(credit: Orange County Great Park)

(credit: Orange County Great Park)


Having fun during the holidays doesn’t have to include long road trips or expensive plane tickets. These five amazing local attractions will add loads of excitement to a winter break at home in the Orange County. In fact, an exciting shopping and dining fantasyland and an old timey-style Ferris wheel fun zone are just a few minutes away. Also around town is access to a science museum or local zoo, which is an easy and fun way to keep the mind stimulated while on break from school or work. With fun like this, why go anywhere else?

(credit: Disney)

(credit: Disney)


Downtown Disney District
1580 Disneyland Drive
Anaheim, CA 92802
(714) 300-7800
www.disneyland.disney.go.com

A trip to the Downtown Disney District offers visitors a chance to escape without paying hundreds of dollars for a park ticket. Guests can relax with a cocktail at the outdoor Uva Bar, enjoy some cajun jambalaya at Ralph Brennan’s Jazz Cafe or dine on the wild side at the Rainforest Cafe. After eating, there are plenty of entertainment options including live music at the House of Blues Stage, games at the ESPN Zone Sports Arena or a movie at the AMC Theater. As if dinner and entertainment weren’t enough, there are plenty of places to shop at Downtown Disney, and not just for Disney-related items. Have a blast shopping at the Lego store or Fossil, or create your own lovable teddy at the Build-A-Bear Workshop.

(credit: Balboa Fun Zone)

(credit: Balboa Fun Zone)


Balboa Fun Zone
600 E. Bay Ave.
Newport Beach, CA 92661
(949) 723-5387
www.thebalboafunzone.com

For an old-fashioned Coney Island boardwalk-style fun time right here in Orange County, the Balboa Fun Zone is the go-to attraction. Set right on the Newport Harbor, visitors can overlook the gorgeous Pacific Ocean from a bird’s eye perspective on the Fun Zone Ferris wheel. Afternoon and evening guests can also catch the brilliant Newport Harbor Christmas Boat Parade, going on in December and featuring decorated and illuminated boats touring the harbor. A nostalgic boardwalk experience, complete with arcades, nearby ice cream parlors and one of the longest Ferris wheel rides around awaits winter visitors to the Balboa Fun Zone.

(credit: Discovery Science Center)

(credit: Discovery Science Center)


Discovery Science Center
2500 N. Main St.
Santa Ana, CA 92705
(714) 542-2823
www.discoverycube.org

For a stimulating and educational good time, the Discovery Science Center has two floors of interactive science exhibits to enjoy. Currently featured exhibits include Thomas the Train, which allows young scientists to master engineering challenges, and the delicious Science of Gingerbread for future food scientists and chefs. Ongoing exhibits include the Science of Hockey, the Boeing Rocket Lab and the Interactive Dino Quest. Guests to the Discovery Science Center will undoubtedly need to recharge their engines during their visit, and the on-site Taco Bell makes it easy to refuel and get back to the educational action. With dozens of displays and hands-on learning activities, the Cube is perhaps the most stimulating place to go during winter break.

Related: Best Views In Orange County

(credit: DesireeEaglin.net)

(credit: DesireeEaglin.net)


Orange County Great Park
6990 Marine Way
Irvine, CA 92618
(949) 724-6247
www.ocgp.org

Taking a 400-foot-high balloon ride is one of the most exciting ways to keep winter active and fun. A balloon ride at the Orange County Great Park offers visitors a spectacular view of Orange County and the Pacific Ocean, all the way to Catalina Island. This December, the park is hosting a certified farmers’ market and a Garden Beats program, designed to teach beginner-level percussion and singing in a family-friendly environment. For younger visitors, the park will also be holding a Story Time in the Garden where kids can enjoy food-focused books and activities in a stimulating food-rich atmosphere, strengthening their learning experience. Flying, food and fun await all visitors to the Orange County Great Park this winter.

(credit: Orange County Parks And Recreation)

(credit: Orange County Parks And Recreation)


Orange County Zoo
1 Irvine Park Road
Orange, CA 92869
(714) 973-6847
www.ocparks.com/zoo

One of the best little-known gems of Orange County is the Orange County Zoo located within the Irvine Regional Park in Orange. For just $2, visitors get a chance to see native Orange County wildlife up close like mountain lions, black bears, hawks, eagles and foxes. There is also a domestic animal area of the zoo that allows kids to brush and feed goats while watching unique-looking silkie chickens roaming about with feathers all the way to their feet. Participants who complete the scavenger hunt throughout the zoo can earn one of many types of badges to show off their animal expertise, and once your trip to the zoo is done, there are still countless activities to explore within the spacious and beautiful Irvine Regional Park.

Related: Best Apple Picking Near Orange County

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

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