Whether you reside in or near Orange County, California or plan to visit the area, there are a number of inexpensive things to do and places to visit with grandchildren. Some similar types of attractions may also be available in other communities. Check online for hours of operation, admission fees, discount coupons or free admission days:
Visit your local library to check out books and see what activities are scheduled there and in your community.
Irvine Park has a train ride (“child free with adult” coupon has been online) and a pony ride. It also has a lake nearby nearby with paddle boats and a little zoo.
The Santa Ana Zoo is small and easy to navigate with small children.
The Ocean Institute in Dana Point Harbor has educational exhibits, boat excursions from a pirate ship and tide pools with hands-on learning opportunities.
Adventure City is a tiny amusement park (Beach Blvd south of Knott’s Berry Farm) 714/ 236-9300. Admission includes unlimited rides, free parking. Call ahead for current pricing, hours, etc.
Bowers Museum is located on Main Street in Santa Ana and one block south there is a “Kidseum.” Admission is included with the Bowers ticket. Kids can have fun on their own, dress up, play drums and lounge under a silky tent. It has a craft room and a project to do! There are wonderful books and at the Kidseum desk you can get special loaners– like Russian nesting doll sets, to play with carefully, accompanied by a book that tells the story.
On Balboa Island, visit the Fun Zone and ride the Balboa Ferry. You can rent a fishing boat behind the Pavilion to travel around the Bay.
Little Corona beach located at the end of Poppy Street has tide pools gentle surf, rock formations and alcoves to explore.
Take an Amtrak train ride from Santa Ana station to San Juan Capistrano to visit the mission.
Pretend City in Irvine has hands-on learning experiences. Check the calendar online for events and hours.
In Long Beach, visit the Aquarium of the Pacfic. There are special exhibits and events throughout the year.
Sherman Library and Gardens in Corona del Mar has 2.2 acres of plants, gardens and walkways. They provide free Storytime and garden activities at scheduled times for children. Check their website for a calendar of events.
Rancho Santa Margarita has a lake with good dining and great walking. As you walk around the lake there are exercising stations with instructions.