Looking for places to go and things to do this summer? We got you covered.
Summer of 2021 is unleashing a world of fun in Orange County.
Knott’s Berry Farm has reopened to celebrate 100 years. Disneyland Resort is back with Disney California Adventure Park’s whole new hero-filled land: Avengers Campus. And Legoland has returned with a land of its own: The Lego Movie World.
“This is going to be the largest assembly of these heroes any place, anytime, anywhere,” said Disney Parks Live Entertainment Executive Creative Director Dan Fields in a statement. “Avengers Campus is a place for them to live, work, play, protect and train. Our guests will have many different ways to interact with our heroes, through heroic encounters and also through epic action sequences in atmospheric shows.”
Guests visiting Avengers Campus have the chance to meet a long list of superheroes and supervillains from the Marvel universe, including Spider-Man, Doctor Strange, Black Panther, Black Widow, Iron Man, Ant-Man, Loki, Thor and more. In addition to character encounters, visitors to the land may catch some live stunt shows and entertainment including Black Panther, Black Widow and Captain America showing off their fight skills against some villains at Avengers Headquarters. Spider-Man also puts on quite the show by flipping 60 to 65 feet in the air above the rooftop of the Worldwide Engineering Brigade, aka the WEB building. Even if you miss him there, you’ll definitely see Spider-Man in his new ride — Web Slingers: A Spider-Man Adventure — a tech-driven interactive attraction that lets you do some virtual web-slinging of your own to help capture some out-of-control Spider-Bots. The Campus also offers up a few new dining experiences, including Pym Tasting Lab, Shawarma Palace and Terran Treats.
“Pym Test Kitchen is based on the movie ‘Ant-Man and The Wasp’ where you see that Pym Particles can shrink just about anything and grow just about anything. And how do we apply that to familiar food with unusual sizes? We’re shrinking problems and growing solutions. Food innovation meets science here at Pym Test Kitchen,” said Disneyland Resort Culinary Director John State in a statement.
But the theme park excitement doesn’t end there, of course. Knott’s Berry Farm has picked up where it left off last year when it was originally supposed to celebrate its 100th anniversary. But now Knott’s is raring to go and has skillfully resumed plans.
“Even though the park was closed, there was still lots of work going on, all with the intention of eventually, no matter what, we will get back to being open. Whether that’s a tasting festival or this,” said Vice President of Entertainment Ken Parks. “The park has never looked better.”
The summer-long, Knott’s 100th Anniversary Celebration — The Knott’s Family Reunion — is underway with new experiences honoring the park’s history and fun. The 4D, interactive dark ride Knott’s Bear-y Tales: Return to the Fair has made its debut and pays tribute to the classic attraction from 35 years ago. Knott’s also has all-new lovable costumed characters guests can pose for pictures with as well as special photo settings that pay homage to beloved attractions from the past. Knott’s Summer Nights also returns with live music, DJs and park food and drink specialties. The park is also putting on a nightly ceremony with multiple attractions lighting up that ends in a special moment with the redesigned illuminated K-tower. Guests will also find commemorative merchandise celebrating the park’s history and plenty of new park decor. The anniversary celebration runs through Sept. 6, 2021.
“There are multiple photo opportunities,” said Parks. “I’ve been a lifelong fan … one of the things I remember as a kid, there were these attractions that I loved. … We hear a lot of people who tell us there are five attractions that everybody wants to come back. Bear-y Tales being one of them. The Haunted Shack was another. We could only bring one back, but could we create these photo opportunities that at least would allow people to … remind them of what the experience is in some way.”
A little south of OC, another kind of land is now enthusiastically welcoming families: Legoland California Resort’s The Lego Movie World.
Bringing “The Lego Movie” universe to life, the immersive new land features six interactive attractions. Its flagship ride, Emmet’s Flying Adventure, lets families hop on Emmet’s triple-decker flying couch for a thrill-seeking race against his friends. Families can also experience a big rush with Unikitty’s Disco Drop as well as take a ride on Queen Watevra’s Carousel. They can also explore Benny’s Play Ship, get creative at the Build Watevra You Wa’Na Build zone, and meet Emmet and his friends in Emmet’s Super Suite.
Whether it’s a theme park visit or something else, there’s plenty to explore this summer.
Oak Canyon Nature Center
6700 E. Walnut Canyon Rd., Anaheim
If you’re looking for a calming day trip in nature, head to Oak Canyon Nature Center. Nestled in the Anaheim Hills, the park features four miles of hiking trails that wind through oak woodland and coastal sage scrub. The trails are open to the public sunrise to sunset. Park officials request that visitors abide by all county/state social distancing and safety recommendations. The interpretive center is currently closed.
