As soon as famed for its namesake citrus, Orange County immediately provides modern delights which can be simply as juicy. See what are some unique things to do in Orange County. Disneyland looms massive, actually, with its snow-capped Matterhorn poking above the sprawling, seaside suburbia.
Distinguished buying facilities, which function as well-liked gathering locations, take cues from the theme park with elaborate, compelling designs—incessantly set outdoors to get pleasure from blissfully sunny local weather are some of the unique things to do in orange county.
But, it’s not all Actual Housewives parading their Yorkies around Neimans. Earlier than OC native Gwen Stefani put her identity on a fragrance, she was a part of the hip, youthful scene that also informs cities corresponding to Fullerton, Anaheim, and Santa Ana. Plus, more and more numerous inhabitants mean extra attractive and complex eating choices.
After which there are the dreamy, tropical-like seashores, arguably essentially the most alluring in Southern California. Peek behind the Orange Curtain, and also you’ll uncover quite a few noteworthy locations—mouse ears non-obligatory.
Unique Things to Do Today in Orange County
Nestled between the vibrant cities of Los Angeles and San Diego, Orange County captivates with its scenic beauty and coastal allure. This compact county, encompassed by the Santa Ana Mountains and the Pacific Ocean, lacks a defined center, instead comprising an amalgamation of charming towns. While the Disney theme parks dominate the tourist scene, the breathtaking beaches along Highway 1 steal the spotlight, offering mesmerizing West Coast sunsets.
The picturesque beaches and towns of Orange County have served as a backdrop for numerous American TV series, particularly those centered around teenage protagonists. Nevertheless, if you find yourself venturing through this sun-kissed region, it is likely for one of the following reasons:
What’s it? It’s nonetheless the happiest—although beginning to really feel like the costliest—place on Earth.
Why go? Say what you’ll in regards to the Home of Mouse; its wondrous, immersive lands nonetheless present a joyous escape for everybody from budding princesses to nostalgia buffs and is one of the unique things to do in orange county.
Enterprise into the Temple of the Forbidden Eye with Indiana Jones, soar over London’s twinkling lights on the path to Neverland, and pace by the galaxy aboard House Mountain’s interstellar coaster.
Plus, now that Disney does drinks, you may knock again a Racer 5 IPA alongside Lightning McQueen in Radiator Springs.
2. Laguna Beach
Orange County boasts a treasure trove of beautiful beaches and secluded coves, where untouched nature and captivating sunsets abound. For an immersive experience of these claims, Laguna Beach is the perfect destination.
Make a stop at Crystal Cove State Park, a three-mile stretch of beach adorned with a rocky cliff, exuding tranquility and offering a small historic district featuring over 40 cottages from the 1930s and 1940s.
Alternatively, venture to the sun-drenched 1,000 Steps Beach, where a captivating cave reveals itself during low tide. Alternatively, seek entrance to Three Arch Bay Beach, an endeavor rewarded with a mesmerizing view of triple-arched stacks. Another option is Victoria Beach, an enchanting locale housing the enigmatic Victoria Tower, steeped in pirate tales and legends.
3. Old Towne Orange
Situated seven miles southeast of Disneyland, Old Towne Orange, the historic district of the city sprawls across approximately one square mile surrounding Plaza Square Park—the city’s original square. Here, a plethora of historic buildings imparts a vintage ambiance to the bustling commercial district, brimming with cafes, vintage boutiques, antique shops, and various other establishments. Leisurely strolling through these streets becomes an enjoyable pastime.
4. Richard Nixon Library
Whether you possess an ardor for history and politics or simply seek an enriching museum experience, the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum presents an excellent opportunity to spend half a day. Meticulously curated exhibitions, augmented by videos and audio materials, deliver an incredible narrative of Richard Nixon’s controversial presidency, marked by his resignation during the Watergate scandal.
In addition to illuminating the events leading to Nixon’s downfall, the exhibits delve into other pivotal moments of his political career, from his historic visit to China to the signing of the Vietnam ceasefire. A dedicated section honors the First Lady, showcasing her original garments in a captivating display.
Within the museum’s gardens, visitors can explore Nixon’s birthplace, his final resting place beside his beloved wife, and even the presidential helicopter. However, the pièce de résistance resides in the full-scale reconstruction of the White House’s Oval Office, allowing visitors to freely wander, and perchance, even occupy the President’s chair.
5. Heisler Park
What’s it? Ridiculously scenic, oceanfront park in Laguna Seashore must be the primary cease for anybody who questions why folks reside in California.
Why go? Take Hawaii, take away the lava, and you’ve got Heisler Park. Stroll a paved path that meanders alongside mesmerizing seashore coves, and thru lush, seaside gardens brimming with towering palms and sufficient succulents to crash Pinterest.
6. Duffy of Newport Seashore
What’s it? Load up the cooler with rosé, and set sail across the islands and mansions of Newport Harbor aboard your individual non-public touring boat.
