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130+ Fun Things to Do in Orange County, California | The Ultimate Orange County Bucket List

Looking for some super fun and awesome things to do in Orange County? From beaches, hikes, foodie hotspots, museums, and more, here are over 130 things to add to your Orange County bucket list!

What comes to mind when you think of Orange County? For most people, it’s beaches and Disneyland. Often overshadowed by Los Angeles to the north and San Diego to the south, most people don’t realize that this area has so much more to offer on its own, and that there are so many amazing things to do in Orange County!

The OC offers something for everyone, whether you are looking to hit the beach in one of the beach cities such as Laguna Beach, San Clemente, or Huntington Beach, experiencing the arts and the foodie scene in Costa Mesa, the historic charm of San Juan Capistrano, nature spots in Irvine, and more!

I grew up and spent the first 23 years of my life in the LA area, and then lived in San Francisco for over a decade. I never really saw myself living in the OC, mostly because aside from the beaches, it all seemed very cookie-cutter and kinda boring to me (it just always seemed to be the complete opposite of what SF was).

And then I fell in love with a boy from Orange County, and ended up flying there every other weekend. Spending so much time there, I came to realize that the OC had so much to offer and that there were so many amazing things to do in Orange County.

Almost two years later, I find myself making the move to the OC. In celebration, I came up with this Orange County bucket list, filled with over 130 (yes, 130 – see, told ya there was a ton of cool things to do in Orange County!) of my favorite things that I’ve done and the things yet to do in the OC.

From beaches, hikes, foodie spots, shopping, and the arts, here are the things to add to your Orange County bucket list!

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Things to Do in Orange County | The Ultimate Orange County Bucket List

1. Walk along OC’s five piers: Seal Beach, Huntington Beach, Balboa, Newport, and San Clemente.

2. Cruise down the Pacific Coast Highway (preferably in an open-top convertible) – not only one of the best things to do in Orange County, but also one of the quintessential things to do in California! ✓

3. Go on all the rides and experience the Wild West at Knott’s Berry Farm. Afterwards, eat a fried chicken dinner at Mrs. Knott’s Chicken Dinner Restaurant. | Buena Park ✓

4. Watch some jousting and sword-fighting while eating dinner at Medieval Times. It’s kind of kitschy, but it’s one of those gotta-do-it-once types of things. | Buena Park ✓

5. Take a K-Pop dance class at the OC KPOP Academy. | Buena Park

6. Visit the Fullerton Arboretum, a 26-acre botanical garden featuring plants from all around the world. | Fullerton

7. Sample local craft brews at Bootlegger’s Brewery. | Fullerton

8. Visit the redwoods at Carbon Canyon Regional Park. | Brea

9. Visit the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum. This is also where Nixon and his wife, Pat, are buried. | Yorba Linda

10. Order the omakase at Sushi Noguchi, known to have some of the best sushi in all of Orange County. | Yorba Linda

11. Embrace your inner kid at Disneyland and California Adventure. Ride all the rides, say hi to your favorite Disney characters, eat some Dole Whip and beignets, and catch the fireworks over the Sleeping Beauty Castle! A definitely must on any Orange County bucket list! | Anaheim ✓

12. Stroll through the lively Downtown Disney district. | Anaheim ✓

13. Have a cocktail at Trader Sam’s Enchanted Tiki Bar, inside the Disneyland Hotel. | Anaheim

14. Catch a ballgame at Angels’ Stadium. | Anaheim ✓

15. Watch the Anaheim Ducks play hockey at the Honda Center. | Anaheim

16. Attend the gospel brunch (and feast on some Southern food) or see a show at the House of Blues. | Anaheim

17. Learn about Anaheim’s agricultural history and admire the historical homes at Founders Park. | Anaheim

18. Enjoy a decadent steak and get a true taste of the America West (in a fine dining setting) at the Ranch. | Anaheim

19. Sip on some cocktails inside the Blind Rabbit, a secret speakeasy. | Anaheim

20. Sample experimental barrel-aged and sour craft beer at the Bruery. You can also tour the breweries in the area on this craft beer tour! | Anaheim ✓

