It’s time to think beyond Mickey and his pals!
Want to look beyond Disney in planning your weekend in Orange County?
You’ve come to the right place!
From enjoying a day at the beach to taking part in an exciting escape room adventure and taking your children to an amazing science museum…
Here are the top 15 non-Disneyland weekend outing ideas in the OC!
Visit Thousand Steps Beach
The view from the steps. The image is from https://voiceofoc.org/2021/09/thousand-steps-in-laguna-beach-set-to-close-until-december-for-repairs/.
What better way to begin your weekend than visiting one of our beautiful beaches?
Does the name “Thousand Steps Beach” sounds a little daunting? Feel that climbing down (and going up when you leave) a thousand-step staircase to get to the beach isn’t worth it?
Let us tell you a secret: It’s nowhere near a thousand steps.
More like 218.
Still, the name encourages many tourists to stay away, leaving the beach a little more secluded than most others in the OC.
Thousand Steps Beach has a larger sand area than most other nearby beaches, and it’s surrounded by sandstone cliffs that meet the ocean.
There are tide pools along the shoreline, teeming with ocean life.
Make sure you check out the cave at the south end. You can walk right through it when the tide’s out.
Pro tip: Remember to wear protective footwear to explore the cave and tide pools.
Location: Check address/Plan route on Google Maps
Explore Balboa Island
A Balboa Island sunset is a gorgeous way to bid adieu to the week!
Thinking of going for a walk or biking on the weekend? Head for Balboa Island.
With its charming atmosphere, beautiful homes, and tons of things to do, this is the perfect spot for an end-of-the-week mini vacation.
- Rent a bike or a paddleboat and explore the island’s marina, or stroll down Marine Avenue to check out all the adorable boutiques and eateries.
- Clamber aboard the Ferris Wheel and catch panoramic views of the island.
- Go on a cruise and try to spot as many sea dolphins and whales as you can.
- And end the day at one of the beaches, admiring the gorgeous sunset while enjoying a frozen banana.
Whether you’re looking to relax or have an adventure, Balboa Island has it all.
How can you reach Balboa Island? The obvious way is taking the Balboa ferry from the peninsula. However, you can drive there, too, via the bridge from Bayside Drive.
Team up for an adventure at Intrepid Escape Rooms (that’s us!)
Instead of watching a movie this weekend, go on your very own movie-like adventure!
Feeling like you’re in a Michael Bay flick or an Indiana Jones adventure – how does that sound for a weekend experience in Orange County?
That’s what you can expect at Intrepid Escape Rooms.
How it unfolds
First, you’ll have to choose your adventure. Do you want to explore an abandoned subway station or investigate a mad professor’s house?
Next, your Adventure Guide will lead you and your group aboard the Intrepid Express – a private “train” that’ll take you to your destination.
Peek out of the windows, and you’ll see the scenery fly by.
As you arrive at the adventure site, your Guide will give you a few last-minute instructions and point you toward the adventure space set up to immerse you all in the experience.
You’ll have to work as a team, solving puzzles, breaking codes, and spotting clues that will reveal the path forward.
As the clock ticks down, you’ll feel the pressure mounting.
How long will it take for you to find the first clue?
Are there any surprises waiting?
Can you locate the final piece of the mystery before time runs out?
Book an Intrepid adventure for the weekend and find out!
Some of our favorite nearby restaurants for a post-adventure dinner
- Right across the street from us, you’ll find Terra Mia Pizzeria.
- Taps Brewery is right down the street and remains open till 9/10ish.
- Chocolate Bash is a fun nearby dessert shop, open till midnight/1 am.
- The District shopping center is a short walk away, where you can check out –
Take the children to the Pretend City Children’s Museum
The little ones can learn real-life skills, like filling up the tank, over the weekend. The image is from https://www.lbcc.edu/post/making-lemons-lemonade.
Want to make the weekend fun and educational for your children? Then the Pretend City Children’s Museum in Irvine is where you should be headed.
This interactive museum is designed to educate and entertain kids of all ages through role-playing and hands-on activities.
From pretending to be a firefighter or postman to shopping at a grocery store or working at a farm, there’s never a dull moment at Pretend City.
