Despite what reality television would have you believe, the real moms of Orange County are just as busy trying to juggle family, relationships and responsibilities as women everywhere else. And while there are plenty of tourist stops and globally-known attractions to be found in and around OC, families looking for affordable weekend fun that doesn’t include a giant people trap built by a mouse can sometimes feel at a loss. Here’s a look at some locals-only activities in your own backyard that you may have overlooked.
The Noguchi Sculpture Garden
Stashed away behind South Coast Plaza and a cluster of office buildings is a gorgeous sculpture garden created by famed Japanese-American artist and landscape architect Isamu Noguchi. Created from mixes of stone, water, natural elements, foliage, tile and more, the garden isn’t huge, but it looks completely different depending on what time of year and day (or night) you visit.
Pack a lunch and then let your kids explore and take pictures. There are several opportunities for interesting photos utilizing shadow and light, and this might just become your new go-to place for a refreshing, Zen afternoon.
The Environmental Nature Center
On 16 th Street in Newport Beach you’ll find three and a half acres of nature and wonder. Marshes, woodlands, forests, islands, and more are all represented at the ENC, which represents just about every landscape in California.
Walk along nature trails and explore flora and fauna, or sign up for one of the center’s famous nature walks or experiences. There are children’s camps in winter and summer, as well as fairs in the fall and spring. Plus with a calendar that includes things like yoga in nature, hummingbird walks, stories under the stars and world of wolves, there is always something new to do.
The Lyon Air Museum
Located on the west side of John Wayne Airport, the Lyon Air Museum exhibits some of the rarest and most unique operational vehicles and aircraft anywhere in the world. Here, kids and adults alike can check out aircraft like the B-25 Bomber, B-17 Flying Fortress, and a Douglas A-26 “Invader” painted its ferocious best.
And as impressive as these planes are, they’re not the only lure of the Lyon. The impressive collection also includes military vehicles, tanks, antique cars, and even some wild military motorcycles unlike any you’ve ever seen.
The Santa Ana River Trail
Stretching across 110 miles of flat land, city, ocean, and mountain, the Santa Ana River Trail is a fantastic way to get moving with your family. Depending on what part of the trail you’re on, you’ll find plenty of spots to stop and rest, picnic, or play.
If you’re an experienced mountain biker or hiker, check out the upper trail. It’s rougher terrain, but great for families with teens or older children experienced with this type of environment. The middle trail is flat and mostly urban, making it the perfect path for jogging, rollerblading, and horseback riding. For a leisurely bike ride or walk with an ocean view, the lower trail is your best bet.
1238 S. Beach Blvd
Anaheim, CA 92804
The Little theme park that's big on fun! Adventure City has 10 rides, and Arcade, a petting zoo and other fun attractions.
Admission: Child: $12.95 Adult: $12.95 Seniors: $9.95
Now’s the perfect time to bring your family to the Aquarium of the Pacific, in Long Beach. Touch a shark, feed lorikeet birds, watch penguins play, or even speak with an underwater diver! During your visit, you can explore the Aquarium’s three main galleries, including the chilly Northern Pacific, the colorful Tropical Pacific, and sunny Southern California/Baja. You’ll witness fascinating marine animals from weedy sea dragons and sea jellies to our puffins and sea lions. There are informative shows and feedings at major exhibits throughout the day. And, you can even have colorful lorikeet birds eating right out of your hand in the outdoor aviary. Be sure to check out Shark Lagoon, where you’ll learn about and even touch the ocean’s most mysterious and misunderstood predator. Explore the Aquarium’s latest exhibit, the June Keyes Penguin Habitat, featuring Magellanic penguins. You can even enhance your visit with an animal encounter, behind- the-scenes tour, boat trip, or 4D film.
So take an adventure today and discover over 11,000 animals from the biggest ocean in the world. For more information, call 1- 888-SHARKS2. Or visit ourwebsite for advance tickets. Aquarium of the Pacific. Where the ocean and people connect.
100 Aquarium Way
Long Beach, CA 90802
Open daily – 9AM-6PM (closed to the public on Christmas day and during Long Beach Grand Prix in April)
600 E. Bay Ave. (at Main St.)
Newport Beach, CA 92661
The Fun Zone is a collection of game arcades and carnival rides like bumper cars and a Ferris wheel. Open Sun-Thur 11am-10pm, Fri-Sat 11am-11pm.
