*Disclaimer: businesses may be subject to temporary or permanent closure due to COVID-19*
Best Amusement Park/Family Fun Center
With locations in Irvine and Fountain Valley, a whole day of miniature golf, Go Karts, rides, climbing walls, batting cages and arcade games are never far away. It has made number one on the list for the 13th year.
boomersparks.com | Fountain Valley and Irvine
Dave & Buster’s
Whether you’re looking for virtual reality, billiards, bowling or good old-fashioned arcade games, it’s always game on at Dave & Buster’s. You’ll find classics like Pac-Man and Skee-Ball and new games in the Million Dollar Midway. Redemption games give you tickets based on how you do to redeem for prizes in the Winner’s Circle. Or play for fun on simulator experiences that put you right in the action.
daveandbusters.com | Orange & Irvine
Best Bowling Alley
Concourse Bowling Center
Concourse Bowling is a family-friendly bowling center with an up-to-date alley, billiards, cosmic bowling and arcade, and full-service bar and grill. Pay by game, which is 10 frames at your own pace, or go for the hourly rate that is charged at a per lane, per hour cost of $20 plus the cost of bowling shoes.
concoursebowling.com | Anaheim
Best Dog Beach/Park
Huntington Beach Dog Beach
Beach days with your family are great. Beach days with your family and furry friends are even better. The popularity among dog owners of the designated stretch north of the Huntington Beach Pier, with public restrooms and grassy picnic areas, earned the beach its third year at the top of the list.
dogbeach.org | Huntington Beach
OC Fair & Event Center
Readers love their annual summer fair. Usually the fair features top musical and comedy acts performing at the Pacific Amphitheatre, and the best cover tribute bands at The Hangar. This year the fair went virtual and locals got their fair food fix with the Fair Food Drive-Thru that featured favorites like roasted corn, fresh lemonade and deep fried Oreos.
ocfair.com | Costa Mesa
Best Family Beach, Family Hiking Trail & Free Attraction
Crystal Cove includes four family-friendly beaches. Moro Beach is favored by stand-up paddle boarders and kayakers, while Reef Point is popular for body surfing and Scotchman’s Cove. The Historic District offers a view to the Crystal Cove Cottage and Pelican Point has bluff-top parking with beach access points and restroom facilities with outdoor showers.
crystalcovestatepark.org | Newport Beach/Laguna Beach
Best Indoor Play Center
Pretend City Children’s Museum
Pretend City is an engaging experience. Interactive exhibits allow kids to apply foundational math, reading and science skills in practical real-world settings. Kids can shop at a grocery store, play dress-up at the amphitheater or whip up a delicious meal at a pretend cafe. This is the eighth time Pretend City has won in this category.
pretendcity.org | Irvine
Best Kid’s Bike Trail
Back Bay Loop
The Back Bay Loop Trail is popular for local outdoor enthusiasts. The 10.5-mile trail is well-signed and winds around Upper Newport Bay, with scenic stops at places like Upper Castaways Park and the new Back Bay Science Center at Shellmaker Island. The flat trail easily accommodates bikes and strollers so the whole family can experience the Bay.
newportbeachca.gov | Newport Beach
Irvine Regional Park
This popular park secured its 14th year on our list. Irvine Regional Park is nearly 500 acres of picnic areas, sports fields and miles of hiking and equestrian trails. Plus, there’s Santiago Creek, the Orange County Zoo and the Irvine Park Railroad.
ocparks.com/parks/irvine | Orange
Best Place to Catch Your First Fish
Big Bear Lake
Big Bear Lake has excellent trout fishing year-round but you can expect to catch any of the typical lake fish, like largemouth bass, black crappie and carp, too. Fishing is allowed from a boat or from the shore and you’ll want to choose your fishing spot based on the time of year. Don’t forget to secure a fishing license and if you plan to launch a boat, you’ll need a Lake Use Permit, too.
bigbear.com | Big Bear Lake
Best Place to See Sea Creatures
Aquarium of the Pacific
The Aquarium of the Pacific displays about 12,000 animals and more than 100 exhibits, like the Shark Lagoon and June Keyes Penguin Habitat. The aquarium celebrates the Pacific Ocean, the Northern Pacific, the Southern California/Baja region, and the coral reefs and lagoons of the Tropical Pacific. Aquarium webcams even let you visit exhibits virtually and check in on the sea life from anywhere.
aquariumofpacific.org | Long Beach
Best Science Museum
DiscoveryCube Orange County
The kids’ museum remains popular in its fourth year topping the readers’ list. The Cube includes a planetary research station, where kids can learn about weather and earthquakes, offers the chance to fly over Orange County in a virtual helicopter, make healthy meals at the Petersonville Healthy Kitchen and get in the rink with the Anaheim Ducks.
