Orange County is an area in Los Angeles, California that is one of the United States’ top tourist destinations. Orange County actually has a huge number of exciting destinations for visitors to check out. From the wildly famous Disney Land to the less-known Anti-Mall, there are so many different places to visit and explore in Orange County. There are four major cities in Orange County, namely Anaheim, Santa Ana, Irvine, and Huntington Beach. However, most people don’t know about the many other destinations and fun things that are available in Orange County.
A big reason that Orange County has become such a big tourist destination over the years is the county’s location on the coast of California. This makes it a perfect place to explore all sorts of different beaches and catch some waves. A large portion of the county’s economy has become dependent on tourism, largely due to the major theme parks, beaches, as well as the Anaheim Convention Center. The Disneyland found in Anaheim is actually the second most visited theme park in the world, an impressive record to hit.
Not to mention, the convention center is host to dozens of different events each year, including popular video game and comic conventions. Let’s take a look at some of the other fun things to do in Orange County, California. From nature adventures and beaches, to shopping centers and theme parks- Orange County certainly has something for everyone. There are many free things to do as well as cost-effective activities found in Orange County, fit for every type of tourist.
Walt Disney and his legacy have taken the whole world by storm. It’s likely that you already know about the magical theme park called Disney Land, but you may not know that one of the biggest in the world is found right in Orange County. Disney World and Disney Land are theme parks found in many cities around the world, centered around Disney films, television shows, and other exciting brands.
The Disney Land found in Anaheim is actually the only Disney theme park that was completed under the full supervision of Walt Disney himself. To this day, it is the second most visited theme park in the world. A trip to Orange County is not complete without a stop at the very first Disney theme park ever constructed.
Visiting Disney Land is a great place to explore, especially with children or as a family. Disney Land is divided into a number of different themed regions, including the most popular ones, Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, Mickey’s Toontown, and Adventureland.
There are many accommodation options in and around the Disney Land theme park in Anaheim, perfect for a couple days of fun in Orange County. Disney was so committed to keeping the magic alive for children, that the park is designed with hidden backstage areas for the actors to change or move from land to land inside the park.
9Hit the Beach
One of the main attractions of Orange County is the incredible beaches dotted all along the coast. Some popular beaches that have been featured in the media are found in Orange County, such as Newport Beach and Laguna Beach. The beaches of the OC are well-known for offering incredible surf opportunities as well as great places to swim and relax in the sun. Newport Beach is a beach community well-known for its many shopping options and beach areas such as the Balboa Peninsula Beach and the Cameo Shores Beach.
Right off the coast of Newport Beach, there is even the Balboa Island, a great place for a day trip to enjoy the island life. Many people consider Newport Beach to be the perfect combination of upscale manmade piers and pristine natural sights. Just around the corner is another one of Orange County’s prime beaches- Huntington Beach. The region is also home to the beautiful Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve, home to a protected coastal area and many protected species of birds.
Next on your Orange County beach tour should be the stunning Laguna Beach. Laguna Beach area has many beach areas to enjoy, as well as some beautiful bluffs and natural sights. The Laguna Coast Wilderness Park is a recreation area set aside along the coast, perfect for a day outdoors. While at Laguna Beach, be sure to enjoy the many activities like paddle boarding and beach volleyball that are available.
One of the most popular cities to visit in Orange County, Anaheim is one of the U.S.’s prime hubs, and it’s home to the Disney Land theme park. One of Anaheim’s other main attractions is the Anaheim Convention Center, a center used to host many of the country’s most popular gatherings and events. Anaheim was the second city ever to be incorporated in the Los Angeles County, years before it was separated from its original county and became a part of the OC. Aside from the city’s many specific attractions and restaurants to check out, the downtown area of Anaheim is also historic. Spending the day exploring the streets of Anaheim is a great way to enjoy your time in Orange County.
Although many people visit Anaheim simply for the theme parks, the city has a lot more to offer than that. Among other things to do in Anaheim, be sure to check out some of the city’s legendary craft breweries or check out the House of Blues to enjoy some incredible music and Southern-inspired atmosphere.
Anaheim is also known as the center of fun in Orange County- home to a number of adrenaline-pumping activities like skydiving and flight simulators. If you’re a daredevil, Anaheim is a great city to check out and enjoy all different kinds of adventure. If you want a more laid back day, enjoy a sports game from one of Anaheim’s two teams- the Angels baseball team and the Anaheim Ducks hockey team.
Santa Ana is another major city in Orange County, California- known for its beach charm and tropical vibes. Found right along the Santa Ana River, it’s one of the most densely populated cities in the entire country. Santa Ana is the largest city in Orange County, and it has plenty to offer tourists and visitors. One of the main things to check out in Santa Ana is the lively art scene. The city is full of galleries, theaters, and plenty of hipster cafés. It’s also home to the Artists Village- a great place to stroll around and enjoy looking at the rich local art scene.
