20 Fun Ways to Stop Summer Brain Drain
Buena Park. Enter the castle and the medieval world. Watch live jousting, knights on horse and a falconry show over a four-course meal. $61.95 adults, $36.95 12 and under.
Mission San Juan Capistrano
Tours of this 18th century landmark offered daily at 11:15 and 1:00, 2:15 on weekends. No reservations required. $9 adults, $6 children 4-11, free for 3 and under.
Nixon Presidential Library
Yorba Linda. See President Nixon’s birthplace, an astronaut’s space suit, a replica of the East Room of the White House, and many other exhibits and artifacts. Adults: $11.95. High schoolers: $6.95. 7-11: $4.75. 6 and under, free.
The Reptile Zoo
Fountain Valley. In this 10,000-square-feet facility, see over 100 species of reptiles, amphibians, and arachnids from around the world. $5 per person. 3 and under, free.
Orange County Zoo in Irvine Regional Park
Orange. See a black bear, a fox, a bald eagle, a great horned owl, and many other animals. $2 per person. Ages 2 and under free. $3-$10 per vehicle to enter the park.
ZOOMARS Petting Zoo
San Juan Capistrano. Visit the pigs, sheep, llamas, cows, bunnies, goats, donkey, and emu. Ride on a pony or the mini-train. Adults: $10. Children: $8.
Santa Ana. Art museum and a “Kidseum” featuring face painting, international dress-up clothes, and DIY art projects. Adults pay $13 on weekdays and $15 on weekends. 12-17-year-olds pay $10 on weekdays and $12 on weekends. Children under 12 are free.
Naguchi Sculpture Garden
Costa Mesa. 1.6-acre sculpture garden featuring the work of Isamu Naguchi. Free.
The Great Outdoors
Beautiful gardens to explore, with over 4,000 types of plants in 26 acres, walking trails, and a museum. Suggested $5 donation.
Irvine. Take a one-hour tour on a tractor-pulled wagon to see how fruits and vegetables grow—and how they taste. Then pick a pound of strawberries to take home. $18 per person. Children 2 and under are free.
Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve
Huntington Beach. Learn about this 1,449-acre saltwater marsh by hiking the five miles of trails and visiting the Interpretive Center. Free.
Newport Landing Whale Watching
Newport Beach. 2 ½ hour cruises leave 3 times a day. See giant blue whales and finback whales. $32 for adults and $26 for children ages 12 and under on weekdays. $36 for adults and $30 for children on weekends.
Ocean Institute. Dana Point
A hands-on ocean learning center right by the beach, harbor, and tidepools. $5 on weekdays. $10 on weekends, with ages 2-12 $7.50. Babies under 2 are free.
Other Cool Stuff
Marconi Automotive Museum
Marconi Automotive Museum
Tustin. $30 million collection of cars from around the world. $5 suggested donation for adults. Free for children 12 and under.
Chocxo Bean to Bar Chocolatier
Irvine. 1-hour factory tour to learn how chocolate is made. Includes tastes of raw cacao pulp, cocoa nibs, and chocolate bars. $20 for adults. $10 for children under 12.
John Wayne Airport Tour
Santa Ana. In guided tours arranged in advance, children 5 and older in groups of seven or more can learn how planes fly, and see historical photo displays, experience the flight display monitors, skycap activity security checkpoint area with a review by TSA, and watch planes taking off and landing. Admission is free, though short-term parking costs $2 an hour.
Laguna Beach. Interactive outdoor scavenger hunt for groups of 2-5 people. A fun way to explore Laguna Beach, walk about 2 miles, and solve puzzles. $37.50 for ages 16 and up, $22.50 for ages 8-15, and $12.50 for ages 3-7.
Warner Brothers Studio Tour
Hollywood. Explore iconic backlots as well as soundstages used for current TV shows and movies. See costumes and props from the Harry Potter and Batman movies. Must be at least 8 years old. $54.
Museum of Making Music
Carlsbad. See hundreds of musical instruments from different eras and countries, listen to audio and video clips, and try out instruments for yourselves.
Los Angeles. A Mexican marketplace created in 1930 to preserve and present the customs of early California. Eat at outdoor cafes, listen to strolling Mariachi singers, watch Aztec and Mexican folkloric dancers, and buy Mexican art and handcrafted goods. Free admission.
by Debra Garfinkle