oc.discoverycube.org | Santa Ana
Best Nature Center
Environmental Nature Center
Founded in 1972, the Environmental Nature Center is five acres of a combination of 15 California native plant communities, wildlife habitats, walking trails, Nature Museum, a seasonal butterfly habitat and a LEED Platinum-certified learning center. The ENC provides quality education through hands-on experience with nature to the thousands of students and visitors it receives each year.
encenter.org | Newport Beach
Best Swim Facility
Aqua-Tots Swim Schools Costa Mesa
At Aqua-Tots Swim School in Costa Mesa, kids from 4 months to 12 years old can learn to become confident swimmers. The facility boasts a heated indoor pool, fully stocked changing room and certified instructors. Group lessons, semi-private lessons and even special needs aquatics programs are available.
aqua-tots.com | Costa Mesa
Best Overall Theme Park
The Happiest Place on Earth tops our list for the 17th year. Since opening in 1955, Mickey Mouse has had a home in Anaheim. And with fireworks and shows every night and new attractions like Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance, we can’t wait to get back to the magic.
disneyland.disney.go.com | Anaheim
Best Theme Park for Feasts & Treats
Knott’s Berry Farm
Knott’s began as a small berry farm but families now flock to the family theme park as much for their famous fried chicken dinners and other snacks as they do for roller coasters. Besides staples like boysenberry pie and funnel cake, you can always find a rotating menu of seasonal treats and specialty feasts. Outside the park you’ll find Mrs. Knott’s Chicken Dinner Restaurant and inside you can choose from Ghost Town Bakery, La Papa Loca and Boardwalk BBQ.
knotts.com | Buena Park
Best Theme Park for Tots
Legoland remains a reader’s favorite for tots because of all the toddler-friendly attractions like Playtown, Legoland Express, Fairytale Brook, Dig Those Dinos sandbox and the DUPLO playground.
legoland.com/california | Carlsbad
Great Wolf Lodge Water Park, Southern California
Take the plunge at Great Wolf Lodge Water Park. This indoor water park and resort features attractions like Fort McKenzie, a four-story treehouse with interactive water toys and kid-activated splash features, thrilling water slides like Alberta Falls and Coyote Cannon, and even the Slap Tail Pond wave pool. Book a room and make a staycation out of your visit. Free Wi-Fi, water park passes, storytime and kids activities are always included with your stay. Plus, dining options like Dunkin’ Donuts and non-water activities like bowling and an arcade, mean you’ll never have to leave the lodge.
greatwolf.com | Anaheim
Best Zoo in SoCal
San Diego Zoo
The San Diego Zoo is a mecca for wildlife, and a fun place for little wild ones too. Discover an animal world from Arctic foxes to zebras. Kids can even meet some animals in person with the Animals in Action Experience. This interactive experience includes up-close time with exotic cats and other animal ambassadors.
sandiegozoo.com | San Diego
Best Zoo in OC
Santa Ana Zoo
The Santa Ana Zoo has topped the readers’ list for 12 years and is focused on Central and South American animals. The 20-acre zoo also offers the family-farm setting where kids can feed sheep and goats. But the primates exhibit is the pride of Prentice Park. Joseph Prentice, the founder of the Santa Ana Zoo at Prentice Park, required that there be 50 monkeys on the grounds at all times. When you visit, see if you can spot all 50.
santaanazoo.org | Santa Ana
Best Family Golf Course
The Ranch at Laguna Beach
As golfers play through The Ranch’s premier 9-hole golf course, they are surrounded with beautiful views and scenery. Lessons are readily available to improve your shot or book some junior golf lessons for the kids, with new distancing and cleaning measures in place for added safety. Cool off in the ocean afterward as the course’s resort is walking distance from one of Laguna Beach’s best beaches.
theranchlb.com | Laguna Beach
Best Indoor Skate Park
The Vans Skatepark’s Main Street Course is a 20,000-square-foot indoor concrete and wood street course with a variety of obstacles, including many popular street features like stair sets, banks, rails, ledges and manual pads. It also has a Combi Pool — a replica of the original that was located at the Upland Pipeline Skatepark during the early 1980s — a Warm Up Course for beginners and more. It is currently closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
vans.com/skateparks-orange.html | Orange
Best Performing Arts Center
Segerstrom Center for the Arts
The Center is topping the list for the seventh year and consistently attracts world-class talent from the stage, ballet and modern dance, jazz, orchestral and contemporary music. And it has its share of Tony-winning musicals too. During this challenging time of COVID-19, the Center has continued to livestream and offer virtual performances, educational programs and classes to keep the arts accessible to all.
scfta.org | Costa Mesa
By Sarah Mosqueda, Diana Jarrah and Jessica Peralta