Nestled in between Los Angeles and San Diego counties lies the less-bustling Orange County. Despite being the smallest county by area in California, Orange County is packed with entertainment, world-class restaurants and amusement parks that make it a top destination for travel for families everywhere. Whether you’re a first time visitor to this area of SoCal or you’re looking for new and fresh things to do in the OC, we’ve got your family guide to making the most out of your upcoming visit.

Eat

Anaheim Packing District

The Anaheim Packing District is more than a collection of eateries, it's an experience! Located in the center of Anaheim, this giant food hall allows for more than 50 artisanal creations that include Waffle Dogs, Southern seafood, authentic Syrian cuisine, Bubble Tea, Mexican Gastronomy, Dim Sum, Hungarian pastries and more. Not only can you find unique grub, you'll also be treated to live entertainment as you nosh the hungries away. Kids will love the bustling and vibrant atmosphere, and mostly that they can pick from tons of mini-restaurants.

440 S. Anaheim Blvd
Anaheim, CA 92805
714-533-7225
Online: anaheimpackingdistrict.com

Ruby's on the Balboa Pier

Casual dining meets stunning views at Ruby's on the Balboa Pier. Located in Newport Beach, the must-visit 40's style diner is family-friendly with classic Americana foods and tons of shake flavors. Whether you're taking a break from sunbathing on the sand or making Ruby's your main destination, you won't be disappointed with this locale. Families will love the scenic walk down the pier, ordering from the window (or dining inside) and enjoying their grub surrounded by the beautiful Pacific Ocean.

1 Balboa Pier
Balboa, CA 92661
949-675-7829
Online: rubys.com/locations/balboa-pier

Nick's & South of Nick's

Head towards the coast and hit up one of two Nick's and two South of Nick's locations, a locally loved collection of restaurants with beach-inspired cuisine. While on the nicer spectrum of restaurants, they offer lunch and dinner daily, in addition to breakfast on the weekends. Laguna's locations are located on Pacific Coast Highway, which means ocean views for miles. The beachy vibe and casual nature of Laguna Beach and San Clemente make these restaurants fit for the entire fam. Kids are given an Etch-A-Sketch to keep them busy, a delicious kids menu, and if they need to get the wiggles out, parents can cross the street and let them romp on the Laguna Beach main beach playground. Reservations are encouraged due to local popularity.

Nick's Laguna Beach
440 South Coast Highway
Laguna Beach, CA 92651
949-376-8595

Nick's San Clemente
213 Avenida Del Mar
San Clemente, CA 92672
949-481-2200

Duke's Huntington Beach

Seafood and Hawaiian cuisine come together at Duke's Huntington Beach. The local favorite is nestled right on the shores and is open for lunch and dinner seven days a week, and brunch on Sundays. Before your visit, check out the specials for Taco Tuesdays, Waikiki Wednesdays, Local Plate Thursdays, Sunday Specials and All Night Aloha Hours. Kids will love that they can take one step outside and put their toes in the sand, no to mention the massive surfboards stationed at the entrance and tons of surfing photos throughout the restaurant.

317 Pacific Coast Hwy,
Huntington Beach, CA 92648
714-374-6446
Online: dukeshuntington.com

85°C Bakery

Orange County's 85°C Bakery has been a local hotspot for years. Specializing in Taiwanese and Japanese breads, it's not uncommon to see a line out the door––but it's worth the wait. Menu items include cake cups and slices, Taiwanese Red Bean Bread, Japanese Matcha Choco Buns and plenty of danishes and buns. Families will love the huge variety of sweets and that everyone can find their fave pastry.

915 Spectrum Center Dr.
Irvine, CA 92618
Phone: 949-727-0985

2700 Alton Parkway Ste 123,
Irvine, CA 92606
Phone: 949-553-8585
Online: 85cbakerycafe.com

Play

photo: Disney Parks

Disneyland

The crown jewel of Orange County, Disneyland Resort is often the destination for tourists. Between Disneyland and Disney California Adventure, there is no shortage of character encounters, thrill rides and of course, the new Galaxy's Edge. While you're there, don't forget to check out the copious amounts of restaurants, shopping and entertainment at the Downtown Disney District. The outdoor area is perfect for escaping the hubbub of the resorts, while still maintaining that magical feel.

1313 Disneyland Dr.
Anaheim, CA 92802
Online: disneyland.disney.go.com

Knott's Berry Farm

Christened as Knott's Berry Place in 1928, Knott's Berry Farm as it's known today is an array of thrilling rides and entertainment. Not only does the park retain much of its roots in amazing food and Old West style, but the world class roller coasters and Camp Snoopy draw families in droves. Be sure not to miss out on the 900-seat Mrs. Knott's Chicken Dinner Restaurant, Knott's Berry Farm Hotel and Knott's Soak City.