Irvine Regional Park
1 Irvine Park Rd., Orange
It touts itself as the best place for family fun in Orange County — and for good reason. Irvine Regional Park attractions include train and pony rides, bike and paddle boat rentals and plenty of playgrounds. The park’s train guides passengers through the historic park, which sits in the foothills of Orange. Nestled among the park’s live oak and sycamore groves is the Orange County Zoo — currently operating with limited capacity and modifications. The petting zoo, feeding of goats and sheep, as well as animal interactions are limited at this time. Reservations are required at some facilities, so please check with the park.
1238 S. Beach Blvd., Anaheim
Occupying just two acres, it’s among California’s smallest theme parks. But don’t let its size fool you. There’s plenty to do and see at Adventure City.
Aside from a variety of rides, the park has an arcade and petting farm. It is operating as usual with a few modifications to the park and rides: The Rain Room and the Thomas the Train Play Area are temporarily closed. At this time, the amusement park is only doing online ticket sales. They recommend you purchase tickets at least one week prior to your visit, because they are selling out quickly. The park is doing temperature checks at the door and they ask anyone over the age of 2 years to wear a mask while in the park.
Mile Square Regional Park
16801 Euclid St., Fountain Valley
Families can go fishing, ride paddle boats or even play games at this urban park. The high-activity park encompasses two fishing lakes, an archery range and plenty of picnic space. There are also three regulation golf courses, soccer fields, baseball diamonds and tennis court. Mile Square Regional Park regularly hosts fishing and archery tournaments, cross-country track meets, and baseball and soccer games. Reservations are required at some facilities — please check with the park.
Atlantis Play Center
13630 Atlantis Way, Garden Grove
Atlantis Play Center is now open Saturdays and Sundays only through Sunday, Aug. 22 from 10 am to 4 pm. From Monday through Friday, it will be open only for the use of the city’s Summer Day Camp program. Park buildings and picnic shelters are closed due to gathering limitations, but all other park amenities — including playgrounds, fitness equipment, basketball courts, skate spot, etc. — are open. Guests ages 2 and over are encouraged to continue to wear masks, and social distance. Snack bar services will not be available in the park, but outside food is allowed. The Splash Pad water park feature will remain closed until county or state health guidelines on the use of water features are provided. The center will be closed July 4. Admission is free for kids ages 2 and under, and is otherwise $2 per person.
1900 Associated Rd., Fullerton
Learn more about the world of plants at this 26-acre botanical garden set to reopen July 7. The facility features lush gardens and plants from throughout the world. There’s a large woodland collection, a garden dedicated to desert plants and an area focused on Mediterranean plant species. There’s also a community garden, a children’s garden and an outdoor classroom. Admission is free, though a $5 donation is suggested.
OC Fair & Event Center
88 Fair Dr., Costa Mesa
The OC Fair is back! This year’s theme is “Time for Fun!” and the fair will run July 16 to Aug. 15. There is limited capacity this year, so advance online ticket purchase is required — and there are no transaction fees. Music and comedy also return with the Toyota Summer Concert Series at Pacific Amphitheatre, as well as tribute bands and more at The Hangar during the 2021 OC Fair. Pacific Amphitheatre’s season begins July 29 and will continue after the fair. The Hangar’s season will run throughout the fair. Centennial Farm and Heroes Hall will reopen for the fair.
Orange County Great Park
8000 Great Park Blvd., Irvine
This gem of a park features 1.5 miles of trail space and numerous sports amenities. All amenities and attractions at the Great Park — including the Great Park Gallery, Farm + Food Lab, Sports Complex, Balloon and Visitors Center — are now open with some modifications. Balloon flights have resumed, but are limited to a maximum of six people per flight. The Carousel is currently being renovated and is expected to open in fall 2021. The Artist Studios and Hangar 244 are currently closed while undergoing construction and being used as a COVID-19 vaccination clinic. Stadiums at the Sports Complex may open for professional sporting events with modifications and audience capacity limits. Pedestrian walk-up access has returned at the Great Park Certified Farmers Market (visit ocgp.org/farmersmarket for more information).
