Best Amusement Park/Family Fun Center
Boomers maintains its top spot in the ranking, which is no surprise considering the variety of activities offered at the park. From miniature golf, Go Karts, rides, Lazer Tag and climbing walls to batting cages and arcade games, just about anyone can find something entertaining.
boomersparks.com | Irvine
Dave & Buster’s
Dave & Buster’s is still a readers’ favorite thanks to its mix of food and games. From billiards and bowling to arcade classics and virtual reality, it’s always game on at the popular hangout. Prefer to watch a game? They’ve got you covered too. Pick a spot in front of one of the giant TV screens and cheer on your favorite team. Plus, you can order from the full-service restaurant.
daveandbusters.com | Orange and Irvine
Best Bowling Alley
The 40-lane bowling center is the place to be for players of all ages, according to our readers. State-of-the-art automatic scoring, bumpers for young players as well as Galaxy Bowling evenings featuring lasers, black lights and music attract visitors to the bowling alley. Plus, if you really get into it, you can join one of the leagues.
irvinelanes.com | Irvine
Best Dog Beach/Park
Huntington Beach Dog Beach
Huntington Beach Dog Beach is back on top of the ranking once again. The designated 1.5-mile stretch of beach on Pacific Coast Highway between Goldenwest and Seapoint streets is an ideal place for dogs to run around, play in the sand and surf. With an off-leash optional policy, once you’re on the beach sand, it’s no wonder dogs and their owners continue to love it.
dogbeach.org | Huntington Beach
OC Fair & Event Center
Year after year, it’s obvious Orange County residents love the OC Fair. From famous fried and sugary fair foods, animals and rides to live music performances and events, the family-friendly extravaganza attracts major crowds and wins over visitors of all ages.
ocfair.com | Costa Mesa
Best Family Beach
Crystal Cove and its four family-friendly beaches is holding on to the top spot in the ranking. Moro Beach is the place to be for stand-up paddle boarders and kayakers plus campers looking for incredible ocean views. Meanwhile, body surfers head to Reef Point. The Historic District features 46 vintage cottages while Pelican Point has bluff-top parking with beach access points and restroom facilities with outdoor showers.
crystalcovestatepark.org | Newport Beach/Laguna Beach
Best Family Hiking Trail
Crystal Cove Trail
Crystal Cove State Park has 18 miles of hiking trails with stunning views of mountains and the ocean. The routes are suited for beginners and advanced hikers alike, giving families options to choose their own adventure in the native wilderness.
crystalcovestatepark.org | Laguna Beach
Best Indoor Play Center
Pretend City Children’s Museum
Pretend City has been holding on to the top spot for a decade now. The miniature version of a city teaches children how the world works in a fun, creative and engaging way with the help of trained staff leading age-appropriate activities. Whether they shop at a grocery store, work on a farm or build at a construction site, kids have plenty of pretend activities to choose from.
pretendcity.org | Irvine
Best Kid’s Bike Trail
Back Bay Loop
The Back Bay Loop Trail also returns to the ranking as a readers’ favorite. The 10.5-mile, well-marked trail goes around Upper Newport Bay and is frequented by outdoor enthusiasts of all ages. It has multiple entry points with options for scenic stops. The flat paved trail easily accommodates bikes and strollers so the whole family can experience the bay.
newportbeachca.gov | Newport Beach
Irvine Regional Park
Irvine Regional Park tops our list for the 16th time. The park, which is celebrating its 125th birthday throughout this year, features close to 500 acres of picnic areas, sport fields, hiking and equestrian trails. Other activities include the Orange County Zoo, the Irvine Park Railroad, pony rides for children, a lake where you can ride aquacycle rentals and much, much more.
ocparks.com/irvinepark | Orange
Best Place to Catch Your First Fish
Huntington Beach Pier
The readers have spoken, and in their opinion, Huntington Beach Pier is still the best place to catch your first fish. At 1,850 feet long, the iconic pier is one of the longest on the West Coast. It’s open from 5 a.m. until midnight and because it’s public, a fishing license is not required. Bring your gear and try to get your catch, and if the effort makes you hungry, a new restaurant, Bud & Gene’s, just opened in the former Ruby’s Diner location.
surfcityusa.com | Huntington Beach
Best Place to See Sea Creatures
Aquarium of the Pacific
The Aquarium of the Pacific is Southern California’s largest aquarium and one of the leading attractions in the area. It displays about 12,000 animals and more than 100 exhibits for kids and adults, as well as educational programs, hands-on activities and lectures. One of the latest exhibits, Babies!, introduces visitors to the youngest and cutest residents. Other activities include the Shark Lagoon, Coral Reefs, Sea Otter Habitat, June Keyes Penguin Habitat and more. Aquarium webcams even let you check in on the sea life from anywhere.
aquariumofpacific.org | Long Beach
Discovery Cube Orange County
Discovery Cube Orange County claims the top-ranking spot on our list for the sixth time. The interactive activities at the kids’ museum make science education fun for young visitors. Jump into a hurricane, take a simulated helicopter ride, survive the bed of nails, explore the solar system or go on a dinosaur quest, the immersive attractions can easily offer hours of entertainment.
discoverycube.org | Santa Ana
Best Nature Center
Environmental Nature Center
The Environmental Nature Center, known as the ENC, is home to 15 California native plant communities from desert to redwood forest as well as walking trails, wildlife habitats and a sustainably designed learning center. It’s also a great place to see birds, butterflies and buy native plants. The ENC serves about 28,000 students and thousands of visitors a year and is known as a leader in education and appreciation of nature.
