In the “busy”ness of work, school, appointments, and activities, it’s often difficult to spend time together as a family. So when that rare but golden day comes along, you want to make the most of it. Here are some great ideas for enjoying your day out as a family.
Orange County Great Park
Irvine, CA 92623
While still currently in development, the Orange County Great Park boasts that it is “the first great metropolitan park of the 21st century.” Don’t let this work in progress sway you from visiting the former Marine Corps Air Station. Parking, admission, and attractions are free, including the infamous bright orange tethered helium balloon which rises 400 feet in the air. The views from the balloon are amazing and offer a unique, one-of-a kind experience. Children can ride the mural-lined carousel or get their wiggles out at Kids Rock, the first of many playgrounds set to be built throughout the park. On Sundays, families can shop for fresh, seasonal fruits, vegetables, breads, and flowers at the Farmers Market. I’ve heard that you may spot a gourmet food truck or two during market hours. The Orange County Great Park also offers a variety of concerts, workshops, outdoor movies, and more throughout the year.
24200 Dana Point Harbor Dr.
Dana Point, CA 92629
The ocean is a fascinating and mysterious world and The Ocean Institute offers you unique, interactive opportunities to learn about it. Visit the Dana Point Marine Protected Area on a guided tide pool hike. Cruise Dana Point in search of sea lions, dolphins and other sea life, or join the Festival of Whales during the first two weeks in March. The Ocean Institute is an educational organization inspiring children and adults of all ages to become responsible stewards of our oceans.
The Getty Villa
17985 Pacific Coast Highway
Pacific Palisades, California 90272
The Getty Villa is a reprieve from the fast-paced LA lifestyle, with it’s ever-changing exhibits and serene ocean-views. The museum is dedicated to the study of the arts and cultures of ancient Greece, Rome, and Etruria. The villa itself is modeled after a first-century Roman country house and quite impressive. Families can take a 45 minute kid-friendly guided tour through the galleries, with engaging activities that help children explore the grounds. Be sure to check out the Family Forum for a unique, hands-on experience. Admission to the Getty Villa is free, but you’ll have to reserve your tickets in advance. If you’re planning on visiting during the week, you can enjoy Tea by the Sea, complete with sweet and savory sandwiches and pastries, fruits, cheeses, and a varied selection of teas for an additional charge.
Avalon, CA 90704
Just 22 miles off the coast and a short boat ride away is a pristine island with crystal clear waters and soft sand beaches. While there is enough to do to make a weekend of it, a day trip may be all you need to relax and unwind for the day. The island boasts an abundance of water, land, and air activities. If you’re looking for something unique, consider their new Zip Line Eco Tour, where you’ll propel 500 feet through the Descanso Canyon at speeds of up to 45 mph. Adventure seekers can enjoy para sailing or Unimog — a kind of off road truck — tours, while those looking for something more subdued can visit the Wrigley Memorial & Botanical Gardens or a Glass Bottom Boat Tour.
Prado Regional Park
16700 S. Euclid Ave.
Chino, CA 91708
Here in Southern California, we enjoy ample days of sunshine. Prado Regional Park offers a variety of outdoor activities across 2,000 acres. Fish for trout, catfish or bass on their 60 acre lake, horseback ride or hike through their trails, rent a pedal boat to go out on the lake or picnic in one large shaded areas. Children can play at their 1.6 acre playground with views of the lake. Be sure to check the website for seasonal events and activities.
Orange Empire Railway Museum
2201 S A St
Perris, CA 92570-9318
History buffs and train lovers will enjoy riding historic trains and trolleys at the Orange Empire Railway Museum. Entrance to the museum is free, however, a ticket is required for an all-day pass to ride on the Museum Railway. Throughout the year, the museum is host to a variety of events and activities including a behind the scenes look at how the museum operates, nighttime photo sessions, festivals, pumpkin trains, and a Day Out With Thomas.
1418 Descanso Drive
La Cañada Flintridge, CA 91011-3102
Just 20 minutes away from the hustle and bustle of busy Downtown Los Angeles lies 150 acres of gardens, preserved by the founder in the 1950’s. Today you can stroll through the rose, iris, camellia, Japanese or Flower gardens to discover some of the most beautiful flowers in the world. Adults and children can discover the grounds via the Enchanted Railroad, a replica of a diesel train, or by tram. This spring, you can get involved in their Fitness Walks and Yoga program, take your tot on a Toddler Treks, or join one of their horticultural classes.
Caryn Bailey publishes the popular mom blog Rockin’ Mama.