21. Sample all the eats at the Anaheim Packing District, a historic Sunkist citrus packing house turned dining hall. One of the best things to do in Orange County for foodies! | Anaheim ✓

22. Grab a fried chicken and waffle sandwich at Bruxie. | multiple locations ✓

23. Stroll through the historic Old Towne Orange, and people watch at the fountain. | Orange ✓

24. Take the OC Wine Trolley through Old Towne Orange. | Orange

25. Embrace your sweet tooth with a drool-worthy (and Instagram-worthy) churro and ice cream from the LOOP Handcrafted Churros. | multiple locations

26. Learn about OC and California history at the Old Courthouse Museum. The historic sandstone and granite courthouse holds more than a century of history inside! | Santa Ana ✓

27. Feast on some tapas at the trendy Lola Gaspar, in the heart of the Santa Ana Arts District. | Santa Ana

28. Check out the hands-on exhibits at the Discovery Cube. | Santa Ana

29. Learn about OC History at the Bowers Museum, the largest museum in Orange County. | Santa Ana

30. Grab a lavender latte and shop for some pretty dresses at Morning Lavender…or have the prettiest afternoon tea! They even have the prettiest to-go afternoon tea boxes which are absolutely perfect for a picnic.| Tustin ✓

31. Enjoy a show at the FivePoint Arena, OC’s outdoor amphitheater. | Irvine ✓

32. Go on a guided full moon hike from the Irvine Ranch Conservancy. | Irvine

33. Pick up some kawaii macarons from Honey and Butter – featured designs include Totoro, Sailor Moon, and Pokemon! | Irvine

34. Pick your own strawberries (and frolic through the sunflower fields) at Tanaka Farms. | Irvine ✓

35. Ride the Giant Wheel at the Irvine Spectrum, and enjoy the views from the top. During the holidays, you can ice skate in front of it and it is one of the best seasonal things to do in Orange County! | Irvine ✓

36. Sip on some Hello Kitty themed cocktails at the Hello Kitty Grand Cafe. It’s a bit gimmicky but super fun and the cocktails are actually pretty tasty. | Irvine ✓

37. Grub on some Korean-Mexican fusion food at Urban Seoul. | Irvine ✓

38. Get a plate of Japanese curry at Coco Ichibanya. The katsu curry here is the best! | Irvine ✓

39. Feast on some dumplings at JA Jiaozi Authentic Dumplings. | Irvine

40. Walk through the sunflower fields and pick your own flowers at Hana Field by Tanaka Farms. It’s the perfect summer activity! | Costa Mesa

41. Explore the UC Irvine Arboretum, featuring 12.5 acres of plant species from Southern California, Mexico, and South Africa. | Irvine

42. Slurp on a bowl of udon or soba at Fukuda. Get a combination with a rice bowl! | Irvine ✓

43. Hike through the golden wheat fields and enjoy the expansive views at Quail Hill. The Quail Trail crests Serrano Ridge and connects with dozens of trails in the San Joaquin hills, which eventually connect to Crystal Cove – this was named the best trail in Orange County by Vacation Idea Magazine! (it’s also one of the most Instagrammable places in the OC and a favorite of local photographers) | Irvine ✓

44. Go up in the air and enjoy 360 views of Orange County in the orange Great Park Balloon. I’ve always seen these giant balloons, which are actually powered by helium and not hot air, from the 5 Freeway and have always been curious about them so obviously they ended up on my Orange County bucket list. | Irvine

45. Get dim sum at the first US outpost of Tim Ho Wan (the original location in Hong Kong received a Michelin star). | Irvine

