Taking the kids out when they were little made me sweaty. My palms would tingle and I would stress myself out about making sure everyone was behaving and that I could juggle both kids. Now that the boys are older, we’re having a blast exploring Orange County and making memories near where we live.
We've been making it a point to share family time together on weekends and I love the bonds we're creating. If you're looking for what to do in Orange County with older kids, read on! The county is full of great spots to hang out and enjoy each other's company.
This post is created in collaboration with Chevrolet. I was loaned a 2019 Chevy Traverse Premier to help create this post.
I originally set out to create a list that is perfect for summertime. But with our gorgeous almost year-round weather, I realized that these places are great whenever!
Check out this quick video of why we think the Chevy Traverse is the best family car!
Family Time with Older Kids
We’re just entering the stage of life where our kids are testing their independence. It’s taken some getting used to and we’re taking it slow, but it really is changing the way we spend time as a family.
A lot of the time, I'm pretty much a chauffeur. I pick up and drop off and chat with them during our rides in the car. But I don't discount that. We've had some great conversations while on the road (check out my rap playlist if you want to get your teen to open up) and it's a fun way to get to know their friends. The only problem was, my old car wasn't big enough to take friends with us most of the time.
I'd driven a Chevy Equinox (5 seat car) for years. And while I really loved the car, the size was a little bit limiting. As it was just about time to get a new car, I started looking at the Traverse. It seats 7 but still drives nice and smooth. Then Chevy said they would loan one to me to try out.
But I got impatient and ended up test driving the Traverse (along with 3 other brands in the same size range) and ended up with my own Traverse a week before my loaner showed up!
I am legit in love with this car. And I love being in the car. And so does the rest of my family. And ALL their friends.
Watch this video of our fun time with the Traverse over on YouTube.
How to Carve Out Time with the Family
While family time with older kids is harder to find, we make it work. You really do have to be intentional about it. Weekdays can be busy and it is more about taking the kids to and from their activities.
We save our family time for the weekends. In order to not let the days slip away without making memories, I typically like to come up with a few ideas of things we can do as a family in Orange County so I can give them options. Sometimes even running errands together is enough.
The point really is to be together, laugh and have time to chat. It's fun to listen to music in the car and sing along. It's a great place to catch up on what's going on with them.
But I do have one rule that helps to ensure that the kids are engaged in our car time. NO PHONES! They aren't allowed to scroll Instagram or play games, etc. They have to be present and not on a screen.
The older they get, the less time they will have to or want to spend with us. So we cherish every single minute while we can. Even if it's time spent in the car.
What To Do In Orange County with Older Kids
These are our tried and true favorite Orange County spots.
Delicious Treats in Orange County
Locca Churros + Tea
We recently stopped into Locca Churros and Tea at the Union Market in Mission Viejo and fell in LOVE with their delicious treats! YOU GUYS! I'm a big churro fan and these were perfect little pillows of soft and tender, yet crunchy churros. They had the perfect amount of cinnamon and sugar and were perfection! Their Bocadillos, churro sundaes with gelato and toppings, were insanely good! It was perfect for my family since my oldest loves sweets as I do and my youngest boy loves tea. Everyone was happy!
Ice Cream at B. Candy
B. Candy is a really cute candy and ice cream shop in Corona Del Mar. And it's one of my kid's favorite places to get ice cream. They have a nice selection of flavors and delicious waffle cone options. Plus the store is a kid's dream! It's super brightly colored and full of other brightly colored candies and gift items. The outside of the store has great photo opportunities including colorful, lifesize candy and a mural in the parking lot!
It's a great place to grab a family photo to remember your day out and about in Orange County.
There are several Yogurtland stores in Orange County and they are so yummy! We love their frozen yogurt and, of course, all the toppings. It's such a great place to take the kids because they can make their own treat concoctions just the way they like them. Plus my husband and I enjoy it too.
They come up with really fun flavors and do collaborations with TV shows, movies, and cartoon characters.
Activities to do with the Kids in Orange County
AMC Woodbridge 5 at the Woodbridge Center
We love to see movies together but it can be SO expensive! We love the AMC Woodbridge 5 because the movies are way cheaper and they still show great new movies! This is in the recently updated Woodbridge Center which we really love. It's great for families in general but also good for older kids.
There are several restaurants so everyone can get what they want. Plus there are little seating areas, as well as tables, so you can eat all together as a family or let the kids go off and play and wander around on their own for a bit. There are views of the lake and it's a really nice atmosphere.
Circus Trix Extreme Air Sports
My kids can't get enough of Circus Trix! My boys are 10 and 13 and they both enjoy it there. We love to take friends along and give the kids an hour to jump. They have a trapeze, super trampolines, a Ninja-warrior style course, rock climbing wall and more! It's a really great way to burn energy.