And for you, it’ll be just as enjoyable watching your little ones hard at “work” getting through their “day.”
Get your kids interested in science at Discovery Cube Orange County
Whose car will win the race? The image is from https://www.discoverycube.org/oc-exhibits/.
How can you get your kids interested in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math)?
Google that, and you’ll find numerous blog posts and how-to articles giving you all kinds of advice.
If you’re in Orange County, however, there’s an easy way to do it – plan a weekend outing at Discovery Cube Orange County.
This science museum offers interactive exhibits, educational shows, and exhilarating experiences for the little ones.
Kids can put together their cars and race them in the Physics Lab, enter a hurricane and learn the science behind them in the Hurricane Lab, learn about sorting waste in Race to Recycle, and much more!
And parents will love the peace of mind of knowing their children learn while they play.
What age range is Discovery Cube Orange County for? It’s a great place to visit for anyone that can walk in…and they even allow strollers!
Experience the “Anti-Mall” experiment at the Costa Mesa LAB
Head down to the Anti-Mall for a vibrant weekend experience! The image is from https://www.thelab.com/.
Looking for a unique shopping experience during the weekend?
The LAB at Costa Mesa is an “anti-mall” and a major destination for hipsters and boutique lovers across Orange County.
Established brands jostle for space with small businesses and local tradespeople.
It’s the perfect place to find one-of-a-kind gifts, browse trendy clothing and accessories, and indulge in delicious food.
Plus, they regularly host live music and other events to add excitement to your weekend plans.
You can find everything here, from record shops to eco-friendly outlets and vegan dining options to donut stands.
- Looking for new clothes? Head for the Urban Outfitters.
- Want to check out vintage articles and unique outfits? Stop by the Buffalo Exchange.
- Craving coffee? Drop in at Nook Coffee.
- Just want to sit and chat with friends? Find your way to The Living Room, a community seating area.
Did you know? “LAB” is an acronym for Little American Business.
Go shopping at the Irvine Spectrum Center
The Carousel at the Spectrum Center.
Celebrate getting through yet another week with a visit to one of Orange County’s most popular entertainment and shopping destinations – the Irvine Spectrum Center.
With over 130 stores, restaurants, and entertainment options, there’s something for everyone at this outdoor mall.
- From hopping aboard the giant Ferris Wheel to getting on the carousel…
- From shopping at popular stores like H&M or Sephora to grabbing a bite at restaurants like Dave and Busters and Veggie Grill,
- And then catching some improv at the Comedy Club or hanging out in the metaverse at Odyssey VR….
There’s so much for you to choose from!
Is parking available? Yes, they have parking spaces all around the center. Visit their parking and transportation for more information.
Visit the Richard Nixon Presidential Library
Play POTUS over the weekend!
Would you like an up-close and exclusive look into one of the most eventful presidencies in American history?
Then put Richard Nixon’s Presidential Library on your weekend itinerary.
Not only is it a national historical site, but it’s also a surprisingly enjoyable day trip.
The library offers an in-depth look at Nixon’s presidency, both the highs and the lows.
As you walk through the exhibits, you can learn about his pivotal role in domestic and foreign affairs and even listen to some of his famous speeches.
Plus, there’s a replica of the White House East Room where President Nixon held press conferences.
It’s worth checking out, especially if you are interested in history or government.
Spend quality time on the Huntington Beach Pier
Sometimes, the most straightforward plans are the best ones—the best way to end a week at OC – spend a day at the Huntington Beach Pier.
Walk along the wooden boards, take in the ocean views, or admire the various street performers and vendors.
Grab something to eat at one of the many restaurants nearby, or enjoy an ice cream cone while watching surfers catch waves below.
The pier is also a popular spot for fishing and provides beautiful sunset views.
Conveniently located near Main Street, shopping and other nearby attractions are within walking distance.
What’s at the end of the Pier? If you haven’t been there for a while, you’re in for a surprise! You may know that Ruby’s has shut down…but have you heard that a new place called Bud & Gene’s has opened up?
We hear their crispy sandwiches and fish and chips are very good!
Visit Knott’s Berry Farm
The image is from their website: https://www.knotts.com/blog/2018/july/things-to-do-in-southern-california.
