15 Best Day Trips from Orange County

Orange County, or “The OC”, is nestled between San Diego and Los Angeles in South California. This iconic county has gorgeous beaches, upscale communities, museums, shopping malls, and of course, the two theme parks – Disneyland and Knott’s Berry Farm. The county’s popularity as a tourist destination is attributed to its countless mentions in the film and movie industry.

The county attracts culture mavens and beach lovers from all over the world. There’s something to do for everyone here that will make your stay memorable. There are lots of places to explore beyond the Orange County curtain. We have put together an extensive list of the 15 best day trip ideas from Orange County.

1. Los Angeles

Los Angeles

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Los Angeles

Los Angeles is located about 31 miles from Orange County, on a broad basin in Southern California. L.A is also referred to as the “City of Angels” and is the most populous city in California.

Los Angeles is surrounded by vast mountain ranges, forests, valleys, beaches, and a desert. This city is also an important center of culture and tourism. One of the factors attributing to its popularity is the Hollywood film and television industry. Major film studios are largely based here.

This city is famous for its celebrity-oriented culture, as exemplified by the star maps which are sold to tourists; these maps show known locations of celebrities’ homes.

2. Riverside CA

Riverside, California

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Riverside, California

Riverside is located approximately 32 miles east of Orange County. This city is found in southern California and extends east into the California Desert. Riverside features a dry and somewhat arid climate. The hottest month is August, while December is the coldest month. The wettest seasons are winter and spring.

This city offers a wide variety of outdoor recreation choices including seven ATV trails, such as the Hidden Valley Trail, the Indian Cove Campground, and the Black Eagle Mine Road. Visitors can come here to try out horse riding and biking.

Riverside hosts a diverse cross-section of people and has a rich history. A city with an intriguing past and a promising future, it’s definitely worth a visit.

Check out the recommended hotels in Orange County, California (CA)

3. Tijuana, Mexico

Tijuana, Mexico

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Tijuana

First off, ensure that you bring your passport with you on this day trip. The driving distance from Orange County to Tijuana is 105 miles. The city was founded on 11th July 1889.

Tijuana is located just across the border from San Diego, USA, and California. The city is on the Gold Coast of Baja California, Northwestern Mexico. This large city grew from a small border town to a thriving modern city that contains quite a number of districts full of restaurants, attractions, historical buildings, and nightclubs.

Tijuana’s proximity to the US makes the city a popular tourist destination. One highlight of a trip is the Avenida Revolucion in Zona Centro. The city traces its modern history to the arrival of the Spaniards, who came to explore the territory in the 16th century.

4. San Bernardino

San Bernardino, California

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San Bernardino, California

This city in the Inland Empire of California is located 42 miles from Orange County. San Bernardino is the largest city in the Riverside-San Bernardino metropolitan area. San Bernardino covers an area of 81 square miles on the floor of the San Bernardino Valley.

The city’s climate can be described as arid with very little moisture. The warmest and sunniest times of the year are during summer and fall.

Some prominent attractions within the city include the San Bernardino Mountains, Coussoulis Arena, the ASU Fox Theatre, the McDonald’s Museum, and the San Manuel Amphitheater. The amphitheater is the largest outdoor amphitheater in the US.

5. San Diego

San Diego

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San Diego

San Diego sits north of the Mexican border, 81 miles away from Orange County. This coastal city is right next to the Pacific Ocean in Southern California and is divided into different districts, each comprising of charming individual districts.

The city’s ethnic diversity, thriving nightlife, long history, balmy beaches, laid-back attitude, ideal climate, and a rich maritime and military heritage offer much for visitors to enjoy. San Diego is also quite popular for its natural scenery, which ranges from seaside cliffs to canyons and desert hills.

Visitors seeking a city with a slow-paced atmosphere need to make this day trip from Orange County. San Diego provides a soothing break from the typical hustle and bustle of busy cities.

6. Chula Vista

Chula Vista, California

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Chula Vista, California

Chula Vista means “beautiful view” in Spanish. The city got its name from its strategic position between San Diego Bay and the coastal mountain foothills. Chula Vista is at the center of one of the most culturally diverse regions in the US, making it a popular tourist destination.

This city is located 88 miles from Orange County and 7.5 miles from downtown San Diego. Chula Vista is the seventh-largest city in Southern California.

On your day trip to this delightful city, it’s recommended that you stop by the Chula Vista Marina and the Living Discovery Center.

7. West Covina

West Covina

West Covina is located 19 miles east of Downtown L.A in the San Gabriel Valley.

The city gained much popularity in 2015 after the release of the television show called “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend,” which was set in and filmed in this town. There is also a song in the show that praises the city of West Covina.

There is a whole range of things to do in this vibrant city that should keep you entertained. One place that you ought to visit on your day trip is the Glendora Society Historical Museum, which is only 15 minutes away from the city center.

8. Bell Gardens

Bell Gardens

The city of Bell Gardens in California is found near the center of the former San Antonio Township that was abolished in 1960. This suburb sits on the bank of the Los Angeles River.

Bell is a relatively young city that was incorporated in 1961 and covers an area of 2.4 square miles. It’s worth noting that Bell permits casino gambling, so if you love to gamble, this is the place for you; the city is bustling with casinos.

