School’s almost out and it’s time to plan those summer playdates and vacations! There is so much to do in Orange and LA County with families, so my best friend, Leanne of Elle Apparel, and I teamed up with Old Navy today to share a bunch of things to do in LA and Orange County with your families.
Old Navy is my go-to for clothes for my boys — they have the best deals, and their clothes are durable and stylish; perfect for my little men. I love their basic chino shorts and crew neck tees, and they’re all easy to mix and match to make all sorts of cute summer combos. Tons of their tees and shorts are on sale right now (some only $6!), so stock up for all those fun summer activities!
Whether you live locally or are traveling here during your summer break and need something to do before or after your days at Disneyland (since we all know that’s why you come down in the first place), we’ve compiled some of the best family friendly activities in the area.
Here are my top five for Orange County!
1. Crystal Cove Tide Pools. If we’re not going to Huntington Beach, Crystal Cove in Laguna Beach is the next best place. The beach is super wide so it never feels crowded, and the tide pools are so fun for kids. If the tide is low, you can find all sorts of cool sea creatures! You have to park on the opposite side of Pacific Coast Highway and walk down a pretty steep path and through a tunnel under the highway to get over there, so be prepared for that…OR if you go in the state park entrance there’s a designated drop off area and then make Dad do the hike from the parking lot himself 🙂 Parking is $15 for the entire day, which some people complain about, but if you’re planning to be there all day long I don’t think it’s a bad deal. Also, if you don’t bring a lunch with you, take the hike up the stairs to the Shake Shack on the side of Pacific Coast Highway. It’s the best view you’ll ever get while sipping on a delicious milkshake.
2. Irvine Park Railroad. This is a great place to go to spend the entire day. They have different activities and events depending on the time of year (we love when it becomes a pumpkin patch in the fall), but they also have year-round activities like pony rides, train rides, and even a little zoo that’s only $2 to get in! The park itself is huge, with a lake in the middle where you can rent paddle boats, and you can also rent bikes, surreys, and even horses to explore the entire park. It’s full of big, beautiful trees, so even on hot, sunny days you’ll have plenty of shade. They have a food shack where you can buy hamburgers and chicken nuggets, but we always bring a sack lunch and have a picnic with our friends.
3. Pretend City. We went to Pretend City for the first time when we came to Disneyland for B’s second birthday (about 6 months before we moved here). It’s not a huge place, and can definitely get crowded, but the kids LOVE it. I’d recommend it for children under eight years old. It’s just like it sounds — an entire city with a bank, a grocery story, a fire station, a restaurant, a construction site, and even a library where you can sit and read books (my favorite part) and a farm where they often have live baby chicks! It’s a little pricey, but you can find discounts on deal sites all the time, so watch for those!
4. Discovery Cube. If your kids ages are more widely spread, this is a really great option for a family day. It’s a great discovery museum that is geared toward kids of all ages. They have science and space activities, dress up, a grocery store, a lego building center, a dinosaur/paleontology area, and so much more. They even have an entire dedicated section just for littler kids, but Benson and my 7 year old niece had a blast in that area last time we went, so it’s not just for babies. They also have a rotating exhibit that is always so well done. Once it was Thomas the Train, last time it was Dora the Explorer, and it looks like right now they it’s a Dinosaur exhibit, and a Harley Davidson exhibit. I have just as much fun as my kids here, so it’s great for the entire family. You can also find discounts online all the time, so make sure you search for those before your visit!
5. Huntington Beach. Even though there are tons of beaches along the coast in Orange County, Huntington Beach is the very best. The sand is really wide, so there is plenty of room even on busy days, and there’s tons of free parking in the surrounding neighborhoods. If you have little kids and are bringing them in a stroller, park around 9th or 17th street off Pacific Coast Highway — both of these streets have stoplights where you can easily cross the (very busy) street, and then they have walkways partway down the sand so you don’t have to drag your stroller all the way down to the water. Also if you happen to be here on a Tuesday night, there’s a farmers market on main street with live music, tons of delicious vendors, and just such a fun vibe. And if you get hungry while you’re at the beach for the day, head over to the brand new Pacific City. They have tons of great new restaurants, including our favorite Lemonade!
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p.s. We shot these at the Santa Anita Race Track in Pasadena — it was such a beautiful location and my boys are dying to go back when there’s a horse race. This one is on Leanne’s list and you can find her top activities for LA county over on her blog!
Thank you to Old Navy for sponsoring this post || photos by Kendra Maarse