Irvine Spectrum Center
670 Spectrum Center Dr., Irvine
It may be a shopping center, but there’s more to the Irvine Spectrum than that. It’s a fun place to ride a carousel, frolic through a splash pad or clamber through a three-dimensional netted climbing structure. In the central area of the Spectrum, there’s a large area of fake grass where little ones can toddle, rest or play games. Older kids might enjoy taking a ride on a gigantic Ferris wheel, which affords a spectacular view of Orange County from the top. The wheel features an LED interface with 52,000 lights capable of projecting 16 million color schemes. The Spectrum’s attractions are newly reopened just in time for summer.
1 Beech Tree Lane, Irvine
From oversized Legos to obstacle courses and water play, Adventure Playground at University Community Park is the stuff kids’ dreams are made of. The enclosed park also includes steep hills for climbing, sand boxes filled with Tonka trucks and mud puddles for splashing. Please note that while Adventure Playground is open, some playground equipment has been removed in order to encourage physical distancing among households and safety for all guests.
Turtle Rock Nature Center
1 Sunnyhill Dr., Irvine
Part of the Turtle Rock Community Park, the Turtle Rock Nature Center is a five-acre outdoor nature reserve. Visitors can take a self-guided trail walk to learn more about Southern California habitats. A center garden features some common plant species that are native to Orange County. Guests can learn more about the importance of local species and receive information on how to plant their own native plants. The Turtle Rock Nature Center is also frequented by local birds, lizards and rabbits. In Irvine, outdoor recreational spaces including parks and playgrounds are open with some modifications. Community parks are available for rental or drop-in use.
- Reader’s Choice Awards 2021: Family Fun Winners
- Park Hyatt Aviara —Holiday Vacation for Families, Traveling with Kids
- Educational and Entertaining Outdoor Experiences for Your Kids
Pioneer Road Park
10250 Pioneer Rd., Tustin
This pioneer-themed park features a splash pad, walking trail and cabin-style picnicking areas. Pioneer Road Park offers two play, age-appropriate playgrounds, basketball and volleyball courts, and grilling stations. In keeping with the theme, the playground features three covered, Western-style wagons. The park is open and the shelter is available for rent, but the water feature was closed as of press time.
Heritage Community Park
14361 Yale Ave., Irvine
Take a stroll around a serene lake or frolic through a pirate-themed play area at Heritage Park. Visitors can also work up a sweat at the park’s many sports courts or play catch in the park’s open space. If all that action works up an appetite, break for a picnic. There are numerous shaded picnic tables and 22 grills at the park. Smaller picnic areas are available on a first-come, first served basis. Picnic shelters are now open for reservations and limited to a maximum of 50 people (cityofirvine.org/reservations). In Irvine, outdoor recreational spaces including parks, playgrounds, and athletic fields and courts are open with some modifications. Community parks are available for rental or drop-in use.
1131 Back Bay Dr., Newport Beach
Enjoy a peaceful getaway from home at this action-packed staycation option. Newport Dunes offers RV site and cabin rentals, a private beach and a slew of child-friendly activities, including an inflatable waterpark. Guests needn’t worry about lugging along any outdoor gear. The facility rents out surreys, bikes, golf carts, kayaks, stand-up paddleboards and pedal boats. Electric Duffy boats are also available. Enjoy movies on the beach Friday and Saturday evenings.
William R. Mason Regional Park
18712 University Dr., Irvine
Pack a lunch and spend the day at this serene, immaculately-kept park. William R. Mason park offers something for the whole family. It has bike paths, a wilderness hiking area and three separate play areas for toddlers. Of course, we’d be remiss to omit its gorgeous nine-acre lake, which is often occupied by geese. The park also has two sand volleyball courts, a softball backstop and plenty of areas for picnicking. Reservations are required at some facilities — please check with the park.
3405 Michelson Dr., Irvine
The action never ends at this popular amusement center. Boomers in Irvine is now open daily except for Wednesdays. Current available outdoor attractions include Mini-Golf, Thunder Road Go-karts, Rookie Go-karts, batting cages, Bumper Boats, outdoor dining, Merlin’s Magic Teacups, Ye Rockin’ Tug and Laser Tag. The state-of-the-art arcade where kids can win tickets to claim prizes is also now open. Masks will no longer be required for vaccinated guests but those under 12 who are not vaccinated should continue to wear masks indoors, except when eating.
5380 University Dr., Irvine
Lush strawberry fields and a bountiful supply of vegetables await at Tanaka Farms, where tractors offer guided tours of this 30-acre working farm. Meantime, fresh fruits and vegetables are available for purchase at Tanaka’s market stand. The farm grows and harvests more than 60 different fruits and vegetables throughout the year. Tanaka Farms has rebuilt its Produce Market Stand as a drive-through. The Drive-Thru Produce Market Stand is open daily from 9 am-5 pm for shopping from the safety of your car. Please wear a cloth face covering or mask when using the drive-through service. All visitors to Tanaka Farms for tours and events must have a reservation.