8039 Beach Blvd.
Buena Park, CA 90620
714-250-5200
Online: knotts.com

Shopping

Orange County is home to plenty of shopping, much of which is outdoor and ready to soak up the SoCal sunshine. Newport Beach's Fashion Island boasts high-end shops with beach views and five-star restaurants. Head south to check out the sprawling Irvine Spectrum Center, with pretty much everything from a 3-D movie theater, shopping, restaurants and even a Target. If you're looking for luxury, check out South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa. With over 250 stores and 30 restaurants, this extremely walkable mall lets you escape the heat and snag one-of-a-kind finds.

Fashion Island
401 Newport Center Dr.
Newport Beach, CA 92660
949-759-0808
Online: fashionisland.com

Irvine Spectrum Center
670 Spectrum Center Dr.
Irvine, CA 92618
949-790-4871
Online: irvinespectrumcenter.com

South Coast Plaza
3333 Bristol Street
Costa Mesa, CA 92626
1-800-782-8888
Online: southcoastplaza.com

Beaches

The Orange Coast is made up of several beaches, most notably Laguna, Newport and Huntington Beach. Each of these coastal areas have gems of their own that are worth a trip on your venture to OC. While in Laguna, check out the Pageant of the Masters, the Sawdust Festival and the main beach. In Newport, venture to the Balboa Pier, the tide pools at Crystal Cove and Little Corona Beach, the perfect swatch of beach for littles. If you're headed to Huntington Beach (a.k.a. Surf City, USA), visit the International Surfing Museum, kayak in Huntington Harbor and grab some grub at Old World.

Sporting Events

It's almost always possible to hit up a professional sporting event while in Orange County. From April to September, head to Angel Stadium for an Angels baseball game. The family-friendly stadium is specifically geared towards keeping kiddos happy, with a variety of activities to do in between innings. From October to April, head across the street to the Honda Center and an Anaheim Ducks game!

Angel Stadium
2000 E Gene Autry Way,
Anaheim, CA 92806
Online: mlb.com/angels/ballpark

Honda Center
2695 E Katella Ave,
Anaheim, CA 92806
Online: hondacenter.com

Stay

photo: Marriott

Laguna Cliffs Marriott Resort & Spa

Grab the perfect Pacific Ocean View when you stay at the Laguna Cliffs Marriott Resort & Spa. The newly renovated resort is situated perfectly close to the Dana Point Harbor, Laguna Beach and Doheny State Beach. You'll find plenty of things to do, from the sparkling pools, to onsite dining and even a full-service spa. Don't forget a shopping trip to the San Clemente Outlets, a visit to Pedro's Tacos and a stop at the Rainbow Sandal Factory Store for a signature pair of Cali flip flops. 

25135 Park Lantern
Dana Point, CA 92629
949-661-5000
Online: marriott.com/hotels/travel/snadp-laguna-cliffs-marriott-resort-and-spa/

photo: Marriott

Westin South Coast Plaza

A quick jaunt from John Wayne Airport, the Westin South Coast Plaza is at the center of entertainment in Orange County. Situated across the street from South Coast Plaza, a luxury shopping center and adjacent to the Segerstrom Performing Art Center, this upscale hotel is the perfect getaway. The pet-friendly hotel boasts newly renovated rooms, a business center, free Wi-Fi, fitness center and is less than 10 miles from Huntington Beach, one of OC's premiere beaches. Don't miss out on local eats like Avila's El Ranchito Mexican Restaurant, Habana at the LAB Anti-Mall, and Arc where everything is cooked over wood fires in black cast iron. 

686 Anton Blvd.
Costa Mesa, CA 92626
714-540-2500
Online: marriott.com/hotels/travel/snawi-the-westin-south-coast-plaza-costa-mesa/

photo: Marriott

Fairfield Inn Anaheim

A stone's throw from Disneyland, the Fairfield Inn Anaheim is the perfect family-friendly hotel if you're visiting the Magic Kingdom. This hotspot is a Disneyland Resort Good Neighbor Hotel, which means Disney theme park tickets are sold at the front desk! Forego parking issues and make the brief 7-minute walk to the amusement park, and when you're all done with the magic, return to a Disney-inspired guest room. The Fairfield Inn provides all-day dining in it's third floor food outlet, Panera Bread room delivery, a family game room, high-speed Wi-Fi, Smart TV and plush bedding. While in Anaheim, don't forget to check out Adventure City, Joe's Italian Ice, Golden Road Brewery and the Downtown Disney District for tons of restaurant, entertainment and shopping options.

1460 South Harbor Boulevard
Anaheim, CA 92802
714-772-6777

Online: marriott.com/hotels/travel/laxoc-fairfield-inn-anaheim-resort/

With Marriott Bonvoy™, families can enjoy special rates, free in-room Wifi, mobile check in and more! Book at least seven days in advance to save up to 20% on weekend stays in Orange County.

 

––Karly Wood