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100+ Ideas for Kids Indoor Play in Orange County

100+ Ideas for Kids Indoor Play in Orange County

Writing about kids indoor play areas in Orange County is a little hard for this mom/writer who MUCH prefers outdoor play experiences.  But play is play no matter where you go and I’ve had a lot of moms ask me about where to play when it’s too hot outside or raining.

Until I got into the research about the best indoor playgrounds for kids in Orange County, I thought they were all alike. Well, apparently that’s not the case. Some are more bounce houses, some are indoor playgrounds, and some are trampoline parks.

Unlike ALL the parks on my blog which I’ve visited numerous times, I have to admit that I have not experienced these kids indoor play areas and so I’m not providing you my personal experiences.

But thanks to my Volunteer Editorial Board and parents who write me with tips, I’m fairly certain I’m providing at least a fairly comprehensive list of possibilities to try. I’m thinking of younger kids when I’m writing this list.

So let’s start with a few places that aren’t traditional indoor play spaces, but they are my version of places to go and potentially get some A/C where my kids can use their imagination even if it’s reading, quiet/creative play or simple hands-on activities. I call this creative free play.

This list is mostly geared towards kids under 12 – and many of these ideas are even more focused on the kids under 5 age group

Creative Indoor Play Spaces

Or we can call this list Other Things to Do Indoors on Hot Days (or Rainy Days)!

Public Libraries in Orange County (~50 ideas)

Did you know you can visit any public library? Not just the branch closest to your home. Orange County Public Libraries has over 30 branches all over the county! Your OCPL library card will work at any of them. 

You can check out books from one OCPL library branch and return them to another OCPL library branch.

And there are even more public library systems with more branches (where your OCPL card will NOT work, but you can still visit and read books at the library).

Sometimes you can still get a library card at these libraries, but you may have to pay a fee.  We especially like visiting Friends of the Library bookstores to find affordable reading treasures to bring home.

I’ve made it super easy to learn more about all these libraries in my post called 50+ Public Libraries in Orange County — and you can even pair up libraries with parks on my Playground Map. The WHITE markers are libraries (all 50+ of them) and the darker BLUE markers are parks (over 300+ of the best ones in OC). When the weather is better, I highly encourage you to pair up some indoor storytime with outdoor play!

Just click on those markers to see links to blog posts about parks and on the library markers you’ll get official websites for the libraries. You can also exclude everything else on the map to ONLY see the WHITE library markers by checking/unchecking the boxes at the bottom of the map.

Children’s Book & Education Shops (~18 ideas)

The children’s book area at Barnes & Noble can be a haven on a hot or rainy day. Take your time to browse before you buy. Some even have train tables for play!

  • Barnes & Noble Book (Aliso Viejo Town Center, Irvine Spectrum, Tustin/The District Tustin Legacy, Fashion Island, Huntington Beach-Bella Terra, Fullerton-Amerige Heights Town Center)

If you are lucky enough to have an independent bookseller nearby, then definitely take advantage of it! All the dedicated children’s book shops that we used to visit in Orange County have sadly closed (we miss going to Whale of A Tale in Irvine and Island Tales Book Shop on Balboa Island). Here is a pretty good list of 10 independent booksellers in Orange County.

Here are three independent bookstores that my readers told me about:

Another idea is dedicated school supply stores. My mom used to kick off our summer with fun educational workbooks and art projects that we’d work on during the week and then we’d get a field trip on Friday.

Every time I go inside a school supply store, I think back to those summers. They often have different toys and art project ideas than your typical Target or Staples – and they also have children’s books in languages other than English. The only one left in OC is:

Indoor Outings – Retail or Restaurants with Indoor Play Spaces or Room to Roam (~18 ideas)

One mom suggested South Coast Plaza for the carousel and various toy stores around the Carousel Court. There’s lots of room to wander indoors there. In fact, I have a post about 9 Places to Ride Carousels or Merry-Go-Rounds in Orange County.

There’s also Main Place Mall in Santa Ana, Westminster Mall in Westminster, Brea Mall, and The Shops at Mission Viejo.

Chik-Fil-A playgrounds in Orange County at the locations at The District in Tustin, Woodbury Town Center-Irvine, Laguna Niguel, Foothill Ranch, and Aliso Viejo.

McDonald’s Indoor PlayPlaces in Orange County at the locations in Ladera Ranch, Laguna Hills, Foothill Ranch, Rancho Santa Margarita, Tustin off Tustin Ranch Road, Main Street in Santa Ana, and Portola Parkway in Irvine.

I kinda call these places “Las Vegas for Kids” because it can be overwhelming with the games and expense, but special occasions make sense.

  • Chuck E. Cheese (Foothill Ranch, Laguna Hills, Costa Mesa, Orange, Garden Grove, Huntington Beach, or Placentia)
  • John’s Incredible Pizza (Buena Park, Westminster)

Don’t forget Movie Theaters! Look for bargain matinees and child appropriate titles.

