There is so much to see and do in Orange County - the 'real OC' in Southern California. There are theme parks, museums and attractions to delight just about everyone. The only problem you will have is figuring out how to do it all!
Whale Watching and Sport Fishing - I cannot recommend this enough. Click on the first picture to see our video of "dolphins gone wild" off Dana Point! We go at least once a year and are never disappointed. Whales migrate April - November and dolphins live here year round. There are no guarantees…but if you don't see whales or dolphins you get a rain-check!!! It costs about $30 for adults and $20 for kids and be sure to bring plenty of film! They also offer sport fishing for 1/2 and ¾ day for about $35-50 for adults and $25-38 for kids. You can check their web site for sightings and fish caught at:
www.danawharfsportfishing.com . DO IT!!
Disney Resort - is, of course, the jewel of Orange County since it's opening in 1955 (check out this link for interesting Disneyland factoids and be sure to look for
'hidden Mickeys' as you travel through the magic kingdom.
(Be sure to read the part about if it's your birthday) Located in Anaheim it is about ½ hour drive from the beach and about that far from LAX or SNA airports, depending on traffic!
Several things to keep in mind to make your trip as easy and memorable as possible:
Purchase your tickets IN ADVANCE to avoid standing in line.
Online and resident tickets are often CHEAPER.
GET THERE EARLY - an hour before the park is scheduled to open.
USE THE FAST PASS SYSTEM - read about it on line in advance so you can use it fully.
Get there with a full stomach and try to eat at off times - food lines are long and slow!
The fritters in New Orleans Square (snack stand as you get off the train) are Fabulous!
Everyone is using cell phones to "stay in touch" so turn up the volume to HIGH
Disney Resort Hotels offer 'character breakfasts' your kids might enjoy.
My family was at opening day and have managed to visit the 'happiest place on earth' several times each year ever since. It is simply amazing how well the park has aged and what a great job they do of keeping the magic alive!
Disneyland Ticket prices start at $56.00 for children and $66.00 for adults.
California Adventure - the newer park across the way has less to offer but some top notch rides and attractions. Think about purchasing a Park Hopper pass at $81.00 for kids and $91.00 for adults so you can go to both parks! JJ and I were invited to a pre opening visit as Disney season pass holders. We were 'awarded' a special pin to commemorate our visit. Our favorite rides are Flying over California (really a great view of the best of California) and California Screamin - the best roller coaster between the two parks. I love all of the photo ops this park offers - but maybe it is because I haven't been here 100 times and because it celebrates all that is 'California'.
Downtown Disney - is a great place to walk around, shop, eat and thoroughly enjoy all that is Disney…no charge to enter but you will probably spend a fortune while you are there. The House of Blues is a great place for a meal and a show - we love to go there!
Knott's Berry Farm - in nearby Buena Park (8039 Beach Blvd.) was once a berry farm and is now a 160 acre world class amusement park filled with rides and attractions for the entire family. Be sure to check their website or even make a call before you go…because they are ALWAYS having specials for admission (bring a toy, a coke can, a coupon from Burger King etc. etc.) and I know I get really irritated paying $50.00 extra per person because I "had no idea". If you do get there and see people with coupons or flyers don't be shy - ask about it and I am sure someone will share. Get there early before the park opens and while you are waiting look at the map, plan what you want to see most and do it early. We love Silver Bullet and Xcelerator but then again, we are CRAZY! The food at Knott's is world famous. DO have chicken and boysenberry pie or funnel cakes with boysenberries on top. (don't forget the whipped cream!). Tickets run about $49.99 per adult and $19.99 per child. Note: arrange for military discounts/free admission, but call ahead.
It was Knott's dream to build an exact replica of the Independence Hall and on 7/4/66 his dream came true. It is the only exact duplicate in the country down to the fingerprints in the bricks and admission is free. It is located between Knott's Amusement Park and Soak City.
Soak City Water Park - is a great way to cool off (May through September) on a hot summer day but so is the hotel pool or beach.
Kids (especially teenagers) absolutely prefer water parks, however, so my husband and I arm wrestle for who GETS to go and who gets to sit this one out! The water park is across the street from Knott's at 8039 Beach Blvd.
Medieval Times Dinner and Tournament - is kind of expensive but it is so much fun for the right age group. Dinner is served by wenches and eaten with your hands (chicken etc.) while the knights ride horseback, joust and shout and get everyone involved. We went several times when JJ was younger and that sort of thing was really cool and had a blast! Medieval Times is located at 7662 Beach Blvd., Buena Park, just a couple of blocks from Knott's Berry Farm.
