Things to do in Orange County, CA

Get Your Bearings in Orange County

See & Do
Stay
Eat
Party
Shop

Things to See

Orange County's top attractions offer something for everyone, from theme parks to art museums. This family-friendly destination is home to Disneyland, a summer vacation mecca for families the world over, as well as Knott's Berry Farm, where the family can hang out with Snoopy and the gang while enjoying more than 150 acres of rides. Not a thrill seeker? There's plenty to do on the coast, where you can enjoy art galleries and boutiques in Laguna Beach or catch a ferry to Catalina Island.

Take It or Leave It:

If you're headed to Orange County's theme parks, be prepared to brave the crowds.

Where to Stay

Many of Orange County's best hotels and resorts are found in Anaheim, offering easy access to The Happiest Place on Earth. If you book a hotel in the Downtown Disney District, you won't even need a car to reach Disneyland's main entrance. Prefer ocean views? You can take your pick from dozens of seaside accommodations. With the sand at your feet and rolling sounds of crashing waves filling the air, you'll get a true feel for the SoCal lifestyle.

Caution:

Book early, especially if you're coming to Orange County in the peak summer months.

What to Eat

Whether you want to dine on the sand or with Disney princesses, Orange County has you covered. Many of the area's best restaurants can be found along the 42-mile shore in cities like Newport Beach, Laguna Beach and Dana Point. You can dine alfresco to soak in the surf, sand and sun while enjoying everything from seafood and steaks to all-American hamburgers and California cuisine. College towns like downtown Fullerton are known for restaurants with both innovative menus and wallet-friendly prices.

Be Sure to Sample:

Creative sushi platters, local brews and food truck fare.

Places to Party

While the area is largely known as a family destination, Orange County offers plenty to do after dark. With its bars, lounges and live music, Downtown Fullerton is where college students head to unwind after a long day of classes. In swanky Costa Mesa, dozens of late-night venues offer everything from pool halls and watering holes to jazz bands and dance clubs. The coast stays out late, too, with bars in both Newport Beach and Huntington Beach partying into the wee hours.

Take It or Leave It:

College towns bring college crowds, which may or may not be your type of scene.

Where to Shop

Fashionistas and trendsetters flock to Fashion Island in Newport Beach and South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa. Other top shopping centers include Irvine Spectrum Center, Brea Mall and The Outlets at Orange. For vintage, antique and one-of-a-kind finds, you'll want to spend a day digging through Downtown Fullerton and Old Towne Orange. In quaint Laguna Beach, you'll find more than 100 art galleries and home decor boutiques where you can find the perfect souvenir to put in your home.

Caution:

Mega malls like South Coast Plaza and Irvine Spectrum Center draw huge traffic on weekends.

Best Local Souvenir:

Customized Mickey Mouse ears or artisan crafts from Laguna Beach.

Things to do in Orange County


Orange County is known for...

Five of Orange County's most unique features and characteristics.

1. Beaches:

With 42 miles of coastline there are enough beaches in Orange County for surfers, sun bunnies, toddlers and even dogs are welcome in parts of Huntington and Laguna Beach.   The wide expanses of fine sand are filled with colorful umbrellas during the summer months but September is the local’s favorite month when the crowds have vanished and the sun’s out all day.  The beaches are a showcase of Southern California wildlife and it’s common to see waves of pelicans overhead, dolphins and sea lions frolicking in the surf and tidepools filled with marine life.

2. Disneyland:

With the opening of Disneyland Resort in 1955, Orange County officially arrived as an international tourist destination.  In the world of theme parks, Disneyland Park and Disney California Adventure rank as the most family-friendly with attractions for toddlers, teens and grandparents.   “The Happiest Place on Earth” is more enjoyable if you can dedicate a couple of days leisurely visiting the parks rather attempting to run through both in a day.   Outside the parks, on the Disneyland Resort grounds, there are three Disney themed hotels and the outdoor retail and entertainment district, Downtown Disney. 

3. Surfing:

The surfing culture is so integrated into daily life in Orange County that it’s not unusual for kids to go surfing before school starts and visitors often give bicyclists a second look as they peddle by with a surfboard attached.  Huntington Beach, also known as Surf City USA, has over 50 days of surfing events every year and is home to the International Surfing Museum.  At the southernmost end of Orange County, San Clemente anchors the surfing scene with several famous surf spots, international surf competitions and surf outlet stores.  Surfing camps and lessons are available throughout Orange County.

4. Shopping:

Shopping in Orange County is not merely an outing to find something to wear; it’s a social experience that integrates entertainment, dining and attitude.  The nirvana of all shopping is South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa.  It’s the highest grossing retail development complex in the US and every year 22 million people browse and graze their way through its 250 shops, restaurants and department stores.  Step outside and Orange County has the perfect climate for outdoor malls; Fashion Island in Newport Beach and The Irvine Spectrum are the most well known.  Last stop on the shopping tour and the most interesting for self labeled non-shoppers are the anti-malls.  The Lab, The Camp and the oc mart MIX in Costa Mesa highlight cutting edge shops and restaurants in a hip environment.

5. Reality TV:

Reality TV arrived in Orange County in 2003 with the Fox series The O.C. and was followed by the MTV series about teens called Laguna Beach: The Real Orange County.  However the series that continues to captivate audiences is The Housewives of Orange County.  This glimpse of life in the OC highlights the best scenery and entertainment in the area and it’s a memorable day when you see one of the current housewives out to dinner or simply grocery shopping at Trader Joe’s.