Mission Viejo is a city of 100,000 residents just 15 kilometers from Newport Beach and the Pacific Ocean.
It’s located in Southern California’s Orange County, close to downtown Los Angeles, so day trips are popular with travelers looking to get the most out of a limited vacation.
Mission Viejo is one of the largest master-planned communities in the country and is known for its abundance of parks, golf courses, cultural attractions and restaurants.
It’s also close enough to some of the state’s most iconic beaches and parks that staying busy in the area shouldn’t be a problem.
Here are 15 things to do in and around Mission Viejo, California.
1. O’Neal Regional Park
Because of its convenient location and abundant activity options, O’Neal Regional Park is ideal for those who are interested in spending time outdoors without having to drive to far-flung state and national parks.
The park is just minutes from the city center. It attracts fishermen, hikers, bird watchers and mountain bikers from all over Orange County.
O’Neal Park has paved and unpaved paths and trails suitable for visitors of most ages and ability levels, and often has staff-led activities such as weekly guided walks.
If you want to avoid the crowds, consider visiting during the week or early in the morning.
2. Casta Del Sol Golf Course
For a relatively small city, Mission Viejo has an impressive array of golf courses. They range from expensive private to affordable public.
The Casta Del Sol golf course has been around since the 70’s. This is a favorite for local players who prefer to play in short courses that don’t take up four or five hours of the day.
At just over 3,700 yards in length, it’s about 40 percent shorter than most traditional 18-hole courses, which means more time to hit the beach or explore other attractions in the area.
The par 61 course features Bermuda fairways, strategically located sand and water hazards, and holes ranging from 100+ yards to 230+ yards.
3. Hidden vines on the lake
Although Southern California is known for its beaches and microbreweries, it has also experienced a wine renaissance in recent years.
Nestled on the shores of scenic Mission Viejo Lake, A Hidden Vine on the Lake is the perfect place to spend a warm afternoon with good friends, stunning views and some of the region’s most popular wines.
The winery offers visitors a terrace with sweeping lake views, and staff hosts weekly wine tastings.
Guests will benefit from their expert guide’s insight into the nuances of each wine they taste, paired with delicious snacks such as bread, cheese, charcuterie and even sweets.
Seats are limited, so please reserve your seat in advance.
4. Mission Viejo Mall
With more than 100 shops and restaurants in the heart of Mission Viejo, Mission Viejo Mall is the perfect shopping therapy escape destination for those enjoying the outdoors and the California sun.
The mall is dominated by large national retailers such as Macy’s, Nordstrom and H&M. There are also plenty of dining options, from fast food outlets to upscale restaurants like PF Chang’s and The Cheesecake Factory.
Other mall amenities include bike racks, a diaper changing station and a children’s play area.
Mission Viejo Mall is conveniently located at the Crown Valley Parkway exit off I-5.
5. Burke Williams Day Spa
Back in the mid-’80s, Burke Williams pioneered the urban day spa experience, which became relatively common in the wellness world.
Located on the Crown Valley Parkway in Mission Viejo, the Burke Williams Day Spa is largely modeled on traditional European day spas, but with a modern twist.
The spa offers a variety of treatments and activities, including massages, facials and free time in whirlpools, steam rooms and saunas.
Previous guests have described the Burke Williams Day Spa as an oasis and a sanctuary of health, beauty and relaxation.
6. Lake Mission Viejo
Lake Mission Viejo is Mission Viejo’s most popular outdoor recreation destination. It’s conveniently located between Interstate 5 and California Route 241, just minutes north of town.
The lake is open year-round, but tends to draw the biggest crowds in the spring and summer, when it doubles as a live entertainment venue.
Lake Mission Viejo features shaded seating areas, restrooms, boat ramps and multiple beaches. The number of guests is limited, so it is imperative to arrive early during peak hours.
For the past few years, nationally known musicians and bands have performed at the Lakeside Summer Concert Series.
7. Cal Fire Museum
Located on Trabuco Road in Mission Viejo, the Cal Fire Museum is both a historic attraction and a safety learning center.
The museum has been around for nearly two decades and is the brainchild of local business leaders and security experts who saw the potential to combine two valuable community attractions under one roof.
Cal Fire Museum is just one of the attractions in the city’s great park. It has a unique collection of history and fire memorabilia, giving guests an interesting look at how it has developed over the years.
The facility also hosts regular safety classes and workshops that are worth checking out.
8. Cornaroa Coffee
Kona Loa Coffee was established in Mission Viejo in 2014 and offers an all-Hawaii coffee line from Kona Big Island.
