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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!

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!

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. This means that if you make a purchase or booking, I may receive a small commission at no additional cost to you.

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. | 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. During the holidays, you can ice skate in front of it! | Irvine ✓

36. Sip on some Hello Kitty themed cocktails at the Hello Kitty Grand Cafe. | Irvine ✓

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

38. Get a plate of Japanese curry at Coco Ichibanya. | Irvine ✓

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

40. Learn about the bean to bar chocolate making process and take a tour of the ChocXO factory. | Irvine

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. | 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! | 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. | 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. Grab some drinks in a cozy atmosphere inside the Marine Room Tavern, which has been around since the prohibition. They also have live music and fun special events. | 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 the super lush Heisler Park. | 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. Grab a signature huckleberry donut from Sidecar Doughnuts & Coffee. | Costa Mesa ✓

99. Spend a day at the OC Fair. | Costa Mesa

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

101. Check out all the public art on the Costa Mesa Art Walk. | Costa Mesa

102. Check out the local boutiques and quaint eateries houses in SOCO & The OC Mix. | 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. | Costa Mesa ✓

105. Grab a mochi donut at Fill Bakeshop & Cafe. | 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. | Costa Mesa ✓

107. Grab an acai bowl from Banzai Bowls. | Multiple locations

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

Photo Credit: Pages of Travel

116. Take a tour of Mission San Juan Capistrano. Every year in March, you can also see the swallows “come home.” | 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. | 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. | 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) 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. ✓

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. ✓

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

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