Orange County is full of so many beautiful and fascinating places to check out. It is easy to just spend your time in The OC at the stunning beaches or enjoying the thrills of the theme parks. However, if you only experience those select parts of Orange County you are missing out on some spectacular and fun adventures. This blog post & accompanying podcast episode only scratch the surface of hidden gems in Orange County. I share a bunch of fun ideas of places to go in both LA & Orange County on my Instagram if you want suggestions of other places to explore as well.

You can listen to us talk about Hidden Gems in Orange County with Rey, from exploreytion on Instagram, on the newest episode of the LA Dreaming Podcast. You can listen to the podcast through Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, Amazon Music, iHeartRadio, Stitcher, or Podbean.

This post contains affiliate links. That means if you click on a link and buy something, I will earn a small commission from the advertiser at no additional cost to you.

Newport Beach is one of my favorite cities in Orange County which makes it the perfect place to start when it comes to sharing about hidden gems in The OC. There are popular destinations like Balboa Island, Fashion Island, the pier & more which I would still highly recommend checking out. But, for this post, we want to share some places that even people who have been to Newport numerous times might not have checked out yet.

Newport Dunes

 

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At Newport Dunes you can rent paddleboards, and kayaks, and play in their inflatable water park. For those who want to do stand-up paddleboarding, the radiant rides take place as the sun is setting with glowing boards. It looks really cool. They do have RV hookups and cottages that visitors can stay in but anyone is welcome to come and enjoy a day on the water here. You can find free street parking spaces along Back Bay Drive near the resort entrance.

Location: 1131 Back Bay Dr, Newport Beach, CA 92660

Newport Beach Civic Center

 

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Some of my favorite non-hidden gems near the civic center are Fashion Island & Sprinkles cupcakes. I am so sad that I have been near the Civic Center so many times but until recently was unaware of how cool this spot is. The park at the Civic Center has a 1.23 walking trail that passes by fun sculptures as well as wetland areas.

Location: 100 Civic Center Dr, Newport Beach, CA 92660 

Crystal Cove State Beach

the cottage from the movie beaches

There are so many great reasons to visit Crystal Cove State Beach. If you want a good meal on the beach you eat at the Beachcomber or if you want burgers & fries the Shake Shack (Ruby’s not the Shake Shack brand) is located on PCH overlooking the beach. At the south end of the beach, you can visit the cottage from the Garry Marshall movie beaches. You can sit on the porch and get photos. This is really fun for fans of the movie.

Location: Los Trancos Parking Lot. I would park here and take the walking path to get to the beach. If you want to eat at Shake Shack you can take the stairs from the beach up to PCH. Or if you just want to come to eat at Shake Shack you can park there. But, please note that due to limited parking you are not meant to park at Shake Shack & then walk down to the beach.

Sherman Library & Gardens

This beautiful botanical garden is a hidden oasis that stuns every time it appears on my Instagram feed. Admission is $5. The hours are 10:30 am to 4 pm. You can download a free audio tour on your phone.

Location: 2647 East Coast Hwy, Corona Del Mar, CA 92625

Old World Huntington Beach

 

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Old World in Huntington Beach is one of those spots that will make you feel like you are in Europe. They even have chocolates & other items from Europe which is a special treat for people who miss the things that they love from overseas. This is one of the coolest spots to experience Oktoberfest in Orange County. They host several fun events throughout the year.

Secret Garden in Huntington Beach

The secret garden is located behind the Huntington Beach Central Library inside Huntington Central Park. The garden was created in 1992 to showcase drought-tolerant plants. A meal at the nearby Park Bench Cafe is highly recommended.

Location: 18002 Goldenwest St Huntington Beach, CA 92648

Great Park Irvine

great park irvine

Great Park Irvine is one of the coolest parks in the OC. They have sports fields, movie nights, a free tethered balloon ride, a carousel and so many more activities that you can enjoy.

Location: 8000 Great Park Blvd, Irvine, CA 92618

Irvine Regional Park

There is so much to explore in the Irvine Regional Park which is not located in Irvine, it is in Orange. While the holidays are an extra special time this park has so many activities that you can enjoy year-round.

We also recommend a visit to Old Town Orange. This is one of those downtowns that will make you feel like you have stepped back in time. Some of the places we mentioned in the podcast episode were the Filling Station, Rutabegorz, and the Starbucks which was used in the Reese Witherspoon movie Four Christmases.

Location: 1 Irvine Park Rd, Orange, CA 92869

If you want some fun ideas of places to check out in Orange County, Amazon has a book of 100 Things to do in Orange County before you die.

Modern Times Brewery Anaheim

 

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Modern Times Brewery looks like such a fun place to check out. This is a brewery, a tasting room, with all vegan food, and a pool.

Location: 549 S Anaheim Blvd, Anaheim, CA 92805

Redwood Grove in Carbon Canyon Regional Park

Redwood Grove in Carbon Canyon Regional Park

The redwoods feel like they come out of nowhere when you are walking through the Carbon Canyon Regional Park. The trails in the park are not too strenuous so this makes for a family-friendly walk. The park itself is really large with so much to see.

Location: 4442 Carbon Canyon Rd, Brea, CA 92823

Pirate Tower in Laguna Beach

The pirate tower in Laguna Beach can be found at Victoria Beach. You will want to park on PCH and walk towards the address below. There is a staircase by that address that will take you down to the beach. Once you get to the sand you’ll keep walking to the right-hand side until you reach the tower. The tower truly looks like something out of a fairytale.

Location: 2713 Victoria Dr. Laguna Beach, CA 92651

 

About The Author

Michelle Ares is the founder and creative director of LA Dreaming. I have a passion for Southern California and love sharing my adventures and experiences with you. I love to travel, find new places to check out, and watch movies. You can follow me on Instagram @la.dreaming

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