25 Fun Things to Do in Orange County, CA | 2024 (with Photos)

Katarina P.

Katarina P. - Travel Writer

Published: June 29, 2023

Hey there! I'm Katarina, a passionate explorer of Orange County. In this article, I'll share my top picks for the most exciting and memorable activities to experience the vibrant energy and beauty of this stunning destination. Let's dive into the fun-filled world of Orange County together!

Fun Things to Do in Orange County, California

Orange County, California, stretches from San Clemente in the south to Seal Beach in the north, nestled between San Diego and Los Angeles.

Orange County is a popular tourist destination, with its famous Laguna Beach and vibrant culture.

With so many attractions to choose from, planning a trip to Orange County can be overwhelming.

That's why we've put together a list of 29 fun things to do including everything from outdoor adventures and cultural experiences to dining and night activities in Orange County.

Most Recommended Thing to Do

Balboa Island

Top Choice Hotel

Marriott Newport Beach Hotel & Spa

Our Top Choice Restaurant

Our Top Choice Bar for Nightlife

Best Time to Visit

Sunny beach days, crowds, and vibrant coastal charm.

Average Temperature

Mild coastal climate with pleasant year-round temperatures.

Transportation Options

Bicycles, buses, cars, taxis, walking, skateboards, Uber, Lyft.

Average Cost ($, $$, $$$)


My Top Recommendation

Newport Beach is a coastal gem that offers endless opportunities for a personalized and memorable travel experience. Take a leisurely stroll along the picturesque shores, immersing yourself in the soothing sounds of crashing waves and feeling the gentle ocean breeze on your face.

For a truly personalized adventure, hop on a rented kayak or paddleboard and explore the hidden coves and pristine waters that Newport Beach is famous for - it's the perfect way to connect with nature and create unforgettable memories.

What You'll Need to Bring

  1. Sunscreen
  2. Beach towel
  3. Sunglasses

What Not to Miss

  1. Crystal Cove State Park
  2. Balboa Island
  3. Fashion Island
  4. Newport Beach Pier
  5. Newport Harbor

What to Avoid

  1. Overpacking
  2. Rushing
  3. Ignoring beach etiquette

1. Visit Disneyland and Disney California Adventure Park

Disney California Adventure Park

Disneyland Park, known as the "Happiest Place on Earth", is home to classic Disney attractions like the Pirates of the Caribbean, It's a Small World, and Space Mountain.

Disney California Adventure Park offers a more modern experience with attractions like Cars Land, Guardians of the Galaxy - Mission: BREAKOUT!, and the Incredicoaster.

Walking into Disneyland through Main Street, you can enjoy shows, parades, and character meet-and-greets that provide plenty of entertainment throughout the day.

Visitors can step into a truly magical world and create lasting memories with these must-try things to do in Orange County.

2. Surf at Huntington Beach

Surf at Huntington Beach

Huntington Beach, also known as "Surf City USA," is a beautiful beach town located in Orange County.

The Huntington Beach Pier near Huntington Main Street offers spectacular views of the ocean and is a popular spot for fishing and strolling. Main Street is also home to several shops and oceanfront resorts.

You can watch the annual US Open of Surfing, which attracts top surfers from around the world. Huntington Beach also has plenty of restaurants, bars, and clubs.

The downtown area is lined with boutique shops and art galleries, making it a great place to spend an afternoon exploring.

3. Go on a Hike in Crystal Cove State Park

Hike in Crystal Cove State Park

Crystal Cove State Park is a historic state park that encompasses more than 2,400 acres of undeveloped woodland and canyons, making it a popular destination for hiking.

Crystal Cove is located on the scenic Pacific Coast Highway in Newport Beach.

Crystal Cove State Park has a stunning beach where you can swim, sunbathe, play beach volleyball, or go kayaking, surfing, and paddleboarding.

Crystal Cove State Park is also home to several historic cottages and structures that date back to the early 20th century.

4. Have a Picnic in Heisler Park, Laguna Beach, CA, 92651

Heisler Park

Heisler Park is named after George Heisler, a prominent Laguna Beach artist who played a key role in the establishment of the park in the early 1900s.

The park hosts the Laguna Beach Art Museum, which features rotating exhibits of contemporary and modern art.

Visitors can walk along the park's paved pathways and walking trails or dip in the local tide pools.

The park is also home to the Native Plant Garden and the famous "Whale Tail" sculpture, which has become a symbol of Laguna Beach.

If you are driving in Orange County, head for Laguna Beach, CA, 92651 on your GPS.

