I don’t know about you but I’m always in search of activities to do with my three year old. I feel like things were simpler when she was younger because she wasn’t that mobile so she would be content laying on the floor playing with toys or she might even be sleeping during a play date with our mommy friends. But now as a three year old, I feel like she needs more to keep her active and engaged. Play dates are also not as simple because we now have a room full of toddlers that like to explore, be loud, and run around so it’s important to find a safe place where they can do all those things.
Aside from places like Pretend City, Disneyland, Aquarium of the Pacific, Discovery Cube and Knott’s Berry Farm, here are some other places around Orange County to take your kids or meet up with your mommy friends. Alternatively, if you are a Cultural Care Au Pair that’s relatively new to the area or babysitter/nanny, some of these places may be a good spot for you to bond with the children you are looking after.
1.Irvine Park Railroad – An amazing park to go with friends or with your family. They have seasonal activities during Easter, Halloween, and Christmas. During the rest of the year you can go and visit the OC Zoo, go on a pony ride, rent bikes or paddle boats or go on a train ride. They even have beautiful peacocks that roam the park near the horses and zoo.
2. Irvine Spectrum– not only can you get some shopping done but your kids can also have fun! They have a small playground and splash pad near Target which the kids can play in. They can also ride on the giant ferris wheel, train or carousel for a small fee. We love going here because it is so spacious and stroller friendly.
3. Indoor Play Spaces– there are many indoor play spaces that are popping up all over Orange County where kids can play in a safe place filled with slides, jumpers, toys, ball pits, and more. Children and Adults must wear socks to keep the area clean. Some of our favorites are:
- We Play Loud (Lake Forest)– $15/2 people
- Playland Cafe (Irvine) -$14/2 people, $9/2 people with toddler child (under 2),
- Seascape (Anaheim Hills) – $10/child (1-17yrs), adults and children under 1 are free (but that child must be accompanied with a paying child.)
- Kidz Spot (La Habra)-$12/child, adults are free
- Jumping Fun Kids (Buena Park)- $10/Ages 4 and up, $5/Ages 3 and under, $3/adult, Free for 18months and under.
- Chubby Cheeks Cafe (City of Industry)- $8/child (Age 2 and up) for 2 hours of play, adults can enjoy a meal while their kids play. They even have a balloon artist that makes swords or animals!
4. Beaches– With over 30 beaches in Orange County, there are plenty of places to soak up some sun and have fun with your little ones. Here are some of the most kid friendly ones.
- Little Corona del Mar Beach – Small secluded beach with tide pools to explore.
- Balboa Penninsula/Balboa Beach – A 3-mile stretch of sandy beaches. Location of the original Ruby’s Diner and known for the Balboa Bar and Balboa Frozen Banana. Don’t forget to check out the Balboa Fun Zone!
- Mother’s Beach – Located in Long Beach, this small beach is perfect for children because of its calm waters, playground, and park.
- Baby Beach/Mother’s Beach in Dana Point has virtually no waves so it’s perfect for toddlers and young kids.
5. Splash Pads/Parks– Orange County is known for its clean, amazing parks and finding ones that are either gated or essentially closed in are great places for play dates so moms can (sort of) hang back and chat while littles run themselves wild just in time for a great nap when they get home! There are so many local, city, neighborhood parks to choose from! Some parks even have splash pads so your kids can cool off during the hot summer days. Due to the drought in California, some of the splash pads have closed unless they use reclaimed water which means they recycle the water. Make sure kids don’t drink the water when they are playing at these splash pads! Most splash pads are open from May until Labor Day. Here are a few of the bigger ones that are still open.
- Sigler Park (Westminster)
- Heritage Park (Irvine)
- Crown Valley Community Park (Laguna Niguel)
- Lemon Park Spray Pool (Fullerton)
- Fallbrook Park in Woodbridge Association (Irvine) If you know someone who lives in the Woodbridge area, you can go to this amazing splash park!
- Adventure Playground (Irvine)- An amazing playground in Irvine with a tree house, sensory garden, climbing poles, slides, art wall, and meadow and natural play areas. (They have a muddy area where kids can play and get dirty. A change of clothes and towel are recommended.)
- Atlantis Play Center (Garden Grove)- Costs $2/Age 2 yrs and up. There’s a park with a playground near by so children can also play there.
6. Once Upon a Storybook – This quaint bookstore in Tustin offers story time for kids of all ages. They also offer summer camps for school age children and have special events throughout the year. (Update 5/4/18- It’s closed now!)
7. Nature Centers– There are several nature centers throughout Orange County which provide programs or trails for you and your play date group to enjoy!
- Environmental Nature Center (Newport Beach)-vThere’s a Discover Room with neat things to touch and explore. There is also a Butterfly House you can go explore.
- Fullerton Arboretum (Fullerton)- A huge botanical garden located in Fullerton, it’s home to over 4,000 unique and unusual plant structures from all over the world. You can take a guided tour or walk the grounds yourself to enjoy the lush grounds or the children’s garden
- Shipley Nature Center (Huntington Beach)-You can go on a self guided tour of the center and even participate in a Parent and Me program which is on Wednesdays at 11am for $3.
8. Group Classes– There are so many different places to sign up for classes. My group of mommy friends signed up for gymnastic classes as well as Music Together music classes. It was enjoyable to meet together and learn a new skill. Some community centers also have classes that you can take. Here are some of my favorites.
- Music Together
- Tumble N Kids Gymnastic Classes
- My Gym
- Swim Classes- local community centers offer swim classes but if you live in Irvine, Waterworks Aquatics is a great place to take classes!
9. Farms– There are a couple of local farms where children can tour a real working farm.
- Centennial Farm– Located on the OC Fair Grounds, this working farm is open to tours on select days. Check here for the schedule. Children can see pigs, chickens, and cows! Every year in the Spring, they also have an event called Imaginology which focuses on STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics.) They have various activities, exhibits, and displays. My toddler had a great time exploring!
- Tanaka Farms– Located in Irvine, this farm has guided tours throughout the year where you ride in a tractor pulled wagon and see how fruits and vegetables grow. You also get to sample some vegetables that are in season. You can even pick some to take home! They have a Strawberry Tour in the spring (our favorite!) and a Watermelon Tour in the summer. In the fall, they have an amazing pumpkin patch where you get to pick your own pumpkin to take home.
Are there any other places in Orange County for fun play dates or activities with your kids?