What are the five best things to do with your kids in Orange County?

Answers from Our Experts (3)

In a place as beautiful as Orange County, the family activities are ever flowing — the hard part is choosing which of them to visit. Here’s our list of the five best things to do with the little ones:

1. Disneyland. If you’re traveling with kids, don’t bypass Disneyland. Sure, there are Disney attractions in Orlando, Paris and even Japan, but the Anaheim location is the original Disney theme park. The park is divided into “lands,” including Fantasyland, Tomorrowland, Adventureland and Frontierland. The candy-colored Fantasyland, for example, gives you the classic Disney experience with Sleeping Beauty’s Castle, the Mad Hatter’s Tea Cups and the pleasant Dumbo ride.

2. Knott’s Berry Farm. Equally as thrilling is Knott’s Berry Farm, a theme park in Buena Park. Six themed areas make up the park: Ghost Town, Fiesta Village, the Boardwalk, Camp Snoopy, Wild Water Wilderness and Indian Trails. Roller coasters such as the Silver Bullet — the longest inverted coaster on the West Coast — along with nine other coasters should attract older children, but countless other rides will appeal to the whole family. Depending on the season you’re visiting, don’t miss Knott’s Halloween Haunt for all things spooky, or Knott’s Merry Farm for manufactured snow, decorations and a visit from Santa Claus during the Christmas holiday.

3. The Bowers Kidseum. The only culturally charged kid’s center in Orange County is the Bowers Kidseum. Through interactive exhibits, art classes, storytelling and much more, kids of sunny Orange County are gaining a valuable education everyday. Whether it’s current exhibits such as the Art and Craft of the American Whaler, which teaches kids and adults alike about the tradition known as scrimshaw, or upcoming exhibits such as Warriors, Tombs and Temples: China’s Enduring Legacy, Kidseum always aims to enlighten.

4. Newport Landing. Gather your clan and head to Newport Landing to observe California’s majestic sea animals. Whale watching is the ideal activity from December to April, which is when grey whales migrate along the Orange County coastline. You can either take a whale watching cruise or rent a whale watching boat, but be prepared to spot sea lions, sharks and dolphins as well. Other tours are available at Davey’s Locker, Dana Wharf and Captain Dave’s. 5. Orange County or Santa Ana Zoo. Located inside Irvine Park, the eight-acre Orange County Zoo primarily showcases animals who are native to the Southwest —coyotes, island foxes and mountain lions, to name a few. For Central and South American animals and plants, check out Santa Ana Zoo, which is double its counterpart at 20 acres. You can monkey around with the whole family at this zoo, as it always has 50 monkeys as per the land giver’s request. Its primate collection, as well as its exhibits including the Brazilian Rainforest and the Crean Family Farm, makes it worth the trip to Santa Ana.

The five best things to do with kids are:
1. The beach is a great option for families with children. As a guest of The St. Regis Monarch Beach, you will have access to our private beach, including our exclusive tram, beach chair and towel service, as well as access the Monarch Bay Club for seasonal activities, including private surfing lessons and exceptional culinary creations.

2. Dana Point’s central location allows The St. Regis Monarch Beach guests to enjoy many area attractions, including Legoland, Disneyland, the San Diego Zoo, Safari Park and SeaWorld. All of these parks are within driving distance and make for a great way to spend the day with children.

3. During the summer months, you’ll want to stay at The St. Regis Monarch Beach to experience all of the resort’s family-friendly activities, including the Saturday evening butterfly ritual, where children and their parents are invited to pay homage to the migration of the monarch butterfly, with a celebratory butterfly release and champagne toast (for the grownups), followed by s’mores and storytime for the little ones.

4. The Ocean Institute in Dana Point is a great place for children of all ages and is open to the public on Saturdays and Sundays. Join them for an ocean adventure cruise or hands-on marine science exhibits.   

5. The St. Regis Monarch Beach is an easy drive away from two world-class aquariums: The Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach and Stephen Birch Aquarium in La Jolla.

Giuseppe Lama

1. Southern California – and Orange County in particular – is known for its theme parks. Disneyland, Legoland California, Universal Studios, Knotts Berry Farm and SeaWorld are all within an hour’s drive, so Orange County is the perfect central location for families.

2. Orange County has 42 miles of coastline, so be sure to make time for a beach day or two. Newport offers an excellent beach experience and a variety of settings, from bustling beaches near the piers to quiet bayside beaches on Balboa Island. Newport’s most pristine stretch of sand is along Crystal Cove, located adjacent to The Resort at Pelican Hill. Teens especially love “Surf City USA” (Huntington Beach), located just a few miles up the coast from Pelican Hill.

3. Newport Harbor offers great family activities, such as kayaking, paddle-boarding and sailing. Electric Duffy boats are a fun way for families to experience Orange County’s coastal waterways. These electric boats come with an iPod docking station, stereo, plush seating, two wood-top dining tables, a canvas top and retractable surrounding windows. They are easy to operate, so you relax and take in the spectacular coastal views.

4. Biking Orange County’s beaches, trails and open spaces is a family favorite. Some like the relaxed pace of a beach cruiser on the Newport Beach boardwalk or around the quaint village of Balboa Island, while others prefer action-packed trail biking in coastal canyons like El Moro, near The Resort at Pelican Hill. For endless ocean views, rent a bike from Pelican Hill and explore the paved bluff-top trails of Crystal Cove. Stop at the Shake Shack along Pacific Coast Highway for refreshments and spot dolphins swimming of the coast.

5. When it comes to resort entertainment for families, The Resort at Pelican Hill has an ocean-view retreat for its youngest guests. Designed for children ages 4-12, Camp Pelican offers themed daily activities year-round and Kids’ Night Out dinner, popcorn and movies every weekend. For teens, the Resort arranges activities like surf lessons and shopping excursions, so there’s something for every age and interest.

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