The top sights in Santa Ana include the Bowers Museum of Cultural Arts, the Lyon Air Museum, and the Heritage Museum of Orange County. Visitors can also enjoy the Santa Ana Zoo at Prentice Park or take a sojourn to the Discovery Cube Museum of Orange County. Santa Ana is considered to have one of the best downtown areas to simply stroll around, and as the biggest city in Orange County, there is simply no shortage of corners to explore in Santa Ana. Stop along the way at some of the creative cafés and restaurants that cover the downtown area.
Many visitors enjoy a stop at the Frida Cinema, an indie theater that shows revival films as well as independent films. For a great night out, check out the Observatory OC to enjoy live music and an exciting atmosphere well into the evening- all with an incredible view.
Another one of the top three cities to check out in Orange County, Costa Mesa features a charming suburban community with a nice, quiet atmosphere for tourists to relax and enjoy. Costa Mesa is close to much amazing nature or outdoor destinations, such as the Upper Newport Bay Nature Preserve or the Te Winkle Park. The city is just around the corner from Newport Beach, a great place to stay for a visit near the ocean. Costa Mesa is also home to some incredible golf courses and high-end shopping centers.
Costa Mesa is known as a sleepy, relaxing city of Orange County. It’s a great place to stay if you’re planning to explore other areas of the OC or just enjoy the bright sun and lovely weather of California. For tourists visiting with children or families exploring Orange County, Costa Mesa is a great place to stay to get out of the densely populated cities like Santa Ana or Anaheim.
Nowadays, the city is full of large parks and wide-open outdoor areas like Fairview Park. Often nicknamed the City of the Arts, Costa Mesa also boasts many theaters, art galleries, and even features Broadway shows from time to time at the iconic Segerstrom Center for the Arts. It’s certainly a great place to wind down and enjoy a laid back vacation away from the usual stress of daily life.
5Go Whale Watching
Whales are some of the world’s largest and most incredible creatures. Seeing the majestic creatures up close is one of the most amazing experiences to enjoy while on vacation. Luckily, Orange County has some of the best opportunities for whale watching in the whole world. Southern California actually has the highest concentration of blue whales in the world. Off the ports of Laguna Beach or Newport Beach, tourists can take whale watching tours out to sea to catch a glimpse of the incredible sea mammals.
During the migration of grey whales, sightings of whales are at an all-time high. This period takes place from December to April, although whales are around during the whole year off the coasts of Orange County. Luckily for tourists, whale watching tours take place all the time and tourists are usually delighted by the number of whales that they are able to spot and photograph.
Going on a whale watching tour doesn’t just mean spotting the majestic whales. It can also mean catching glimpses of other incredible sea creatures and learning more about life in the ocean. The West Coast is home to huge populations of sea lions and dolphins, as well as different species of whales. Some of the most popular whale watching tours take place from Dana Point Harbor. Experts believe that the whales may use Dana Point’s high 200 feet cliffs as a landmark during migration. The most common species of whales to spot in these areas are blue and grey whales.
A wonderful place to take a break from the city, Heisler Park is found just along the coast at Cliff Drive, near Laguna Beach. Unlike the beach, Heisler Park is full of lush greenery and perfect locations for picnics or days spent enjoying the outdoors. The best way to enjoy Heisler Park is to set up camp with some snacks or even a barbecue, enjoying the sunrise or the sunset along the water. Tourists can even go for a swim at Heisler Park, enjoying some light scuba diving or snorkeling. The park is so picturesque that it is commonly used for photoshoots or even as a wedding venue.
Enjoying a day in the park is a great way to wind down and relax during any vacation. Not to mention, Heisler Park is a nice option for a cost-effective part of your Orange County adventure. Dogs are allowed in Heisler Park, although they must all be kept on leashes. Often, the park even has live music performers, yoga classes, or outdoor fitness classes to take advantage of. All you need to do is pack yourself a picnic and enjoy the sights and gentle weather of Heisler Park. The park provides large grassy areas, picnic tables, restrooms, and open-air barbecues to cook up your food.
The greenery and plants in Heisler Park, as well as the beaches, are very well-manicured- kept clean and impressive for all the visitors to enjoy. Luckily, Heisler Park is also one of the less crowded areas in Orange County for those who need some rest and relaxation away from the business of the OC.