46. Grub on some Vietnamese food in Little Saigon. There are lots of amazing Vietnamese restaurants, but one of my absolute favorites is Brodard – be sure to order the nem nuong cuon, or pork spring rolls. Garlic & Chives is also supposed to be amazing! | Westminster/Garden Grove ✓

47. Admire the unique architecture of Christ’s Cathedral, aka Crystal Cathedral. | Garden Grove

48. Have a beach bonfire – Huntington Beach or Bolsa Chica are both great spots for this. This has always been one of my favorite things to do in Orange County since high school! ✓

49. Take a surf lesson in Huntington Beach. Obviously, surfing in the city that is known as “Surf City USA” is not only one of the best things to do in Huntington Beach but also one of the best things to do in Orange County.| Huntington Beach

50. Attend the Van’s US Open of Surfing. Not only do you get to see some of the world’s best surfers compete, but they have lots of vendors, live music, and just lots of summer fun, making this one of the best things to do in Orange County in the summer! (July/August) | Huntington Beach ✓

51. Visit the International Surfing Museum. | Huntington Beach

52. Watch a movie on the beach at Beachfront Cinema. | Huntington Beach

53. Take in a sunset from the Huntington Beach Pier. | Huntington Beach ✓

54. Go bird watching in the Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve. | Huntington Beach

55. See the world’s largest surfboard – it held 66 people! It is displayed at 410-498 Olive Ave. in Huntington Beach. | Huntington Beach

56. Get closer to nature at the Shipley Nature Center, which has many trails, a butterfly house, and a native plant nursery, among other attractions. | Huntington Beach

57. Feast on a seafood bucket at Rockin’ Baja. | Newport Beach ✓

58. Explore the Newport Back Bay Trail. The 10.5 mile trail loops around the Upper Newport Bay Nature Preserve and Ecological Reserve and is a great spot for hiking, running, or biking. | Newport Beach ✓

59. Kayak through the Newport Marina and admire the grand houses of one of OC’s wealthiest neighborhoods.

60. Grab your friends and rent a duffy boat to cruise around the waters of Newport Beach. | Newport Beach

61. Grab a post-hike brunch at the Beachcomber Cafe (or a cocktail at the Bootlegger Bar). | Newport Beach ✓

62. Get a milkshake at the Ruby’s Crystal Cove Shake Shack. | Newport Beach

63. Eat fresh seafood at Bear Flag Fish Co. | Newport Beach

64. Get your shop on at Fashion Island, OC’s premier outdoor shopping mall. | Newport Beach ✓

My cutie pie friend Jess of A Passion and a Passport and her adorable puppy Kona hanging out at Balboa Island.

65. Take a ferry to Balboa Island, and spend the afternoon at the Fun Zone. Get a frozen banana at one of the banana stands…because there’s always money in the banana stand (ha ha, any other Arrested Development fans out there?). One of the iconic things to do in Orange County!| Newport Beach

66. Watch surfers at the Wedge in Newport Beach. | Newport Beach

67. Grab some award-winning pizza at Pizzeria Mozza, the OC outpost of acclaimed chefs Nancy Silverton, Mario Batali, and Joe Bastianich, the team behind the famous Osteria Mozza in neighboring LA. | Newport Beach

68. Take a gondola ride through the canals of Newport Harbor. | Newport Beach

69. Taste some wine and enjoy a cheese plate at the Orange Coast Winery. | Newport Beach

70. Eat some lobster rolls at Slapfish. | multiple locations

This gooooorgeous photo was taken by my friends Kallsy and Logan at Pages of Travel

71. Enjoy the coastal views from Inspiration Point in Corona del Mar. | Corona del Mar

72. Admire the seasonal flowers in the horticultural oasis of the Sherman Library & Gardens. They also have some totally Instagram-worthy seasonal installations and displays!| Corona del Mar

73. Check out the tide pools at Corona del Mar State Beach. | Corona del Mar ✓

74. Hike through the trails at Crystal Cove State Park, enjoy some epic coastal views, and explore the tide pools. It’s one of the most beautiful places in California and definitely one of the best things to do in Orange County!| Laguna Beach ✓

