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.
Zoomars at River Street Ranch
Los Rios Historic District
31791 Los Rios Street, San Juan Capistrano
Open all week 10 – 4
Take 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.
Check out all the petting zoos in Orange County.
Pacific Marine Mammal Center
20612 Laguna Canyon Rd, Laguna Beach, CA 92651
Open daily 10AM – 4PM
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 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)
More Animal Fun
- Santa Ana Zoo – 1801 East Chestnut Avenue, Santa Ana, CA 92701
- OC Zoo – 1 Irvine Park Road, Orange, CA 92869
- Our list of Best Petting Zoos
- Prehistoric Pets Reptile Zoo – 18822 Brookhurst St, Fountain Valley, CA 92708
- Magnolia Bird Farm – 8990 W Cerritos Ave, Anaheim, CA 92804
- Omar’s Exotic Birds – Brea: 903 E. Imperial Hwy & Lake Forest: 23507 El Toro Rd.
- Back Bay Science Center – 600 Shellmaker Rd, Newport Beach, CA 92660
- Dennis Kelly Aquarium at Orange Coast College – Lewis Center, 2701 Fairview Rd, Costa Mesa, CA 92626
- Centennial Farm at OC Fair and Event Center – 88 Fair Dr, Costa Mesa, CA 92626
- Laguna Koi Ponds – 20452 Laguna Canyon Rd, Laguna Beach, CA 92651
- The Ocean Institute – 24200 Dana Point Harbor Dr, Dana Point, CA 92629
- Discovery Cube’s Ocean Quest – Temporarily Closed
- Oasis Camel Dairy – Not in OC but a home educator favorite – 26757 CA-78, Ramona, CA 92065
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. 2002 N Main St, Santa Ana, CA 92706
- DiscoveryCube has introduced DiscoveryCube Connect to bring virtual STEM-themed lessons and experiments to homes everywhere. 2500 N Main St, Santa Ana, CA 92705
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:
- Build It Work Space – 4388 W Cerritos Ave, Los Alamitos, CA 90720
- Child Creativity Lab – 1901 Carnegie Ave Ste 1A, Santa Ana, CA 92705
- HBPL Makerspace – 7111 Talbert Avenue, Huntington Beach, CA 92648
- Urban Workshop – 365 Clinton St Suite A, Costa Mesa, CA 92626
- UCI FABWorks – University of Irvine
Check out all the free museum days in Southern California and how to get free and discounted museum admission.
Farms, Gardens, Ecology, & Environment
Farm+Food Lab at the Great Park
Orange County Great Park
8000 Great Park Blvd, Irvine, CA 92618
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.
Orange County Fair & Event Center
88 Fair Dr, Costa Mesa, CA 92626
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 – Orange, CA
- Crystal Cove Environmental Study Loop – 8471 N. Coast Highway, Laguna Beach, California 92651
- The Ecology Center – 32701 Alipaz St, San Juan Capistrano, CA 92675
- Fullerton Arboretum – 1900 Associated Rd, Fullerton, CA 92831
- Hortense Miller Garden – 22511 Allview Terrace, Laguna Beach, CA 92651
- Manaserro Farms – 33 Irvine Valley, Irvine, CA 92604
- Niguel Botanical Preserve – 29751 Crown Valley Pkwy, Laguna Niguel, CA 92677
- Sherman Library & Gardens – 2647 East Coast Hwy, Corona Del Mar, CA 92625
- Tanaka Farms – 5380 3/4 University Dr, Irvine, CA 92612
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 – 29042 Modjeska Canyon Rd, Silverado, CA 92676
- Balboa Island Museum – 210 Marine Ave, Newport Beach, CA 92662
- Casa Romantica – 415 Avenida Granada, San Clemente, CA 92672
- Heritage Hill Historical Park – 25151 Serrano Rd, Lake Forest, CA 92630
- Heritage Museum of Orange County – 3101 W Harvard St, Santa Ana, CA 92704
- Los Rios Historic District – 31831 Los Rios St, San Juan Capistrano, CA 92675
- Lyon Air Museum – 19300 Ike Jones Rd, Santa Ana, CA 92707
- Marconi Automotive Museum – 1302 Industrial Dr, Tustin, CA 92780
- Mission San Juan Capistrano – 26801 Ortega Hwy, San Juan Capistrano, CA 92675
- The Muckenthaler Cultural Center – 1201 W Malvern Ave, Fullerton, CA 92833
- Muzeo – 241 S Anaheim Blvd, Anaheim, CA 92805
- Newland House – 19820 Beach Blvd, Huntington Beach, CA 92648
- Old Orange County Courthouse – 211 W Santa Ana Blvd, Santa Ana, CA 92701
- Olinda Oil Museum & Trail – 4025 E Santa Fe Rd, Brea, CA 92823
- Ramon Peralta Adobe Historic Site – 6398 E Santa Ana Canyon Rd, Anaheim, CA 92807
- Richard Nixon Library & Birthplace – 18001 Yorba Linda Blvd, Yorba Linda, CA 92886
- Stanley Ranch Museum – 12174 S Euclid St, Garden Grove, CA 92840
- Yorba Cemetery – Woodgate Park, Yorba Linda, CA 92886
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Heidi Deal is the author of the Newcomers Handbook to Living In Los Angeles & Orange County, and a children’s book author specializing in history and human rights.