Credit: Cindy O’Shea

The Ultimate Orange County Summer Bucket List

15 Events and Activities for Some Summertime Fun

It’s here, my friends. The season we’ve all been waiting for: summer! This is OC’s time to shine—quite literally. We’ve earned the right to our rays this year after enduring an epic May gray and June gloom. It’s time for us to show off why we live in this beautiful part of SoCal, and there’s no better way to enjoy it than a summer bucket list curated by, you guessed it: us! We’ve got everything from family fun and ferry rides to forays with your furry friends. Ready, set, go—here are 15 ways to soak up summer in Orange County!

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Take Your Furry Friend to Huntington Dog Beach

Credit: Huntington Dog Beach

You’ve heard us talk about Huntington Dog Beach here and here and here. It’s a place where furry-friend owners flock and let their dogs frolic in the waves and white wash. Located a mile and a half north of the Huntington Beach Pier, this puppy playground is a popular pit stop for people looking to let their canine best friends enjoy the OC beach life. Dogs are required to be leashed in the parking lots and surrounding areas leading up to the sand. Pick up after your pet and be wary of your surroundings. This is a really fun way to socialize with other pet owners if you respect the rules and be responsible for your little ruff rider. 

Location: Huntington Beach

 

Ride The Ferry Across to Balboa Island

Credit: Balboa Island Ferry

Riding the ferry across the Newport Harbor channel is a nostalgic right of passage. You board right at the famed Balboa Fun Zone and exit on Agate with a quick cruise up Park to Marine, which is the main drag. This place is Americana at its finest. It is all charm and no breaks. There’s the movie set-looking post office, the kid-favorite candy shop, boutiques that have been there for decades like Etc. Etc., and some new businesses on the block like Huskins and Toastique. If you are trying to do Balboa Island as authentically as possible, you’ll grab a Balboa Bar at Sugar ‘n Spice (or Dads, if you’re partial) and try to walk the island before your treat melts. It is just good, clean bucket list-worthy fun.

Location: Balboa Island

 

Explore the OC Fair (Costa Mesa, July 19-Aug. 18)

Best Summer Activities Orange County
Credit: Orange County Fair

The Orange County Fair really finds its stride in summer. One of the most highly anticipated events of the season takes place from July 19 through Aug. 18 this summer. This is a fun activity for a date night, family outing or hanging out with friends. There are rides, outrageous eats, farm animals, art installations, shows, concerts and so much more. The theme this year is “Always a Good Time,” which is fitting because the OC Fair is just that. General admission is $13 during the week and $15 on the weekends, but it’s free for kids 5 and under. The coinciding concerts are always a big hit and feature an Abba/Bee Gees tribute band, Brett Young, Keyshia Cole, UB40 and more. Tickets are now on sale and tend to go fast, so be sure to secure yours today!

Location: Costa Mesa

8/16

 

Family Fun at Newport Dunes Waterfront Resort & Marina

Best Summer Activities Orange County
Credit: Newport Dunes Waterfront Resort – Camp

The Back Bay might be Newport’s best-kept secret, and Newport Dunes is a secret, secluded natural playground that has been providing family fun for as long as we can remember. There is an inflatable floating waterpark, restaurants, a playground, summer camps and lots of family-friendly events like movies on the beach. Sand cinema anyone? They have paddleboards and pedal boats to rent, and their famed inflatable aquatic park is now open for summer. This is the ideal spot for a daycation—rent a cabana and let the kids run wild. This interior harbor spot is insulated from waves and heavy boat traffic, so it is legendary for the littles.

