by Houston Family 

When you think of Southern California, more famously known as Orange County, Anaheim’s Disneyland Resort and Buena Park’s Knott’s Berry Farm may come to mind. However, there is so much more to see and do whether you are interested in oceanfront parks, surfing, shopping or trying out some thriller amusement park rides. 

Buena Park

Fun is always in season at Knott’s Berry Farm in Buena Park! With dozens of rides, shows and attractions in four-themed areas, there is something for every age. California’s first theme park offers a little something for everyone whether you are fighting off the Queen Kraken or taking a voyage to the Iron Reef on an interactive 4-D adventure! The recently renovated Ghost Rider is the longest, fastest wooden roller coaster on the West Coast. Don’t miss HangTime, the first and only dive coaster in California that towers 150 feet over the Boardwalk area with a 96-degree vertical drop. Hint: Be sure to get your Fast Lane passes to bypass long lines. www.knotts.com

Adjacent to Knott’s Berry Farm is Knott’s Soak City Waterpark that features 13 acres of California beach-themed areas designed for all ages. Thrill seekers will want to head to Banzai Falls’ six slides or Old Man Falls’ three 63-foot high vertical chutes. For wave riders, Tidal Wave Bay provides the ultimate endless summer, while the whole family will love relaxing in one of the world’s longest lazy rivers. Even kids have their own water wonderland at the Gremmie Lagoon and three-story interactive Beach House. 
www.knotts.com/play/soak-city

If you want to make getting around easy, the Radisson Suites Hotel Anaheim-Buena Park is for you. It is located within walking distance of Knott’s and minutes from Disneyland. Not only do they have restaurants and the obvious amenities, they have a complimentary scheduled shuttle service to local attractions. 
www.radisson.com/buena-park-hotel-ca-90620/cabuena?s_cid=os.amer-us-rad-CABUENA-gmb

Families who like dinner theater and want to step back in time may enjoy Pirates Dinner Adventure. It is a show with 18th century ship replica. Legends of the Loch Ness Monster is performed all year and filled with action and romance alike. You will even have a chance to dress up in your own pirate attire and take pictures to savor the memories forever. 
www.piratesdinneradventureca.com

If you did not get enough after just one pirate adventure, there is more!  Medieval Times Dinner & Tournament provides an interactive dinner show with jousting, falconry and horsemanship that includes a 4-course, utensil-free meal. The restaurants looks just like an 11th century-style castle in Spain. www.medievaltimes.com 

If your child likes to jump off the walls literally, Big Air Trampoline Park will allow for never-ending fun. Whether you want to jump at zero-gravity court, flip into tons of foam cubes on the launch pad, saddle up on the big bull, battle buddies on galactic gladiators battle beam or test climbing abilities on Martian Mountain, there is going to be an activity that you cannot get enough of. For the wee little one, there is an area with fun-sized versions of the most beloved attractions so everyone can participate. www.bigairusa.com/buena-park/

Voted Yelp’s “#1 Restaurant in the Country” for 2016, Porto’s Cuban Bakery & Café serves up delectable pastries, savory sandwiches, specialty beverages and their famous potato balls. The family-owned business still uses many of the original recipes that they brought with them from Cuba in 1963. With a rich Southern California history, Porto’s Buena Park is one of just four locations and the only one in Orange County. Upon entering, it feels like you are walking into a different world, not just a bakery. The massive number of treats were not only scrumptious but phenomenally priced! www.portosbakery.com.

