Summer has started for many of you. I’m a little jealous of the summer Facebook posts already filling up my newsfeed. Sadly, at our house, summer is still weeks away – June 25th can not come fast enough!
Although we all can’t wait for summer now, I know that inevitably, about four days in I’ll hear those famous words, “Mom, I’m bored.”
We have no major summer vacation planned this year, so I’m sure “I’m bored” will be heard frequently around our house. When my kids were younger, and boredom led to creative play, artwork and playing outside, I didn’t mind so much. A little boredom was good for them. Now that they are older, and boredom leads to video games and YouTube, I like to keep them busy.
Here are some of my favorite summer activities for kids. Criteria for this list – they must be free or inexpensive (no Disneyland trips or tips on this post), they must be eco-friendly (i.e. no burning of fossil fuels or excessive use of plastic), they should be suitable to a wide variety of ages (I don’t specialize in babies or toddler activities anymore), and they must be local to Orange County.
This is also not an exhaustive 101-things-to-do-and-that-is-every-single-thing-I-can-think-of-and-you-are-exhausted-just-reading-it list. These are things we have actually done ourselves and found enjoyable for adults and kids alike:
Exploring OC Parks:
Hiking – The OC Parks have great hiking trails. Some of my favorite are back in the Whiting Ranch area. Of the 27 trails in Whiting, one in particular that is a great hike for kids is the Red Rock Trail. It’s not a really long or steep hike, you can do the round trip (from the park entrance in Foothill Ranch to the end and back) in under two hours – or less depending upon the age of your kids. The best part is at the end, you are rewarded with the Red Rock view. It feels like you have entered the desert of Arizona. So cool!
OC Parks Summer Programs – OC Parks also have lots of great summer programs. Some of these include:
Animated Animals with the Chuck Jones Center – a new children’s art program in partnership with the Chuck Jones Center for Creativity. Kids ages 9-16 are invited to bring animals to life through drawing with Chuck Jones Center artists. Children will draw their own animals with the help of the Chuck Jones art teachers and meet the real live animals of the OC Zoo. Each class admission is $10 per child. Parent observers are asked to pay a $2 zoo admission fee. The program will take place on June 27 and August 6 from 10 – 11:30 a.m. Space is limited and reservations are required for all OC Zoo programs. To register for the Animated Animals with the Chuck Jones Center please call (714) 973-6846.
Prehistoric Kids Day – Saturday, June 28, 2014, 10:00am to 2:00pm at the Muth Interpretive Center at Upper Newport Bay Nature Preserve. The Prehistoric Kids Day event will present Orange County’s rich heritage of natural history, prehistoric animals and plants, and local Native American history to the community. Activities include archaeological and paleontological demonstrations, exhibits, Junior Scientist Camp, educational crafts and hands-on activities. Members of the Kizh/Gabrielino tribe will be present to share their culture with visitors. Event and parking are FREE. For more information please click here or call (949) 923-2290.
OC Parks Concert Series – OC Parks annual outdoor summer concert series includes ten free concerts with Southern California artists performing live under the summer sky – on Thursday evenings June 26 through August 28. All of the OC Parks Summer Concerts are part of The World Famous KROQ’s ROQ N’ Surf summer series. Shows are from 6 to 8 p.m.. Concert admission and parking are FREE and open to the public of all ages. Food trucks will be on-site at each location so you don’t even need to pack a picnic in advance. Bring a blanket and a beach chair, your own picnic dinner or dinner from the food trucks, and enjoy great local live music under the stars at OC Parks this summer season. For more info go to ocparks.com.
Discovery Science Center – It’s Orange County’s leading destination for hands-on, interactive science fun. I especially like the Eco-Challenge interactive exhibit, where kids can learn how to become an eco-friendly shopper in the Discovery Market, discover the importance of identifying and properly disposing of household hazardous waste in the Eco Garage, and learn how to be wise about sorting trash and recyclables in the Race to Recycle. It’s specifically designed to meet the science content standards for 3rd to 6th grades, so perfect for that age group.