3405 Michelson Drive
Irvine, CA 92612
16800 Magnolia Street
Fountain Valley, CA 92708
Looking for fun for the whole family? Well, Boomers is a great place to have fun and stay busy for the whole day. Attractions include batting cages, bumber boats, go-karts, lasertag, miniature golf, rock climbing, and a full arcade. The Irvine location also offers King Arthur's Carnival, which features the Ye Rockin' Tug, Jumping Jester, Castle Express, King's carousel, and Merlin's Magic Tea Cups.
2002 N. Main St.
Open Tuesday - Sunday 10am-4pm
General admission weekdays: $17 adults, $12 seniors and students.
Weekends: $19 adults, $14 seniors and students. Free to kids under 5
3200 E. Carpenter Ave.
Anaheim, CA 92806
The world’s largest mini golf course, there are five different themed miniature golf courses, video game arcade, pizza, waterslides and lazer tag.
OC Fair & Event Center
88 Fair Drive
Costa Mesa, CA 92626
Centennial Farm is a 4-acre working farm at the OC Fair & Event Center. Created to educate youth about Orange County's agricultural heritage, the Farm is home to fruit and vegetable gardens, livestock, and Millennium Barn. Kids and adults can view pigs, peacocks, cows, honey bees and more while strolling though gardens of lush vegetation. We do ask that you please do not pick our crops as they are used for educational purposes.
301 South Euclid Street
La Habra, CA 90631
The Children's Museum at La Habra shows how important play is to learning. Through play, children develop skills, express creativity, discover the larger world and learn to work with others.
2500 N. Main St.
They refer to it as the “amusement park for your mind,”
1313 S. Harbor Blvd
Resort Information: (714) 781-4565
• From the charm of Main Street, U.S.A to the whimsy of Mickey's Toontown, explore eight fantastic "lands" of nostalgia, color and delight. Let your imagination run free in a magic kingdom where life is a fairy tale and dreams really do come true.
• See More Disneyland Park Information
• Downtown Disney
• Disney's California Adventure
Disney's California Adventure
1313 S. Harbor Blvd
Anaheim, CA Resort
Information: (714) 781-4565
Disney's California Adventure® park Immerse yourself in a magical festival of shows, parades and attractions celebrating California's storied past and exciting future. From the gold rush to Hollywood's golden era to the timeless allure of the beach, discover the vast and diverse Golden State
International Surfing Museum
411 Olive Ave
Huntington Beach, CA 92648
The International Surfing Museum preserves an important part of Huntington Beach's image as "Surf City, USA."
Home to the US Open Surfing Championship and the celebrated Bud Surf Tour, Huntington Beach is rated the "most heavily surfed beach on the West Coast" by Surfer's Almanac. So it is only natural for this surfing landmark to also play host to this international monument to surfing.
Knott's Berry Farm
8039 Beach Blvd.
Buena Park, CA 90620
What was once an actual berry farm is now 160 acres of world class rides, unique family shows and one of a kind attractions. At America's favorite theme park, experience GhostRider the world's best wooden roller coaster, Supreme Scream, 30-stories up, 3 seconds down and the high-octane thrill of Xcelerator, rated the world's best launch coaster, sending riders 0-80 in 2.3 seconds. For a different type of thrill, stroll on over to Camp Snoopy, home to the beloved PEANUTS gang.
Knott's Soak City
8039 Beach Blvd.
Buena Park, CA 90620
229 E. Orangethorpe Avenue
The Block of Orange
20 City Boulevard West, Suite G2
Phone: (714) 937-5263
The 25,000 square foot attraction boasts 24 embellished bowling lanes, five billiards tables, an outdoor patio, restaurant, lounge, and featured deejay. After 9pm no one under 21 allowed so the adults can relax and enjoy the full bar.
7662 Beach Blvd.
Open for dinner daily; Admission (including four-course dinner and two-hour live show) Call for times and prices.
Mission San Juan Capistrano
31882 Camino Capistrano
San Juan Capistrano
Open daily 8:30am-5pm
Admission $6 adults, $5 seniors, $4 kids 3-11, free to kids under 3.
Newport Sports Museum
1000 Newport Center Drive
Newport Beach, CA
A sports enthusiast dream! With a baseball room filled with Jersey's and signed baseballs, a basketball room where you can compare shoe sizes with Shaquille O'Neal, and not to mention the hockey room, and the olympic rooms!
Orange County Zoo
1 Irvine Park Road
This 477 acre zoo is home to animals and plants indigenous to the southwestern United States. School tours and toddler programs are offered. The grounds also includes barbecues, picnic tables, a botanical preserve, and food concession.
7600 Beach Blvd.
Open for dinner daily. Call for show times and prices.
Dinner and show included.
1801 East Chestnut Ave.