Are You Limited To
An Orange County Day Trip?
What if you are staying in O.C. as part of a longer trip and have only, let's say, one day for the county?
The first thing is to decide whether you want to see the Disneyland Resort. If so, that will fill a very full day. What if you’d like to see Disneyland AND Knott’s Berry Farm, or the beach?
You’re a maniac—I love you!!
But, emotions aside and given the admission cost and all there is to see, think twice about going to Disney for a half-day, unless you’ve been there enough times to feel that a few hours will give you a proper dose (locals often go for a few hours at a time, especially if they’ve purchased an annual pass). Don’t forget that there’s Disney’s California Adventure along with the Magic Kingdom and that, if time permitted, you could actually spend 2-3 days between them.
However, sometimes hard decisions must be made; if you have only one day and definitely want to visit more than Mickey, you’ve gotta push through the pain that comes from jamming in too much fun and go for it.
So you’ve decided to be wild and crazy and see more than Disneyland. Decide what that “more” should be (check out some of our other pages that describe your many options). There’s a good chance that Disneyland will be open later than most other attractions, so it might be better to do Disneyland Resort during the second half of your long day.
If you desire to hit the beach and Disney, go to the beach in the morning. You’ll save up to an hour of round-trip driving time if you stay north of Laguna Beach (This assumes you’re not staying at a hotel in Laguna of course.). The beach may be overcast in the morning, but hopefully by late morning it will burn off and you can have a couple of hours of California sun. The beach is popular even when overcast in the summer, so don’t let some June Gloom morning clouds put a stop to the beach trip.
Jet back to your hotel for cleanup by mid-afternoon. By then, the wind often comes up and the ocean gets “blown out” and is not as good for boogie boarding or bodysurfing. Consider a 20-minute power nap (save time by not washing your hair; the dried seawater in the afternoon sun will make you look like a gnarly surfer; OK, then just wash it very quickly to leave time for a nap).
Then you head for the Disneyland Resort. You’ll miss a lot with a half-day visit, but you do cram in a lot of variety in one day. If you’re watching the budget, get a big, late lunch before going into the Resort area and then snack around dinner time. You might have from say 4 pm or so until 11 or midnight, and there’s lots of cool action at night.
A morning and early afternoon at Newport, Huntington or Seal Beach and then an evening at Disney would be a very memorable and fatiguing day in O.C.
You could also hit Knott’s Berry Farm for the first part of the day. There are cool events at night there, but probably not as great as at Disneyland. You’d save some time over the morning beach option by not having to shower and change at your hotel, but you’ll pay a pretty penny for admission tickets. You might find half-off tickets at Knott’s after 4 pm or so; check that out in advance online or by calling them. You could eat Dinner at Mrs. Knott’s Chicken Dinner Restaurant.
So sharing a day between two of America’s best theme parks is another great way to cram in the most fun per hour. Too bad you only have one day for O.C.!
If you want to be a little less aggressive, you could plan on Disney or Knott’s for most of the day, but first hit the Richard Nixon Library and Birthplace or spend a couple of hours walking Balboa, Laguna Beach downtown and/or the Huntington Beach pier area. That would provide plenty of time for beach souvenirs. In this case you’d do the theme park during the latter half of the day.
If you’ve spent the first part of the day out in the sun at any of D-K-B and instead need something more moderate for the evening, you could hit the Pirate Dinner Adventure or Medieval Times dinner show, both on Beach Boulevard near Knott’s. They are not far from D-land either. And, if you’re so inclined, you could spend a half day around the South Coast Plaza shopping mall in Costa Mesa.
And, finally, you could do the beach for the second half of the day, especially if you prefer walking and sightseeing at the beach rather then going in the water (if you plan to go in the ocean, the sea breeze often picks up by mid-afternoon). In that case you could end up with dinner at one of the great restaurants in the beach communities noted above.
To return from our Orange County Day Trip page to the WHAT IF page, click here.