75. Stay overnight at the Crystal Cove cottages. These historic cottages are super charming and right on the beach. They are also SUPER popular, and book up super fast! (Reservations are released 6 months in advance). I’ve had this on my Orange County bucket list for awhile now, but can never seem to snag a reservation – hopefully soon! | Laguna Beach

76. Browse through the art galleries and sip on some wine at the Laguna Beach Art Walk, held every first Thursday of the month. You can also tour the area’s art galleries and museums on this tour! | Laguna Beach

77. Check out the California art at the Laguna Art Museum, the oldest cultural institution in the area. | Laguna Beach

78. Check out all the art at the Art A Fair – and snap some photos in front of the rainbow murals outside (one of the best photo spots in town)! | Laguna Beach ✓

79. Support and celebrate the art of local artists at the Sawdust Art & Crafts Festival – they also offer classes and workshops year-round! | Laguna Beach ✓

80. See art come to life at the Pageant of the Masters. | Laguna Beach

81. Go snorkeling in Laguna Beach – some of the best spots include Shaw’s Cove, Diver’s Cove, and the south end of Thousand Steps Beach. | Laguna Beach

82. Hike through the trails of the Laguna Coast Wilderness Park, which lies within one of the only remaining coastal canyons in Southern California. | Laguna Beach

83. Find the Pirate Tower at Victoria Beach (Here is exactly how to find it!). The tower looks straight out of a fairy tale and is one of the most unique Orange County attractions!| Laguna Beach ✓

84. Stay the night at the Montage…or just grab a drink at the Lobby Lounge or on the patio of Mosaic. | Laguna Beach ✓

85. Taste some wines at the Laguna Canyon Winery. | Laguna Beach

86. Enjoy upscale cuisine with an ocean view at Driftwood Kitchen. It’s awesome for a weekend brunch or even just some drinks out on their patio, which is basically right on the beach! | Laguna Beach

87. Eat some fresh, upscale Mexican food on the beach at Las Brisas – and order some mimosas! | Laguna Beach

88. Take the steps to the 1000 Steps Beach – okay, it’s only 218 steps but this somewhat hidden beach is well worth the huffing and puffing you’ll experience coming back up. | Laguna Beach

89. Hike to the Top of the World, and enjoy 360 panoramic views of Orange County and Laguna Beach. | Laguna Beach

90. Enjoy live music, strong drinks, and a fun night out at the Sandpiper “Dirty Bird.” | Laguna Beach

Photos by: Pages of Travel

91. Enjoy the ocean views and watch the sunset with a drink in hand at the Rooftop Lounge. | Laguna Beach

92. Walk through and enjoy the views at Heisler Park. It looks super lush and tropical and you’ll almost forget that you’re still in California (and be transported to Hawaii)! | Laguna Beach ✓

93. Eat some upscale tacos at Taco Maria, which have earned many accolades for their elegant, modern Mexican fare, made from pre-Hispanic ingredients and heirloom products. | Costa Mesa

94. Shop til you drop at South Coast Plaza, the largest shopping center on the West Coast. | Costa Mesa ✓

95. Admire the minimalist sculptures, intended to represent California, in the Noguchi Garden. | Costa Mesa ✓

96. Browse through the vendors’ wares at the OC Market Place swap meet. | Costa Mesa

97. Sip on some of OC’s best coffee at Portola Coffee Roasters. Many baristas who once worked at Portola have also gone on to open some of the other great coffee spots in OC as well! | Multiple locations ✓

98. Browse through the independent hipster boutiques, or snap some photos with the Instagram-worthy backdrops at the LAB Anti-Mall. | Costa Mesa ✓

99. Grab a signature huckleberry donut from Sidecar Doughnuts & Coffee (or try one of their seasonal flavors!). Seriously the best donuts in Orange County! | Costa Mesa ✓

