Freerunning & Acrobatics. This Santa Ana gym is owned and operated by local fitness guru Justin Taylor (who appeared on the reality TV show American Ninja Warrior). It's also a premier training site for parkour, the latest fitness craze to capture the imagination of active kids.
Aarrgghh! Beating the heat is no easy feat when SoCal temperatures can rise well into the hundreds. Luckily, little pirates can stay cool all summer long at Buccaneer Cove. This Orange County pirate-themed water park, located just off the 405 freeway in Irvine, is the perfect spot to introduce mini swashbuckling adrenaline junkies to the rush of riding water slides. It's great for younger children, is easy to navigate, and doesn't plunder as much treasure as other water parks–so parents won't feel like walking the plank after paying the entrance fee.
Some days call for adventure beyond the same old stomping grounds—like maybe taking a closer look at that intriguing giant balloon just off the 5 Freeway in Orange County. If your crew is primed for an outing beyond the local playground, head for Irvine to explore Orange County Great Park, home to so much more than a playground. Your day's adventure can include a carousel, exhibits, workshops, outdoor entertainment, and, of course, a ride up in the air on a giant, bucket-list-worthy, orange balloon.
Most busy parents would love to kick back on a terrace with a cold beer after a long day spent organizing playdates, meeting work deadlines, and changing diapers—but spring for a babysitter just for a drink out? Not so much. Thankfully happy hour is no longer limited to rowdy twentysomethings looking to score cheap drinks. A plethora of Orange County bars and restaurants now target families with an appealing proposition: cheap drinks with cheap bites in a kid-friendly environment. Mom and Dad get the margarita they've earned, while kids get an early dinner that barely opens the wallet—talk about win-win! From beachfront restaurants to upscale bowling alleys to pizzerias, we found eight wonderful, kid-friendly watering holes in Orange County that know how to treat parents right.