If my hubby is available he'll usually jump with them. I prefer to observe although it does look like a lot of fun!
There are great spots all over Irvine for little hikes. A few to check out are:
- Shady Canyon Trail
- Turtle Rocky Trail
- Quail Trail
- Coastal Peak Park
I am not an avid hiker but it is sometimes fun to go with the kids and another family. Just google the names to find out more about the trails and if it's right for your family. They aren't too difficult. I liked the one that starts near Coastal Peak Park because you can see fossils and things. Plus it has a gorgeous ocean view!
Balboa Fun Zone
We love to come down here and walk around. It's right on the bay and there are a few fun attractions like an arcade and Ferris wheel. Plus when you're done, you can drive right on to the ferry to get across the bay. It's so fun! It really feels like you are on vacation when you are down here. Even if you are just 20 minutes from home.
Disneyland and Downtown Disney
Growing up in Anaheim, I have a love of Disney that runs deep. But we don't get a chance to go very often. When we do, though, we end up making the greatest memories. There are some things to keep in mind if you want to have a great family day at Disneyland and you can read more about here.
And if you don't want to pay for a park ticket, Downtown Disney can be pretty fun too. There are a bunch of restaurants, fun shops to browse and usually entertainment during the busy tourist season.
Knott's Berry Farm
The kids LOVE to go to Knott's Berry Farm in Buena Park. It has great rides, yummy food and lots of activities suited for older kids. Whether you just pick a day to go or aim to go during the Boysenberry Festival or another fun event, Knott's can be a lot of fun for family with older kids!
Need even more ideas of things to do in Orange County?
- Popsicle Blog shares 101 things to do with kids.
- Just Simply Wander has a few other ideas for kid fun in the OC.
- My friend, Jilleen, has tons of great ideas on her blog! Check out her category called Field Trips in Orange County.
Skate Parks in Orange County
My oldest son loves to skateboard and there are several places that we really like to go in the OC.
- Volcom Skate Park is in Costa Mesa. It's in a fenced-in area that is attached to a park. This makes it nice for my younger son who doesn't skate often. He can ride around on his scooter or roller blades or even just sit under a tree and draw.
- Vans Skate Park in Orange. This is attached to the Outlets at Orange and is free! It's a large skate park with a lot of fun obstacles. There are tons of places to sit and observe from. And if the kids are older, you can even leave them there and walk around and shop.
Visit SoCal Skate Parks to learn more about these two parks plus all the others in So Cal!
Our Favorite Beach
Crystal Cove State Park
I'll be honest. We didn't have a favorite beach until this summer. While I love being down at the beach, I hated taking the kids when they were small. This past summer we went to Crystal Cove a few times and we all loved it. The parking is easy and it's a gorgeous walk under PCH to get to the beach side if you don't want to take the shuttle.
Plus the Beachcomber (a delish beachfront restaurant) is right there as well as those adorable Crystal Cove cottages that you can rent out. While the bathrooms aren't super close to the beach they do have some available. With the shuttle, you don't have to lug your stuff too far which is awesome!
I was worried that the extra row of seats would take all my storage space. And while it is shorter than the Equinox, Chevy created super-efficient storage with a faux floor! It's a lined storage space that is perfect for all kinds of things. I especially like it for damp, sandy towels after the beach.
Favorite Resturants in Orange County
Malibu Farm at Lido Marina Village
We don't eat out all the time and we like to have the kids try new things. Malibu Farm is delicious and in such a gorgeous location. It's in the Lido Marina Village and you can walk around and shop, watch the boats and just hang out. This is a great spot to meet mom friends for breakfast but also for a Sunday afternoon lunch with the kids.
This kid loves to try new restaurants and crazy foods. He's a super adventurous eater so it's fun to try new places with him.
Other Orange County restaurants we love:
- Sessions at Woodbridge Center. They have amazing salads and sandwiches, plus they serve beer and wine. The food is great, the view of the lake is pretty and we love supporting this small local chain. Visit Sessions
- Lil Pickle in Costa Mesa. I'm not a huge sandwich fan but this is my husband's favorite place to get sandwiches. Anywhere. Ever. Visit Lil Pickle
- South of Nick's in Laguna Beach. Has the best Mexican food! It's a great date night spot but also great for family lunch on a weekend. Visit South of Nick's
- Husky Boy Burgers in Laguna Beach. This little burger stand is the best! They make great french fries and fried zucchini, a fantastic burger plus their menu has like 75 other things on it so everyone is happy. And it is all delicious. Visit Husky Boy
- Crazy Rock'n Sushi in Irvine. My youngest LOVES sushi and this is one of his regular spots. And I am obsessed with their chicken fried rice. Visit Crazy Rock'n Sushi
- El Cholo in Corona Del Mar. The best cheese enchiladas hands down. Everything is super delicious but I can't get enough of their flavorful cheddar cheese. And they finish the meal with praline candy. SO GOOD! Visit El Cholo
The big kid LOVES how much room is in the back of the Traverse when all the seats are down. If I was worried about losing storage with a 3rd row, I had nothing to worry about. I can put the seats down in a number of combinations to get the exact amount of storage that I need.