The cost is about $35 for kids (ANY age) and over $50.00 for adults
Ripley's Believe It or Not Museum - located at 7850 Beach Blvd in - just a few blocks from Knott's. Ripley's is something you will love or hate. Many (most) of the exhibits are photos of the event so my son (age 10 at the time) was hugely disappointed. He though all of those people would actually be there reenacting the thing that made them famous. We are taking my grandson next month (8/08) so I went to www.ripleysbp.com and printed off a $2.00 General Admission coupon to use. They are open M-F 10:00am to 6:00pm and prices are $13.95 for adults and kids 4-11 are $9.95. Weekend hours are a bit longer and they also have a museum in Hollywood if that works better for your plans! I hope he likes it!!
Pirate's Dinner Theater - is fairly new and we have not had a chance to go. JJ refuses to go so I am waiting for the grand boys to come visit and WE ARE THERE. It sounds like a Medieval Times pirate style with swashbuckling swordplay staged on a life size 18th century galleon. Dinner (they say) is either fit for a king or a pirate and sounds nice with garlic shrimp or beef for $28.95 for kids 3-11 and $34.75 for kids 12 and over. The theater is located at 7600 Beach Blvd.
Sky Thrills - gives you the opportunity to fly in a biplane and enjoy the view or take an extreme flight where you are at the controls as you roll and loop and even fly the plane upside down (OMG). I am never showing this to my son! Contact them at - http://www.skythrills.com/ride_extreme.php Sky Thrills is located where the 91 and the I-5 intersect at the Fullerton Municipal Airport and these memorable experiences are in the $400 to $500 price range. You must have an appointment!
The Bower's Museum - located at 2002 N. Main Street, Santa Ana, costs about $12-20 to get in with kids under 6 free. The museum is small but has attracted some amazing exhibits since it opened. They were on the news just last night (1/24) being investigated for receiving stolen antiquities. Go to their website to see what is on display before you plan a visit. They currently (7/08)have the Terra Cotta Warriors on display for their first EVER appearance outside of China! Contact them at http://www.bowers.org.
The Discovery Science Center - is a wonderful place for the entire family but especially for children, age 5-13. We had a membership when J was younger and visited our favorite exhibits often. We always take time to build the arch out of those huge blocks, working and swearing together! The earthquake, tornado funnel and gravity exhibits are also big favorites. The museum is totally 'hands on' and the amazing staff are there to help and keep everything in good working order. JJ was actually was in a commercial for the museum when he was about 10 with a group of friends! Tickets are prices a very reasonable $9.95 for age 3-17 and $12.95 for adults. The museum is located at 2500 N. Main Street in Santa Ana but you can easily see the giant black block from the 5 Freeway and Taco Bell/Pizza Hut is located right inside
Wild Rivers - located at 8770 Irvine Center Drive, it is adjacent to the Verizon Amphitheater and on the grounds of the old Lion County Safari theme park. This is a small water park, easy in and out and the kids around here just love it! It is open May-September and costs about $32.00 if you are over 48" and $19.98 if you are not. Everyone over 65 is free and there are season pass and evening rates. They have a wonderful tracking system you can use to keep up with the kids and the food is really good. I find the crowds are normally manageable but truth be told the park is getting old and it shows. Parking is free and close and there are picnic tables just outside the gate. Note: Monday night has a carload rate of $55.00 for up to 8 people from 4:00pm to 8:00pm (parking is $5.00 extra).
Great Park and the Great Park Balloon - is a work in progress. After many years of legal posturing the El Toro Marine Base is being turned into a Great Park with many plans on the drawing board. (No one seemed interested in having another airport right over all of our homes) The 400 foot high tethered balloon is a great way to see the county and to check on the sports park, botanical gardens, Veteran's Memorial and wildlife corridor and many other features of this fabulous dream as it comes true.
Laguna Art Museum - located at 307 Cliff Drive, Laguna Beach and next door to my favorite restaurant, Las Brisas. For 30 years this museum has been the focal point of the Laguna art colony and has shared the unique history and accomplishments of its lovely and interesting community. Check out their website to see what is currently on exhibit or just stop by. www.lagunaartmuseum.org
Richard Nixon Library and Birthplace - We (and I mean WE) had a history day project on Richard Nixon when JJ was in middle school and started out our research at the library and were pleasantly surprised. We spent an enjoyable day touring the actual house where he was born, checking out his mementos and gifts and hearing him speak via movies constantly looping and reminding you of his many successes. (Everyone is very pro Nixon and that "I am not a crook" part is not included) The best part was the helicopter, Army 1 that the kids can climb through and pose for that infamous goodbye salute. We had a good time and really learned a lot. The library is located 18001 Yorba Linda Blvd. (just off the 91 Freeway) in Yorba Linda.