100. Spend a day at the OC Fair (back in 2021 on July 16-August 15!). | Costa Mesa

101. Check out the local boutiques and quaint eateries housed in SOCO & The OC Mix. You’ll find hip design stores, as well as unique foodie shops, selling everything from cheese, olive oil, spices, and cocktail supplies.| Costa Mesa ✓

102. Check out all the public art on the Costa Mesa Art Walk, one of the best free and outdoor Costa Mesa activities. | Costa Mesa ✓

103. Eat Michelin-starred sushi at Hana Re, one of only two Michelin-starred restaurants in the OC (the other is Taco Maria, also mentioned earlier on this Orange County bucket list). | Costa Mesa

104. Browse the hip, eco-friendly boutiques and eateries of the CAMP – some of the best include Old Vine Kitchen, Mesa Lounge, and Vitaly Caffe. | Costa Mesa ✓

105. Grab a mochi donut at Fill Bakeshop & Cafe. They have tons of unique flavors (which are always changing) which are all delicious! Try their mochi cookies as well.| Costa Mesa ✓

106. See a show at the Segerstrom Center of the Arts – you can see a touring Broadway production, a symphony performance, or the ballet here (they are offering outdoor events, and indoor events are scheduled to be back – check schedule here). | Costa Mesa ✓

107. Grab a scrumptious cookie, ice cream, or tea/coffee drink at Dough & Arrow. The cookies here are AMAZING, especially the Smookie, which is basically a s’more embedded into a cookie, and YES, that’s as amazing as it sounds! | Costa Mesa ✓

108. Hike to the Sinks, aka OC’s mini Grand Canyon, at Limestone Canyon. It is only accessible during scheduled hikes/activities or on public access days, held every two months, by the Irvine Ranch Conservancy. I just recently found out about this spot and immediately had to put it on my Orange County bucket list!| Silverado

109. Hike to the Red Rock Canyon inside the Whiting Ranch Wilderness Park. You’ll swear that you’ve been transported to Utah or Arizona. I discovered this hike on Instagram one day and knew I would have to add it to my Orange County bucket list. | Trabuco Canyon ✓

110. Have a picnic at O’Neill Regional Park. | Trabuco Canyon

111. For one of the most thrilling things to do in Orange County, drive along the Ortega Highway (State Route 74), known as one of the most dangerous highways in the United States! ✓

112. Check out the restored historical homes of the Heritage Hill Historical Park, and learn about OC history through the Mexican Ranchero era, the founding of Orange County, and its citrus farming days. | Lake Forest

113. Find the little fairy houses hidden along the Oso Creek Trail. | Mission Viejo

114. Go wine tasting at A Hidden Vine on the Lake. | Mission Viejo

115. Hike Saddleback Mountain via the Holy Jim trail up to Santiago Peak, the highest point in Orange County at 5,689 feet. | Rancho Santa Margarita

116. Take a tour of Mission San Juan Capistrano. Every year in March, you can also see the swallows “come home.” The grounds are beautiful with so much history, and it is one of the best things to do in San Juan Capistrano!| San Juan Capistrano ✓

117. Stroll through the quaint streets of the Los Rios Historic District – you’ll swear that you’ve been transported to a small town, in a different era. | San Juan Capistrano ✓

118. Enjoy a decadent Southern brunch on the patio at Ramos House Cafe. | San Juan Capistrano

119. Snap a photo under the “Merry Kiss Me” sign for your Christmas card photo, at the Dana Point Harbor. One of the best things to do in Orange County at Christmas!| Dana Point ✓

120. Hike through the Dana Point Headlands and find the sea cave. | Dana Point

121. Visit the tide pools near the Ocean Institute in Dana Point Harbor. | Dana Point

122. Go whale watching – either from Newport Beach or Dana Point. | multiple locations

123. Learn about biodiversity at Doheny State Beach – you can spot everything from dolphins, sea bass, starfish, pelicans, hummingbirds, and Egyptian geese here. | Dana Point

