10 Outdoor Things to Do with Kids in Orange County

outdoor activities for kids in orange county

Southern California’s mild and sunny weather makes Orange County an attractive vacation destination.

If you’re planning a trip to So Cal soon and are traveling with little ones, you’ll be pleased to know that there are plenty of outdoor things to do with kids in Orange County that will be fun for them and help them get their energy out!

Here is a list of 10 things you can do when the temperate weather beckons your family to spend time outdoors!

And it will.


1| Aquarium of the Pacific

Located in Long Beach, the Aquarium of the Pacific boasts over 11,000 animals, 19 habitats, and 32 exhibits. Kids can pet the sharks and rays in the Shark Lagoon exhibit, interact with tropical birds in the Lorikeet Forest, or watch the sea otters play. The Wonders of the Deep exhibit features unique oceanic species found only in the deepest parts of the sea that never see light. Take a break from all the activity by sitting in the Ocean Theater to enjoy a 3D or 4D educational video.


2| Santa Ana Zoo

About 10 minutes away from Anaheim, the Santa Ana Zoo boasts 350 animals from 120 different species! Kids will enjoy the rainforest adventure maze, Amazonian aviary, train ride, carousel, and the barnyard farm that has a petting zoo!


3| Centennial Farm

This 3-acre working farm in Costa Mesa is dedicated to educating kids about agriculture. There are lots of farm animals as well – pigs (and piglets), cows, bunnies, peacocks, peafowls, chickens, roosters, oxen, llamas, goats, and sheep – just to name a few. Kids will love watching sheep being sheared, cows being milked, and chicks being hatched. They can also learn how produce is harvested in the fruit and vegetable gardens. Best of all, it’s free!


4| Orange County Zoo

The Orange County Zoo located within Irvine Regional Park in Orange features animals and plants native to the southwestern United States. Plus, there’s a petting zoo! Once in the park, you can enjoy other amenities such as horseback riding, pony rides, picnicking, paddleboats, train rides, biking and hiking trails, volleyball, and fire pits for bar-b-queing. At $5 for park entry and $2 for zoo admission, this is a very affordable option.


5| The Reptile Zoo

Specializing in rare and exotic breeds, the Reptile Zoo in Fountain Valley houses 100 species of reptiles, amphibians, and arachnids from around the world. Those who dare can even hold one! Admission for this zoo is very reasonable as well at around $10 or under.


6| Baby and Toddler Beaches

If you’re looking for a safer beach for the littles, there are 3 fantastic baby and toddler beaches in Orange County: Corona Del Mar, Newport Dunes, and Dana Point.

The tide pools of Little Corona Del Mar Beach are a local favorite. It’s also good for little ones due to the low surf zone and the fact that boats and jet skis are prohibited in the area, making it a no wake zone.

Newport Dunes not only has a baby beach, but also a water playground, beach cabanas, fire pits, kayaks, pedal boats, and stand-up paddleboards for rent. If you visit during the summertime, the movies on the beach are a real treat!

The Dana Point Baby Beach is a bit further south, but it’s located in one of the largest harbors worldwide. Motorized marine vehicles are not allowed near the baby beach so it remains wake free. Plus, parking is free too!


7| Splash Pads

Although some splash pads have been closed due to the recent California drought, there are still some incredible ones that are open and environmentally friendly as well!

Here are some OC splash pads worth visiting:

  • Sigler Park Splash Pad in Westminster has a large splash pad with overhead water spouts.
  • Harry M. Dotson Park in Stanton has a fun pirate themed playground with a “wet saloon” splash pad.
  • Heritage Park in Irvine has a great playground with splash pad, in addition to a library and Fine Arts Center.
  • Lemon Park in Fullerton has sports fields along with a playground, picnic areas, and a spray pool.
  • Crown Valley Park in Laguna Niguel has a playground and splash pad with a forest theme.
  • The Splash Pad at Irvine Spectrum is a fun splash pad and playground within a large outdoor shopping mall.

Please be aware that many of these splash pads are only open during the summertime. Be sure to check their websites for seasonal openings.


8| OC Great Park

Another great outdoor activity that kids will love is the giant orange hot air balloon in the Great Park in Irvine! With the ability to hold up to 25 to 30 passengers at once and soar up to 400 feet above the surrounding landscape, it creates the perfect observation deck for a bird’s eye view of Orange County. The Great Park currently has a carousel and a farmer’s market. It will soon include two miles of walking paths, a three mile wildlife corridor, a botanical garden, six multi-purpose sports fields, plenty of volleyball courts, and a new Veterans Memorial and Air Museum.


9| The Ocean Institute

The Ocean Institute in Dana Point is dedicated to oceanic education and instilling in kids a desire to learn about oceanic habitats. Kids can take a ride on a historic ship, view wildlife like whales, sea lions, and dolphins while aboard their research vessel the Sea Explorer, or spend the afternoon in the hands-on exhibits at their seaside learning center. Be sure to check out their website for seasonal activities and events!


10| Pacific Marine Mammal Center

Kids will enjoy getting a close-up look at marine animals native to southern California at the Pacific Marine Mammal Center in Laguna Beach. They help rescue and rehabilitate stranded marine animals in Orange County and their visitor’s yard is open to the public daily to view the current animals under their care.


With such simple and affordable outdoor activities, what are you waiting for?

Get out into the southern California sunshine and have some fun!


Outdoor Things to Do with Kids in Orange County

Author: Andrea

Originally from Oklahoma, Andrea has traveled to 30 countries on 4 different continents and is now, along with her husband and daughter, happy to call the OC her home. Together they enjoy being outdoors, exploring new local places, and finding fun things to do as a family in Orange County.