Wanna have a Wild West Weekend? Head to Knott’s Berry Farm – California’s “original theme park”!
Knott’s has something for everyone, whether you’re a thrill seeker or just looking for some weekend fun.
From adrenaline-pumping roller coasters to kid-friendly rides and interactive games and shows, there’s no shortage of things to do.
- Watch cowboy life up close in the Old West Ghost Town.
- Have the ride of your life aboard Silver Bullet – their inverted roller coaster.
- If you’ve got kids, head for Camp Snoopy for family-friendly rides.
- And don’t forget about the famous Mrs. Knott’s Chicken Dinner Restaurant, where you can indulge in delicious Southern-style comfort food.
At the risk of sounding cheesy – you’ll have a “berry” good time at Knott’s!
Explore the exhibits at the Bowers Museum
The image is from: https://www.ocregister.com/2015/03/08/santa-anas-bowers-museum-enriches-downtowns-cultural-life/.
Yet another weekend idea: Explore art and artifacts from various cultures worldwide at the Bowers Museum.
Some of the themes they cover
- Native American art
- Pre-Columbian art
- Polynesian culture
- Artifacts from Asia and Africa
- Paintings and decorative art, AND
- A vast number of exhibits (from newspaper clippings to artifacts) from various periods of Orange County’s history.
There’s something for everyone – from lovers of William and Alberta McCloskey’s paintings to enthusiasts of ethnic pottery and jewelry.
How long does it take to go through Bowers Museum? Expect to spend anywhere between three to five hours down there.
Step into the past at the Mission San Juan Capistrano
A view of the Great Stone Church, which collapsed in 1812.
Would you like to journey into the past during the weekend? Then head for the Mission San Juan Capistrano.
Founded by Saint Junipero Serra in 1776, the Mission will give you an incredible peek into our state’s history.
The beautiful grounds include fountains, gardens, the remains of the Great Stone Church, which famously collapsed in an 1812 earthquake…and the granary.
The granary? The Mission was a major agricultural supplier back in the 1700s.
Take a self-guided tour or join a guided one to explore the mission’s history and architecture.
And if you happen to visit during summer, stick around for their famous Swallows Day celebration – complete with mariachi music and dancing!
Take your furry friends to Huntington Dog Beach
If you have a pet, this is the ideal weekend destination in Orange County – a chance for the both of you to get some exercise together and enjoy the sights and sounds!
Not only is it an excellent place for your furry companion(s) to run and play, but it also offers stunning ocean views for you to enjoy.
There are designated off-leash areas for dogs to roam freely and beachfront benches and shaded picnic tables where you can rest and take in the views.
Be sure to take along plenty of water and doggy bags, and remember the sunscreen!
Website: Visit the website
Contact form: Visit their home page and scroll down
Phone: (714) 841-8644
Conquer Santiago Peak
A great weekend getaway, don’t you think? The image is from: https://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/cleveland/recarea/?recid=81640.
See the weekend as a workout opportunity? Here’s an idea to get those muscles working while getting away from it all – climb Santiago Peak!
The hike offers stunning views of Orange County and the surrounding area.
Breathing in fresh outdoor air while hiking the rugged terrain – this workout beats gym exercise by miles.
Plus, it’s a great chance to disconnect from everyday urban life.
The climb can sometimes be challenging, but it’s worth it for the rewarding feeling of reaching the peak.
Visit Lyon Air Museum
The image is from: https://lyonairmuseum.org/exhibits/airplanes/douglas-a-26-invader/.
Are you an aviation history buff? Do you like watching aircraft and vintage cars? Then pencil in a visit to Lyon Air Museum into your weekend plans.
The Museum boasts an impressive display of historic aircraft, military vehicles, and classic cars.
Sprawling over thirty thousand square feet, it has one of the most extensive collections in North America.
There’s something for everyone, from WWII bombers to a bakery truck from the 1940s.
Popular weekend attractions and activities in Orange County, apart from Disneyland.
Thanks for reading through to the end of our blog post.
As you can see, Mickey and his pals are not the only game in town – there are many things to do and places to explore on your next weekend outing in Orange County.
Which ones are YOU planning to put on your itinerary?