When it comes to learning, the home and classroom have many great resources. But exploring your surroundings, seeing things in person, and using hands-on activities can help increase what students retain, improves the ability to learn and remember new skills, and honestly, who doesn’t love getting out and exploring someplace new. Here are some of the best places to go in Orange County for a Field Trip.
Animals & Marine Science
Local animal lovers have many options to explore and learn about different species all over Orange County. Here are some destinations you won’t want to miss, followed by a list of more places to visit for in-depth animal fun.
Los Rios Historic District
31791 Los Rios Street, San Juan Capistrano
Open Weekdays 10 – 4 and Weekends 9 – 5
Takes the kids out to this family-owned farm and get to know the residents. From guinea pigs and goats to horses and llamas, everyone will leave with a favorite. Guests can interact with the animals by holding and petting, grooming and feeding them – of course levels of interaction vary by breed. Other attractions available at Zoomars includes pony rides, mining, play areas, train rides, and excavators.
Zoomars is located in San Juan Capistrano‘s Los Rios Historic District so you can turn this field trip into a complete history study. Los Rios is the oldest neighborhood in California, established in the 1700’s by workers from the nearby Mission. Three original adobes still stand.
The Pacific Marine Mammal Center in Laguna Beach rescues, rehabilitates, and releases sick and injured marine mammals and educates the community to become involved in ocean stewardship. Young students can participate in-person (when open to the public) and through virtual camps and programs that introduce them to marine science, conservation, animal health, and ecology. Programs and field trips are available for all ages. Certain programs and field trips are geared for specific age groups and most can be tailored to the ages and interests of the participants. Programs offered include:
- Meet the Patients: Marine Mammal Rescue, Rehabilitation, and Release (all ages)
- Marine Mammal Senses (ages 5-8)
- California Sea Lion Life, History, Ecology & Conservation (ages 9 & up)
- Ocean Emergency (ages 9 & up)
- Chat With An Expert (all ages)
- Stewards of the Sea (grades 3-5)
Get up close and personal with wildlife with a guided or self guided tour at Rancho Las Lomas Wildlife Foundation. They have a variety of birds, mammals, and reptiles including a white Bengal tiger named Lily.
They offer field trips for youth groups and home school students for a very reasonable rate of $10 per person and a tour guide talks about animal care, behavior, endangerment, and conservation. They have a variety of programs so be sure to talk to them about specific educational goals and how to meet them for your students.
For kids ages 13-18 who want to get more involved, they have Junior Keeper programs that include cleaning cages, preparing meals for the animals, observing animal behavior, etc. for $75 — a worthy contribution.
More Animal Fun
- Santa Ana Zoo
- OC Zoo
- Prehistoric Pets Reptile Zoo
- Magnolia Bird Farm
- Omar’s Exotic Birds
- Back Bay Science Center
- Dennis Kelly Aquarium at Orange Coast College
- Centennial Farm at OC Fair and Event Center
- Laguna Koi Ponds
- The Ocean Institute
- Discovery Cube’s Ocean Quest
- Oasis Camel Dairy – Not in OC but a home educator favorite
Museums, Makers, and Artists
There are numerous art and children’s museums throughout the Orange County area with programs that explore creativity, culture, history and science. Even when the museums are closed, they offer a variety of learning opportunities for the community.
Here are just a few of the ways these facilities contribute to your educational adventure even when you can’t physically visit the facility:
- Bower’s Museum offers in-person (when open) and online programming and even pre-packaged kits complete with supplies, information, and links to instructions that you can pick up curb-side.
- DiscoveryCube has introduced DiscoveryCube Connect to bring virtual STEM-themed lessons and experiments to homes everywhere.
You can also get to know local artisans and explore their crafts by visiting some of the many Art Walks throughout the year. You never know where you’ll find inspiration for your next project or new favorite hobby.
Public art displays throughout the area also add to the history and culture of the county.
For an additional creative experience, check out one of the local makerspaces. These offer ways for kids to explore STEAM-based projects through creative reuse of repurposed materials. Many offer scheduled programming with with specific themes, open studio, field trips, and more. When the makerspaces are closed, they are busy offering virtual activities and resources.
Here are a few of the makerspaces in Orange County:
Farms, Gardens, Ecology, & Environment
Staffed by University of California Cooperative Extension Master Gardeners, students can learn all about gardening, sustainability, composting and more. This is a great opportunity for kids to learn about the process of growing food and how they can create their own garden at home from raised beds and large scale themed gardens, to utilizing small spaces by planting window gardens and patio planters. They can even take a class on pickling and canning their own foods. Guided tours are available when open to the public but field trips must be scheduled in advance.
Animal lovers enjoy Centennial farm for an up-close visit with pigs, cows, goats, and other livestock. However, the grounds are full of gardens and the educational programs they offer teach kids about farming, gardening, agriculture and more.
Here are a few more places to visit if you’re interested in farms, ecology, conservation, and the environment:
- Backyard Bees
- Coastkeeper Garden
- Crystal Cove Environmental Study Loop
- The Ecology Center
- Fullerton Arboretum
- Hortense Miller Garden
- Manaserro Farms
- Niguel Botanical Preserve
- Sherman Library & Gardens
- Tanaka Farms
Local History & Culture
Orange County is rich in history and every city has historic sites to explore, local museums and societies, parks and trails. While many of these are self guided, you can explore Orange County at your leisure and discover topics from early mammals and the first Native Americans to settlement of the coast and the oil boom. Here is a list of destinations that focus on the history and culture of the Orange County region.
- Arden: Helena Modjeska Historic House & Gardens
- Balboa Island Museum
- Casa Romantica
- Heritage Hill Historical Park
- Heritage Museum of Orange County
- Los Rios Historic District
- Lyon Air Museum
- Marconi Automotive Museum
- Mission San Juan Capistrano
- The Muckenthaler Cultural Center
- Newland House
- Old Orange County Courthouse
- Olinda Oil Museum & Trail
- Ramon Peralta Adobe Historic Site
- Richard Nixon Library & Birthplace
- Stanley Ranch Museum
- Yorba Cemetery
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Heidi Deal is the author of the Newcomers Handbook to Living In Los Angeles & Orange County, an expert at exploring all that Orange County has to offer, and a children’s book author specializing in history and human rights.