5. Go Whale Watching at Dana Point Harbor

Whale Watching at Dana Point Harbor

With its prime location along the Pacific Ocean, Dana Point Harbor allows visitors to witness whales in their natural habitat.

Several species of whales can be spotted in the waters off the coast, including humpback whales, blue whales, gray whales, and even orcas.

Dana Point Harbor also offers a variety of whale-watching tours to choose from, including half-day and full-day excursions.

With Dana Point whale-watching tours, you are all but guaranteed to see whales during your trip, so you can be confident in your chances of witnessing these magnificent creatures up close.

Some tours for Dana Point will pick you up from the San Clemente pier. San Clemente Pier City Beach is a great spot to sunbathe before or after your tour.

6. Take a Trip to Balboa Island

Balboa Island

Located in Newport Beach, Balboa Island is a charming neighborhood in OC, known for its beautiful waterfront views, quaint shops, and picturesque homes.

Balboa Island is situated in Newport Harbor, offering stunning views of the water and the surrounding coastline.

Visitors can take a stroll along the waterfront or browse through a variety of boutique stores and specialty shops, or grab a bite at one of the many restaurants in Newport Beach.

You can also take the tiny car ferry from Balboa Island to the Balboa Peninsula, home of the Balboa Fun Zone and the Balboa Pier.

7. Visit Knott's Soak City and Knott's Berry Farm

Knott's Soak City and Knott's Berry Farm

Knott's Berry Farm is a world-renowned theme park in Buena Park with over 40 thrilling roller coasters, water rides, and family-friendly attractions.

Some of the popular rides are the Silver Bullet suspended coaster and the GhostRider, a wooden coaster that offers a classic thrill ride experience.

Knott's Soak City is a water park in Buena Park, located adjacent to Knott's Berry Farm. It has slides, a lazy river, and a wave pool.

Some popular rides at the park include Banzai Falls and the massive Tidal Wave Bay. This is one of the best things to do in Orange County for kids.

Hot tip: The delicious Knott's chicken dinner restaurant is also a popular family option.

8. Get Active in Orange County Great Park

Orange County Great Park

Orange County Great Park is a large, outdoor recreational area located in the heart of Orange County.

The park spans over 1,300 acres and features miles of walking and biking paths, as well as open green spaces.

Another highlight of Orange County Great Park is its many sports facilities. The park features multiple sports fields and courts, including a soccer stadium, tennis courts, and a baseball diamond.

Events like outdoor movies and gardening lessons also keep bringing Orange County locals into the park.

9. Take a Famous Homes Boat Tour at Newport Beach

Famous Homes Boat Tour at Newport Beach (The former house of Nicholas Cage)

The Famous Homes Boat Tour in Newport Beach is a popular attraction for visitors looking to explore the area's luxurious waterfront homes.

Visitors are taken on a leisurely cruise through Newport Harbor, where they can admire the views and get an up-close look at some of the most impressive homes in the area.

One of the main reasons to visit the Famous Homes Boat Tour is the chance to see some truly stunning architecture and design.

Many of the homes on the tour are custom-built and feature unique and impressive features, such as soaring ceilings, expansive outdoor living areas, and gorgeous water views.

10. Check out the Discovery Cube Orange County

Cube Orange County

The Discovery Cube Orange County is a science museum located in Santa Ana, California, designed to educate and inspire visitors through hands-on exhibits, interactive displays, and engaging activities.

Some of the most popular exhibits include the Planetary Research Station, where visitors can explore the solar system, and the Eco-Challenge exhibit, which teaches visitors about environmental sustainability.

Hot tip: Check out other Santa Ana museums (the Kidseum, the Heritage Museum of Orange County, or the Lyon Air Museum, which displays aircraft and memorabilia mainly related to World War II), and the Santa Ana Zoo.

11. Visit the Orange County Zoo

Orange County Zoo

The Orange County Zoo is a must-visit destination for nature lovers and anyone looking for fun things to do in Orange County.

The Orange County Zoo is located within the larger Irvine Regional Park, which provides visitors with ample opportunities for outdoor recreation.

The Orange County Zoo has an exhibit on mountain lions that is particularly popular, as it offers a rare opportunity to observe these elusive creatures up close.

Apart from mountain lions, you can also see a range of other native animals, such as black bears, coyotes, and bald eagles.

Hot tip: Nature lovers can also visit the Pacific Marine Mammal Center and see a variety of rescued pinnipeds in recovery including California sea lions, harbor seals, fur seals, and elephant seals.

12. Explore the Fullerton Arboretum

Fullerton Arboretum

The Fullerton Arboretum is a hidden gem in Orange County, California that offers visitors an opportunity to explore and appreciate nature.

