15 Best Things to Do in Orange (CA)

Written by Bart Meeuwesen
Updated on
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Orange is a city of more than 130,000 residents that’s located about 40 kilometers southeast of downtown Los Angeles in Southern California’s Orange County.

Unlike other municipalities in the area, Orange has original neighborhoods where it’s common to find homes built around the time of the city’s founding more than 100 years ago.

Though there’s plenty to do in and around Orange, California. Visitors will also have easy access to many of Los Angeles’ most prominent attractions, as well as some of the Golden State’s most scenic stretches of Pacific coastline in Huntington, Newport, and Laguna beaches to the southwest.

1. The Hilbert Museum of California Art

Hilbert Museum of California ArtSource: Steve Cukrov / shutterstock
Hilbert Museum of California Art

Located on the campus of Chapman University in Orange, the Hilbert Museum of California Art features one of the area’s most impressive collections of works inspired by the wonders of the Golden State.

The Hilbert Museum has been around since 2016, thanks to a large and valuable donation of artwork made by a philanthropic local couple that set things in motion in 2014.

The museum’s pieces were created using a number of mediums, and they capture scenes ranging from industrial sites and pristine beaches, to mountains and frontier-era ranch life.

There’s also a gallery dedicated to the animation and film industries, both of which have been drivers of the state’s art and economy for more than a century.

2. Contra Coffee & Tea

Contra Coffee & TeaSource: Contra Coffee & Tea / Facebook
Contra Coffee & Tea

Hip and harried Californians who rely on caffeine to get them through their days consistently rank Contra Coffee & Tea as Orange’s go-to destination for great service and high-quality beverages.

Considering the competition in Orange County, that’s quite an endorsement.

Located on North Orange Street, Contra features a menu full of old favorites and some hand-crafted contemporary concoctions that you won’t find at most of their competitors.

Some of their internationally sourced drinks like ice coffee made with Vietnamese beans are among their most popular items. They serve juice, caffeine-free drinks, and a variety of baked goods as well.

3. Handy Park

Picnic in the ParkSource: M.Volkova / shutterstock
Picnic In The Park

Humble municipal parks often get overlooked by travelers determined to cram as many touristy sites into their itineraries as possible.

But for those looking to stretch their legs and enjoy the great outdoors without spending an arm and a leg, they’re valuable community resources that shouldn’t be overlooked.

Handy Park is located on the southeast corner of East Collins Avenue and the Costa Mesa Freeway in Orange. It features a variety of amenities for sports enthusiasts, walkers, and picnickers.

In addition to baseball fields, soccer fields, and volleyball courts, the park has restrooms, covered seating areas with BBQ grills, and a playground that’s a big hit with little ones.

4. Orange Hill Restaurant

Orange Hill RestaurantSource: Orange Hill Restaurant / Facebook
Orange Hill Restaurant

California is well-known for its cutting-edge fusion cuisine. Hungry travelers in and around Orange have a variety of dining options at their fingertips.

Orange Hill Restaurant is located on East Chapman Avenue in Orange; it’s one of northern Orange County’s premier eateries.

Its menu features everything from fresh seafood and prime stakes to healthy salads and mouth-watering desserts. It’s located on a scenic hilltop that affords guests some fantastic views.

Orange Hill is a bit more formal and up-market than many of its competitors, so consider throwing on a clean pair of pants and a shirt with a collar before heading out.

5. Orange Public Library and History Center

LibrarySource: GNT STUDIO / shutterstock

When it comes to fun vacation attractions, public libraries tend to rank near the bottom of the list, just above dentist’s offices and police stations.

But for savvy travelers working with limited budgets, they can be great places to spend a few hours learning, reading, or participating in the activities they frequently offer.

In addition to its role as a traditional public library, the Orange Public Library and History Center also features an impressive collection of historical items dating back nearly 150 years.

The History Center is regularly open to the public, and its collection includes newspapers, maps, photographs, and first-hand accounts of the area’s first residents.

6. Disneyland Park

Disneyland ParkSource: Allison Fraser / shutterstock
Disneyland Park

Located an easy 15-minute drive northwest of downtown Orange, Anaheim’s Disneyland Park opened in the mid-’50s. Since then, it’s been one of Southern California’s biggest family recreation attractions.

One of two parks located on the grounds of Disneyland Resort, it’s a place that many visitors with children spend the majority of their vacation time.

The park is spread over more than 150 acres and includes rides galore, live entertainment, kid-centered activities, and lots of dining options.

Over the years, it’s drawn more visitors than any other park in the world, and it tends to get downright crowded during peak times.

7. Tutto Fresco

Toasting With WineSource: TnkImages / shutterstock
Toasting With Wine

Located on North Glassell Street in Orange, Tutto Fresco is one of the city’s most popular Italian restaurants.

Previous guests have noted that Tutto Fresco was clean, comfortable, and well-managed and that the portions were so large that many of them ended up taking leftovers home.

They’re particularly well-known for pasta, but their menu also includes seafood, chicken, and salads. Everyone gets complimentary focaccia with olive oil to tide them over until their entrees arrive.

Tutto Fresco is open for lunch and dinner. It’s the perfect place to stop for a meal after a long day at Disneyland Park—which is only about 15 minutes away.

8. Yorba Regional Park

Yorba Regional ParkSource: fantasy prof / Flickr | CC BY
Yorba Regional Park

In nearby Anaheim, Yorba Regional Park is a great escape destination for those interested in enjoying the great outdoors without traveling to the larger state and national parks north of Los Angeles.

Located in Santa Ana Canyon about 15 kilometers from Orange in Anaheim, it is spread over more than 130 acres, much of which follows the course of the Santa Ana River.

