No doubt you’ve heard of Orange County before, but besides its claims to reality TV fame, it’s home to plenty of family fun. Whether you’re a wildlife enthusiast, a beach bum, an adrenaline junkie, or anything in between, Orange County has something for you and your family. Find family-friendly kid activities to do in Orange County and make sure to add your favorites to your itinerary.

Outdoor adventures

1. Experience the wonder of whale-watching

For an outdoor and educational 2-for-1, make sure to add Dana Point Whale Watching to your list. With options to go for an above-water wharf tour or to dive down to an underwater viewing pod, Dana Point is home to an astounding variety of sea life, such as blue whales, humpback whales, killer whales, dolphins, and much more.

While you're on a tour, your guide will be able to tell you all about the life cycle and ecology of these majestic beasts, making this an ideal stop for educational and fun things to do with kids in Orange County. Check out their site to book a whale-watching tour.

2. Slip on your hiking boots for trails and views

To explore the wondrous coves along the coastland, don’t forget to check out the variety of trails and sights at Crystal Cove State Park. You can mountain bike, hike, fly kites, comb the beach, and even spot California’s incredible sea life nestled within the park’s tide pools.

You can head out on your own or you can contact the park for guided tours led by knowledgeable park rangers. Check online beforehand to see dates and times for specific ranger-led programming.

3. Learn about local flora at the Fullerton Arboretum

Plant lovers and nature enthusiasts can’t miss out on Fullerton Arboretum. The facility encompasses acres upon acres of gorgeous gardens with tended areas and local and exotic wildflowers that bloom all year round. It's also an environmental education facility that teaches visitors about sustainable practices.

Also on site is a museum with exhibit space, classrooms, and even a pavilion where botany talks are given. This is a fun and educational option for family fun in Orange County. Take a look at the arboretum’s site in advance for a calendar of events. You'll find links to learning resources, interactive maps, and other ways to plan out your visit in advance.

4. Sun’s up, surf’s up

There’s no shortage of watersports at Laguna Beach, and La Vida Laguna offers daily tours for all sorts of activities, including paddleboarding, kayaking, and surfing. For those who’d prefer to stay on dry land, they offer electric bike rentals and tours.

If you’re looking for Orange County kid activities, there’s no better way to engage your whole family than a beginner surf lesson or an easygoing bike ride. Either way, it's sure to be a great time for everyone.

5. Learn about farm-to-table practices

While you’re spending time outdoors, why not let your kids learn how some of their food is grown and maybe even get in on some of the action? At Tanaka Farms, your family can join in on one of their pick-your-own wagon rides or other U-pick activities and learn all about local produce.

If you have a particular piece of produce you’d like to pick or purchase, plan ahead. You can schedule your visit based on peak growing seasons, which are listed on their site.

6. Head for sun and sand on Laguna Beach

Laguna Beach is a small resort town along a stretch of coast with golden sand, blue waters, art galleries, secluded coves, shopping, dining, and parks. You can go tide-pooling or walk among elegantly tended gardens. At Crystal Cove State Park, you can explore an underwater park, and you can go hiking through canyons at Laguna Coast Wilderness Park.

If you want to just take a fun and entertaining ride, try out the Laguna Free Trolley. Finally, you can just walk the streets and do some window-shopping at the local stores. It's a great option for families with kids of just about any age.

7. Take a Duffy Boat ride along Newport Beach

The California coastline is uniquely scenic and the best way to experience it is from the waters on a Duffy Boat. These boats are big enough to take the whole family along, are entirely powered by electricity, and have been in service for over 50 years.

Thousands of visitors to Orange County with kids every year come to take a ride on these boats, getting away from the city crowds for some quiet time out on the waters, watching the action from the ocean on a boat that rockets along noiselessly.

8. Take a ride on the Irvine Park Railroad

The Irvine Park Railroad is a historic attraction that offers a wide range of Orange County kid activities, including rides on a miniature train through a park, pony rides, tossing horseshoes, playing volleyball, or even going on a hike.

You can rent a paddleboat and get out on the water, visit the Orange County Zoo to see exotic animals, or choose from any number of other exciting activities. The Irvine Park Railroad offers plenty of things to do with kids in Orange County, and you and the kids are sure to make memories that you'll take with you for many years.