Location: Newport Beach

8/10

 

Summer Activities at Dana Point Harbor

Credit: Lisa’s Point of View

Dana Point Harbor draws visitors in with its nautical charm and family-friendly atmosphere. It’s an institution that is about to undergo a major facelift, but let’s enjoy the old-school aesthetic while we can. Seaside Sessions brings live music to the Wharf every Thursday and the Boardwalk every Sunday through August 29. For those seeking a unique fitness experience, iHeartYoga’s Stand Up Paddle Yoga takes place near Baby Beach on the second Saturday of each month. Captain Dave’s Sounds of Summer Concert Cruise will set sail every other Saturday, offering a melodic adventure on the water. Stand Up To Trash is also organizing a Beach Cleanup and Lunch & Learn event on August 11, promoting environmental stewardship. Dana Wharf’s Live Music Harbor Cruise offers a unique blend of live entertainment and scenic views, perfect for a summer evening on the water. With such a diverse array of activities, Dana Point ensures a vibrant and unforgettable summer for all.

Location: Dana Point

 

Eat Your Heart Out at 626 Night Market (Sept. 6-8)

The fairgrounds are home to more than just the OC Fair. This stretch of land plays host to Centennial Farms, farmers markets and the 626 Night Market—a foodie fantasy filled with things that are fried, frosted and frozen. The event takes place Sept. 6-8 tickets are $5 (presale) or $6 (on event days before fees). Your ticket includes access to over 250 access to food and beverage vendors, merch, art and crafts, games, live entertainment and attractions! 

Location: Costa Mesa

 

Let the Kids Play at Laguna Art Museum Summer Day Camp

Looking to ignite your child’s creativity this summer? The Laguna Art Museum offers an enriching Summer Day Camp tailored for young artists eager to explore their imagination. Through hands-on activities, kiddos can delve into various art forms, from painting to sculpting, under the guidance of experienced instructors. The camp fosters a supportive environment where children can express themselves freely and develop their artistic skills. Beyond creating art, participants engage in interactive learning experiences, discover the museum’s collections and gain insight into the world of contemporary art. Give your child a summer filled with inspiration and discovery at the Laguna Art Museum Summer Day Camp. The camps go from 9:30 a.m. until 2 p.m. and cost $95 per child for non-members.

Location: Laguna Beach

 

SoCal and LA Helicopter Charter with Pendry Newport Beach

Best Summer Activities Orange County
Credit: Pendry Newport Beach

Experience the ultimate luxury adventure with a SoCal & LA Private Helicopter Charter, offered exclusively through Pendry Newport Beach. Embark on a breathtaking journey enjoying the Orange County coastline from a bird’s-eye view while soaring northward to Los Angeles aboard your very own private helicopter with Maverick Helicopters. Marvel at the stunning vistas of Southern California’s iconic landmarks, from the historic Queen Mary ship in Long Beach to the famed Hollywood Sign and Santa Monica Pier. With 60 minutes of airtime during the two-hour excursion, up to six guests can enjoy panoramic views from every angle in the comfort of a private charter. 

Departing from Pendry Newport Beach, the experience includes round-trip luxury ground transportation to the John Wayne Airport helipad, conveniently located just 15 minutes from the resort. Don’t miss this unparalleled opportunity to explore the beauty of Southern California from the skies. This is truly a bucket list-worthy item and the price tag reflects it. Hey, these core memories are priceless though, no? (And by priceless, we mean $4,500.)

Location: Newport Beach

 

Morning Hike to Red Rock Canyon 

Set out on a rejuvenating adventure with a morning hike to Red Rock Canyon in Whiting Ranch Wilderness Park. Begin your journey at Borrego Trailhead, which is on Portola Pkwy in Foothill Ranch, for a tranquil start to the day. As the sun rises, immerse yourself in the breathtaking beauty of the canyon’s rugged terrain and vibrant red rock formations. The peaceful ambiance and crisp morning air invigorate the senses, making it an ideal time to connect with nature. Capture stunning views of the surrounding landscape as you traverse the scenic trails, experiencing the serenity and wonder of this hidden gem in Orange County. 

Location: Foothill Ranch

 

Thursday Farm Tours at Bluebird Canyon Farms (noon-1 p.m.)

