The 10 best playgrounds (by feature) in Orange County may not be the ones you’d expect.
The idea for this post came to mind after I rode an awesome zip track at Ronald Reagan Park in Anaheim Hills. It was the BEST zip track I’ve been on in a while.
“People need to know about this!” is the first thought that crossed my mind.
And there are so many other features for kids who love swings or kids who love slides! I can think of so many.
So here’s my attempt at listing some fun.
Make sure you read until the end of the post to get a PRINTABLE CHECKLIST to print and mark the places you’ve tried!
Best Orange County Playground for Zip Track
Lots of playgrounds have zip tracks. Most have a handle (kind of like a suitcase handle) where you grab on and slide along the track.
The zip tracks are often old and don’t provide a very smooth ride. I usually expect to come to a halting stop in the middle and get thrown off my ride.
There are two side-by-side zip tracks at this HUGE playground in Huntington Beach. You can race your friends. This is the new winner in the race for the best zip tracks in Orange County! (These are often out for repair, so don’t make the trip JUST for the zip tracks.)
However, there are a couple below that were high on my list before Huntington Central came on the scene.
1st Runner Up: But the one at Ronald Reagan Park in Anaheim Hills is super smooth and it’s not a handle!
Instead – a rope hangs down and holds a small disc so you can wrap your legs around the rope and sit on the disc.
You start on a platform and then jump off to ride the disc “downhill” as the track lowers you towards the ground in the middle.
Just when you think you’re going to hit the end platform, the track angles up so the zip line slows down.
2nd Runner Up: OC Great Park Playgrounds behind the OC Great Park Visitor Center in Irvine. This one is also new enough to be smooth and it’s a sit-down version, as well.
Best OC Playground Entirely Covered in Shade
The Fullerton Sports Complex holds this title because the playground really is completely covered in shade.
Runner Up: Tustin Sports Complex is very near the Irvine and Tustin Marketplace shopping area as you head up Jamboree. It has a cheery red cover over its play equipment.
You might like: My post about 10+ Parks with Shade Covers in Orange County.
Best Playground with a Trike Track
Settlers Park in Irvine was the first park that came to mind, but I actually think Bluebird Park in Laguna Beach wins this one.
It goes under a bridge and there’s some elevation to it.
Not just your normal ground level trike track!
Runner-Up: So that means Settler’s Park in Irvine is the next best. It has traffic signs that crack me up. Makes me want to get on a trike and ride.
Best Playground with a Bank of Swings
Peninsula Park in Newport Beach by Balboa Pier is on the beach and has a HUGE bank of swings!
4 baby swings and 4 bench swings.
Runner-Up: A reader recently asked me to recommend shaded swings. I thought – “Good Luck!” finding swings that are shaded. But the ones at Ridgecrest Park in Aliso Viejo are shaded – 2 baby swings and 4 bench swings!
You might like: My post about Swing-with-Me Swings (all the places where you can swing with your baby or siblings can swing with their brother or sister on the same swing!).
Best Orange County Playground Spiderweb
Victory Park in Tustin gets this one for the sheer number of different spiderwebs.
It’s not just one tower, it’s multiple climbers.
Runner-Up: Woodbridge Village Play Area isn’t a true playground, more like a play structure in a shopping center. But the spiderweb is truly impressive. Readers have told me their kids play for hours.
You might like: My post listing ALL the playgrounds I know that are Spiderweb Parks in Orange County.
The double red tunnel slides at Oso Viejo Park in Mission Viejo are super popular with kids. Just be careful – they’re fast!
Runner-Up: Even though you have to pay to get into Carbon Canyon Regional Park in Brea, you’ll find there’s an astounding number of slides on this playground. And then you’ll discover that there are even more playgrounds with more slides at this park!
You might like: My post with over 20 Parks with BIG Slides in Orange County.
Best Destination Playground
I know this is not officially in Orange County, but for many north Orange County residents Heritage Park Play Island in Cerritos (LA) is much closer to them than any south or central OC park.
Plus it’s worth the drive — no matter where you live.
Pair it with the amazing Cerritos Public Library and you have a full day of fun.
Runner-Up: There’s an adventure playground in Huntington Beach, but it’s only open during the summer. That makes the Irvine Adventure Playground take the top spot in free play and a wide open outdoor space to explore. Yorba Linda is going to come in with their newly renovated Adventure Playground in Spring 2023.
Best OC Playground with a Splash Park
I like the splash park at Stanton Central Park because it’s staffed, near restrooms, and it’s got a great community feel to it. Plus, the rest of the park is amazing to explore.
Runner-Up: This splash park also has a great community feel and it’s rather new. Crown Valley Park in Laguna Niguel has a forest-themed playground outside the gates of its “sprayground.” Plus, there’s a lush nature preserve behind the park with walking trails.
You might like: My SUPER extensive and always-updated-for-summer post about Splash Parks and Water Play in Orange County.
Best Accessible Playground
This choice is so hard because, really, the best one is the one that’s closest to you.
But I have a special place in my heart for Courtney’s Sandcastle in San Clemente.
It’s just so fun with its beachy theme and it can be a little cooler here than some of the inland parks.
The sensory garden also gives this one extra points.
Runner-Up: Again, really hard to come up with a favorite here. But I like Pavion Park in Mission Viejo for how colorful it is and how it spreads out so there is room for everyone to play together.
You Might Like: I do have a list that I started back in 2008 of all the accessible playgrounds in Orange County. It’s been reproduced (without credit) in many different publications over the years, but I try to keep it updated and available for you.
Best Beach Playgrounds
Usually there’s limited space for playgrounds on the beach, but Marina Park in Newport Beach was part of a big project which included a new sailing center and this playground became a whimsical centerpiece.
Runner-Up: Laguna Main Beach playground is unusual because it is custom designed to resemble the lifeguard tower on the beach nearby. It can be rather busy with its popular location.
You might like: If you like the idea of playgrounds on the sand, my post about 7+ Beach Playgrounds has grown to 10 locations and will help you find more playgrounds like these.
You made it! Download my list of 10 Best Orange County Playgrounds (by Feature) with runners-up in every category. Do you agree? Did I miss anything?
Here’s your printable checklist so you can keep track of your play adventures. Download your PDF Checklist of Best Playgrounds by Feature.
Originally published in May 2018.