Ever wanted to travel to Disneyland in Southern California but wondered what else there is to do around the park? Look no further than this guide for a week of Orange County day trips! This itinerary will provide you with seven days of day trips so you and your friends or family can experience the Anaheim and Orange County area in Southern California. Limon has you covered from beaches to amusement parks as there is something for everyone in this hand-picked list of day trip destinations.
The first stop, of course, is one of the most popular theme parks in California—Disneyland! Now, many may want to visit the park for a few days just because there’s so much to see and do, but you can surprisingly do a lot in one day if navigated successfully.
As far as where to stay when visiting the park, you can stay in one of the onsite Disneyland hotels. Although staying here grants you Extra Magic Hours, where you’ll be able to enter the park early, staying at one of the nearby offsite hotels is a good option too. Some more affordable hotels around the area include Anaheim Hotel and Best Western Plus Anaheim Inn.
To get the day started, you’re going to need some fuel to approach the day head-on. Right outside the park, you’ll find a perfect spot for breakfast and a coffee. Avid Disneyland-goers recommend finishing breakfast before entering the park, so your time isn’t wasted on waiting in lines for food. Head to La Brea Bakery Cafe and Express in Downtown Disney for pastries and cappuccinos. If you’re eager to enter the park, another good breakfast option would be the Jolly Holiday Bakery Cafe, located just inside the park on Main Street.
Before going to the park, it’s essential to know the different areas to have some idea of the layout. The seven lands include Adventureland, Critter Country, Fantasyland, Frontierland, Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, Toontown, New Orleans Square, and Tomorrowland. Within these lands, some stand-out rides are worth checking out! These include Space Mountain, Matterhorn, Pirates of the Caribbean, and Indiana Jones Adventure. Disneyland is old school and sweet; whatever you do, you’ll for sure get that nostalgic feeling while experiencing the park.
If you head to Downtown Disney for dinner, you’ll find various popular restaurants such as Earl of Sandwich, Napolini Pizzeria for Italian, and Ralph Brennan’s Jazz Kitchen for seafood lovers. After dinner, it’s always a good idea to shop around and grab dessert, especially when one-of-a-kind shops are just a few steps away. Downtown Disney is home to Marceline’s Confectionery, an old-fashioned candy shop named after the small Missouri town where Walt Disney lived as a boy. Here, candy apples are a favorite. Grab a sweet treat and head for bed to prepare for the next day spent at California Adventure.
2. California Adventure
Disney California Adventure is the newer park that celebrates the history and culture of the state while featuring themed worlds such as Cars Land, Paradise Pier, and Hollywood Land. This park is more teen and adult-oriented, and you can even buy beer in places around the immersive themed sections. Also, this park is perfect for doing in just one day with friends or family as it’s easy to experience everything California Adventure has to offer.
At California Adventure, must-sees include California Screamin’, Grizzly River Run, Guardians of the Galaxy, Radiator Springs Racers, and Soarin’ Around the World. Don’t forget to head to Avengers Campus to experience the new Spider-Man ride that opened in 2020. Park experts recommend buying FastPasses for the rides that have the most extended wait times so you can experience more of the park.
One of my favorite places to hang out in the Disneyland parks is the enchanting Radiator Springs town, where you can get yummy snacks and treats. A few minutes after sunset, Cars Land will do its nightly lighting. The land lights up in the same order as in the Cars film, and there’s a small street party celebrating the event. This is on a favorite list of experiences in Disney parks.
After, head to Soarin’ Around the World, which gives you a relaxing hang-gliding experience. You soar above famous sights like the Great Wall of China, Iguazu Falls, and Sydney Harbour and can even smell the scent of fresh oranges while flying over an orange grove. This is the perfect ride to end an adventure-filled day.
For dinner in California Adventure, favorite spots include Flo’s V-8 Cafe, Pacific Wharf Cafe, and Ariel’s Grotto. After dinner, you can head outside the park to grab a drink at one of the surrounding bars, only a 5-minute walk from the gate. You can try The Grand Californian for upscale spirits, Uva Bar for a full range of cocktails, Tortilla Jo’s for margaritas, or the hidden gem Trader Sam’s Enchanted Tiki Bar at the Disneyland Hotel.
After being in Downtown Disney for drinks, you have to visit Candy Palace on Main Street. If you’re lucky enough, you can get your hands on some “Nuttles,” which are only made on select days at this sweet shop and sell out within hours. This is the only spot in Disneyland park where you can find this exclusive and delicious treat!
Now that you’ve experienced both Disneyland and California Adventure on the first two days of the trip, it’s time to explore Anaheim and Orange County destinations.
3. Bowers Museum
Just a 10-minute drive from Disneyland, you can find Bowers Museum. At Bowers Museum, their philosophy is that learning about peoples through their art will lead us to understand ourselves better and have a fuller appreciation of diversity in the world today. The permanent collections within this museum are irreplaceable windows into civilizations both past and present.
However, if you want to continue your Disney experience, Bowers Museum has an exhibit just for you. It’s titled Inside the Walt Disney Archives and displays 465 objects, including 50 pieces of original artwork. They even have his actual desk in which he worked on and created for years.