124. Take a walk (or run) along the San Clemente Beach Trail. The trail offers beautiful beach views, but is also situated along railroad tracks, so you can see the trains go by.| San Clemente ✓

125. Watch the surfers at Trestles, known as the “Yosemite of Surfing” – you can spot many pro surfers here! (This is the favorite surfing spot of my boyfriend, who is an avid surfer.)| San Clemente ✓

126. Attend an event and walk the grounds of Casa Romantica Cultural Center and Gardens. It is the former home of Ole Hansen, and beautifully preserved. It has the most beautiful gardens and a spectacular view of the beach, pier, and surrounding areas. | San Clemente ✓

127. Enjoy a cheese board and wine at the Cellar. | San Clemente ✓

Best Day Trips from Orange County

128. Jump on Amtrak’s Pacific Surfliner and either head north to Los Angeles or south to San Diego. ✓

129. Admire California’s superblooms at Walker Canyon (Lake Elsinore), Chino Hills State Park, or the Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve. ✓

130. Spend the day wine tasting in Temecula Valley. You can even book a day tour so you don’t have to worry about driving! ✓

131. Take a ferry out to Catalina Island, leaving from Newport Beach or Dana Point (here are some of the best things to do once you get there!). ✓

132. Walk through the Flower Fields at Carlsbad Ranch. ✓

133. Enjoy the laid-back beach town vibe of Oceanside. 

134. Wander through the magical desert landscapes in Joshua Tree National Park. There are plenty of hiking, rock climbing, and star gazing opportunities in the park – read more about what to do on a Joshua Tree day trip here. ✓

135. Take a day trip to the beach cities of Los Angeles: Venice Beach, Santa Monica, Manhattan Beach, Malibu, etc.

Where to Stay in Orange County

You’ll find plenty of accommodation options in Orange County to suit every taste and budget, whether you are looking for luxury, unique boutique hotels, or charming beach house rentals.

Deciding where to stay will largely depend on which things to do in Orange County you are interested in, and your budget. There are plenty of hotels and vacation rentals near the beach, but these tend to be the most expensive – however, it does give you that quintessential OC experience.

Looking to head to Disneyland? There are plenty of accommodation options in Anaheim, as well as tons of restaurants and bars nearby!

For unique boutique hotels at a lower price point, consider staying in Irvine or Costa Mesa (especially on the weekends, as they tend to cater to business travelers). You’ll still be close by to all the best things to do in Orange County – 15 minutes from the beach, and less than. 30minutes from Disneyland – and there are plenty of dining and shopping options in this area as well.

Looking to be pampered and for a bit of luxury? You’ll find your pick of luxury hotels and resorts in Laguna Beach and Newport Beach.

Here are some of my picks for where to stay in Orange County:

Budget

Ayres Hotel Costa Mesa (Costa Mesa): Simple but comfortable rooms, with an on-site pool and hot tub. Located less than 6 miles from Newport Beach, and less than 2 miles from South Coast Plaza.

Laguna Hills Lodge (Laguna Hills): This Mediterranean-style property features a lush garden-style setting with comfortable rooms, with in-room microwaves and coffee makers. Located just 6 miles to Laguna Beach and Irvine.

Bay Shores Peninsula (Newport Beach): Best choice if you’re looking to stay in Newport on a budget.

Mid-Range

Avenue of the Arts Hotel (Costa Mesa): We stayed here on a staycation in Costa Mesa and LOVED it! The entire property has stylish furnishings (they’ve been named one of the most Instagrammable hotels in Orange County), the rooms are super comfortable, and the service is impeccable.

Hotel Indigo Anaheim (Anaheim): I’ve previously stayed at a Hotel Indigo elsewhere and have always loved the vibe of their properties – super stylish and boutique. This is an ideal choice if you want to be near Disneyland.

