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Best Cities For Families In Orange County

Orange County has some of the best cities in America for families. When it comes to choosing a home for your family there are many factors to consider. Where the children will be raised can heavily impact their upbringing. The school, the neighborhood, the city, and even the available activities to do nearby are things many parents consider.

If you are looking for a place to raise a family, you’ll find what you are looking for in the beautiful Orange County area. Below are a few recommendations for anyone who is looking for a place to call home in the OC.

Best Orange County Cities For Families

Aliso Viejo

Aliso Viejo is one of the best family-friendly neighborhoods in Orange County. The city’s school district, Capistrano Unified, was given an A+ overall Niche grade. Capistrano Unified School District has a graduation rate of 97%. There are a total of 33 elementary schools, three K-8 schools, 10 middle schools, six comprehensive high schools, five charter schools, and eight alternative schools and programs.

According to one study, out of 334 locations across California, this city ranked number 8. The organization looked for areas with more than 20,000 residents that offered the best combination of affordability, quality of schools, family friendly environments, and future growth and prosperity. What makes Aliso Viejo even more appealing is that it also makes the list as one of the safest and most affordable areas in the OC. Master-planned Aliso Viejo is a suburb that provides clean living and a quiet atmosphere to its residents.

Aliso Viejo offers families access to over 4,500 acres of natural habitat at Aliso and Wood Canyons Wilderness Park. Families can enjoy over 30 miles of hiking and biking trails, explore caves, and spot wildlife and fossils. Additionally, the Aliso Viejo Community Association hosts many exciting community events throughout the year including the annual 4th of July event, and outdoor movies and concerts during the spring and summer.


Irvine is one of the higher-priced cities for families, but it has been ranked as one of the safest cities in the country and the school district is one of the best in the region. Students in Irvine score very high on the API (Academic Performance Index) tests. This is the third largest city in Orange County with over 270,000 residents, and the colleges located here are UC Irvine and Irvine Community College. Irvine Unified School District has received an A+ for an Overall Niche Grade. There are more than 33,000 students in grades K-12, and according to state test scores, 78% of students are proficient in reading and 75% of students are proficient in math.

Irvine is a master-planned community and some of the area is still in the development process. The Great Park Neighborhoods (Rise, Novel Park, Beacon Park, Cadence Park, Parasol Park, and Pavilion Park) are some of the newest housing developments with a mix of single-family residences, apartments, and townhomes. These neighborhoods are strategically built to offer easy movement from one neighborhood to the next to provide safe and convenient routes to the schools within the neighborhoods, as well as the community parks and pools. All neighborhoods are also built to offer convenient paths to the Orange County Great Park.

The Orange County Great Park is a community park development on the former site of the Marine Corps Air Station El Toro. At the Great Park, you can experience going on a 118-foot high tethered balloon soaring 400 feet above the ground, or enjoy playgrounds, paved walking and biking trails, explore the Farm + Food Lab, and more. Irvine also offers a variety of other cultural venues to explore which include the Irvine Historical Museum, the Irvine Museum for Art, the Musical Theater Village and Five Point Amphitheater. Also, Irvine is known for having some of the best playgrounds in the community, plus many have splash pads and water features to help kids stay cool during the summer months.

Another favorite is the Irvine Spectrum Center which features the Giant Wheel that consists of 52,000 energy-efficient LED lights that brightens the night with spectacular view of high-tech color schemes. The Spectrum features over 100 stores, restaurants, and entertainment destinations like the Improv, Dave & Busters, Edwards IMAX Theaters, and more.

La Palma

La Palma is Orange County’s city “Where Tradition and Vision Come Together”. La Palma was ranked one of America’s Best Places To Live by Money Magazine in 2007, 2011, 2013, and 2015. The family-oriented community has a low crime rate and highly rated schools. There are three elementary schools, one junior high school, and one high school, and the city is served by five school districts. The Civic Center and Central Park are central to the community and the location for many of the special annual events hosted by the city to celebrate diversity, inclusion, and family. The Festival of Nations, Halloween Carnival, Holiday Tree Lighting, and movies and concerts in the park are just a few of the events that members of the community can enjoy here.