Admission for the museum ranges from only $13 to $15 but is worth it. Bowers has been voted “Best Museum in Orange County” for 26 years and has organized more than 50 special exhibitions in the past 15 years, working with some of the most excellent museums in the world. This landmark is over 100,000 square feet and is surrounded by lush gardens, so it would be perfect for picnicking or resting in the shade between checking out the exhibitions.
Before heading to Bowers, you may need to stop for breakfast at a nearby restaurant. Some brunch favorites around the area include Snooze A.M. Eatery, Crave, Brewberry Cafe, and Nep Cafe. They are all just a few miles from the museum, and these options will satisfy everyone’s breakfast or brunch needs.
During the day spent at Bowers, you can walk around the surrounding gardens and picnic in the shade if you and your group desire. Don’t forget to check out the Gallery Store, which offers a cultural experience. All proceeds from your purchases support the exhibitions, educational programs, and artistic preservation efforts of the museum. In the gift shop, you can find scarfs and clothing, books, board games, and puzzles that all have to do with the museum’s unique exhibitions.
After spending the day at Bowers, you may have worked up an appetite. Nearby, close restaurants that are sure to please are Tangata which offers salads and sandwiches and The Playground, a modern gastropub offering New American fare and top-shelf drinks.
If you and your friends or family want to grab a drink after dinner, be sure to check out Parkestry Rooftop Bar. This bar is located in the JW Marriott, Anaheim Resort and overlooks stunning views of Anaheim. Here you can enjoy light bites, creative libations, and fun, social energy that would be the perfect place to end the day and make lasting memories.
Overall, Bowers is perfect for a day trip as you can get through all the exhibitions within a few hours. Also, it’s an ideal destination, especially if you want to stay near Disneyland. The museum is only 4 miles south of the park, so it would be effortless to access! The same goes for the delicious options for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
4. Orange County Great Park
Orange County Great Park is a public park located in Irvine, California, focusing on sports, agriculture, and the arts. The park’s facilities and attractions reflect the City of Irvine’s dedication toward historical preservation, sustainable practices, and family-friendly activities. There’s something for everyone at this park, as you can find athletic fields, walking trails, playgrounds, and even a carousel.
There is a 4,762 square foot Visitors Center which features a large lobby, restroom facilities, an office space, and a Runway Cafe with many snack and beverage options for sale. You can either bring your own food to a picnic or indulge in the options available at the park.
The park also offers a variety of children’s and adult programs in tennis, volleyball, basketball, soccer, and chess. If you and your group are in an athletic mood, you can have fun at one of these great programs.
Check out the Food and Farm Lab, a unique and interactive outdoor classroom for visitors of all ages. It’s a working and dynamic horticulture area with a mission to educate visitors about gardening and more sustainable ways of living. You can learn about fruit trees, vertical gardening, worm compost bins, and solar and wind-powered lights. Some fan favorites within the Food and Farm Lab are the Pizza and Spaghetti Garden, the Butterfly Garden, and the chicken coop.
Nature lovers will for sure have a blast here as there’s a wide variety of free self-guided hiking and mountain biking. Trails include Bommer Canyon, Orchard Hills, and Quail Hill.
Bommer Canyon has views of ancient oak and sycamore groves, as well as rough rock outcrops. The trails in this area are open daily for self-guided hikes from dawn to dusk. For a challenging but doable hike, Orchard Hills is the way to go. It features a three-mile trail and a view of a breath-taking vista from Loma Ridge that consumes the coastal hills and most of Irvine. We recommend trying out the gently sloping, 1.2-mile inner loop trail for a shorter stroll, which is perfect for beginners and families. The last trail is Quail Hill Trailhead, an easy two-mile natural surface hike that is even dog-friendly.
After a lovely day at Orange County Great Park, it’s time to grab some dinner. Head to CUCINA enoteca Irvine or Del Frisco’s Grille. CUCINA enoteca is a casual yet elegant Italian restaurant that offers traditional plates and sells wine from around the world. This modern kitchen couples the history and comfort of an old rustic country farmhouse with the freshest local produce and organic, sustainable ingredients. Another excellent dinner spot is Del Frisco’s Grille. This award-winning restaurant is a modern and fun destination for dining, drinks, and socializing. Del Frisco’s is known for its creative twists on American comfort classics drawing inspiration from bold flavors and market-fresh ingredients.
For a more casual spot, try out Kogi BBQ Taco Truck for affordable, quick bites ranging from $5 to $10. They offer a unique, flavorful fusion that is worth any wait, especially among friends.
This day trip would be a perfect opportunity to enjoy the natural landscape and gems of the Orange County and Irvine areas.
5. Balboa Island
In Newport Beach, you’ll find Balboa Island—a one-of-a-kind landmark with many fun activities for friends and family. You can either get there by driving, walking, or biking, but make it an adventure by taking the Balboa Island Ferry. From the ferry, you’ll see views of Newport Harbor, which are worth the wait.