Farrell’s Restaurant & Ice Cream Parlor is another family nostalgic favorite for a classic American dining experience and traditional ice cream sundaes. Originally founded in Portland, Oregon, California is proud to have this gem in their great state. Kids eat free every Tuesday night. 
www.farrellsusa.com

Irvine

Irvine encompasses 66 square miles and features some of the best outdoor recreation, family activities, shopping, dining, sports facilities and meeting venues in California. If you would prefer to stay in Irvine, the Embassy Suites by Hilton-Irvine is sure to impress. Located in a beautiful setting complete with complimentary, made-to-order breakfast and evening receptions daily https://embassysuites3.hilton.com/en/hotels/california/embassy-suites-by-hilton-irvine-orange-county-airport-KOLCAES/index.html?SEO_id=GMB-ES-KOLCAES

There is so much to see and the best way to absorb yourself in nature and take it all in is to rent an electric bicycle from Pedego Bikes Irvine. There are countless community parks in Irvine such as, Quail Hill, Bommer Canyon, and Mason Regional Park that you can pedal through along with the Jeffrey Open Space Trail.
www.pedegoelectricbikes.com/dealers/irvine/

 One of the most memorable parks is Orange County Great Park. Their signature attractions are the carousel and the Great Park Balloon which will lift you 400 feet in the air and give you an incredible panoramic view of the city. The curious kid may wander through Hangar 244 which is a permanent heritage and aviation exhibition. On Sundays, there is a farmer’s market with fresh fruits and vegetables, crafts and music galore all of which can be enjoyed while you relish and soak up the California sun. www.cityofirvine.org/orange-county-great-park

Need a little retail therapy? Head over to the Irvine Spectrum Center, the outdoor mall with a 108-foot Giant Wheel featuring 52,000 energy-efficient LED lights, projecting 16 million color schemes, while providing a top-notch view of the city. Whether you want to shop, dine or simply be entertained there will be something there for you. There is also a carousel and the Irvine Improv where some great comedians come to make you laugh.
www.irvinespectrumcenter.com

85-C Bakery Café offers breads, cakes, teas, coffees and fun souvenirs. Customer favorites include brioche, cheese dog, deluxe strawberry, iced sea salt coffee and iced sea salt jasmine green tea. www.85cbakerycafe.com

Costa Mesa

If you are looking for a different family outing, schedule a family session at Costa Mesa Rockreation, known as the local resource for the climbing community for training and education for over twenty years. They offer climbing for every skill level. www.rockreation-cm.com

After working up an appetite, try Tavern + Bowl at The Triangle Restaurants & Entertainment, where they offer a delicious menu of made-from-scratch items ranging from burgers and salads, to signature items such as BBQ pulled pork mac n cheese and Tavern Baby Back Ribs. Tavern + Bowl also offers 10 bowling alleys with a state-of-the-art scoring system, and flat screen TVs. www.tavernbowl.com

There’s a little something for everyone at South Coast Plaza, a global shopping destination with more than 250 unique boutiques as well as traditional stores. There are over 30 eateries including fine dining, casual dining and quick bites. Don’t miss the two beautiful carousels on the property. Across the way is the acclaimed Segerstrom Center for the Arts, where OC residents experience the performing arts. They do offer free tours if you have time.
www.southcoastplaza.com

It’s a must try when in Costa Mesa – The Crack Shack! Besides holding the title of “Best Fried Chicken in the U.S.” according to Foodandwine.com, this place is a culmination of a meticulously prepared menu and “crack spice” – a proprietary blend of spices that remains a top secret! All-star chefs are back in the kitchen to bring together the very best Jadori chicken and fresh eggs from free-range chickens at Mendocino Farms. Hint: Try their chicken oysters (a hip twist on chicken tenders). www.crackshack.com

Satisfy that sweet tooth at Sidecar Doughnuts. Okay, this is not your ordinary doughnut shop! This Flagship location started the craft doughnut craze (blood orange, key lime pie, love & salt, birthday cake and more) back in 2012 with fresh doughnuts served on the hour, a daily gluten-free option and specialty Sidecar coffee blends. www.sidecardoughnuts.com

Huntington Beach

The ever-popular Huntington Beach is the perfect close to a great vacation. They are known for their pier and International Surfing Museum that shows off longboards and memorabilia. There are also birds, gardens, lakes and dunes in the area that are quite photographic. This seaside city is nicknamed “Surf City” by locals so you may want to try to ride some waves before you are done. www.surfcityusa.com

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