Historic Mission San Juan Capistrano is a California icon. Perhaps most famous for visits from its annual guests of honor, the swallows, the Mission means many things to many people. For Californians, it is a powerful symbol of the state's complicated colonial history. For Catholics, it is a profound religious site, indicative of the Church's own complex heritage. History buffs spend hours reveling in the facility's many exhibits and displays, connecting viscerally with the sights, sounds and feelings of generations long past. For visitors of any background, it is an undeniably gorgeous place to spend an afternoon-replete with striking architectural elements and lovingly cared-for gardens.
The Ocean Institute is located in beautiful Dana Point Harbor and offers ocean science and maritime history programs perfect for kids and adults alike. See hundreds of marine animals in aquariums, watch animal feedings, experience ocean-themed exhibits, and have fun with hands-on activities. For an extra charge, take a tall ship or a whale watching cruise. The Dana Point Marine Protected Area is steps away from the Institute.
Irvine Park Railroad is located in beautiful Irvine Regional Park. The one-third scale train takes visitors on a scenic, 12-minute ride through the 477-acre park. Other park attractions include pony rides, the Orange County Zoo, walking trails, horseback riding, snack bars and more. You can rent paddle boats, bikes, and horseshoe and volleyball sets. Annual Irvine Park Railroad events include the Pumpkin Patch, Christmas Train, Easter Eggstravaganza, California History Education Program and Anniversary Celebration. School field trips are available. You can also reserve space for private parties.
Knott's Berry Farm, home to the Peanuts characters, has been a long-time favorite for families visiting the Orange County area. You'll find culturally-themed areas including Fiesta Village, Indian Trails and Independence Hall, where visitors get a look at the influence of these cultures on California life. There are also themed rides such as the Xcelerator and Montezooma's Revenge. Other areas such as The Boardwalk feature rides like Supreme Scream which, measuring in at an astounding 312 feet (95.098 meters), is the tallest structure in the county. Overall, if you're looking for something to please the kids (and maybe give yourself a rest), Knott's is a truly excellent choice. Operational hours vary from day to day, please check website for more details.
Once known as the "Tin Can Beach", Bolsa Chica State Beach is now a popular beach which attracts visitors all year-round. It is an ideal place to go sunbathing, play volleyball, have a family day out and try other water sports. Surf fishing of fishes like croaker and corbina are among the other activities you can partake in here. Also, on this three-mile long sandy stretch is a designated place where you can camp in your RV vans. Bolsa Chica is a great spot to sit back and enjoy everything that the beach has to offer.
Imaginations turn, twist and fly through 120 exciting hands-on exhibits at Discovery Cube Orange County. The park, which was formerly called the Discovery Science Center, is located in Santa Ana and has been inspiring kids of all ages for years. Experience science in the museum's themed areas, which include Quake Zone, Techno Arts, Discovery Stadium, Perception, Dynamic Earth, Air & Space, Kids Station and Dino Quest. Kids and adults alike are given a chance to lie on a bed of needles, run with dinosaurs, and dive to the depths of the ocean, all in one building! The establishment also hosts educational programs throughout the year.
Marconi Automotive Museum, a part of the Marconi Foundation for Kids, houses a vast array of cars that will delight not only children but also automobile connoisseurs. Visitors can view Foxfire Firetrucks, unusual Ferraris and Jaguars. Do not miss Frank Williams' FX Ferrari and the Top Fuel Dragster designed by Kenny Bernstein. This venue can be hired for weddings, business functions and fundraisers.
Honoring the Buddha's teachings in the Pure-Land and Zen sect, this temple located in Irvine is a member of the American Lotus Buddhist Association. This religious and educational center strives to impart a better understanding of Buddhism to all its visitors. The temple is used for various ceremonies and events throughout the year as well as regular services and classes. Be sure to visit the website for more information.
This small zoo has a lot to offer its visitors. There is a recreation of an Amazon rainforest that will awe and inspire both young and old alike. In the Children's Zoo youngsters can pet everything from a sheep to pot-bellied pigs. The Zoofari Express train offers a few thrills. Monkey Row is home to all kinds of primates, from lemurs to apes to Dusky Titi monkeys. The Australian Yard features wallabies and emus while the Endangered Species area features bald eagles and Diana Guenon monkeys. There is something to delight and educate just about anybody with a sense of curiosity about the wonderful world of animals.
Peppertree Park is a popular park in the city, not so because of its amenities but for the many events that take place throughout the year. Kids can run around or swing in the playground. Horseshoe pits and a softball field will keep you engaged. Picnic spots with barbecue pits are a hit among families in the area. Annual programs such as summer concerts, Lobsterfest and musicals keep it always buzzing.
In the heart of historic Santa Ana, along West 2nd Street between Birch Park and Main Street, this little part of town is often considered a hidden gem of an upscale flea market. All along the mini walkway, traffic is closed in order for people to wander in and out of the galleries, bars and restaurants. Some of which include Lola Gaspar, C4 Deli, Grand Central Art Center, The Estate on Second and the O.C. Center for Contemporary Art. A walk here is definitely a superb way to spend the day away from the beaches and theme parks.