A farm in the middle of Laguna Beach? Says who? Well, we’re here to set the rumors straight, and yes, there is an adorable urban hillside farm a mile from the sea—and it’s been around for over 100 years. The current owners purchased the property in 2010 and have since fixed the place up and transformed it into a flourishing farmstead with educational workshops, farm tours, cooking classes, farm-to-table dinners and more. The farm stand is open on Tuesdays from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m., and they offer farm tours on Thursdays at noon. This place is a little edible oasis by the ocean and is not something to be missed.  

Location: Laguna Beach

 

Cool off with a Snow Cake at Ever After Tearoom and Eatery

Want a sweet treat that’ll blow your mind? Try the snow cake at Ever After Tearoom & Eatery in Irvine. This place is serving up fluffy frozen desserts made by shaving organic milk into long, thin strips and adding toppings like creme brulee, condensed milk, jams and fruits. It’s melt-in-your-mouth mayhem and best eaten with a friend. Other toppings include panna cotta, matcha, strawberry syrup and tiramisu gelee making for a dessert that is a tornado of textures and is sure to satisfy your sweet tooth. This Taiwanese treat is available in-store from 11:30 a.m. until 10 p.m. (11 a.m. on the weekends). 

Location: Irvine

 

Sunset Dinner at Orange Hill Restaurant

Itinerary Orange Hill Restaurant
Credit: Kelsey Hanson

Want to score one of the best sunset views in town? Secure a reservation at Orange Hill Restaurant and get ready for views galore. This hilltop hideaway is a premier date-night destination consistently serving up specialty surf and turf. We highly recommend the Wagyu Pink Brick appetizer—carpaccio with black truffle butter and smoky chimichurri—and the smashburger if you’re feeling frisky. Pair it with their caviar fries for an extra decadent addition. Book your reservation ahead of time and request a table with central sunset views. This dinner spot will not disappoint!

Location: Orange

 

Treat Yourself to a Tiramisu Latte at Sip & Savor

If you’re a caffeine fiend like us, then you’ll love this next Orange County bucket list item: treat yourself to a tiramisu latte from Sip & Savor. This is unlike any other coffee creation you’ve had. What starts as your average latte quickly transforms into a work of art with the addition of whipped mascarpone cream, a dusting of cocoa and a ladyfinger to dip and stir with. This drink will set you back $7.50, but it is worth every penny. They can also do it with matcha if you’re more of a green tea girlie. Get ready to channel your inner food influencer with this viral sipper!

Location: Fullerton

 

Sunset Tiki Cruise with Newport Beach Tikis

Best Summer Activities Orange County
Credit: Timothy Kwon

If you’ve spent any amount of time in or around Newport Harbor, there’s a good chance you’ve seen a floating tiki bar working its way through the water. It’s quite the sight and makes for a very fun way to do happy hour. The boats can hold up to six people and come equipped with your very own captain. Cruises last for 90 minutes, can be done during the day or night and start at $350 (which, if you do the quick math, breaks down to a little over $50 per person). It is BYO-food and drink, so feel free to bring your favorite cocktails and snacks. And, yes, you can play your own music!

 

Sawdust Art Festival (June 28-Sept. 1)

Credit: Sawdust Art Festival

Sawdust Art Festival is an Orange County activity you did as a kid that is even better as an adult. It’s an annual OC event that lures in people near and far for arts, activities and adventure. The vibe is very Hansel and Gretel, and it’s giving cool-girl Renaissance fair. There is an on-site saloon if you are doing date night (or need a drink while the kids craft), plus live entertainment, glass blowing tutorials, a ceramics booth and so much more. The festival opens its doors on June 28 and lasts until Sept. 1. Tickets are $12 for adults, $5 for children and free for kids under 5. There are over 180 artists featured—many local—three different stages for live music, free art classes and live demos, and a handful of outdoor dining options. This year is the 58th annual Sawdust Art Festival, and there’s a reason this Orange County event has been around for almost six decades. Be sure to check it out this summer!

Jane Adler is a marketing and branding consultant by trade, but a writer by preference. She shares a name with Meryl Streep's iconic character from It's Complicated and is presently trying to manifest that life (particularly that Santa Barbara house) for herself. Jane is an avid consumer of content and carbs and often used the latter to write on the former.

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