Discovery Cube Orange County
2500 N. Main St., Santa Ana
Discovery Cube OC has reopened for local science lovers of all ages. Some current exhibits include the Physics Lab, Science of Hockey, Organics Waste Lab (OWL), Dino Quest and Space. It is currently open Thursday through Sunday 10 am to 5 pm. Over the past year, millions have been spent to renovate the space from inside out. The latest CDC-recommended MERV13 virus filters have been installed and the entire STEM experience has been enhanced.
Santa Ana Zoo at Prentice Park
1801 E. Chestnut Ave., Santa Ana
When Joseph Prentice donated the Santa Ana Zoo to the public in 1952, it came with an unusual stipulation: 50 monkeys must remain onsite at all times. If not, the zoo would be surrendered to Prentice’s heirs. It’s no secret that there’s plenty of monkey business happening here — there’s even a Ferris wheel featuring 50 anthropoids. But there’s more to see than apes and baboons — the zoo houses more than 80 species of animals. Other attractions include an aviary, barnyard and a Zoofari Express train. There’s also a conservation carousel featuring an assortment of endangered animals. The zoo is now open Wednesday through Sunday. The train, carousel, playground and Ferris wheel are all now open.
1009 Cliff Dr., Laguna Beach
Learn more about the underwater world at this small-but-mighty beach, which is considered the best place in town to go scuba diving. Below the surface, lobsters and brightly-colored fish can be spotted swimming through the ocean’s kelp beds. Those who don’t scuba dive can watch the spectacular creatures with a mask and snorkel, too. Kid-friendly tide pools are among the other draws of Shaw’s Cove, which can be accessed along Cliff Drive.
Crystal Cove State Park
8471 N. Coast Hwy., Laguna Beach
Located just off Pacific Coast Highway, Crystal Cove State Park features more than three miles of beach, hiking trails and an offshore underwater area. The park is also home to an enclave of vintage rustic coastal cottages that were built in the 1930s and 1940s. The beach houses, which sit along the Los Trancos Creek, are part of the federally-listed Historic District. Social distancing guidelines should be followed. Parking is limited and lots fill and close on a regular basis during peak summer months. Note that dogs are not allowed on the beach.
987 Avenida Vista Hermosa, San Clemente
Courtney’s SandCastle Charitable Foundation strives to ensure that its namesake park serves as a place where all children can play, regardless of their abilities. It is specially designed for kids with physical, mental and sensory disabilities. Features include a wheelchair-accessible, castle-themed play structure, a climbing rock and a picnic pavilion. The park’s sensory garden includes aromatic plants and a musical pathway for auditory stimulation. The Courtney’s SandCastle Playground is now open. Guests are asked to maintain social distancing, avoid gathering in groups and practice frequent hand-washing.
24200 Dana Point Harbor Dr., Dana Point
After a year of virtual and outdoor activities, the Ocean Institute’s indoor facilities are fully open to the public every Saturday and Sunday from 11 am to 3 pm. Guests are invited to visit the new Sahm Family Foundation Marine Education Center to learn about shark anatomy, life cycles, research and conservation through artifacts, interactive demonstrations and the horn shark touch tank. The institute is also finalizing a new Marine Mammal exhibit in the Chambers Gallery featuring the ecological history of whales and dolphins and their place in our modern environment. There are also other experiences, including squid dissections and panning for gold, ready to be explored. Masks are required for all guests over 2 years of age.
Dana Point Baby Beach
34445 Ensenada Pl., Dana Point
A peaceful beach squeezed between the Dana Point Harbor and the Ocean Institute serves as the perfect place to spend the day as a family. At Baby Beach, a jetty blocks incoming waves, providing visitors with perfectly calm waters to splash in. Families can swim, kayak or paddle board in the area, and then return to shore for lunch. There’s an assortment of restaurants within walking distance, and there’s also a picnic and barbecue space at the beach. Baby Beach is operating normally. Beach hours are 5 am-12 am daily.
Dana Wharf Sportfishing and Whale Watching
34675 Golden Lantern, Dana Point
Explore the enchanting Orange County coastline with a company that offers whale watching excursions, fishing trips and more. During a two-hour whale watching tour, sightseers can spot dolphins, harbor seals, whales and California sea lions. Meanwhile, Dana Wharf’s trawler tours give fishers the chance to catch bass, tuna, halibut and an assortment of other fish. Dana Wharf also offers private charters on sailboats and catamarans.