Today the Island is home to about 3000 residents, but on weekends or holidays, the population swells as visitors from Southern California venture out to explore the island. Come check out the island to see the fun for yourself.
Head to Marine Avenue for chic coastal shops featuring unique nautical designs, stylish beach fashions, art, and jewelry. Walking along the shops can be entertaining for all as there are shops to entice all kinds of people.
If you would like to learn more about the history of the Island, you and your group should check out the Balboa Island Museum, which is also located on Marine Ave. Visitors can learn all about the making of the island, its famous residents, and popular pastimes at the free museum.
After shopping around and exploring the museum, Balboa Island is home to many quaint restaurants and bistros that serve various dishes. The cuisine selections go beyond the local fresh seafood of the day with flavors of Italian, Mexican, and French-Swiss culinary choices. Try out The Lighthouse Cafe, The Peninsula Lounge, or Galley Cafe.
Now that you’ve strolled along the shops and restaurants, hit the beach for a relaxing time in the sun. If you’re looking for something more active, you can get out on the water with a rented boat, paddleboard, or kayak. Renting small electric Duffy boats is a fan favorite for residents and local visitors, as well.
When it’s time for dessert, you need to hit up Sugar n’ Spice, a famous dessert shop on Balboa Island specializing in Balboa Bars and Frozen Bananas. This local sweet tooth treasure has been around for nearly 75 years. Enjoy tasty treats dipped in chocolate and covered with various coatings, from nuts and sprinkles to cookie crumbs.
Balboa Island is a great day trip destination for people of all ages. Spend a fun day in the sun enjoying the water, shopping around, and trying good food. What’s not to love?
6. Shipley Nature Center
As you head into Huntington Beach, you’ll find Shipley Nature Center. This 18-acre fenced nature preserve opened in 1974 and features native plants and animals, plus walking trails. Feel free to explore and wander along 4,000 feet of well-maintained walking trails that meander through eight unique plant habitats, including Oak Woodland, Meadow, Redwood Grove, Coastal Sage Scrub, Blackbird Pond, Riparian Woodland, Torrey Pine, and Southern Oak Woodland.
Check out the Interpretive Center for an interactive experience teaching nature wildlife and history, composting, and water conservation. Educational tours and events are held frequently throughout the year.
While strolling through the center, you’ll come across the Shipley Nature Trial. This is a 1.1 mile lightly trafficked loop trail that features a lake and is suitable for all skill levels. This trail is perfect for a quick walk and to explore the surrounding nature with friends. Keep an eye out for the roaming animals, as 22 species have been spotted at the nature center.
You’ll also notice the Demonstration Gardens, which includes five gardens: the Butterfly Garden, Hummingbird Garden, Riparian Garden, Waterwise Garden, and the Color Garden. Each garden has habitats to attract and preserve wildlife so you can experience butterflies, hummingbirds, and colorful flowers.
If you need a quick bite for lunch, stop by Park Bench Cafe, a local favorite for more than 32 years! This outdoor eatery is perfect for large groups of friends or family. Dog owners also love the family-run business. They even offer a Dog Menu for all the pups that come to visit. Park Bench Cafe provides everything you could think of, from breakfast to lunch food, so it’s the perfect place to try after a long walk in the park.
Looking for a place to stay the night in the area? The Belmont Shore Inn is near the Shipley Nature Center and focuses on a chic and modern experience that’s also affordable. Staying by the lively waterfront scene, you and your friends may even come across music or cultural festivities that take place during the summer.
The Shipley Nature Center will provide you with a fun-filled day with the beautiful surrounding wildlife and other outdoor attractions, so be sure to experience this park with your friends or family.
7. El Moro Canyon Loop Trail
Last but not least, the El Moro Canyon Loop Trail is the perfect excursion to end the seven-day itinerary exploring the Anaheim and Orange County areas. This trail is a five-mile moderately trafficked loop near the Newport Coast, which features wildflowers and is rated moderate in difficulty. However, hikers have said it won’t leave you feeling too tired.
This trail is located in the Crystal Cove State Park, which offers 18 miles of hiking trails through 2,400 acres of native wilderness. Throughout your hike, you’ll find ample evidence of native plants and animals and a sense of escaping from civilization into the beautiful solitude of natural history.
For the most efficient plan, we suggest having a light snack before the hike so you can be fueled and ready to go. Bring plenty of water too, of course. Also, after the hike, we have the perfect brunch spot in mind that is a must-try. While on the hike, you can even see views of Catalina Island on a clear day, making the trek an even better experience.
After the hike, grab a bite to eat at one of the best brunch spots in the area. Zov’s in Newport Coast offers Mediterranean-influenced brunch and lunch foods. Brunch is served until 2:30 here, so even late-morning hikers can make it! You can even enjoy their $11 bottomless mimosas if you’re in the mood for celebration after a long hike.
Happy exploring! Hopefully, this week-long day trip itinerary will spark your interests and satisfy your and your friends’ needs while exploring the Orange County and Anaheim areas! Don’t forget to sign up for the Limon newsletter, as we will be sharing more exciting day trips and be the first to hear about opportunities to be a beta tester for our app.