Although La Palma is less than two square miles in size with a population around 15,000, there are four parks offering a variety of play structures, paved walkways, picnic areas, open space, fitness zones and more for residents to use. The city also offers a great selection of recreation programs including aquatics, day camps, and classes for people of all ages.

Although small in size, the city of La Palma is ideal for families looking for somewhere urban with a hometown feel.

Seal Beach

Seal Beach is known as Orange County’s “Mayberry By The Sea.” This area has a low crime rate and also provides good schools for the kids. Seal Beach is part of the Los Alamitos Unified School District and is known for their long-standing legacy of excellence. They pride themselves in their Academics, Athletics, Activities and the Arts. According to a study done by SchoolDigger, this school district has received a rating of five stars and also has recently been ranked number 19 in the top 100 school districts in California. With the help of highly-talented teachers and staff, the District API score is an impressive 922. With an overall Niche grade of A+, this district has also received an A+ in teachers, academics and college prep.

There are also many parks and facilities within the city and nearby for the whole family to enjoy. Some recommendations are watching the sunset at the beach from Eisenhower Park, with a popular playground on the sand, or taking a nature walk through Gum Grove Nature Park. The fur babies can also enjoy themselves by running free at the Arbor Park dog park. Downtown Seal Beach, located on Main Street and Ocean Avenue, is the perfect place for a family stroll and offers easy access to the beach and the pier. You’ll find a collection of shops and restaurants here that are sure to become family favorites.

A fun fact about Seal Beach is that it is home to the second largest wooden pier in the United States and has a 965-acre wildlife refuge open for tours. Seal Beach also has a significant military population as it is home to Naval Weapons Station Seal Beach and neighbors the Joint Forces Training Base Los Alamitos. You can often see one of the large Pacific Fleet ships docked along the coast.


Tustin is located adjacent to Santa Ana and roughly 10 miles south of Anaheim. In 2009, Tustin was chosen by Forbes magazine as one of the top 25 cities to live well in America, and it continues to hold true. Tustin is another diverse city that consists of 76,000 people and is known for their good schools and low crime rate. The Tustin Unified School District prides themselves in a 98% graduation rate. Their school district wants the public to know their mission: “The mission of the Tustin Unified School District, a learning community rich in heritage and committed to a tradition of excellence, is to ensure that each student optimizes individual achievement through an educational system characterized by challenging and exciting curricula and inspiring personalized instruction, in partnership with our dynamic and involved communities.” This school district has highly rated public schools, with a total number of 24,000+ students in grades K-12.

Tustin is geographically placed in the middle of Orange County, meaning that it is relatively close to the diverse activities and attractions available throughout the county such as Disneyland, Angel Stadium, and of course, the beaches. A popular spot within the city to spend time at is The District. This establishment consists of a multiplex theater and several restaurants and stores to choose from. Thirteen sports fields are also located at The District. If you are looking for activities your children will enjoy, we suggest checking out Storymakery, BubblePOP, and Adventure Playground.

Like its neighbor Irvine, Master-planned Tustin is growing with new developments still in progress. Tustin Legacy continues to add new homes surrounding The District. Much of this land is also on the site of Tustin’s portion of the former Marine Corps Air Station El Toro. The city also hosts regular events for the community like Tustin Tiller Days and the Annual Tustin Street Fair & Chili Cookoff.

Orange County is filled with so many family friendly areas it’s hard to list them all. These are just some of the cities that offer many activities and reasons as to why the OC is family friendly and reliably safe. No matter where you and the family are thinking of calling home, Orange County is the place to be.

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Monique McArthur
Monique McArthur is a mother of two, writer, and creator of delicious recipes. In her spare time she enjoys exploring all that Orange County has to offer, traveling, shopping, running with her dogs and spending time with family.