Located just south of Los Angeles, Orange County includes some of Southern California’s most visually stunning spots, like Dana Point and Laguna Beach. It’s no wonder the tourism industry here is thriving—between the legendary theme parks, historic sites, and picturesque beaches, “the OC” instantly envelops you in a classic California lifestyle.
But there’s more to see in the OC than just Disneyland… much more, in fact. If you’re willing to go off the beaten path, you’ll find beloved local gems and underrated attractions. Make sure you choose the right Orange County inexpensive car rental to take you from point A to point B (and C… and D…). Ask us about our Orange County long-term car rental terms.
Once you’ve got the keys to your rental car, you’ll be free to explore one of the most beautiful parts of Southern California. We highly recommend visiting as many of these 10 spots as possible. Not only are they often less crowded than the more well-known places, but they’re amazing.
- Crescent Bay Beach
Crescent Bay Beach is located in northern Laguna Beach, and it’s surprising how quiet it is given the fact that it’s so easily accessible. You can park on the North Coast Highway and then walk down to Cliff Drive, following the path to the beach. There you’ll find peace and quiet (and sometimes total solitude) and surf, sand and sky.
- California Citrus State Historic Park
Technically this park is in Riverside County, but it’s worth the drive. You’ll find this historic park in the city of Riverside, and it’s a beautiful place to spend an afternoon. The property reminds us of a time when orange groves were abundant in the region, and there are plenty of walking trails and places to have a picnic.
- Fullerton Arboretum
Need to relax and reconnect with nature? Drive straight to Fullerton and pay the $5 suggested admission to enjoy the arboretum. The facility has plant collections that represent species from all over the world. Plus, it’s just plain pretty.
- Cameo Shores Beach
This serene beach sits nestled below the Cameo Shores community in Newport Beach. To reach it, you’ll have to walk along a rocky shoreline from Little Corona Del Mar Beach. But because of this, the area remains delightfully uncrowded.
- Medieval Times Dinner & Tournament, Buena Park
This is a dinner show like no other, and many tourists don’t even know it exists. Kids of all ages as well as kids at heart will be in awe watching the show (and the menu isn’t too bad, either). Medieval Times was popular decades ago, and now the same people who enjoyed it as children bring their own kids to experience it.
- Mission San Juan Capistrano
This old Spanish mission dates back to 1776, when it was founded by Spanish Catholics of the Franciscan Order. These days it’s a beautiful part of our history you can visit daily from 9 AM – 5 PM for $9.
- The Hobbit Restaurant, Orange
Vacations are really mostly about eating, right? Since 1972, this unbelievably elegant eatery has been serving seven-course, prixe-fixe dinners in a refined setting. This spot is on many a Californian’s bucket list, and since you’ll be saving so much money on your rental car, you’ll be able to indulge.
- The Lido Theatre, Balboa
This flamingo-pink venue dates back to Old Hollywood… rumor has it that Bette Davis herself designed the bathrooms. You’ll mostly see live performances here now, along with newly released films and the occasional festival screening. Grab your seats in the balcony simply because you can.
- Crystal Cove State Park
Located in Newport Beach, visiting Crystal Cove feels like going back in time. You can easily spend an entire day there enjoying the beach, and with a little proper planning (they book fast), you can spend the night at one of the vintage beach cottages tucked away on the coast.
- Balboa Island Fun Zone
We’re not sure which is better, the Fun Zone itself or the ferry ride to and from the island. The Balboa Island ferry has been in operation since 1919, and these days, it carries passengers by foot or car to the Balboa Island Fun Zone.
The Fun Zone was built in 1936 by Al Anderson, featuring a small beach and a Ferris Wheel as the main attractions. It has since been rebuilt several times, but it maintains its old-fashioned charm, especially the arcades on the boardwalk. Kids and kids at heart love this place.
And remember, it’s always worth making the effort to see some of Orange County’s more popular attractions as well. Knott’s Berry Farm, Long Beach, the Queen Mary, Newport Beach and the Aquarium of the Pacific are just a few options. Needless to say, you may want to consider extending your vacation.