Orange County Activities

Things to do in Orange County

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The Hobbit. This place has justifiably drawn generations back for its single-seating, seven-course, prix-fixe experience (Wednesday to Sunday at 7pm), where you’ll start with Champagne and hors d'oeuvres in the wine cellar, continue at nestled tables strewn throughout a tiny house, enjoy a stroll on the patio or a chat with the chefs during intermission, then house entrees and desserts.​

Fox Theater. You still occasionally can see old movies digitally blasted onto the venue's back wall. But more ambitious efforts to bring the Fox back to thriving life are slowly working, with events (like a recent "Speakeasy Days" retro trip) creeping onto the calendar. Long-term plans call for film nights and live shows. Make sure you get into one of those.

Duffy Boat Rentals. For not a lot of cash -- $200 for two hours, but you can get it for like half the price with LivingSocial/Groupon discounts -- you can fill up the coolers, load up on snacks, and tool around Newport Harbor and Balboa Island eyeing waterfront homes you'll never afford, including John Wayne's former flora-framed manse.​

The Lido.  A flamingo-pink Balboa beauty dating back three-quarters of a century to when this area was one of Hollywood's playgrounds (Bette Davis is said to have designed the bathrooms), this tacky swan now hosts live performances (mostly tribute bands, nostalgia merchants, and Andrew Dice Clay) in addition to newly released flicks and festival screenings. Grab a front-row spot on the balcony.​

NAMM Show. Maybe you'll run into Slash or Lionel Richie or Steven Tyler making an appearance or tossing out a short set at this January musical mecca for gear-heads -- or more likely, you won't. But if you can score a badge, you'll still be overwhelmed by countless rows of music-making contraptions and clatter. The whole thing’s like wasting a weekend in the world's largest Guitar Center. But good.​

Surfing in Huntington Beach. You've already checked a week at the US Open of Surfing off your list, you've popped into the International Surfing Museum, you've learned the words to Jan & Dean's "Surf City." Now get your wobbly chicken legs onto a board and try doing it for once.​

Orange International Street Fair Food. Your stomach demands that at least one Labor Day weekend you endure a long day's journey to the Orange International Street Fair for a night of street cuisine, from brats to bánhs, funnel cakes to loukoumades, and Irish nachos to Aussie ice cream.​

Whale watching with Captain Dave. These Dana Point seamen boast sightings of mega-pods numbering 10,000 strong. You're apt to see something. But if you're looking for blue or finback whales, ship out in September.​

Segerstrom Center for the Arts.  This 14-acre complex is still the poshest by far, and is the best for everything from touring musicals, to opera, to Christmas shows and appearances from Steve Martin and Diana Krall. If you wait long enough, you might see indie rock in the club-size Samueli Theater, or David Byrne & St. Vincent in the gorgeously glassy Renee & Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall. But there's always a cheap option: for most of the summer, the center screens classic movies on one of the main hall's largest walls.

Meteor shower at Crystal Cove. You can camp at this hideaway, or better yet book one of the beach cottages tucked away on Newport Coast, where this seaside colony was established in the '30s.