International Surfing Museum - located just up Main Street (at 411 Olive) from the Huntington Beach pier they have absolutely everything 'surfing'. Admission is only $2 and their hours and days of the week vary but being surfers and all "dude" - they never open before noon. Stop by and when you do be sure to check out the guest book - it is really interesting! Call them at 714 960-3483 for more information.
Casa Romantica Cultural Center and Gardens - is located in a beautiful setting on a bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean. It is a living demonstration of California history, culture and ecology. Admission is $3 but hours are constantly changing as are the programs and exhibits so give them a call at 949 498-2139. Casa Romantica is located at 411 Avenida Granada in San Clemente.
Crystal Cathedral - is an amazing architectural delight in the Orange County skyline made famous by Dr. Robert
Schuller and the Hour of Power television show over 25 years ago. You can see it as you drive south on the 5 from
Disneyland. The Glory of Easter and Glory of Christmas pageants are unsurpassed with live animals on stage and amazing choirs singing praise. We attended the Glory of Easter last night (3/14) to celebrate my Mom's birthday (Happy 80th Birthday MOM) and it was spectacular!
Angeles Baseball - go see the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (that always makes the locals laugh or swear) at Angel Stadium. My favorite thing they do is they send some folks out into the parking lot and find the oldest, junkiest car and the owner is put into a drawing for a brand new one! It is always fun to go out to a ballgame especially when the home team is the Anaheim (I mean Los Angeles) Angels! Note: We are is FIRST PLACE currently (7/30/08)- maybe this is the year? Check out their website at: www.Angelsbaseball.com for tickets and information. The Stadium is located where the 57 and 5 Freeways meet.
Anaheim Ducks - go see our Stanley Cup Champions play at the Pond. Tickets are all over the place in price from about $17 to $300
and the Pond is located across the 57 from the BIG A - Angel Stadium.
Their web site is http://ducks.nhl.com/ in case you want to check it out!
Skate Parks - there are 21 skate parks in Orange County and 4 of them are rated Top Twenty in SoCal. If your kids skateboard (or not) stop by - it is amazing to watch!
Check out the web site and look for upcoming events at www.socalskateparks.com.
Boomers, Irvine - Family fun place filled with miniture golf, rock walls, laser tag, race cars, batting cage and so much more is really great for the entire family.
Located at 3405 Michaelson (just off the 405 Freeway)the hours differ daily so give them a call. Ask for all inclusive prices because you can save a ton and do it all! 949 559-8341
Regional and Wilderness Parks - Orange County is rich with regional and wilderness parks. They are perfect for getting outdoors and experiencing the natural wonders of this beautiful area. Each one has something different to offer - lakes, streams, hiking/biking trails, fishing, camping, sports facilities such as golf and even a zoo. They are well maintained and safe but you do need to watch out for mountain lions, rattlesnakes and poison oak. There is always a charge of approximately $3.00-$5.00 per car for entry.
Check out the website to get an idea of what you would like to do and where:
Our favorites are Irvine Regional Park which has the train, pony rides and the Orange County Zoo. The zoo is very small but perfect for kids and specializes in local animals and birds. There is a lot of history in this park which was donated by James Irvine in 1897. We also love to go to
Laguna Niguel Regional Park
with 44 acre lake. It is perfect for little kids to go fishing. They have all the gear and it is really fun!
Festivals/Pageants and Parades - We are very family oriented in the OC so you will see some sort of festival, celebration or parade on weekends throughout the year. 'Join in' and I promise you will have some fun. Here are some pictures of the Laguna/Niguel Holiday Parade and the Chalk Festival in Mission Viejo.
Take a Train Trip - local commuter and Amtrak serve Orange County. It is fun to take the metro-link to Los Angeles or the Coast Starliner to Del Mar (to the races) or San Diego. The station in San Juan Capistrano is charming and there is lots to do in the area.
San Juan Capistrano - is the 7th of 21 California Missions and is well known for the return of the swallows in March on St. Joseph's Day.
The area is wonderful for walking around and absorbing California history. The Los Rios District has original buildings, old growth trees and even a jail cell to lock up an irritating husband!
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