The park features an extensive network of trails, tons of picnic tables and built-in BBQ grills, and lots of shaded seating areas with stunning views.

Fishing is a popular activity, and energetic bikers can follow the longest trails all the way to the Pacific Ocean.

9. Anaheim Packing District

Anaheim Packing DistrictSource: David Tonelson / shutterstock
Anaheim Packing District

Decades ago, much of downtown Anaheim’s business district was full of packing houses that processed and packaged much of the citrus fruit and other produce grown in Southern California.

Now, the Anaheim Packing District is a renovated and revitalized hotspot that’s popular with the artsy and Bohemian crowd for its hip eateries, outdoor events, and live entertainment.

Many of the district’s restaurants feature international cuisines from distant and exotic countries like Vietnam and India, and a number of them serve vegetarian dishes prepared with fresh, local ingredients.

Just a ten or 15-minute drive from Orange, there’s a weekly farmer’s market in nearby Farmers Park, and outdoor movies some weekends as well.

10. Limestone Canyon Nature Preserve

Limestone Canyon Nature PreserveSource: Erick Cervantes / shutterstock
Limestone Canyon Nature Preserve

Located about 20 kilometers southeast of Orange, Limestone Canyon Nature Preserve is another convenient outdoor recreation destination for those who’ve tired of the city’s hustle and bustle.

The preserve is characterized by deep canyons, gurgling springs, and dense stands of oak trees that are home to a variety of animal species.

Limestone Canyon is popular with mountain bikers, hikers, walkers, and amateur wildlife photographers. It’s common to see animals as diverse as eagles, coyotes, and snakes along the trails.

Docent-led nature walks are frequently offered as well, but if you’d like to take part, you’ll need to register beforehand.

11. Irvine Barclay Theatre

Irvine Barclay TheatreSource: David Tonelson / shutterstock
Irvine Barclay Theatre

Though it’s often referred to as a community theater, the Irvine Barclay Theater in Irvine takes the concept to a whole different level.

Its Cheng Hall seats nearly 800 guests and features one of the area’s most state-of-the-art sound systems like the ones typically found only in larger venues.

The theater is managed through a partnership between Irvine and the University of California. It offers a variety of productions throughout the year, including traditional and contemporary music, dance, and plays.

Irvine Barclay is located about 15 kilometers south of Orange, and tickets to popular shows should be purchased in advance.

12. Oak Creek Golf Club

Oak Creek Golf ClubSource: danperry.com / Flickr | CC BY
Oak Creek Golf Club

With an abundance of sunny days and the cool breezes that often blow inland from the nearby Pacific, there’s really no better way to spend a few morning or afternoon hours than on one of Orange County’s many golf courses.

Oak Creek Golf Club was designed by world-renowned golf course architect Tom Fazio. It is dotted with shimmering lakes, tricky sand traps, and narrow fairways leading to tiered greens.

The course is just a 15-minute drive from Orange, is open year-round, and includes five sets of tees on each hole to accommodate players of most ages and levels of ability.

13. Noguchi Garden

Noguchi GardenSource: David Tonelson / shutterstock
Noguchi Garden

Though it isn’t large by botanical garden standards, the two-acre Noguchi Garden (or California Scenario, as it’s often called) is one of Southern California’s most spectacular attractions, and it’s got the awards to prove it.

The Garden has been around for more than four decades and is comprised of six distinct areas featuring hundreds of species of local and regional flora.

Most guests spend an hour or two on-site wandering the garden’s paths and enjoying its serenity. Since it’s conveniently located between Orange and Newport Beach, it’s a great place to stop while en route.

Noguchi Garden is located on Anton Boulevard in Costa Mesa, about 15 kilometers southwest of Orange.

14. The Irvine Museum

Art GallerySource: guruXOX / shutterstock
Art Gallery

The Irvine Museum is definitely worth the 15-minute drive from Orange, especially for lovers of fine art interested in seeing one of Orange County’s most impressive collections of California and western-inspired art.

Many of the museum’s most prominent pieces were created by renowned artists during the impressionist period from the late 19th to the early 20th centuries.

The museum features both permanent and rotating exhibits and offers a variety of programs throughout the year, including lectures and field trips for local students.

Docent-led tours are offered, and private tours may be arranged for those interested in visiting with a large group.

15. San Joaquin Wildlife Sanctuary

San Joaquin Wildlife SanctuarySource: SunflowerMomma / shutterstock
San Joaquin Wildlife Sanctuary

The San Joaquin Wildlife Sanctuary is located on 300 acres of marshy riparian land along the San Joaquin River in Irvine.

The sanctuary’s undisturbed natural environments are home to a variety of predatory, wading, and migratory birds. Many of them are relatively easy to see from the well-marked boardwalk and trails that stretch for more than ten miles.

It’s a popular attraction with photographers, nature lovers, and those traveling with animal-loving kids who need a place to stretch their legs.

The sanctuary is located on Riparian View Road in Irvine, less than a half-hour from Orange, depending on traffic.

15 Best Things to Do in Orange (CA):

  • The Hilbert Museum of California Art
  • Contra Coffee & Tea
  • Handy Park
  • Orange Hill Restaurant
  • Orange Public Library and History Center
  • Disneyland Park
  • Tutto Fresco
  • Yorba Regional Park
  • Anaheim Packing District
  • Limestone Canyon Nature Preserve
  • Irvine Barclay Theatre
  • Oak Creek Golf Club
  • Noguchi Garden
  • The Irvine Museum
  • San Joaquin Wildlife Sanctuary