Nature Centers (~20 ideas)

They might not be big or impressive. They might not be open very many hours.

But if you plan ahead — nature centers can be an oasis for exploring our natural history and wildlife.

Usually, they are a gateway to an outdoor adventure — but they can be a stand alone outing.

Visit my extensive blog post about 17+ Family-Friendly Nature and Interpretive Centers in/near Orange County which also links to individual blog posts with details about each place! It’s literally YEARS of visits and information all in one place!

Family-Friendly Museums (7 ideas)

Indoor Art (~3 ideas)

Bowling Alleys in Orange County (9 ideas)

Indoor Ice Skating Rinks in Orange County (3 ideas)

Indoor Roller Skating Rinks in Orange County (2 ideas)

Frozen Treats for Hot Days (~15 ideas)

Sometimes it’s just fun to pop out for a cold treat to cool you down and you can at least hang out in the store or restaurant to eat it.  Some of these are pretty decadent so think about sharing!

Sno2Go (Mission Viejo) – shave ice stuffed with soft serve (if you like)

Afters Ice Cream (Costa Mesa, Fountain Valley, Fullerton, Irvine, Newport Beach, Orange, Tustin) – signature Milky Buns which are glazed buns (think donuts) stuffed with handcrafted ice cream in unusual flavors

House of Chimney Cakes (Anaheim) – ice cream stuffed inside a Hungarian chimney cake cone

Rich Farm Ice Cream (Placentia) – a local favorite with some really yummy flavors

Blue Scoop Creamery (Yorba Linda) – homemade yumminess!

Handel’s Homemade Ice Cream (Lake Forest, Laguna Niguel, RSM, Irvine, Newport Beach, Huntington Beach, San Clemente) – super popular and even has scoops to go which are super shareable.

Your favorite rolled ice cream (Rolls Ice Cream, Frozen Meets Rollin’)

Your favorite ice-cream-frozen-with-liquid-nitrogen place (Creamistry in Tustin or Brea)

Your favorite Italian ice and frozen treats (Rita’s Italian Ice, Joe’s Italian Ice)

Your favorite juice bar / acai bowl / smoothie place (Nekter, Bowlology, Banzai Bowls, Jamba Juice, Juice It Up, Vitality Bowls, Acai Republic)

Your favorite place for mangoneadas / raspados / paletas / aguas frescas (Tortas Y Jugos Sahuayo in Tustin, La Michoacana Original & Natural in Laguna Hills, help me fill out this list!)

Your favorite frozen yogurt place (Yogurtland, Cherry on Top, Golden Spoon, Menchie’s, FRAPYS, Pinkberry)

Places that have pebble/pellet/nugget/crushed style ice cubes for drinks (Cafe Rio, Raising Cane’s, Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, Sonic)

Yummy cold lemonade – at least these are my favorites: Chik Fil-A (frosted), Raising Cane’s, Miguels JR)

Warm Drinks for Rainy Days

  • Free hot cocoa at In ‘n Out on rainy days
  • Your favorite coffee spot which undoubtedly has options for kids

Kids Indoor Play Areas in Orange County

As always, check official websites for costs, times, and details. My info is only accurate at the time of posting, but should at least give you a ballpark idea of what’s offered.

South Orange County Indoor Playgrounds (4 ideas)

We Play Loud in Lake Forest

  • Height Limit: 51″
  • Cost: Starts at $21 with memberships available for $24.99
  • Time blocks: 120 minutes (but only $5 more for All Day Play)
  • Outside food allowed? No.
  • Cafe to buy food? Yes.
  • Free WIFI? Yes.
  • Socks required? Yes.

Sky Zone Mission Viejo – formerly Defy OC and CircusTrixOC in Mission Viejo

  • I think about this place for older kids, but there is no official age limits.
  • Cost: Starts at $29.99 for 90 minutes Standard Pass, but you can get an All Day Pass for only $9 more. Memberships available.
  • Socks required? Yes.

BubblePOP at the Shops at Mission Viejo

If you’d like to see a video of the experience, I covered it on my Instagram account. A different play experience with bubbles where “reservations are recommended and walk-ins welcome.” Go explore their interactive bubble stations. Make sure to read their Plan Your Visit page to get all the details and pricing before you go.

Jumpify at The Outlets at San Clemente

Sometimes North San Diego is worth the trip for South OC families? Here is an indoor playground option south of us.

North Orange County Indoor Playgrounds (5 ideas)

Seascape Kids Fun in Anaheim Hills

  • Cost: Starts at about $12
  • Time blocks: Admission fee good for all day use – but you can’t leave and come back
  • Ages: 1-17 + adult
  • Outside food allowed? No.
  • Socks required? Yes.

PlayPie in Buena Park at The Source

  • Cost: Starts at Free-$15-$23 depending on age + $5 adults
  • Time Blocks: Admission good for all day play
  • Outside food allowed? No.
  • Socks required? Yes.