The Inn at Laguna Beach: You can’t beat the location in Laguna Beach – just a 5 minute walk from the Main Beach Park, and right across the street from Heisler Park. It also stands on a cliff overlooking the ocean, so you can’t beat the views.

Luxury

Pasea Hotel and Spa (Huntington Beach): The Pasea Hotel is right across from the beach, with stunning ocean views. It has excellent pool facilities, a spa, a gorgeous terrace, and free bike rentals. The entire property has a stylish, modern vibe.

The Montage (Laguna Beach): Widely considered to be the best hotel in Orange County. It has a jaw-dropping location on an ocean bluff, with an amazing pool with cabanas, luxurious spa facilities, and three on-site restaurants. Each room comes with a marble soaking tub, a plush cream sofa, and luxurious robes.

Airbnb Rentals

I love staying in Airbnbs in beach towns, because there are always some unique properties. They are also ideal for traveling in a group, or getting a slice of the local life. If you want to stay in the beach cities, Airbnbs are your best option, in my opinion.

Here are some of my favorite picks for Airbnbs in Orange County:

  • Canyon Retreat w/ View (Laguna Beach): Located in the canyons of Laguna Beach, this unique property is newly renovated with all the amenities you could want. Located a 10 minute walk to the ocean, restaurants and shops, and near a canyon loop walk to the east.
  • Studio & Jacuzzi Near Laguna Beach (Laguna Beach): Located just 5 minutes from the beach, with private entry, side yard, and access to a private pool and jacuzzi. Decorated with artistic touches, with kitchenette, and plush queen bed.
  • The Loft in House of Trestles (San Clemente): A friend of mine stayed here and loved it! It’s a surf-themed loft, in the laid back San Clemente, close to Trestles Beach (aka the Yosemite of surfing). Has a kitchen, yoga space, projector TV, and queen bed.
  • Modern Cottage Just Steps from Ocean (Newport Beach): This modern studio cottage is just steps from the beach! Also located close to many shops and restaurants. Newly remodeled, with modern and comfy furnishings, with a private yard, outdoor furniture, and a BBQ – perfect for spending summer evenings.

You can search for more Airbnb options here.

When to Visit Orange County

Orange County enjoys year-round sunshine, so there is really no bad time to visit!

Summer brings the hottest temperatures and the longest days, which means more daylight hours to enjoy all the fun things to do in Orange County! Keep in mind that Southern California is famous for its “June Gloom” in May and June, which brings overcast skies in the morning (bring a light sweater or jacket) – however, this usually burns off by afternoon.

Spring and fall are, well, pretty much like summer – California doesn’t get much in the way of seasons. It does sometimes rain in the winter (still pretty rare), but temperatures stay relatively mild – highs usually hover around 70 degrees Fahrenheit, and lows rarely get below the 50s, making Orange County the perfect place to escape to for some winter sun.

Getting To and Around Orange County

Orange County’s airport, John Wayne Airport, is located in Santa Ana. You can find flights to and from many domestic cities, as well as Mexico and Canada. Note that John Wayne Airport has a noise ordinance between 10pm-7am (8am on Sundays).

Flights tend to be a bit more expensive than flying into LAX (~40 miles away), which is the closest major international airport. Another option is to fly into Long Beach Airport (~30 miles away).

Public transportation does exist, but is rather inefficient in getting you where you need to go. If you choose to take public transit, Orange County is served by the OCTA (Orange County Transit Authority), which runs the county’s buses, and Metrolink or Amtrak rail service.

Driving is definitely the best way to get around in Orange County. John Wayne Airport is served by several major car rental agencies. Do note that the So-Cal stereotype is VERY true – traffic can sometimes be notoriously bad, for no rhyme or reason.

Parking can also be a giant headache, especially in tourist-frequented areas, such as Laguna Beach, Huntington Beach, and Newport Beach. This is especially true on the weekends and whenever the weather is super nice. It also tends to be expensive as well.