encenter.org | Newport Beach
Best Swim Facility
Renaissance ClubSport Aliso Viejo Laguna Beach Hotel
Renaissance ClubSport Aliso Viejo Laguna Beach Hotel has plenty of amenities for locals and visitors alike. That includes an outdoor heated fitness pool, a 25-yard lap pool, an outdoor heated children’s splash n’ play park, and a kids’ wading pool. Whether you want to relax, take a swimming class for kids or adults or have a full-body workout, the club has you covered.
clubsports.com | Aliso Viejo
Best Theme Park
It’s not called The Happiest Place on Earth for nothing. Disneyland is holding on to its top ranking as families continue making memories at the resort theme parks. From Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge to the Avengers Campus and the return of nighttime spectaculars, there’s always something exciting to see and do. The magic is even more amazing around the holidays as Disneyland and Disney California Adventure go all out to decorate and celebrate.
disneyland.disney.go.com | Anaheim
Great Wolf Lodge
Thrills are aplenty at the indoor waterpark at this resort, and you get to choose just how much excitement you’re up for. From an interactive, four-story water fort treehouse through splashing pools and tube rides to the heart-pumping action of waterslide drops and swirls, there’s something for everyone.
greatwolf.com | Garden Grove
San Diego Zoo
The San Diego Zoo is still a readers’ favorite to visit and bring their little ones to see wildlife from little critters to nature’s giants. On top of that, special experiences allow visitors to get really up-close and personal to the animals with the help of the zoo’s experts. There are also youth programs exploring wildlife preservation, animal care and related careers. Can’t wait to get there? You can check in on some of the animals through webcams.
sandiegozoo.com | San Diego
Best Family Theater
Segerstrom Center for the Arts
Segerstrom Center for the Arts is Orange County’s biggest nonprofit arts organization and one of the most respected cultural institutions in the country. The world-class venue hosts local and international artists, including Pacific Symphony. Additionally, there are fun and interactive community events, such as dance classes at the Julianne and George Argyros Plaza.
scfta.org | Costa Mesa
Best Movie Theater
Regal Irvine Spectrum ScreenX, 4DX, IMAX, RPX & VIP
If you truly want to immerse yourself in the movie experience, the Regal movie theater at Irvine Spectrum is the place to go. From traditional stadium seating to auditoriums with recliners, to an eight-story screen to watch IMAX movies, Regal Irvine Spectrum ScreenX, 4DX, IMAX, RPX & VIP is striving to be the best it can be, and our readers are noticing. Plus, if you join the Regal Crown Club program, you can earn credits for snacks and free movies.
irvinespectrumcenter.com | Irvine
Best Animal Encounters
Zoomars at River Street Ranch
Family owned and operated, Zoomars at River Street Ranch will get you and your family close-up with the likes of kune kune pigs, friendly goats, sheep and cows. You can even feed the alpacas and llamas. When you’re done with the petting zoo, you can hit the playground at Zoomars and mine for gems, among other attractions.
riverstreetranch.com | San Juan Capistrano
Best Outdoor Activity Center
There is always something to do at the Great Park, and that’s not even counting famous attractions such as the balloon. The Palm Court Arts Complex showcases cultural arts programs and exhibits while The Farm + Food Lab educates visitors about gardening. Then, there’s 1.5 miles of walking and biking trails, themed kids’ playgrounds throughout the area and events for all ages organized by the city.
cityofirvine.org | Irvine
Best Animal Preservation Zoo
Orange County Zoo
Located inside Irvine Regional Park, the small zoo with a focus on animals and plants from the southwestern U.S., is home to many injured, orphaned or confiscated animals. Aside from black bear, bald eagle and a newly expanded big cat exhibit, you can also check out a barnyard with domestic sheep and goats.
ocparks.com | Orange
Best Alternative Zoo
San Diego Zoo Safari Park
San Diego Zoo Safari Park is one of the biggest attractions in San Diego County. Visitors can choose from several safari experiences or venture around the park to see giraffes, rhinos, elephants, gorillas and more. There is also a petting kraal with gentle goats and play areas for kids throughout.
sdzsafaripark.org | Escondido
Best Reptile Education Center
The Reptile Zoo/Prehistoric Pets
The Reptile Zoo is home to more than 100 exotic species of reptiles, amphibians and arachnids from all over the world. Visitors can learn about these animals through interactive displays, some of which include a chance to hold or feed the reptiles. Adventurous guests can take a picture with a Burmese python or feed veggies to a tortoise. You can even buy a reptile from Prehistoric Pets.
prehistoric-inc.square.site | Fountain Valley
Best Theme Park for Thrills
Knott’s Berry Farm
Our readers love Knott’s Berry Farm and its thrilling rides and attractions in four themed areas inspired by California history and culture. Old West Ghost Town will get your heart racing with the Silver Bullet inverted roller-coaster and GhostRider, the fastest, longest and tallest wooden roller-coaster on the West Coast. Halloween season is extra special at the park as it turns into Knott’s Scary Farm and Knott’s Spooky Farm.
knotts.com | Buena Park
Best Place to Help Seals and Sea Lions
Pacific Marine Mammal Center
Pacific Marine Mammal Center has a long history of ocean conservation through rescuing, rehabilitating and releasing marine mammals and educating the public. The center relies on volunteers, who do everything from helping with animal care to leading educational programs or working in the gift shop. The center is open for visitors to see recovering marine mammals daily from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Entry is free but donations are appreciated.
pacificmmc.org | Laguna Beach
By Magda Hernandez, Jessica Peralta and Nathan Davis