Bell Gardens has a Native American history dating back centuries. Japanese immigrants who came here for the rich soils and abundant land are part of Bell’s early history. You should come prepared for some history lessons.

9. Torrance

Torrance, California

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Torrance

This city is found in the south west of Los Angeles County. Torrance was incorporated in 1921.

The city has a mild climate throughout the year, with plenty of sunny days and low humidity. The climate makes the 1.5-mile long beaches on the Pacific Ocean worth a visit. The war abode of Torrance is a delightful place to tour.

Torrance’s prime attractions include Universal Studios and Griffith Observatory. Immerse in the spirit of Torrance and discover the city’s striking landscape; you will not want to go back home.

10. Ontario

Ontario, California

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Ontario, California

This city is located in the Southern California region, in southwestern San Bernardino County. Ontario sits 56km to the east of Los Angeles County and makes up part of the Greater Los Angeles Area.

Ontario is situated in the western part of the Inland Empire region and is California’s 4th most populous city.

Ontario is home to a huge mall, the Ontario International Airport and the Los Angeles International Airport. These airports serve the Inland Empire.

Check out the recommended hotels in Orange County, California (CA)

11. Glendale

Glendale

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Glendale

Glendale, California is located 36 miles away from Orange County. The city is located at the southern corner of the San Fernando Valley of Southern California. Glendale is situated between Downtown L.A and Burbank.

The city is served by the Bob Hop Airport which is closest to Glendale. There are also a number of trains and buses that connect Glendale from Orange County.

Some must-see attractions in Glendale include the Forest Lawn Memorial Park, the Museum of Neon Art, and the Brand Library & Art Center.

12. Moreno Valley

Moreno Valley

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Moreno Valley

Moreno Valley is situated in Riverside County, California. The city is part of the Greater Los Angeles area, as well as the San Bernardino-Riverside Metropolitan Area.

Moreno Valley is a relatively young city that has seen rapid growth over the last couple of decades. It started experiencing major development in the 1980’s. Moreno Valley has bountiful attractions that make this city worth a quick visit.

Some of the main attractions in Moreno Valley include the Veteran’s Memorial, the March Field Air Museum, and the Western Science Center. Moreno has gorgeous natural attractions, such as stunning lakes and mountains. There are also a number of trails that are used for biking and hiking.

13. Anza Borrego Desert State Park

Anza Borrego Desert State Park

Source: Lowe Llaguno / shutterstock

Anza Borrego Desert State Park

This is the biggest state park in California (within the Colorado Desert). ABDSP is located two hours to the east of San Diego, with parts going all the way into the Imperial and Riverside counties.

Anza Borrego Desert State Park got its name from Juan B. de Anza, an 18th century Spanish explorer. The word “Borrego” is Spanish for sheep. It features 500 miles of trails and dirt roads. The 600,000-acre park also consists of magnificent views, as well as wildflowers and cacti.

If you’re an animal lover, you will fall in love with the wildlife scene at ABDSP.

14. Santa Monica

Santa Monica Pier

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Santa Monica Pier

This beachfront city is located on Santa Monica Bay. The city is bordered to the north by Los Angeles, to the northeast by Brentwood, to the east by West L.A, and to the south by Venice.

Santa Monica has an ideal climate which makes it a favorable resort town. This city on the Pacific Ocean coast has experienced a boom since the late 1980’s, which resulted in increased tourism. The main attractions here include Santa Monica Pier, Pacific Park, and the Santa Monica Stairs.

Santa Monica’s tourism has significantly grown due to its close proximity to major sites like Venice Beach, Beverly Hills, and Malibu.

15. Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve

Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve

Source: Michael Schober / shutterstock

Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve

This nature reserve is found in the city of Huntington Beach, California. “Bolsa Chica” means ‘little bag’ in Spanish. The reserve was established with the aim of protecting the coastal wetland that is home to a number of threatened and endangered species.

Huntington Beach was incorporated on 17th February 1909.

At 8.5-mile, long Huntington Beach is best known for its mild climate. The waves in this area are caused by edge-diffraction of ocean swells by the Catalina Island. The beach is excellent for surfing.

Where to stay: Best Hotels in Orange County, California (CA)
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List of Image Sources

15 Best Day Trips from Orange County:

Moreno Valley

  • Los Angeles: Sean Pavone / shutterstock
  • Riverside, California: Jon Bilous / shutterstock
  • Tijuana: Denis Kabanov / shutterstock
  • San Bernardino, California: Kit Leong / shutterstock
  • San Diego: Dancestrokes / shutterstock
  • Chula Vista, California: Sherry V Smith / shutterstock
  • West Covina: ASDFGH / Wikimedia
  • Bell Gardens: www.bellgardens.org
  • Torrance: Albert Campbell / shutterstock
  • Ontario: Dmitrii Sakharov / shutterstock
  • Glendale: Tim Roberts Photography / shutterstock
  • Moreno Valley: Jim and Lynne Weber / shutterstock
  • Anza Borrego Desert State Park: Lowe Llaguno / shutterstock
  • Santa Monica Pier: ProDesign studio / shutterstock
  • Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve: Michael Schober / shutterstock