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Secret Things to Do in Orange County, CA for Visitors

Updated on February 13, 2017
Environmental Nature Center
Environmental Nature Center

The tourist things to do in Orange County, CA are well-known to Southern California travelers. Visiting Disneyland, shopping at South Coast Plaza, and surfing at Huntington Beach are written up constantly in travel mags and newspapers. But the county also offers secret delights known only to locals such as myself. Try them out on your next visit.

© 2011 by Aurelio Locsin

Noguchi Sculpture Garden
Noguchi Sculpture Garden | Source

Noguchi Sculpture Garden

The Noguchi Sculpture Garden satisfies those interested in outdoor and art things to do in Orange County, CA. Six abstract pieces, created by famed artist Isamu Noguchi, represent the California landscape. You’ll find mixes of stone, tile, steel, water and desert foliage decorating abstract, natural and freeform shapes. Park for free in the east parking lot of Sears – South Coast Plaza, and cross the sky bridge over Bristol Street. Then head southeast for the black glass towers rising on the corner of Anton Blvd and Park Center Drive. The sculpture garden is buried behind office buildings, so ask a passerby to point you the way.

Lyon Air Museum
Lyon Air Museum

Lyon Air Museum

If you’d rather spend time indoors on one of your secret things to do in Orange County, CA, the Lyon Air Museum satisfies across the street from the runways of Orange County Airport. Airplanes are certainly in abundance, including a B-17 Flying Fortress. a passenger DC-3 and a B-25 Bomber. But this idiosyncratic collection also includes military vehicles, military motorcycles and automobiles from the 1930s-40s. The

Environmental Nature Center

Where can you find a freshwater marsh, Yellow Pine forest, foothill woodland, and Channel Islands flora in just 3.5 acres? At the Environmental Nature Center in Newport Beach. The 14 habitats represent what’s available in California, from the coast to the mountains. The 8,500-square-foot solar-powered main building is the first one in Orange County to receive LEED platinum certification, and houses a nature museum and classrooms. Make time for the Native Butterfly House in the spring and summer, so you can admire these local wonders at all stages of their life cycle, from egg to flying beauties.

Santa Ana River Trail
Santa Ana River Trail

Santa Ana River Trail

The Santa Ana River, typical of county rivers, is normally dry and paved with concrete. But it does feature a walking/bike/horse trail that stretches 110 miles across three counties. You can enter at many of the roads that cross it and proceed south to Huntington Beach or north to the San Bernardino mountains. Several attached parks offer convenient rest stops and picnic tables. If you go after a heavy rain, you’ll be rewarded with flowing water and islands of wildlife such as pelicans, herons and ducks.

Orange County Model Engineers

Don’t forget to amuse the kids on one of your secret things to do in Orange County, CA. Take them on an excursion aboard miniature freight and passengers cars pulled by working miniature diesel and steam engines. The Orange County Model Engineers offer rides on the third Saturday and Sunday of each month, on the eastern side of Fairview Park in Costa Mesa. Five miles of 7.5-inch gauge track wind their way through stations, bridges, grasslands and hills. Rides are free, but donations are accepted to keep the hobby-built locos in top running condition.

If you have more secret things to do in Orange County, CA, please put information and links in the Comments box below.


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    • rajan jolly profile image

      Rajan Singh Jolly 5 years ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar,INDIA.

      Aurelio, I'd love to visit the Environmental nature center to see how the 14 habitats exist in one amazing place. It would be an awesome sight.

      Voted up and interesting.

    • ThoughtSandwiches profile image

      ThoughtSandwiches 5 years ago from Reno, Nevada


      A very interesting hub you have here! I lived in Orange County (graduate of Fountain Valley High School...thank you very much) but it has been a very long time (22 years) since I have been back there.

      I like to think these amazing placed were not there 22 years ago and that is why they are all a surprise (the alternative is that I was just clueless when I lived there).

      If I make it back there I will be sure to check out the Lyon Air museum.



    • moonlake profile image

      moonlake 5 years ago from America

      Love Orange County use to live there. Our son was born there. Great hub enjoyed reading it and voted up.

    • vespawoolf profile image

      vespawoolf 5 years ago from Peru, South America

      I love the idea of secret things to do in Orange County. The sculpture garden and environmental nature center especially interest me. Thanks for sharing your knowledge of the area. Voted up!

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 5 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Great ideas of things to do that might be out of the ordinary but still interesting in Orange County, California. Thanks for the ideas! Up, useful and interesting votes.

    • formosangirl profile image

      formosangirl 5 years ago from Los Angeles

      Interesting, Alocsin. I hope to spend more time in Orange County this year. Voted up and useful.

    • alocsin profile image

      alocsin 5 years ago from Orange County, CA

      Thanks all for visiting my hub.

    • hoteltravel profile image

      hoteltravel 5 years ago from Thailand

      Good suggestions. Will bookmark this for future use.

    • Pinkchic18 profile image

      Sarah Carlsley 6 years ago from Minnesota

      Interesting hub! Lots of ideas here!

    • Evita's Fashion profile image

      Evita Andrianni 6 years ago from New Zealand

      I wish I knew all that before I went. But will definitely come useful next time :-))

    • profile image

      Suramya.K 6 years ago

      As I'm an aircraft lover, I'll definitely try to visit Lyon Air Museum if I happen to come by. Just as Brett said, hopefully, I'll be able to make it over that way but in the near future. See ya!

    • Brett.Tesol profile image

      Brett Caulton 6 years ago from Thailand

      Voted up and Awesome.

      Not sure I will ever make it over that way (maybe one day ... off in the distant future lol), but was an interesting read with some nice photos.

      Cheers for sharing your tips.