And this month, Discovery Science Center is holding an Eco-Challenge Poster Contest. Combining two of my favorite things – sustainability and Angels baseball – the contest runs through the entire month of June. In celebration of the 125th anniversary of the County of Orange, the County is looking for young artists to create artwork demonstrating what the next 125 years will look like if we take the Eco Challenge and work toward a sustainable future. Just bring or mail your entry to Discovery Science Center by June 30, 2014 and five winners (one from each of Orange County’s Supervisorial District) will be awarded the status of Honorary Bat Kid during an Angels Baseball home game in 2014.
Volunteering and Donating - Volunteering is a great way to get your kids to think outside of their own little bubble (always a challenge), and to give back to your local community. In addition to volunteering, we will be cleaning out closets to donate to Goodwill, gathering old blankets and towels to donate to our local animal shelter, and gathering food and clothing donations for the Orange County Rescue Mission. To match your interests and location to the right volunteer opportunities, visit volunteermatch.org.
Classes at Local Community Colleges – Your local community colleges offer lots of great classes over the summer – classes specific to hobbies, interests, and sports. From swimming, to cooking, to chess, to art and theater, there are classes for virtually every interest.
There are also some academic class offerings, including the College for Kids series at Saddleback College, where students between 7 to 17 years old have an opportunity to experience college life and develop their own individualized class schedules from a wide range of offerings, including: acting, archeology, art, chess, computers, film and animation, history, languages, manners, math, modeling, music, reading, science, sports, study skills, theater, writing, and more. New to the program this summer is an offering of a College For Kids Junior program for 3 to 5-year-olds.
All classes are offered in two-week blocks, Monday through Thursday, June 30th through August 7th. Click here for more information and to register.
The Sawdust Festival – The Sawdust Art Festival is a tradition for us each summer. This year, the festival runs from Friday, June 27th to Sunday, August 31st. It’s not only a great activity to do with the kids, it supports local artists in Orange County. The Sawdust Art Festival is a non-profit group educating the public and promoting the art created in Laguna Beach.
It’s open daily from 10-10. Admission is $8.50 for adults, $4.00 for kids 6-12 and free for kids under 5. There are also discount tickets available – for more information, click here.
There is plenty to entertain the kids, including a kids art center, reserved just for young artists to make their own creations – at no charge. There are also free live art demonstrations and art workshops (additional fee for workshops). My kids enjoy the “throw-down experience” where they get to create their own pottery on the potter’s wheel – with some guidance from experts to help them. You can get their creation fired and painted for an additional $8.00.
OC Beaches – A good day at the beach is hard to beat – it’s one of the reasons many of us live here. There are no shortage of great beaches in Orange County. Some of our favorites are Crescent, Thousand Steps, and Victoria in Laguna and Huntington Main Beach for riding our cruiser bikes. Even the dogs enjoy a good ride along the beach, with a quick stop at Dog Beach, of course.
For a good list of beaches in Orange County, check out visittheoc.com.
When you go, don’t forget your safer, all-natural sunscreen. You can find a complete list of better sunscreens over at the Environmental Working Group. Which works out well when you have young kids and you are supervising the sunscreen application. When you have teenagers however, they will pretty much refuse to wear anything other than spray-on, brand-name, chemically-laden sunscreens. If you don’t have those at home, they will just borrow their friends at the beach. Eventually, after a few summers of this, you decide you’re not going to die on that hill – that summer is short and they will probably survive the application and inhalation of chemical sunscreen fumes – just as you will survive parenting during the teen years. Just keeping it real here folks. But if you have young kids, by all means take a look at that list and find some safer sunscreens for you and your family.
Taking Public Transportation – Public transportation is alive and well in Orange County. You don’t have to drive everywhere this summer! Taking public transportation is easier than you think. Two of our favorite summer destinations in Orange County are Angels Stadium and the OC Fair. The Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA) makes it easy (and saves you money) when traveling to both.
Here is a previous post I wrote here at OC Family about traveling to the Orange County Fair on OCTA. You can also travel to Angels Stadium on the Angels Express – and even get 50% of game tickets when you do. For more details about the Angels Express, click here.
Here’s hoping you get out and enjoy some of the many fun, cheap, and sustainable summer activities in Orange County. Happy almost summer!