As one of the largest botanical gardens in the region, it boasts over 26 acres of diverse plant collections and wildlife habitats.

The Fullerton Arboretum also offers educational programs, guided tours, and workshops for people of all ages. The arboretum also has a sensory garden, featuring aromatic plants and different textures.

13. Take a Hot Air Balloon Ride over Irvine

Great Park Hot Air Balloon Ride over Irvine

A hot air balloon ride over Irvine is an unforgettable experience that should be on your list of activities in California.

Irvine is known for its vibrant culture and picturesque landscapes. A balloon ride provides a bird's eye view of the city and allows visitors to experience the city in an entirely new way.

From high above, you can see iconic landmarks, such as the Great Park Balloon, Irvine Spectrum Center, and Orange County Great Park.

14. Check out the Downtown Santa Ana Historic District

Downtown Santa Ana Historic District

The Downtown Santa Ana Historic District is a vibrant neighborhood in OC.

It is home to a rich cultural heritage, stunning architecture, and a thriving arts scene, making it an ideal destination for visitors looking for a unique and authentic experience.

The neighborhood is home to over 100 historic buildings, including the Old County Courthouse, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Other notable buildings are the Santora Building, the Yost Theater, the Frida Cinema, and the Grand Central Art Center.

15. Visit the Richard Nixon Library and Museum

Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum

The Richard Nixon Library and Museum is a historic site in Orange County, established in 1990 to honor the legacy of Richard Nixon, the 37th President of the United States.

The library is situated on a 9-acre campus that includes Nixon's birthplace, a replica of the White House East Room, and a beautiful rose garden.

The museum showcases Nixon's career as a congressman, senator, vice president, and president, as well as controversies such as the Watergate scandal.

The library hosts a research center and more than 6 million pages of Nixon's documents, photographs, and audio recordings.

16. Have Fun at Pretend City Children's Museum

Pretend City Children's Museum

Pretend City Children's Museum is an interactive museum in Orange County, designed specifically for young kids aged 0-8.

From math and science to social skills and emotional development, children can explore a wide range of topics and learn at their own pace.

Pretend City has over 17 interactive exhibits. Children can explore a grocery store, visit a doctor's office, learn about recycling, and even put out a pretend fire as a firefighter.

Pretend City Children's Museum hosts a variety of special events throughout the year, which offer a chance for families to learn about different cultures and traditions.

17. Visit the Old Courthouse Museum

Old Courthouse Museum

The Old Courthouse Museum is a historical landmark housed in the Old Orange County Courthouse building, which was constructed in 1901 and served as the county courthouse until 1969.

The Old Courthouse Museum hosts the Orange County Archives, the Orange County History Center, and the Pacific Coast Archaeological Society's library.

Some highlights of the museum are a collection of Native American artifacts and another of vintage cars, which includes a 1916 Ford Model T and a 1927 Buick Roadster.

18. Relax at Doheny State Beach

Doheny State Beach

Doheny State Beach is a popular destination for tourists and locals and for good reason.

With its miles of pristine coastline, crystal-clear waters, and stunning views, Doheny State Beach offers visitors a variety of activities to enjoy.

One of the main reasons to visit Doheny State Beach is for its fantastic surfing conditions.

Doheny State Beach is also located near several hiking trails that offer stunning views of the coastline and surrounding hills.

19. Head to the Bowers Museum

Bowers Museum

The Bowers Museum showcases the culture of indigenous peoples from around the world, as well as the history of California and the surrounding region.

Visitors to the Bowers Museum can see ancient artifacts from Egypt, China, and the Pacific Islands, as well as contemporary art and photography.

The Bowers Museum houses a collection of artifacts from the local Tongva people, as well as exhibits on the culture of the region's early settlers and immigrant communities.

A visit to the Bowers Museum is undoubtedly one of the best things to do in orange county for history lovers.

20. Go Birdwatching at the Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve

Birdwatching at the Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve

Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve is a beautiful coastal wetland in Orange County.

It is an excellent destination for nature lovers, birdwatchers, and anyone looking to immerse themselves in the natural beauty of Southern California.

The reserve covers over 1,200 acres of tidal salt marshes, coastal sage scrub, freshwater marshes, and sand dunes.

Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve is home to rare and endangered species, such as the California Least Tern, the Belding's Savannah Sparrow, and the Ridgway's Rail.

21. Take a Scenic Drive on the Pacific Coast Highway

Pacific Coast Highway

This highway, also known as California State Route 1, is a scenic drive, offering breathtaking views of the ocean and the California coastline.