9. Go tide-pooling at Corona Del Mar

Corona Del Mar is a secluded, rocky, and sandy beach that's something of a hidden gem of Orange County. It is known, however, for some of the best tide-pooling experiences around. You can take a free tour to see all the beach has to offer, or you can head there on your own to go snorkeling and diving or just to spread out a blanket and have a picnic.

Amenities include restrooms and showers, so you can get cleaned up after a day of exploring tide pools or laying out on the sand under the sun. Orange County kids' fun takes a whole different look here, but be sure to go at low tide when the pools are the most numerous.

Amusement parks galore

10. Say hey to Mickey at Disneyland® Park

While this may seem like an obvious suggestion, Disneyland® is always a crowd-pleaser. Stop by and say hello to some of your favorite Disney© princesses, Star Wars™ characters, and more. Also, of course, you can’t miss out on classic attractions such as It’s a Small World, Pirates of the Caribbean®, and the Haunted Mansion®. Plan a day trip or invest in a multiday pass to extend the fun activities in Orange County even further. With a variety of shopping, dining, and endless entertainment, Disneyland® is a fan favorite for a reason.

11. Make a splash at Great Wolf Lodge and stay awhile

If you’re looking for indoor water park fun, look no further than Great Wolf Lodge. Alongside splashing and sliding inside the park, families can check out other interactive activities and events and enjoy overnight stays in themed rooms and a variety of dining packages. After you’ve hung up your swimsuit to dry, take your kids to check out Build-A-Bear Workshop, MagiQuest, the arcade, and more.

12. Mini-amusements for mini-visitors at Adventure City

While it’s one of the smaller amusement parks in the area, don’t count out Adventure City. In fact, Adventure City’s size may very well be one of its perks, as it also features smaller-sized rides, perfectly catered for younger children. Especially if your kids are already worn out from days spent at some of the larger parks, add Adventure City to your list as your wind down your trip.

13. Have a thrill in The Fun Zone at Balboa Village

Balboa Village is a great place to go for things to do with kids in Orange County. It's an amusement park with attractions that are focused on just the kinds of experiences kids will wear themselves out playing on, all day long. You can ride a waterfront Ferris wheel or head for the arcade and play some old-school (and new) video games.

While you're here, you can visit a nautical museum and learn about the history of seafaring on the California coast. If you want, you can also go swimming and lay out on the beach in the park. You're certain to find something that's fun for kids and adults alike.

14. Hit the 160 acres of fun at Knott's Berry Farm

From roller coasters and circular rides to interactive experiences, games, and live entertainment, Knott's Berry Farm is one of the best-known theme parks in California. The sheer range of family fun in Orange County here is mind-boggling. You can ride towering slides, relax on the lazy river, or take in a live stage show.

Like most every park, this one has its costumed characters—here, they're in the form of Snoopy and the Peanuts Gang. You can also shop the marketplace for gifts, souvenirs, arts, and crafts, or you can head for the eateries for some great eats.

Indoor fun and adventure

15. Explore ecology at the Pacific Marine Mammal Center

The Marine Mammal Center is the ideal solution for an educational Orange County kid activity that is also fun and exciting. You can see real marine mammals like seals and sea lions up close while learning all about the ecology and preservation efforts being done to protect the life of the Pacific Ocean.

The center has a mission of rescue, rehab, and release, and they even offer summer camps. You can set the kids up to learn all about how they can affect the health of the planet where we all live.

16. Go ice skating in summer at the Aliso Viejo Ice Palace

Not everyone thinks about ice skating in summer—or even in California—but at Aliso Viejo Ice Palace, that's exactly what you get to do. Kids and adults will love getting out on the ice for some hockey, broomball, or just skating around.

On-site amenities include a gift shop for purchasing equipment like pads and skates as well as apparel for everything from figure skating to hockey. Vending machines offer food and drinks for a quick snack while you're getting your exercise in.

17. Dream up a tale at Story Makery

Story Makery is the place to go if you're looking for things to do with kids in Orange County that exercise their imagination and creativity. If your child has an idea they want to explore, this is the place for it. They empower children to not only create characters and write stories but to create memories at the same time.

Not only do kids get to let their imagination run wild here, but they also get to take home a printed copy of their very own book. Few things are as exciting to kids as seeing their very own work get published right before their eyes.