Why go? Posh Newport Harbor is chock-full of mega yachts and Thurston Howell III varieties. For the remainder of us, there are duffles, the sporty pleasure boats with cover tops, ice chests, and comfortable bench seating for associates.
Get pleasure from a leisurely cruise around Balboa and Lido Islands, docking at quite a few watering holes corresponding to Billy’s on the Seashore for Mai Tais and raucous enjoyable.
7. Crescent Bay Seashore
What’s it? It’s robust to go incorrect with any patch of sand in Laguna Seashore, however, this crescent-shaped stunner is, without doubt, one of the greatest.
Why go? With shockingly clear, azure waters backed by palm tree-lined bluffs, this large, sandy seashore cove feels extra far-flung than its SoCal setting, which is one of the unique things to do in orange county.
Pleasantly heated waters teem with frolicking children, snorkelers, and scuba divers. Parking is proscribed to close by residential streets, however, the further stroll is pricing it.
8. Taco María
What’s it? In a land of taquerias, this upscale Mexican restaurant provides Mexico Metropolis sophistication and, in accordance with beloved meals critic Jonathan Gold, the county’s greatest meal.
Why go? OC-born chef Carlos Salgado cooked in rarified kitchens together with San Francisco’s three Michelin-star Coi earlier than turning his consideration to the delicacies of his heritage.
His midnight blue, handmade tortillas function as de facto plates for beautiful combos corresponding to shiitake mushroom chorizo, smoked sturgeon with chile Morita, and hanger steak with roasted chiles and bacon.
9. Packing Home
What’s it? Located inside a repurposed 1919 Sunkist packing facility, this trendy Anaheim meals corridor bustling with eateries, bars, and Millenials, is one of the unique things to do in orange county.
Why go? Centered around a light-filled atrium strewn with greenery and bench swings, the two-level former warehouse packs in twenty-six distributors whose culinary choices span the globe.
Create your individual Neapolitan pizza on the backyard terrace at Ecco, snap pics of Mini Monster’s fantastical boba tea topped with Fruity Pebbles-sprinkled cotton sweet, and hunt down the hidden entrance for The Blind Rabbit’s horny cocktail den.
10. Downtown Santa Ana
What’s it? You’ll love that this revitalized, walkable hub is full of hip food and drinks choices—and isn’t a mall, is one of the unique things to do in orange county.
Why go? You’ll discover OC’s buzziest bars and eating places in “SanTana” which makes for an enjoyable, food-fueled bar crawl.
Pair prints with Pac-Man at Mission Management, pattern uncommon Mexican craft beers at El Indio Botanas y Cerveza, and sit down for pork stomach steam buns and cocktails at perennial it-spot Playground.
11. Lido Marina Village
What’s it? Newport Seashore’s stylish, waterfront assortment of outlets and eating places redefines the mall for the Instagram set, which is one of the unique things to do in orange county.
Why go? Awash in smooth white shiplap and nautical aptitude—together with photo-ready graphics that proclaim “Let Your Goals Set Sail”—the al fresco buying middle exudes the breezy vibes of a luxurious cruise liner. Costume the half with a Marine Layer crew, Graham & Spencer denim, and Warby Parker shades.
12. Sugar ‘N Spice
What’s it? Followers of the Bluth household will get pleasure from the sprinkle-adorned treats at Balboa Island’s “Unique Frozen Banana Stand.”, which is one of the unique things to do in orange county.
Why go? The kitschy inspiration for the beachside stand on “Arrested Improvement,” Sugar ‘N Spice has been dunking frozen bananas in chocolate and rainbow sprinkles since 1945.
In addition, they lay declare to the Balboa Bar, a block of chocolate-dipped ice cream whose invention is challenged my Dad’s Donuts & Bakery, the rival frozen banana stand a number of doorways away.
13. The Lab
What’s it? Whereas actual housewife varieties preen for South Coast Plaza’s lavish boutiques, the cool-kid set hangs down the road at this hip cluster of outlets and eateries, is one of the unique things to do in orange county.
Why go? Billing itself because of the anti-mall when it opened in the grunge-drenched 90s, the Lab’s atmospheric, open-air grounds delight the present technology with classic airstreams, road art-embellished partitions, and light-strung backyard courtyards, the popular spot for sipping mojitos from contemporary coconuts.
Head throughout the road to The Camp whose Frontierland-like property options are comparable choices with an outdoorsy theme.
14. The Cellar
What’s it? This time-warp, a subterranean eatery in Fullerton was designed in 1969 by the identical workforce that created Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean trip and has the ambiance to match.
Why go? Positive, the old-school Continental-style dishes are fantastic, however, you’re right here for the dramatic, windowless interiors—made to resemble an Outdated World wine cellar—and surprisingly up-to-date craft cocktails. Slide into a luxurious sales space within the rock wall-enveloped lounge, order a pitch-perfect martini, and savor the retro-kitsch environment.
What’s it? This 1970s SoCal Mexican fast-food model was resurrected by a faithful blogger who fought a giant chain to carry again the meals he missed.