Coffee lovers love Kona Loa’s rich coffee flavor. Drinks are available in a variety of hot and cold options.
Kona Loa’s menu is popular for its traditional Hawaiian breakfast as well as hearty burritos, shaved ice, smoothies and chai tea.
Previous guests have commented on its relaxed and modern environment, fast Wi-Fi and comfortable seating.
Kona Loa Coffee is located on Jeronimo Road in Mission Viejo. Seats fill up quickly, so consider stopping early if you’ll be working on site.
9. Thomas F. Riley Wilderness Park
Thomas F. Riley Wilderness Park, located 5 kilometers southeast of Mission Viejo in Trabuco Canyon, is a great choice for value-conscious outdoor enthusiasts.
The park opens early and closes at sunset. What some tourists find most charming is the dim hour in the morning and evening.
This is also when crowds tend to be the smallest and when the elusive animals come out to feed during the day.
Daily parking rates for visitors are relatively low, and there is a network of well-marked paths leading to bridges, streams, wooded areas and a butterfly garden.
10. Hatam Restaurant
Located on Jeronimo Road in Mission Viejo, Hatam Restaurant is the premier destination for travelers in northern Orange County who desire to experience authentic traditional Persian cuisine.
Hatam is also a popular regional caterer, offering takeout and delivery for those who would rather eat at their own place after a long day on their feet.
Perennial favorites include kebabs and bademjan. Restaurants have their own handy apps that allow guests to order and pay for food before they arrive, which can often eliminate wait times for those with busy schedules.
Hatam Restaurant is a family owned and operated restaurant established in 1997.
11. Whiting Ranch Wilderness Park
Comprising more than 2,000 acres of riparian wilderness just 15 minutes from downtown Mission Viejo, Whiting Ranch Wilderness Park is most popular for its unique rock formations and dozens of multi-use trails.
Much of the park was scorched by the San Diego fire more than a decade ago. Although it has recovered, much of its vegetation has not fully regenerated, giving it its distinctive sparse and lunar appearance.
The park’s trails are open to walkers, runners, and cyclists. While it may be tempting to enter the canyon for a little wilderness exploration, it is strictly prohibited.
12. Laguna Niguel Regional Park
Because of its year-round warm weather, many game fish like largemouth bass grow larger in California than in other states with harsh winters.
At the heart of Laguna Niguel Regional Park is a 40-plus-acre lake that’s a huge draw for local anglers looking to hit a wet line.
During fishing season, the lake is stocked with bass and trout. Those without their own equipment can rent boats, fishing rods and floats.
Each angler must purchase a day use permit at the Park Welcome Center prior to fishing. Other park activities include tennis, volleyball, picnics and boating.
Laguna Niguel is located approximately 15 kilometers southwest of Mission Viejo.
13. Arroyo Trabuco Golf Club
Located on the grounds of the Rancho Mission Viejo Reserve, Arroyo Trabuco Golf Club is a public day-use course spread over nearly 250 acres in some of the most impressive natural environments in the region.
From the furthest tee, the 18-hole course hits 7,000 yards, a challenge for both seasoned players and big hitters alike.
Arroyo Trabuco features dramatic changes in elevation, water, sand and lateral obstacles, as well as multi-tiered greens set against a dramatic natural desert backdrop.
Located on Avery Parkway in Mission Viejo, the course includes a pre-race practice area, restaurant and well-stocked pro shop.
14. Irving Barclays Theatre
Located on Campus Drive in Irvine, just a 20-minute drive from downtown Mission Viejo, the Irvine Barclay Theatre is one of the area’s most popular live entertainment venues.
Open since 1990, it features a modern hall with a capacity of 800 people and is known for its excellent acoustics and all-round intimacy.
The theater is run by the University of California, Irvine and the city government. Various productions are held throughout the year, including dance, music and theatre performances.
Most productions include local talent, so watching a show or two is a great way to support the performers and the economy.
15. Niguel Plant Sanctuary
At just 18 acres, it’s smaller than many of its Southern California counterparts, but the magnificence of the Niguel Botanical Preserve more than makes up for it.
The reserve has many unique arable lands, including native and exotic drought-resistant plants, trees and flowers.
It’s criss-crossed by a network of well-marked paths that include viewing and seating areas and informational signage describing what you’re seeing.
The entrance to the reserve is on the Crown Valley Parkway in Laguna Niguel. Depending on traffic, the drive from Mission Viejo is usually no more than 25 minutes.
Where to Stay: Best Hotels in Mission Viejo, CA
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