18. Engage the mind at Pretend City Children's Museum

Playing pretend is one of the most important parts of being a kid, and families with younger children looking for Orange County kid activities will find what they need at Pretend City Children's Museum. This place not only lets kids engage their imaginations, but they can also explore how things work in the real world at the same time.

Kids here can pretend to be everything from treasure hunters to world leaders. They can create dance parties and attempt cleaning tasks with the promise of a wizard sending them on an outer space adventure at the end of it all. It's a fantastic time for any kid aged 5 and up.

19. Build an interest in STEM at Discovery Cube OC

Science, technology, engineering, and math are the keys to the future, and more kids every day are developing an interest in these fields. Many kid-friendly things to do in Orange County touch on STEM pursuits, but Discovery Cube OC is completely focused on building this passion in kids.

This interactive museum offers more than 100 hands-on exhibits exploring all aspects of science and technology. Kids can explore a Boeing rocket lab, head for a planetary research station, or visit the Discovery theater for fun and interactive presentations. Events here change all the time, and there's something for kids of every age.

Historic and unique attractions

20. Look back on the last 4.5 billion years at the Natural History Museum

The Los Angeles Natural History Museum is one of the largest museums of its kind in the United States, and it's chock full of Orange County kid activities. This place has a collection comprising nearly 35 million artifacts, items, specimens, and ephemera covering 4.5 billion years of natural history. From anthropology and echinoderms to history and mineralogy, the collections here are astounding.

The museum also hosts regular rotating special exhibits that make it fun to visit over and over again. Let's face it: What kid doesn't love seeing the gigantic skeletons of dinosaurs looming over them in the hall?

21. Explore history at the Mission San Juan Capistrano

The Mission San Juan Capistrano is the oldest neighborhood in the Los Rios Historic District, and it's the only standing mission in the county. It's also an ASM International Historic Landmark widely known among family things to do in Orange County. In particular, it's renowned for its annual Christmas festivals, but other family events are held all year long.

Inside the mission's museum, you can check out a wide range of art installations and religious artifacts. The exhibits here also highlight the history and diverse cultural influences that have all come together to make California such a unique place.

22. Deepen your appreciation of the arts at the Bowers Museum

The Bowers Museum has a mission and vision to celebrate the many diverse cultures of the world through art while enriching the lives of everyone who comes through their doors. This historic museum has been around since 1936, and it features many rotating exhibitions highlighting important artists both classic and modern.

Over the years, the exhibits have highlighted gold and jade from Taiwan, silversmith exhibitions, gemstone carvings, a look into the Walt Disney Archives, the ancient artwork of China, the art of the Pacific Islands, and many others.

23. Learn about county history at the Heritage Museum

The Heritage Museum of Orange County offers a look at the history of the county itself through natural and cultural approaches. It covers 12 acres of space and includes several completely restored historic buildings, including the famous Kellogg House, a favorite field trip destination for Orange County kids and schools. Many of these buildings include features like expansive flower gardens where you can relax and get away from the hustle and bustle.

You can sign up for tours of the historic buildings, which support the work the museum does as well as supporting local schools. The museum provides an interesting look at the history, heritage, and culture of Orange County.

24. Explore the International Surfing Museum

The International Surfing Museum displays the evolution of everything surf, including the culture and art of the sport. Here, you can learn about how the surfboard evolved from its earliest version to the ultra-high-tech models of today. You can learn about the development of surf music and view memorabilia as you learn all about the very first surf movie that set off an entire genre in the 1960s.

Kids love to watch people ride the waves on beaches. You can turn that interest into family fun in Orange County with a visit to this museum where they can explore the entire phenomenon.

25. Play and learn at the Children's Museum at La Habra

If there's one thing that's true about family fun in Orange County, it's that you can find a lot of children's museum entertainment. At the Children's Museum at La Habra, kids can run, play, explore, and learn, all while having the time of their lives. This museum has 7 areas with dozens of interactive exhibits, many unique to this particular facility. You can explore the STEAM lab, Train Station, Carousel Room, Science Station, the 1942 Caboose, and a Family Art Center.

Kids can even head for the Pre School Playpark or Soft Tot Spot, take in—and even take part in—a live show at the Kids on Stage, or get behind the wheel of a bus. They can even touch a taxidermy mount of a real lion. The museum makes for great educational family fun in Orange County.