Why go? Acquired and subsequently jettisoned by fast-food chain Del Taco, the Naugles model was received in court docket and rebirthed by a native hero, Christian Ziebarth is one of the unique things to do in orange county.
On the standalone locale in surf-centric Huntington Seashore, savor the nostalgia with cult menu gadgets corresponding to tacky beef burritos, taco salad cups, and bun tacos, all packaged within the model’s hyper-70s orange, yellow, and brown colors.
16. San Juan Capistrano
Nestled in Orange County, the charming city of San Juan Capistrano allures visitors with its captivating historic district. Yet, the true gem of this locale is unquestionably the Spanish mission bearing the same name—Mission San Juan Capistrano. Established in 1776 as the seventh mission along the El Camino Real historic route, this architectural marvel suffered extensive damage during the December 8, 1812 earthquake. However, remnants such as the revered Serra Chapel, considered the oldest building in the state, and the resilient load-bearing walls of the Great Stone Church, still evoke the splendor of its original form.
Apart from exploring these pivotal historic structures, I highly recommend immersing yourself in the more contemporary section of the mission. Discover the serene gardens adorned with colonnades, courtyards, and fountains, visit Father Junipero Serra’s residence—the visionary founder of this and other Californian missions—explore the cemetery and soldiers’ barracks. A comprehensive exploration of this captivating historical site can easily occupy an hour of your time, with each passing minute leaving an indelible impression.
17. Santa Ana Museums
Even in this sun-drenched region, occasional rain showers may descend. However, be it rain or shine, an afternoon spent in one of Santa Ana’s remarkable museums promises a rewarding experience:
Discovery Science Center: An architectural marvel resembling a precariously balanced giant cube, the Discovery Science Center houses a science museum that captivates both children and adults alike. Here, young minds can embark on thrilling scientific discoveries, launch simulated missiles, embark on simulated space missions, take a virtual helicopter tour of the county, prepare wholesome meals, transform into ecological superheroes, and partake in countless other engaging activities.
Lyon Air Museum: This extraordinary museum appeals to aviation enthusiasts of all ages. Prepare to be awed by a collection of rare aircraft, antique cars, and military vehicles—an impressive treat for admirers of airborne marvels.
Bowers Museum: Immersed in Orange County’s rich tapestry of history and culture, the Bowers Museum showcases a permanent collection boasting over 100,000 objects originating from Mesoamerica, Pre-Columbian civilizations, Africa, and Native American cultures. Your ticket also grants access to Kidseum, an interactive children’s museum located just two blocks away.
18. Surfing Beaches
North of Laguna Beach, a string of beaches adorned with lengthy piers beckons surfers seeking the perfect wave. Among them, Huntington Beach, fondly nicknamed “Surf City,” entices with its world-class waves. Nearby, Newport Beach boasts numerous beach clubs, adding a vibrant social element to the surfing experience. For a hidden gem south of the Balboa Peninsula, venture to The Wedge, revered by surfers for its awe-inspiring waves. Journeying further south, beyond Dana Point and nearing the San Diego County border, you’ll discover Trestles Beach, yet another beloved destination cherished by surfers.
19. Knott’s Berry Farm
If your appetite for unbridled amusement remains unsatiated after Disneyland, a short distance away lies a place brimming with intriguing history. In the early 1930s, Walter Knott and his wife Cordelia witnessed their business prospering. Walter’s boysenberry stand—an enticing fusion of blackberry and raspberry—and Cordelia’s delectable fried chicken drew hordes of customers. To further enhance their appeal, they conceived a brilliant notion: constructing a fictitious Western-themed ghost town, while also leasing rides and attractions from local village fairs.
In 1932, Knott’s Berry Farm emerged in Buena Park, near Anaheim. Although the Far West ambiance remains its enduring theme, Knott’s Berry Farm now boasts exhilarating roller coasters that thrill adrenaline seekers craving intense emotions. Families and children can revel in Camp Snoopy, an enchanting world inhabited by beloved Peanuts characters. Water park enthusiasts can dive into the excitement at Soak City Orange County, featuring an array of pools and exhilarating slides.
20. Futuristic Architecture: Crystal Cathedral and Segerstrom Hall
Orange County also embraces the realm of modern and futuristic architecture. While I’ve previously mentioned the Discovery Science Center in Santa Ana, there are two other notable sites that deserve your attention.
Firstly, behold the awe-inspiring Crystal Cathedral, an imposing Catholic church in Garden Grove, erected in 1981 and adorned with one of the world’s finest musical instruments—the Hazel Wright Organ. Secondly, venture to Costa Mesa’s Segerstrom Center for the Arts, a concert hall boasting an innovative design. This venue hosts captivating performances by esteemed groups such as the Pacific Symphony, Philharmonic Society of Orange County, and Pacific Chorale.
If contemporary architecture holds a special allure for you, a few miles from Orange, within Downtown Los Angeles, a multitude of captivating buildings await your exploration.
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