My Favorite Features of the Chevy Traverse
We’re beyond lucky to live in gorgeous Southern CA where we can usually be outside exploring all year long. And feeling safe in my car is very important to me. A few years ago we were in an accident, in the rain, on the way to summer vacation. We ended up needing to rent a car to continue and it ended up being my first experience with a Traverse.
Because I had come to love Chevy, the car felt super safe and pretty much knew on that day that it would be my next car.
Not only can we comfortably enjoy visiting our family’s favorite places in Orange County, but we no longer have to worry about if everyone will fit in one car.
What I Love About the 2019 Chevrolet Traverse
- Because of the type of frame it sits on, the Traverse drives really smoothly, like a car. The models that are the next size up are on different frames and ride a little bit rougher (more like a truck).
- The turning radius is amazing, especially for this size car.
- I love that the infotainment screen lifts up to reveal a sort of hidden compartment. This is where you can plug in your phone to work with Apple Play but then not be able to touch it during a drive. No distracted driving! Plus you can put in a code and lock it if you need to leave something in the car and use a valet service.
- The surround vision is AMAZING! There are cameras in front, behind and somehow (science, you crazy) above! I use these all the time to help when I'm parking and it's been a game-changer.
- My kids are a little too young now but in just 3 short years I'll have another driver in the family. I love the Teen Driver Technology. It's a built-in system that helps coach your new driver — even when you’re not there! You can set speed alerts, a volume limit on the radio and more — plus you can get a “report card” to track your teen’s driving performance. LOVE!
- The 3rd row is not overly cramped. While I wouldn't call the legroom of any 3rd-row seat spacious, I was surprised at just how much space there is back there!
- The new 2020 Traverse will introduce an industry-first feature called Buckle to Drive. It helps to remind drivers to buckle up before driving (much like the current feature that reminds you to check the rear of the vehicle for your kids and pets when you turn the car off). When the feature is activated, the driver won't be able to drive until their seatbelt is fastened. More details on how it works can be seen here and here.
For this post I got to drive the Premier model, but I own the model one below it. I was worried I would covet the features that mine didn't have but it turns out I didn't. The cars really are very similar. The only thing that would be nice is the wireless free phone charging pad below the console that comes with the Premier. But you can't have everything, right?
You can find this car with seating for up to eight. But most of the models seat 7. They have split-folding second-row captain’s chairs which are super easy to use. The curbside seat can be tipped up and slid forward, even with a forward-facing child seat in place, to provide easy access to the third row!
I don't usually pay attention to the different driving modes in a car, but all models of the Traverse come with Traction Mode Select which allows the driver to make real-time adjustments to the driving mode to account for varying road conditions. This is especially important to me given that our accident happened in the rain.
The kids love that the air conditioner covers all the areas in the rear of the car. They have their own set of controls to make it just how they like. Plus I can access the rear climate settings from my console to turn it off if they aren't in the car.
Chevrolet 4G LTE connectivity with available Wi-Fi hotspot is standard on all models. The kids LOVE being able to have Wi-Fi in the car!
The Premier also includes heated, leather-trimmed front seats, ventilated front seats and heated second-row outboard seats, heated steering wheel and remote start.
A week after I got the car I had my first chance to put every seat to use. It was the first time I could take my own kids and my 4 nieces and nephews somewhere in my own car!
My 16-year-old niece put it best. She said the car is just like a minivan but cooler. And I couldn't agree more! It has the ease and convenience of a minivan, but looks a little bit sleeker.
Every time the kids get in the car they tell me how much they like it. And much of the time, my oldest son sits in the back with his brother which I think is really cute.
I test drove other cars of this size and this one was my favorite by far. The way that it drove, the features it came with and the overall look really set it apart from the other cars. If you need to size up, the Chevy Traverse is one you should check out!
Learn even more about the Chevrolet Traverse on their site.
And don't forget to check out our time with the Bolt EV and get my money saving tips for teen clothing .
Pin Where to Go in Orange County with Kids
Our Chevy Traverse really helps us to get around Orange County in style and comfort. The 7 seats let us explore with friends and family. Whether you are visiting here on vacation or wanting to make some family memories, you should totally check out the spots on our where to go in Orange County list, especially if you have older kids!