Life in the OC

Summer Bucket List: Top Ten Places to go in the OC

“The sand may brush off, the salt may wash clean, the tans may fade, but the memories will last forever.” -unknown

Calling all Orange County families. It is officially summer, the kids are out of school (well, mine are not in school yet, but you get the point) and it is time to make some memories. Here is a great summer bucket list of the awesome places to go in the OC. I divided the list into the top 5 outdoor and the top 5 indoor places to go this summer, enjoy!

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1.) YMCA Laguna Niguel Splash Pad: This awesome place opened up last year and is one of my favorites for so many reasons. The first reason is because its FREE! Open to the public 7 days a week from 10am-5pm from Memorial Day to Labor Day. I would say more ideal for walkers (not crawlers, especially on a busy day) all the way through jr. highers. There is a park below that we love (check out this link to view park) and should be getting shade covers very soon for these hot summer months. If it’s a cool day, pack a lunch and even go on a hike. There are also summer concerts in the park starting June 24th (check here for full summer concert schedule).photo3-14


2.) Aliso Viejo Aquatic Center: A beautiful pool center in the heart of south orange county that is now open year round. The aquatic center is totally awesome for all ages and unlike most places, even if you don’t live in Aliso Viejo, you can still go (you just have to pay a few more dollars). There is one large lap pool, one large family pool, and we especially love the baby pool area with fountains and splash pad. They just added huge shade covers and also have a snack shack. Definitely worth the couple dollars to go swim and play. They will even be having a special 4th of July event, so go check out their website!photo2-13


3.) Movie Night Under the Stars: I love how popular outside movies are becoming! It is such a fun idea and a must on your summer bucket list. There are so many outside movie events happening, you can check your local community flyer, but here are a few that are happening in the South OC. Finding Nemo and Toy Story at Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Inside Out  and Back to the Future at The Grand Park in Aliso Viejo and The Peanuts Movie at The Great Park in Irvine. Don’t forget your blankets, lawn chairs and some snacks!_absolutely_free_photos_original_photos_popcorn-machine-5132x3421_83155

4.) Beach Day: Need some relief from the heat? Head to the beach! Really, any beach in Southern California is beautiful, but I do have my favorites, and Salt Creek Beach in Dana Point is at the top of the list. For starters, there is usually plenty of parking (as long as you get there before 11am) and it only costs $1 per hour. Once you park and head down the hill the view is breathtaking. You can either just have a picnic on the huge grassy hill or you can walk all the way down to the sand if you want to put your toes in the water (just be prepared, the walk back up is a good work out if you brought a lot of beach stuff). There are picnic tables, bbq’s and even a basketball court. It never seems too crowed (unlike some beach cities with actual boardwalks) and I love that it tends to be more family friendly. I also love Crystal Cove in Newport Coast, but mostly because of The Beachcomber restaurant and their amazing breakfast. If you have never gone, go, but first make a reservation!!photo4-10 IMG_0939

5) OC Fair 2016: Nothing says summer quite like a fair. Whether you go to eat the fried pickles, watch a rodeo or just play a few carnival games, everyone loves the fair. The OC Fair 2016 opens July 15th and runs through August 14th. Opening day starts with a free opening hour for not only the admission, but for parking as well. Children 5 and under are free everyday and kids 12 and younger can receive free admission on Thursday’s. So mark the date on your calendar and save some room for some cotton candy!:)_absolutely_free_photos_original_photos_ferris-wheel-fun-5514x3575_98372

(I also suggest checking your local community flyer for 4th of July activities/fireworks. Most cities have so many free family friendly events, so don’t miss out and plan ahead)


1) Pretend City: This summer at Pretend City is all about Super Heroes. Suit up, gear up, and put your powers to the test at their newest exhibit which opened June 21st and runs through September. We had the opportunity to try out the kid sized zip line, ropes maze, wind tunnel and much more. My son loved creating his own super hero cape as well as flying through the sky with the help of a green screen. Each week they will be honoring different groups of heroes; military, community, olympic, the list goes on. You definitely want to take the time to go visit Pretend City this summer!photo1-18

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2) The Discovery Science Center: If your child loves dinosaurs, then bring them to the Discovery Cube this summer! The exhibit “Extreme Dinosaurs” brings the prehistoric past to life. Our kids loved seeing the dino’s come to life as they roared, growled and even moved. They also had fun digging for fossils. An even more hands on area is the new “Engineering Lab.” An entire area where kids can see the power of inertia, watch as gravity and force come to life and all while having fun! Both our kiddos loved this area, so did a lot of other school kids. So if you go, and it is crowded, hang out for about 15 minutes then the school groups usually all leave to different areas together (just a little tip). Of course there are still the regular area’s that we love to visit, especially the Dinosaur exhibit outside where you can actually walk through the inside of a Brachiosaurus.photo1-17 image

3) The Aquarium of the Pacific: What a better way to cool off in the summer than to visit the aquarium?! If you have never visited the Aquarium of the Pacific, then it’s definitely something you should put on the summer bucket list. Kids of all ages can be amazed by all of the beautiful sea life including the jelly fish, sea otters, penguins, the new horses and dragons exhibit and even the sharks. The hubby and I actually went there as a date before we had kids then went to 2nd St in Long Beach for dinner at La Creperie Cafe (if you have never gone, you are missing out). So not only is it a great day for the family it can also be a great day date!IMG_5090

4) Go see a Show: How could I not suggest this? I absolutely love musical theater (if you don’t know why go read here) and taking the family to see a show this summer should definitely be on the bucket list. Segerstrom Center for the Arts has The Sound of Music starting July 19th and 3D Theatricals has Hello Dolly starting July 15th (both are very family friendly shows). We recently went to see Newsies at Segerstrom and we were not disappointed! Go support the arts and see a show!image

5) Big Air: When it’s hot outside and the kids have tons of energy this is the place to go! Have them jump the day away on the super fun trampolines and dive into the foam pit. Toddler time during the summer months is Wednesday and Thursday from 8am-11am. But it’s not just for the kids either, they also have Cosmic Nights on Friday and Saturday nights from 8:30-11:00pm for those that want to plan a more active date!image

(As always, make sure to check websites for prices and hours of operation or for any other details)

Now go make some fun summer memories and don’t forget to let me know if you try any of these activities out! I always love hearing feedback or new ideas of places we haven’t been!

This article has 2 comments

  1. stephanie

    Great post, Jenny!!! Love the pics, too!!! Counting down till the OC Fair!!! Thank you for all your suggestions for an AWESOME summer with the kiddos! : )

    • Jenny

      Yay! So glad you liked it! I have to admit that I haven’t brought the kids to the fair yet, but I think I might try this year!:)

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