Summer Bucket List: LA and Orange County

By Gary Qin |

For many of us, summer break means taking on a new teaching assistant or instructor position, internship, making headways into our theses and dissertations, or all the above. With all the stresses of work and responsibilities, it can be beneficial to have a change in scenery. As UC Riverside students, we can access the best that Southern California can offer within an hour or so’s drive. In this blog post, I will offer some suggestions for things to do in neighboring LA and Orange County. Let’s get into it!

[Image Description: A cartoon bunny and baby chicken wearing sunglasses sitting on inner tubes in the water with a sun in the background with the caption: Hello Summer.]

Pictured: Don’t forget to bring sunscreen and water!


Tourist Spots and Attractions

Downtown Disney District (Anaheim, Orange County) – 47 miles from campus

Downtown Disney

Next to Disneyland Park is an open-air dining, entertainment, and shopping area with LEGO and World of Disney stores, numerous restaurants to eat your way through, and more. You do not need a Disneyland ticket to visit, so it is completely free to go to (besides paying for parking). For further information, visit their website at


The Getty Center (Brentwood, Los Angeles) – 71 miles from campus

The Getty

Ride the tram up to the Getty Center, an extensive museum with art ranging from 19th-century impressionist art to contemporary pieces, a unique and stunning garden, and panoramic ocean and city views. Admission is free but requires a timed-entry reservation, which you can reserve here:


Little Tokyo Historic District (Los Angeles) – 56 miles from campus

Little Tokyo

Little Tokyo is the cultural center for Japanese Americans in Southern California and the largest of only three Japantowns in the United States. Take a day to explore one of Los Angeles’ most historic multicultural neighborhoods. Little Tokyo is also within walking distance of the trendy Arts District. For more information, visit


Food and Drink

Anaheim Packing District (Anaheim, Orange County) – 40 miles from campus

Anaheim Packing District

Located a short distance away from Disneyland, this orange processing plant turned food hall has a variety of restaurants and bars. Must-try places include their anti-gravity noodles, indulgent grilled cheese sandwiches, and unique assortment of poutine (a Canadian delicacy). For more information, visit


Grand Central Market (Downtown Los Angeles) – 56 miles from campus

Grand Central Market

A melting pot of Los Angeles’ diverse cuisines and cultures, this expansive food and retail space in downtown Los Angeles is one of LA’s most well-known historic landmarks, having been in continuous operation for over 100 years. Grand Central Market is also close to many other top sights in downtown Los Angeles like The Broad, The Last Bookstore, and L.A. Live. For more information, visit their site at


Smorgasburg (Downtown Los Angeles) – 57 miles from campus


This open-air food market has a wide range of small businesses offering some of the best that Southern California has to offer for food, beverage, and shopping. Open every Sunday with free entry and parking, this is the perfect place to spend the day with friends and family. For more information, visit


Outdoor Activities

Runyon Canyon Park (Los Angeles) – 65 miles from campus

Runyon Canyon Park

This 160-acre park and moderately difficult 2.7-mile loop trail is a frequently visited hiking and running area that offers beautiful views of the Hollywood Sign and the rest of the city and opportunities to spot your favorite celebrities. For more information, visit


Crystal Cove State Park (Newport Beach, Orange County) – 55 miles from campus

Crystal Cove

Crystal Cove is a hidden gem among Orange County's many beaches, with 3.2 miles of beach and 2,400 acres of open wilderness right off the Pacific Coast Highway. After you’re done swimming and sunbathing, visit the famous Crystal Cove Shake Shack (different from the Shake Shack chain) for some American comfort food. For more information, visit


Irvine Regional Park (Orange, Orange County) – 35 miles from campus

Irvine Park

As Orange County’s first regional park and listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Irvine Regional Park offers activities for all ages. There are train rides, tandem bike riding, paddleboat and horse rentals, hiking trails, pony rides, the Orange County Zoo, and more. There are also special events for Easter, Halloween, and Christmas. For more information, visit


[Image Description: Palm trees on a sunny, cloudless day.]

Pictured: Have a great summer!

These were just some of my favorite places to go when I need a getaway from the hustle and bustle of campus life. Feel free to do your own research and explore for yourself. Wishing you all a great summer. See you back in the fall!