No need to travel farther than the next town over to feel like you’re on vacation during spring break in Orange County. Make your week special by taking advantage of your proximity to whale watching spots, working farms, resorts, and more.
31791 Los Rios Street
San Juan Capistrano, CA 92675
Located in the midst of one of California’s oldest residential neighborhoods, Zoomars boasts over 100 animals on one and a half acres in the Los Rios Historic District of San Juan Capistrano. The property was once part of a 2,500 acre Mexican ranch and provides a safe environment for children to pet, feed, and learn about animals. Furry friends include sheep, goats, guinea pigs and more. Children can feed the animals, ride the train or ride a pony. Want to make a day of it? Arrive by train and eat at the Ramos House Cafe. Open daily from 10-5,
$5 for adults and children over the age of 1.
5380 3/4 University Dr
Irvine, CA 92612-2944
In the middle of one of the best cities in Orange County (and perhaps the US) sits a beautiful organic farm, complete with over 50 different fruits and vegetables. In the spring and summer, Tanaka Farms opens up to the public for group field trips to get an inside look at a working farm. Each trip concludes in their strawberry patch where guests can pick and even eat strawberries right off the vine. Beginning March 17th, guests can participate in their strawberry and cookout tours (weekends only).
1802 North Main Street
Santa Ana, CA 92706
This interactive children’s museum and learning center offers pre- and elementary school aged children a hands-on art and cultural experience. Kids can dress up like an Indian princess or Mexican Caballero, play tribal instruments, and create a culturally relevant art project. Be sure to take note of their Target Free First Sunday program where families can enjoy free access to Kidseum courtesy of the Target Corporation.
La Habra Children’s Museum
301 South Euclid Street
La Habra, CA 90631
Located in a historic 1923 Train Depot, the hands-on children’s museum features seven galleries and 14 exhibits. Unique to the museum is its outdoor dinosaur topiary and 1942 caboose. Children can ride an authentic Dentzel Carousel, take a walk in T-Rex’s footprints, pet an Arctic fox, and dig for fossils. The museum also features a new exhibit once a quarter and this spring, it’s all about water! “Water, Water Everywhere!” will teach children about our planet’s water systems, conservation, and the scientific properties of water. La Habra residents get $1 off admission. Target will pick up anyone’s tab on the first Saturday of every month.
OC Fair & Event Center
88 Fair Drive
Costa Mesa, CA 92626
During the Orange County fair’s off season, a real, working farm exists throughout the year. The three-acre farm, which is home to fruit and vegetable gardens and livestock, was created to educate children and young adults about the importance of agriculture. Visitors can see animals and stroll the gardens or take a tour. Admission and parking are free on the off season when there are no scheduled property events.
Newport Dunes Waterfront Resort
1131 Back Bay Drive
Newport Beach, CA 92660
(800) 765 7661
At the entrance to the Back Bay nature preserve resides a 110 acre resort where families can relax for a day or a week swimming, boating, and lounging on the beach. Newport Dunes is home to 386 RV sites, 24 mobile cottages, a 450-slip marina, a campsite with rent-tent services, an on-site grocery store and its famed fine dining restaurant, Back Bay Bistro. The most challenging part about a visit to the Dunes is figuring out what to do! With the option of renting kayaks, windsurfers, pedal boats, bicycles, and 18-foot electric boats all year round, there are plenty of activities to keep the entire family entertained.
Whale Watching at Dana Point Harbor
34624 Golden Lantern St.
Dana Point, CA 92629
Hailed as Orange County’s best year round whale watching destination, Dana Point sees 40-50 whales pass by each day during their 5000 mile migration from Alaska to Mexico. The Harbor offers a variety of whale watching excursions, however, you can also get a glimpse of these beauties from land at the Headlands Conservation Park.
This weekend, celebrate whale migration at the annual Festival of Whales which draws over 100,000 visitors from around the world. The celebration includes ocean-themed activities with an emphasis on education and environmental responsibility. Whale watching excursions depart every hour, on the hour from 8:00 am to 4:00 pm during the Festival weekends. To celebrate it’s 40th year, they’re offering a “whale of a deal” with 8 am tickets just $8.00.
Environmental Nature Center
1601 16th Street
Newport Beach, CA 92663
Discover 15 native California plant communities, habitats, and walking trails through hands-on learning at the Environmental Nature Center. The center’s 3.5 acre outdoor classroom educates thousands of students each year and provides the community with a series of programs. The center seeks to increase public knowledge, understanding, and appreciation of the natural world. If you’re visiting this spring, be sure to check out the Butterfly House, home to several butterfly species native to the county.
Peter & Mary Muth Interpretive Center
2301 University Drive
Newport Beach, CA 92660
Located in Orange County’s premier nature preserve, the center offers visitors an opportunity to view the wonders of the bay through interactive exhibits, live reptile and amphibian displays, and audio-visual presentations. Be sure to check the OC Parks website for a listing of scheduled movie nights and activities which include arts and crafts, storytelling, and outdoor nature walks.
Caryn Bailey is raising two curious kids in Orange County, where she blogs at Rockin’ Mama.