Lake Forest Sports Park & Recreation Center
28000 Rancho Pkwy., Lake Forest
If you’re looking for a shaded playground that babies and toddlers can explore, this Lake Forest park is your place. A covered play area features slides, teeter-totters and an OmniSpin Spinner. Just a few paces away, there’s a larger playground for older kids. It includes climbing rocks, swings and more. There’s also a free little library, where kids can take or leave a book. Other amenities include basketball courts, picnic structures and soccer fields. The sports park is open and the recreation center reopens on the week of July 6.
Zoomars at River Street Ranch
31791 Los Rios St., San Juan Capistrano
Pan for gold, ride a pony or cuddle with a guinea pig at this popular South County petting zoo. The facility houses dozens of feathered and furry friends, including goats, emus, llamas and chickens. Other attractions include a train, a small playground, mini excavators and mini tractor rides. There’s also a Western-themed area where kids can pan for gold or visit saloons. Hours as of press time are 10 am to 4 pm daily. No masks are required for vaccinated guests.
Niguel Botanical Preserve
29751 Crown Valley Pkwy., Laguna Niguel
Budding botanists might enjoy taking a stroll through Niguel Botanical Preserve, which features 2,000 species of plants. With four miles of walking trails, it affords visitors an opportunity to learn more about flowers and plants native to Southern California and the other four Mediterranean climates around the world. The preserve’s objective is to educate the public on the appropriate use of drought-tolerant plants and introduce visitors to unusual plant species. The 18-acre botanical preserve sits above the grass amphitheater within Crown Valley Community Park. It was initially established in 1981 as a community vegetable garden. Niguel Botanical Preserve has remained open during the pandemic and witnessed a dramatic increase in visitors, according to preserve President Monty McDivitt. “While we welcome children and families for educational purposes, we request parents help keep our plants and their children safe by staying on our pathways and following the rules at every front entrance,” he said.
Laguna Coast Wilderness Park
18751 Laguna Canyon Rd., Laguna Beach
Forty miles of trails are yours to explore at the Laguna Coast Wilderness Park, where visitors can walk, run or ride their way through woodland trails and spectacular scenic vistas. The park’s Nix Nature Center is a place where families can learn more about the parkland through exhibits and wildlife viewing area portals. Families can also partake in scavenger hunts. The center hosts quarterly programs that include live animals, crafts and Native American traditions. The Nix Nature Center is currently open at limited capacity weekdays from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. and weekends from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. The reception desk is open weekdays from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. and closed on weekends.
San Diego Zoo
2920 Zoo Dr., San Diego
Lions, tigers and bears — and much, much more — await at this world-famous zoo. Spanning 100 acres, the San Diego Zoo is home to more than 12,000 rare or endangered animals, representing more than 650 species. The zoo is also an accredited botanical garden, caring for more than 700,000 individual plants, including a prominent accredited collection of close to 13,000 specimens, representing 3,100 species. During the summer, guests can enjoy the newly opened Komodo Kingdom, home to a pair of the world’s largest lizards — Komodo dragons — and next door, the new immersive Hummingbird Habitat. Also, stay late for the rocking and roaring fun of Nighttime Zoo’s music and entertainment, through Sept. 6.
San Diego Zoo Safari Park
15500 San Pasqual Valley Rd., Escondido
Take a walk on the wild side at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park.
The 1,800-acre wildlife park is home to more than 3,600 animals representing over 300 species. Guests can also enjoy a vast accredited botanical collection of more than 1.3 million plant specimens, representing over 3,700 species. Through Aug. 17, Summer Safari heats up the park on the weekends with unique entertainment, wildlife educational activities and more. There are also many unique outdoor safaris, including a Wildlife Safari, Cheetah Safari and Flightline Safari — the longest continuous zipline in the western United States.
Aquarium of the Pacific
100 Aquarium Way, Long Beach
Dive into an underwater adventure unlike any other at Southern California’s largest aquarium. More than 12,000 animals are on display throughout more than 100 exhibits. Visitors can expect to see sea otters, jellyfish, sea lions and more. The museum’s Tropical Pacific Gallery features more than 1,000 colorful fish, corals, sea turtles and sharks inside a 350,000-gallon aquarium. Explore colorful coral reefs and the animals that call them home with the relaunched “Coral Reefs: Nature’s Underwater Cities” exhibition at the Aquarium of the Pacific. Advance reservations are required, and so are masks for those 2 and older.
Compiled by Jessica Peralta