Some of California’s best restaurants are found in Orange County, many of which are well-known across the country and the world. Just around the corner from Los Angeles, the OC has its fair share of incredible eateries, such as the Hobbit. The Hobbit is a fine dining restaurant, recognized as one of the best in California. With some of the area’s best wines and an unbelievable 7-course meal option, any special occasion is perfect for enjoyment at the Hobbit. Next, check out a 4-course meal option over at the Journeyman’s Food & Drink. This restaurant is known for serving up some impressive LA-style meals at a much more realistic price point.
For an incredible taste of Vietnamese food, check out Garlic and Chives over in Garden Grove. The restaurant is well-known for serving some delicious seafood and Vietnamese soups inspired by Vietnamese cuisine. For a more laid back food option, try out the burritos and other Mexican food at Burritos La Palma in Santa Ana. Burritos La Palma is known for their delicious mini burritos. Another great spot in Santa Ana is the Mix Mix Kitchen Bar, a mid-range restaurant that has a little bit of everything to offer.
Finally, over in Tustin, check out the Mayan-inspired restaurant Chaak. Chaak is inspired by staple foods in the Mayan tradition, and it was founded by the owners of Gabbi’s Mexican Kitchen, another well-known restaurant in the area. Head over to Chaak to take advantage of the lively flavors and bright plating styles.
2Check Out the Anti-Mall
One of the less-known attractions in Orange County, the Lab is an incredible shopping center and gathering place found near Costa Mesa. Nicknamed the anti-mall, the Lab was designed as an urban center, and it has been around for decades. It was meant to break the mold of the typical shopping centers that are found all around Orange County- featuring independent artists and small businesses rather than the typical high-end shops. The Anti-Mall is a great place to spend the day hanging out and enjoying the company of musicians, artists, and independent business owners.
The Anti-Mall is not only a nice destination to shop at, but it’s also a beautiful concept to explore and spend the day at. Most visitors are amazed by the incredible little eateries, cafés, and shops that are found in the Anti-Mall. Here, you can find almost everything that you need- there are even hair salons and unique food options. Because of the unique shops and independently owned shopping options, the Lab Anti-Mall is a delightful way to spend a day browsing and checking out interesting items. Not to mention, the entire mall is designed to be open-air and some of it is even outdoors.
Many of the shops are based inside small airstream trailers, and the entire establishment is decorated with plants and cactuses, as well as string lights. It’s a great place to stop for a photo or to buy some unique crafty gifts to take home with you.
1Knott’s Berry Farm
Another one of the biggest theme parks in Orange County, Knott’s Berry Farm attracts millions of visitors each year. It’s known as America’s first theme park and was formerly an actual berry farm, established by a man named Walter Knott and his family. Since then, the berry farm and food business have been sold to Smuckers, while the theme park continues under operation by Cedar Fair. Knott’s Berry Farm is a wonderful place to stop during a trip to Orange County. It offers some incredible rides and attractions, as well as common seasonal activities like Knott’s Scary Town during the fall.
One of the reasons why Knott’s Berry Farm is so beloved and popular in Orange County is because of the theme park’s rich history. Since its inception, the theme park has been expanding and adding new rides and fun attractions for all visitors to enjoy. Much of the park is dedicated to a Wild West or old-timey theme, complete with a staged ghost town for guests to explore. Not to mention, the incredible Mrs. Knott’s Chicken Dinner Restaurant is a delicious way to fill up in between enjoying all the attractions that the Berry Farm has to offer.
Be sure to stop at the Calico Mine Ride, one of Knott’s Berry Farm’s original attractions that takes you through a realistic adventure through an old ore mine. For visitors with kids, check out Camp Snoopy, a whole area dedicated to rides and games geared towards children and based on the Peanuts cartoons.
Orange County is a top tourist destination for a reason, thanks to the region’s host of natural amenities and popular theme parks like Disney Land and Knott’s Berry Farm. It’s a great place to visit because it is a cost-effective choice and a tourist destination that has a little something for everyone. Whether you’re interested in taking a beach vacation or taking the whole family to a theme park, Orange County has an option for you. Orange County also has some of the largest shopping centers in the world, as well as some top-notch restaurants to enjoy.
Commonly nicknamed “the OC,” Orange County, California is a great region to consider for your next vacation. For people who live in the United States, visiting Orange County is a cost-effective place to explore. For visitors outside of the country, it’s the perfect place to get a taste of the best that America has to offer. Orange County is right around the corner from the heart of Los Angeles, but it is far enough away to avoid some of the hustle and bustle that you may want to avoid.
Overall, Orange County attracts 40 million visitors each year, and many of them continue to come back more than once- for good reason. There’s something about the sun, surf, and endless places to explore that make Orange County irresistible. With numerous theme parks, art venues, sports teams, and conventions to check out- it’s unlikely that you could ever feel bored or out of options in the OC!