Best Family Theatre
Segerstrom Center for the Arts
Segerstrom Center’s Family Series opens in October with Walking the Tightrope and Goodnight Moon and The Runaway Bunny. Performances in Samueli Theater are intimate, drawing young theatregoers in. Sensory-Friendly performances are ideal for those children who have difficulty with traditional lighting and noise levels in live theatre. International artists create experiences that instill an appreciation for the arts.
www.scfta.org | Costa Mesa
Bowers Museum – Debut Winner
The Bowers Museum offers exhibitions, lectures, art classes, musical performances, travel programs, children’s art and music education. The interactive Kidseum children’s museum focuses on “igniting imagination through exploration”, stressing the excitement of art, archaeology and world cultures. Kids can explore a “Glow Cave”, ride a magical Wells Fargo stagecoach through time in the “Green Screen Time Machine,” and explore archaeology like never before in our Archaeology Lab.
www.bowers.org | Santa Ana
Best Beach & Hiking Trail
Crystal Cove Laguna Beach
Although the ridge and hill hikes can be intense, take a family hike on the lower trails along the dune bluffs, with plenty of offshoots to drop down for a quick dip to cool off. Treat the kids to an ice cream before exploring the tide pools and getting in some serious splash time. Add an educational element by joining a Park Ranger for a fun introduction to the ecology or wildlife of Crystal Cove State Park in weekly Junior Ranger programs. That this beautiful little undeveloped slice of OC has won so many times, and in multiple categories, seems only…natural.
www.crystalcovealliance.org | Laguna Beach
Editor’s Pick: Rollercoaster
Knott’s Berry Farm’s GhostRider
There’s just something about a wooden roller coaster, isn’t there? This summer, Knott’s Berry Farm’s Ghost Town celebrated its 75th anniversary by reinvigorating one of the longest and tallest wooden roller coasters in the world, GhostRider. Returning with all new trains galloping along over 4,500 feet of new twisting, wooden track, the ride looms 118 feet over historic Ghost Town. Brave riders enter a mysterious mine, only to be strapped into gold, silver and copper mining cars for a wild ride.
www.knotts.com | Buena Park
Editor’s Pick: Museum
Discovery Cube OC
Over 100 interactive exhibits and stations keep kids engaged as they learn about science. Make your visit anything but a disaster with a visit to the Shake Shack earthquake exhibit, Hurricane simulator or seismograph feature, where kids can make and measure their own tremors. Sports kids can learn about the science of hockey (go Ducks!) and the whole family can enjoy cooking demos, samples and hands-on food fun in the Petersonville Healthy Eating Kitchen.
www.discoverycube.org | Santa Ana
Best Place to Catch Your First Fish
Dana Wharf Sportfishing – Debut Winner
This boat-based fishing option in Southern OC had us hooked as soon as we learned about the Kids Free Fishing Clinic every Sunday. After the captain teaches about knots, angling techniques and local fish one might catch, kids can go on a free afternoon excursion (with paying adult) to test their newfound skills. The perks of the shop’s Kids Club Membership offer great value on this breezy, sunny activity the whole family can enjoy.
www.danawharf.com | Dana Point
Best Theme Park, Theme Park Food, Rollercoaster & Non-Rollercoaster Ride
We are fortunate to have the king of theme parks in our own backyard, as evidenced by your landslide of votes for Disneyland and California Adventure’s offerings in so many categories. You prefer to fortify for the day of fun with Disneyland’s culinary offerings, California Screamin’ had you yelling for more, while a smoother less intense Soarin’ brought you to new heights of ride enjoyment. The newest show, Frozen-Live at the Hyperion, is such a hit youngsters never want to Let it Go.
www.disneyland.disney.go.com | Anaheim
Best Theme Park for Tots
Legoland – Debut Winner
More fun than a ton of bricks, this theme park came in tops for tots for its unique themed rides, on-site aquarium, shady spots to chill for a stroller-nap, as well as a waterpark that keeps kids cool on days they might otherwise get cranky in the SoCal sizzle. Thanks to a lack of extreme rides, it attracts a younger, more tot-friendly crowd than other theme parks in the region.
www.legoland.com | San Diego
Irvine Lanes clearly strikes a chord with readers and spares no expense bringing 40-lanes of automatic scoring fun to OC bowlers. Even little ones can get in on the action, with bumpers and ramps helping them keep up with big bro or sis. For a unique experience, try “Galaxy Bowling” featuring black lights, lasers, and music. (A great playdate option and way to stay cool on hot afternoons!)
irvinelanes.com | Irvine
Best Place to See Animals
San Diego Zoo
This Balboa Park fixture has had 100 years to get it right, and boy have they. From a modest start housing animals left behind from an international expo, the organization (which also includes the Safari Park and Institute for Conservation Research) boasts the largest zoological membership in the world, with more than a quarter million households (and 130,000 child memberships) supporting its efforts. The 100-acre zoo is home to more than 3,500 rare and endangered animals, representing 650 species.
zoo.sandiegozoo.org | San Diego
Editor’s Pick: Place to Pet a Possum
Santa Ana Zoo
While undoubtedly the best place in OC to pet a possum, this local zoo with over 260 critters is better known for its heritage of always housing an extensive variety of monkeys. A new addition this winter, the Fifty Monkey Ferris Wheel, will feature fifteen gondolas, each highlighting a unique monkey species.
www.santaanazoo.org | Santa Ana
Editor’s Pick: Place to Pet a Prehistoric Pet
The Reptile Zoo
This unique educational entertainment facility houses over 100 exotic species of reptiles, amphibians, and arachnids which guests can learn about with interactive displays and presentations. The brave can even hold a creepy crawly or two.
www.thereptilezoo.com | Fountain Valley
Editor’s Pick: Place to Pet a Pig
Kids can meet Kunekune pigs, sheep, bunnies, llamas and or feed guinea pigs, goats and even an ostrich-like emu. Train and pony rides, join panning for gold at the new Miner’s Gulch and a sandbox filled with corn to round out the visit. Frequent visitors can score deals with the Cheep Card’s free rides, animal feed and discounted admission.
www.zoomars.com | San Juan Capistrano
Editor’s Pick: Place to Pet a Pacific Shark
Aquarium of the Pacific
Dispel myths about our fine finned friends through educational presentations and a chance to pet, yes pet, Pacific Bonnethead Sharks, rays and other marine creatures. Weekend festivals mean there’s always something new at the Aquarium, and although you can’t pet them, we suggest popping by the baby penguins for a dose of adorable.
www.aquariumofpacific.org | Long Beach