(credit: Shelby Barone)

(credit: Shelby Barone)


Looking to create an unforgettable vacation this spring? With major theme parks, nature parks, beaches, and island escapes, Orange County gives visitors and locals an exciting and diverse array of choices sure to please the entire family. Camp under the stars and explore the woods or enjoy a few days of fantasy and fun with a luxurious hotel within walking distance. Whatever your family is into, these five must-see Orange County vacation destinations will leave lasting memories for years to come.  
(credit: Paul Hiffmeyer/Disneyland)

(credit: Paul Hiffmeyer/Disneyland)


Disneyland Resort
1313 Disneyland Dr.
Anaheim, CA 92802
(714) 781-7277
disneyland.disney.go.com

There’s almost no place in Orange County that is more family-friendly than the Disneyland Resort. The entire Disneyland complex contains two unbeatable theme parks, the hip Downtown Disney District, and several exciting hotel accommodations to choose from. Special park hopper tickets can be purchased, allowing visitors to get a taste of both the Disneyland and the California Adventure parks, and customized vacation packages can be designed for each family’s specific wishes and needs. For the ultimate in family hotel fun, the Paradise Pier Hotel offers rooftop pools with water slides, dining with Disney characters, and a spectacular view of Disneyland’s nightly fireworks show.

(credit: Knott's Berry Farm)

(credit: Knott’s Berry Farm)


Knott’s Berry Farm
8039 Beach Blvd.
Buena Park, CA 90620
(714) 220-5200
www.knotts.com

For a theme park with a different flavor, Knott’s Berry Farm takes visitors from the world of fantasy to the home of exciting thrills. Knott’s boasts a wide range of heart-pumping rides from the breath-taking Silver Bullet to bumper cars, and there’s even child-size fun to be had on rides like the Rapid River Run. Warm spring weather is the perfect time to jump on the wet and wild water rides like Bigfoot Rapids and the Timber Mountain Log Ride. With dozens of dining options all throughout the park and daily or seasonal dining plans available, refueling the family is no problem. Family-friendly live entertainment is available at various locations inside the park, offering a chance to rest while getting a few laughs or singing some songs before heading off to the next roller coaster adventure.

(credit:  Barry Curtis / Captain Dave's Dolphin &Whale Safari)

(credit: Barry Curtis / Captain Dave’s Dolphin &Whale Safari)


Dana Point
33282 Golden Lantern St.
Dana Point, CA 92629
(949) 248-3500
www.danapoint.org

Named after famous lawyer and author Richard Henry Dana, Dana Point boasts one of California’s most beautiful harbors. Dana Point’s Ocean Institute is home to a replica of the merchant ship The Pilgrim, on which Dana was a seaman. The replica serves as the setting for historical field trips and theater programs perfect for a family outing. Dana Point also has several sunny beaches great for surfing or just soaking in the sun. Along its miles of beaches are exciting tidepools that stimulate curiosity and wonder in children of all ages. Dozens of top-rated hotels and resorts line the shores of Dana Point, allowing quick access to all the exciting natural wonders and fun that this one-of-a-kind beachside city has to offer.

Related: Best Places To Take Family Photos In OC

(credit: Ariel H./Yelp)

(credit: Ariel H./Yelp)


O’Neill Regional Park
30892 Trabuco Canyon Rd.
Trabuco Canyon, CA 92678
(949) 923-2260
ocparks.com/parks/oneill

A different kind of natural ambiance awaits visitors to O’Neill Regional Park, nestled in the densely wooded Trabuco and Live Oak Canyons. With plenty of campsites and wide open space to explore, visitors get a chance to reconnect with nature and see a more pure and pristine side of Orange County. Perhaps the best part about the park is that dogs are permitted in certain areas, so all family members are welcome on this refreshing outdoor adventure where wildflowers, mule deer, and other wildlife can be seen along the miles of hiking, biking, and horseback riding trails. The park also houses an interpretive center where kids of all ages can enjoy a closer look at the local plants and animals through various exhibits.


Catalina Island
1 Green Pleasure Pier
Avalon, CA 90704
(310) 510-1520
www.catalinachamber.com

With virtually endless activities for everyone in the family, Catalina Island is Orange County’s ultimate escape. For water lovers, there’s scuba diving, snorkeling, kayaking and parasailing, in addition to dozens of other water sports available. On land, hiking, camping, and a number of various tours are available to acquaint visitors with the beautiful island. The kids will love spending time at the arcade, movie theater, or miniature golf course while the grownups hit up the museums, art tours, or the nine hole golf course. Catalina Island is the perfect place to create an unforgettable island vacation.

Related: Best Animal Sanctuaries In Southern California

David McDonald is a freelance writer covering all things Orange County. His work can be found on Examiner.com.
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