Seek out the best things to do in Orange County California for first-time visitors with our 3-day guide compiled by an Orange County local.
Miles of coastline, palm trees, 72-degree weather, it doesn’t get much better than Orange County, California and since there are so many amazing things to do you’ll want to plan your three days in Orange County well! Disneyland might pop into your mind first, and while spending time with Mickey and Minnie is always a treat, this three-day itinerary in Orange County will entice you to explore beyond Disneyland! Nestled between the Santa Ana Mountains and the Pacific Ocean, Orange County is one of Southern California’s gems.
Day One: Take a Trip to Huntington Beach
We’re going to kick off our visit to Orange County with a trip to Huntington Beach. With nearly nine miles of beaches, it’s no wonder HB is known as Surf City!
Home to the US Open of Surfing, if you visit in late July/early August be sure to schedule a day at the beach to watch the surfing. Also know, that almost any day you go to the beach means you’ll get to see professional surfers as many of them call Huntington Beach home…and Huntington Beach is the only Orange County beach with part of the beach designated for your favorite four-legged friends.
Kick off the day with a donut from The Donuttery where you can get delicious donuts and old-school donut shop prices! Grab your donut and then head to the Bolsa Chica Wetlands for bird watching and a great hike/walk (you pick your pace!) through the wetlands. Grab lunch at any number of great spots (there are tacos and sandwiches and more!) along Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) and then head to the International Surfing Museum.
Spend the afternoon and evening at Pacific City where you’ll be to shop, enjoy dinner with an outstanding view of the Pacific Ocean and then watch the sunset over the iconic Huntington Beach Pier.
Address: 17420 Beach Blvd, Huntington Beach
Phone Number: 714-847-7000
Hours: Daily 7 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Cost: Open 24 Hours
Bolsa Chica Wetlands
Address: 3842 Warner Avenue Huntington Beach
Phone Number: (714) 846-1114
Hours: Daily 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
International Surfing Museum
Address: 411 Olive Ave, Huntington Beach
Phone Number: 714-465-4350
Hours: Tuesday – Sunday 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. Closed on Mondays
Address: 21010 Pacific Coast Hwy, Huntington Beach
Phone Number: 714-930-2345
Hours: Daily 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Cost: Free to browse
Huntington Beach Pier
Address: 315 Pacific Coast Hwy, Huntington Beach
Phone Number: 714-930-2345
Hours: Daily 5 a.m. to 12 a.m.
Day Two – Visit Laguna Beach in Orange County
Since Orange County has 42 miles of beaches it’s only logical that on day two we head just a bit south of Huntington Beach and stop at Laguna Beach for the day! Get your day started with a colored bagel from Bagels & Brew so you have the energy to see all this seaside town has to offer!
Spend the morning walking through Laguna Beach on a Historic Bungalow Tour where you can see many of the original Laguna Beach houses. Some of them were built in the late 1800’s and you can even find the house built in just one weekend as the owners wanted to win a $100 prize for being the first house built in the subdivision.
While you’re walking through Laguna be sure to stop by and see St. Francis by the Sea, the second smallest cathedral in the world, with just 42 seats!! And for your picture perfect opportunity, head over to Heisler Park. Then grab a picnic and head to 1000 Steps Beach for the perfect Orange County beach afternoon!
Bagels & Brew
Historic Bungalow Tour
St. Francis by the Sea
Address: 430 Park Ave, Laguna Beach
Phone Number: (949) 426-2561
Hours: Call for information
Address: 375 Cliff Dr, Laguna Beach
Phone Number: 949-497-0716
Hours: Open 24 hours
1000 Steps Beach
Address: 31972 Coast Hwy, Laguna Beach
Phone Number: 949-497-3311
Hours: Daily 5 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Day Three – Explore Inland Orange County
On day three we’re going to avoid the temptation to only enjoy the coastline of Orange County because there are actually some great things to see when you venture inland. Kick off the day with breakfast at Flappy Jack’s Pancake House, but be warned that if you get just the right table it’ll feel like the cars on the freeway are headed straight for your table. But the freeway will curve in time!!
Next, it’s time for a little hiking. Head over to Carbon Canyon Regional Park where you can hike, enjoy a morning snack, play some volleyball and wander through the redwood trees of Redwood Grove. Usually, when people think of redwood trees they think of Northern California but there is a small grove in Orange County and they require a lot of TLC since the climate of Southern California is not their natural habitat.
After exploring the redwoods head to the Irvine Spectrum for tacos at The Lime Truck and a ride on the Great Wheel. On a clear day, you can see for miles and this is a great way to see a lot of Orange County! After lunch head over to Orange County’s Great Park and explore the history of Orange County on the walkable historical timeline.
Wrap up the day with a progressive dinner at Anaheim Packing District. You will be able to enjoy a variety of cuisines and there is something for everyone’s taste!
Flappy Jack’s Pancake House
Address: 2848 N Santiago Blvd, Orange
Phone Number: 714-283-2800
Hours: Daily 6 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Carbon Canyon Regional Park
Address: 4442 Carbon Canyon Rd, Brea
Phone Number: 714-937-3160
Hours: Daily 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Parking: $3 per vehicle Monday – Friday, $5 per vehicle Saturday and Sunday
Irvine Spectrum & The Great Wheel
Address: 670 Spectrum Center Dr, Irvine
Phone Number: 949-790-4871
Hours: Daily 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Address:6950 Marine Way, Irvine
Phone Number: 949-724-6247
The Lime Truck
Anaheim Packing District
Address: 440 S Anaheim Blvd, Anaheim
Phone Number: 714-533-7225
Hours: Daily 9 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Orange County is filled with miles of coastline, delicious food and hidden treasures worth exploring. You could easily turn three days exploring Orange County into a full-week exploring the area, but for now, enjoy your three days!