7 Kid-Friendly Outdoor Activities in Orange County

Summer in Orange County boasts perfect weather enticing traveling families to seek out the best outdoor kid-friendly activities and fun-in-the-sun in Southern California.

Summer in Orange County boasts perfect weather enticing traveling families to seek out the best outdoor kid-friendly activities and fun-in-the-sun in Southern California. Fortunately, Orange County is home to endless summer family experiences that are bound to leave visitors wanting more. Let’s take a look at seven of the most popular – and affordable – kid-friendly outdoor summer activities to do in the OC!

Dana Point Harbor Whale Watching (Dana Point)

Boasting the best whale watching in the world, family-friendly Dana Wharf Sportfishing & Whale Watching is dedicated to helping locals and visitors alike enjoy the unique wonders of Dana Point Harbor and the Orange County coastline. The warm waters at Dana Point Harbor flourish with sea life – whales, dolphins, harbor seals and California sea lions can be seen year-round. These thriving coastal waters also provide bountiful fishing of sand bass, calico bass, halibut, bonito, yellowtail, yellowfin tuna, bluefin tuna, and dorado. 

Known as a landmark for marine life sightings, Dana Wharf’s Whale and Dolphin Watching Adventure Tours offer rare glimpses into a huge variety of underwater wildlife and gorgeous scenic views you’ll never forget. Seasonally, they see over 1500 Gray Whales and in the summer they see Blue Whales. Year round, they see Fin Whales, Minke Whales, Humpback Whales and even shark. Whale Watching season is year-round and marine mammal sightings are guaranteed, meaning that if you do not see a whale or dolphin, they will give you a voucher for a free trip that never expires. What could be better? 

Families may also reserve boat rentals in Dana Point to enjoy a private boat charter, sailboat or catamaran; they can book an awe-inspiring whale watching cruise or sportfishing charter. Dana Wharf is conveniently located in Dana Point, Orange County, just south of Newport Beach, Huntington Beach and Laguna Beach; which is about 30 minutes south of Disneyland in Anaheim, an hour south of Los Angeles and an hour north of San Diego.

Fishing off of Huntington Beach Pier (Huntington Beach)

Measuring 1,850 feet in length, the iconic Huntington Beach Pier is one of the longest piers on the West Coast. Jutting out into the Pacific Ocean at the intersection of Main Street and Pacific Coast Highway, it symbolizes the heart of Huntington Beach and is the most photographed spot in town. The pier and the city came into existence together in 1904, and thanks to historic surfing demonstrations by legendary Hawaiian watermen George Freeth and Duke Kahanamoku, this landmark is an integral part of Huntington Beach surfing lore and peaceful fishing. Rebuilt after two storms in the 1980s, the pier is all about simple pleasures and will provide families and kids with low-key summer fun.

To fish in Huntington Beach, check out Let’s Go Fishing for a rod, reel, and bait to cast your line off the pier (no license required). The best part is, you’ll be able to reward yourself at the end with a classic all-American burger and fries, creamy milkshake, and serene ocean view from Ruby’s Diner on the pier – a 50s diner restaurant chain that started right here in Orange County.

Located at Pacific Coast Highway and Main Street, the pier is free and open to the public daily from 5 am to midnight. Be sure to visit during our stunning summer sunsets!

Tanaka Farms: U-Pick Experience (Irvine)

Since 1940 Tanaka Farms has been dedicated to providing all families with quality produce, fun and educational experiences.

The farm provides guests with entertaining things to do all year round. It hosts Strawberry Tours in the spring months (March through June) and offers U-Pick Vegetable Tours and Cookout Tours throughout the year. This free, guided wagon ride around the farm (45 minutes to an hour) allows you to pick your own fresh fruits and vegetables in the field. 

U-Pick Tours are seasonal and take place when the farm has an abundance of crops. Times are announced when tours become available and no reservations are necessary; simply arrive 15-20 min prior to the announced time so you don’t miss the tractor.

Vegetable picking is seasonal and based on availability, but U-Pick produce may include carrots, tomatoes, lettuce, corn, bell peppers, eggplant, tomatoes, cucumbers, Swiss chard, kale and more. It’s a surprise every day!

Explore Tide Pools at Main Beach (Laguna Beach)

Among all the stretches of sand in Laguna Beach, none is more iconic, more family-friendly, more fun or more accessible than Main Beach. Located right on Pacific Coast Highway (PCH), Main Beach is famous for beautiful people having a beautiful time in a beautiful setting.

The lifeguard tower often appears in TV and movies. Olympians are known to show up to play pick up volleyball. Michael Jordan once spent a few hours dominating the shockingly scenic basketball court. This is one of America’s truly “must visit” beaches.

This intimate beach offers basketball, volleyball, a grassy park, a boardwalk, public art installations, shopping close-by and mellow waves. Kids love to climb on the play structure, situated near the southern bathrooms. 

Ferris Wheel at Balboa Fun Zone (Newport Beach)

The Balboa Fun Zone is one of Southern California’s oldest great coastal amusement areas and a popular family-friendly attraction for visitors to Newport Beach and Orange County. Families can enjoy rides on the waterfront Ferris Wheel, play games in the arcade or tour the nautical museum while enjoying their favorite beach treats. This is also a popular place to rent bikes, harbor cruises, do whale watching or take off for a day trip to nearby Catalina Island on the Catalina Flyer.

The Balboa Fun Zone is located on Balboa Peninsula across from Balboa Pier off Balboa Blvd. A public parking lot is available across Balboa Blvd next to the pier. Or the Balboa Fun Zone can be reached by the Auto Ferry located on Balboa Island. 

Explore Noguchi Garden at South Coast Plaza (Costa Mesa)

A hidden gem in heart of Downtown Costa Mesa thrives a stunning, family-friendly, 1.6-acre public art sculpture garden by internationally acclaimed designer Isamu Noguchi. Here in Costa Mesa, surrounded by mirrored high rises and the world-famous South Coast Plaza, Noguchi’s secret garden boasts a series of dramatic landscapes that represent our Golden State. Built in 1982, the space is both symbolic landscape and minimalist theatrical piece. A series of seemingly disjointed but somehow harmonious elements create a unique outdoor experience.

Orange County Great Park (Irvine)

The Orange County Great Park continues its kid-friendly evolution across approximately 1,300 acres as it attracts visitors to its ongoing amenities. Located in the heart of Orange County and nearby to Orange County’s airport, John Wayne Airport, the City of Irvine-owned Great Park is an arts and sports recreational hub. Check out Destination Irvine for family-friendly summer events at the Orange County Great Park.