The highway stretches over 600 miles along the coast of California, with some of the most beautiful stretches located in Orange County.

A drive from Newport Beach to Laguna Beach takes you through some of the most picturesque and affluent neighborhoods in the county.

You'll drive past million-dollar beach houses and beautiful beaches, including the famous Crystal Cove State Park.

22. Hear the Bells at Mission San Juan Capistrano

Mission San Juan Capistrano

San Juan Capistrano is known as the birthplace of Orange County.

Mission San Juan Capistrano was founded in 1776 by Spanish Franciscan missionaries and has played an important role in the history of California.

The buildings and grounds are beautifully preserved, providing a glimpse into the daily lives of the people who lived and worked there over 200 years ago.

Visitors can explore the Mission San Juan Capistrano gardens, museum, chapel, and other historic buildings.

23. Shop at the South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa

South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa

South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa is a premier shopping center in Orange County and one of the largest shopping malls in the US.

With a vast selection of designer brands such as Chanel, Gucci, and Prada, South Coast Plaza offers the ultimate luxury shopping experience and free parking.

Beyond the shopping, the shopping center is also known for its impressive art collection, featuring works by world-renowned artists such as Joan Miró, Henry Moore, and Richard Serra.

24. Visit Salt Creek Beach Park

Salt Creek Beach Park

Salt Creek Beach Park offers visitors a variety of activities and amenities that make it a must-visit destination for anyone looking for fun things to do in OC.

The beach is popular among surfers and bodyboarders, thanks to its consistent waves and reliable breaks.

Salt Creek Beach Park has lovely picnic areas, barbeque grills, and a children's playground.

The park also offers access to a variety of hiking trails with stunning views of the ocean and the surrounding coastline.

25. Visit the Hilbert Museum of California Art

Hilbert Museum of California Art

The Hilbert Museum of California Art is dedicated to showcasing the work of California artists who have made significant contributions to the art world.

Visitors can gain a deeper understanding of the state's artistic legacy and the cultural influences that have shaped California's art scene.

Visitors to the Hilbert Museum of California Art can see over 1,000 works of art from a variety of artists, ranging from the early 20th century to the present day.

The museum's collection showcases the diversity of California's landscapes, people, and culture.

FAQs About Fun Things to Do in Orange County, California

Let's also explore some frequently asked questions relating to fun things to do in Orange County, California.

What is there to do today in Orange County?

Orange County is known for its sunny beaches, theme parks like Disneyland and Knott's Berry Farm, and shopping centers such as South Coast Plaza.

There are green areas such as the Irvine Regional Park and the Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve. Huntington Beach Pier is one of the longest and most photographed on the west coast.

Visitors to Orange County can consult local event calendars or tourist websites for up-to-date information on things to do and see in the area.

How do you spend a day in Orange County?

There are many ways to spend a day in Orange County. Start the day by exploring the area's beautiful beaches, followed by a visit to a local museum or cultural attraction.

You can also visit Disneyland, Knott's Berry Farm theme park, and the Palm Court Arts Complex.

Finish the day by enjoying a game of the Los Angeles Angels, and see the sunset at the San Clemente Pier.

What is best about Orange County?

Orange County in Southern California offers beautiful beaches and several world-class theme parks, including Disneyland and Knott's Berry Farm.

The Huntington Beach Pier is one of the longest and most photographed on the west coast.

You can also enjoy the Orange County Zoo, Laguna Coast Wilderness Park, the rustic charms of Trestles Beach, or the famously stellar swells at Seal Beach.

Why should you visit Orange County?

There are many reasons why you should visit Orange County, CA.

Orange County beaches are among the most beautiful in the world, so check out Laguna Beach, San Clemente State Beach, and Huntington Beach.

Orange County boasts attractions such as Disneyland, Knott's Berry Farm, the Orange County History Center, the Casa Romantica Cultural Center, Pretend City Children's Museum, and the Bowers Museum.

And with a vibrant nightlife scene, there's always something to do and see in Orange County, CA.

Summing Up: Fun Things to Do in Orange County, California

In sum, there are plenty of fun things to do in Orange County, CA. This is a place filled with endless opportunities for fun and adventure.

From exploring the tide pools of Laguna Beach to immersing yourself in the magical world of Disney California Adventure or the beautiful garden of the Fullerton Arboretum, OC has something for everyone.

Whatever your interests are, you will find various fun and exciting things to do in Orange County.

So add these must-visit spots to your itinerary, plan your trip to Orange County today, and explore all this beautiful region has to offer.