Kids Empire in Anaheim

  • Cost: Starts at $23 + 2 adults free per child (additional adults $5). Punch cards for 10 visits are $159.
  • Time Blocks: All day access with re-entry. Tickets good for re-entry all day.
  • Outside food allowed? No, but you can check out to eat and come back. Also, Empire Snack Bar on premises.
  • Socks required? Yes. Can buy for $3.

Billy Beez at Anaheim Garden Walk

  • Cost: Starts at about $14, 1st adult $5 and additional adults $7 each (discounts if you get a 10-pack of tickets + check website for other discounts like Police, Fire, and EMT Service Personnel, Military discount, and Family 4 Pack)
  • Ages: 1-17 years
  • Time blocks: All day play
  • Socks required? Yes.

Little World Kid Playground & Games in Garden Grove

  • Cost: Starts at about $20 and adults $4 with paid child (infants 6 months to 11 months are about $10 with paid child). Special deals – 10 visit punch card for $179.
  • Ages: 1-17 years
  • Time blocks: All day play
  • Socks required? Yes.

Kidz Town in Lakewood (not in OC, but an option for North OC families)

Central Orange County Indoor Playgrounds (5 ideas)

Candeeland in Main Place Mall in Santa Ana

  • Cost: Starts at about $15 (1 hour pass) or $20 (2 hour pass) with 1 free adult per paid admission and $3 for additional adults. Monthly pass for $55 (kids 1-14 years old).
  • Time blocks: Admission fee based on 1 hour pass or 2 hour pass.
  • Ages: 1-14 + adult (Infant free with paid toddler/child). Youth 15-17 pay a bit more.
  • Outside food allowed? No.
  • Socks required? Grip socks required. You can buy for $3+ sales tax.

We Play Loud in Huntington Beach

  • Height Limit: 51″
  • Cost: Starts at $21 with memberships available for $24.99
  • Time blocks: 120 minutes (but only $5 more for All Day Play)
  • Outside food allowed? No.
  • Cafe to buy food? Yes.
  • Free WIFI? Yes.
  • Socks required? Yes.

Jumpify in Irvine at Orchard Hills Shopping Center

  • Go to website for information.

Bounce U in Orange

  • Cost: Starts at $20.50 per child, parents and non-walking infants are free
  • Ages: 1-17 years
  • Time blocks: (Check calendar for open bounce hours). Extremely limited hours!

IKEA Kids Play Area – Småland in Costa Mesa

  • Open again! No details on the website about hours, but I will check next time I go in.
  • Limits: Potty-trained and between 37” to 54” tall
  • Hours: 10am-9pm daily
  • One hour of free kids care while you remain at the store to shop/eat/use the store’s WiFi/whatever

San Diego Indoor Playground Spots (if you are willing to travel)

Things to Consider When Planning Your Time at Kids Indoor Play Areas

Limited hours – Some close for private parties or are only available for open play during certain hours. Check the calendars and make sure they are open before you go.

“High” prices – Playing is free, but indoor play places aren’t. It’s not exactly practical to pay to play every day.

Crowds – There’s a potential for a busy environment with field trips or just busy on holidays or non-school days.

Don’t forget your socks! For hygiene, most places require socks (not nylons or tights – SOCKS). And when the kids get older at trampoline parks they even require specific types of socks, like grip socks.

Food – It’s awesome if you can play all day, but if you can’t bring or purchase food on site then you might have to leave for a meal or go outside for a snack.

Siblings or extra adults? – Make sure you check the admission fees to see if adults are free or if there’s an extra fee. Also check to see if there are sibling discounts.

Germs – Many of the indoor play areas listed talk about how often they clean the equipment. If you have a child with special health issues or who is especially susceptible to colds, then indoor playgrounds may not be the best choice for you. (And I had this section in here WAY before you-know-what).

Do they have a separate toddler area or toddler times? This may be important to you and some of those listed do separate toddlers from older kids.

Strollers – Some places do not allow strollers or have specific stroller policies.

Limits on Height or Age – I didn’t see this at very many of the places I listed, but a few have specific height and age requirements. Read the fine print.

Reservations? – Some places offer the opportunity to reserve your space ahead of time.

CALL before you go – If you still have questions after visiting their websites, call to clarify and get your questions answered before your kids get their hopes up. However, many of the businesses discourage calls to see how busy it is (it’s always busy!).

As always, check official websites for costs, times, and details. My info is only accurate at the time of posting, but should at least give you a ballpark idea of what’s offered.

Hope this helps you with some traditional and non-traditional ideas for kids indoor play areas all around Orange County. Please correct me if I’m wrong or send on more suggestions for me to add to the list!

Also, I have another post called 9 Things to Do When It’s Too Hot Outside in Orange County that might also be of help to you!

Originally published in August 2018.