A way to get around this is to park the car somewhere and then take an Uber or Lyft to get wherever you need to go.

What to Pack for Orange County

  • Comfortable Walking Shoes: Converse Chucks or Vans Old Skool are local favorites.
  • Flip Flops: A pair of Rainbows are basically a part of the local uniform here (and super comfy).
  • Sunscreen: This one is my favorite and is reef-safe so ideal for using at the beach.
  • Cardigan or light jacket: For overcast mornings or breezy evenings. I usually just throw on a denim jacket (or a hoodie). For winters, a packable puffer is ideal for chilly nights and early mornings.
  • Battery pack:  I never travel anywhere without this one. It can charge up to five times on one full charge!
  • Reusable water bottle: I have this one on me at all times.
  • Hat: The sun can get super bright during the summer, so I highly recommend having a hat. A straw hat like this one not only keeps the sun out of your eyes (and is perfect for the beach), but also looks cute in photos (this one is another favorite for photos!), but a standard baseball cap will also do.
  • Sunglasses
  • Beach Tote: like this one

What are some of your favorite things to do in Orange County?

You might also like:
Los Angeles Bucket List
The Ultimate Guide to Costa Mesa, CA
San Clemente Travel Guide
Amazing Laguna Beach Instagram Spots
The Ultimate Guide to San Juan Capistrano
Fun Things to Do in Venice Beach
Catalina Island Travel Guide
Most Instagrammable Places in Los Angeles

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13 Comments

  • Mariah

    I just moved from SF to Orange County too. Definitely saving all of these suggestions for days when I’m trying to figure out what to do! Thanks for the list!

    Reply

  • Kat

    Thanks for this comprehensive list on things to do Caroline 🙂 The Pirate Tower at Victoria Beach looks awesome. Can’t wait to visit Cali when it is safe to travel again!

    Reply

  • Louise

    Oooh, I love the OC! I’m fortunate that my family lives there so I’ve visited many times, but I still haven’t done everything on your list! Pinning for my next visit there 🙂 Glad to see hiking in Crystal Cove, The LAB, and Honey and Butter on your list!! Some of my favorites 🙂

    Reply

  • Krista

    This is a fantastic list of things to do in the area! I’ve never visited but I’m going to save this post for later for sure.

    Reply

  • Kooky Loves to Travel

    Good luck with your moving! I can totally understand I moved so many times that seems to me it became my habit haha. Great photos and edits!

    Reply

  • Nichole

    I love this post! I haven’t been to the OC, yet, but it is on my bucket list, and this post inspired me to move it higher on the list. I’m most excited for Limestone Canyon because it looks beautiful!!

    Reply

  • Andrea Cannon

    This is quite the bucket list! I need to spend some more time here myself. So much to do!

    Reply

  • The Spicy Travel Girl

    Omg I lived in Orange County for three years and never knew there were k-pop dance classes! Thank you so much for this comprehensive list!

    Reply

  • Curls en Route

    That’s a super fun list you have up there!

    Reply

  • Courtney

    Your photos are so amazing! My favorite is the flower fields!!! Gorg!

    Reply

  • Paloma Fts

    Love this guide!! OC is one of my favorite places in the world and this post just makes me want to go back asap!

    Reply

  • Agnes

    43. Quail Hill sounds like the perfect activity in this moment. Saving this for later!

    Reply

  • J

    Here are some things to add!! Great list too

    -sailing lessons in Dana point harbor or Newport Beach
    -rent kayaks in Dana point harbor
    -go paddle boarding at doheney state park
    -rent jet skis from Dana point or newport
    -go to Wind and Sea in Dana point harbor
    -golf in pelican hill or monarch beach
    -take the trolley up Pch through laguna beach
    -rodeo in august in San Juan Capistrano
    -Richard Nixon home in San Clemente
    -lunch on San clemnente pier at famous fisherman’s warf
    -visit haunted hotel – hotel laguna

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