Historic Mission San Juan Capistrano is a California icon. Perhaps most famous for visits from its annual guests of honor, the swallows, the Mission means many things to many people. For Californians, it is a powerful symbol of the state's complicated colonial history. For Catholics, it is a profound religious site, indicative of the Church's own complex heritage. History buffs spend hours reveling in the facility's many exhibits and displays, connecting viscerally with the sights, sounds and feelings of generations long past. For visitors of any background, it is an undeniably gorgeous place to spend an afternoon-replete with striking architectural elements and lovingly cared-for gardens.
The Ocean Institute is located in beautiful Dana Point Harbor and offers ocean science and maritime history programs perfect for kids and adults alike. See hundreds of marine animals in aquariums, watch animal feedings, experience ocean-themed exhibits, and have fun with hands-on activities. For an extra charge, take a tall ship or a whale watching cruise. The Dana Point Marine Protected Area is steps away from the Institute.
Founded in 1932, this is likely the best all-around museum in Orange County. The complex has particularly come into its own since its re-opening in 1992 with expanded and improved exhibition spaces. Created with funds donated by Charles Bowers, the complex was built in the style of the California Missions, and is adorned with murals honoring that motif. Originally intended by Mr. Bowers to focus on local history, the museum has since enlarged its focus to incorporate artifacts from the cultures of Southeast Asia, Oceania, Mexico and Native America.
Sherman Library and Gardens is located on Pacific Coast Highway and has extensive botanical collections with examples of plant life from desert regions to tropical regions. It is a veritable outdoor museum of plants. Walk along the paths and smell the fragrant flowers and listen to the bubbling fountains. It really is an oasis that will take you away to a calmer, more peaceful place. The place also has a library on site which a delight for art lovers and bibliophiles.
It is no exaggeration to say that Disneyland Resort is one of the best-known attractions in the whole world. For 45 years, Disneyland Park was the only theme park at this site, and is the better known of the two amusement parks at Disneyland Resort. While the original Disneyland is about rides and fun Disney characters, the Disney California Adventure, built-in 2001, recreates the popular sights of California. Disneyland Resort also houses three resort hotels and the famous entertainment, dining and shopping district known as Downtown Disney. The hours of operation vary for the two theme parks, restaurants and shops. One-day passes are available, but the three or five-day passes are recommended for what is sure to be an experience of a lifetime.
Crystal Cove State Park spans 3.2 miles (5.15 kilometers) of beach and over 2000 acres (809.37 hectares) of wilderness. Visitors to the park can relax on the beach, hike or go horseback riding on the many trails that criss-cross the verdant landscape. Explore tide pools and hidden coves as well as canyon flora and fauna. Finally, the crystal clear waters have been designated as an underwater park and are great for scuba diving, skin diving, and underwater photography, thus covering all aspects of outdoor exploration.
Wine aficionados touring Tustin, simply cannot skip the Pozzuoli Vineyard & Winery. Operated by a family, Pozzuoli's vineyards occupy the slopes of Paso Robles where varieties like Sangiovese, Primitivo, Tannat, Merlot and more are cultivated. These grapes are harvested there, and later aged at the winery at Red Hill Avenue which has a small but endearing tasting room. Tasting is priced at USD15, and it includes complimentary buffet of breads, cheese and chocolates. Patrons can also buy wines here.
Howe-Waffle House and Medical Museum is named so because it belonged to Dr. Willella Howe-Waffle, who was one of the first female physicians in the entire county till she died in 1924. Built by Stoughton and George in 1889, the Late Victorian Queen Anne style house now operates as Dr. Willella Howe-Waffle House and Medical Museum by the Santa Ana Historical Preservation Society in honor of the original owner. It open for tours on the first Saturday of every other month, starting from February.
Located in Irvine, this family owned and operated organic farm is spread out over 30 acres (12 hectares). Producing over 60 kinds of fruits and vegetables, Tanka Farms is known for offering delicious produce at their farm stand and for their one-of-a-kind tours and activities. Offered year-round, the tours and activities aim to educate children on where their food comes from and how it is grown. Changing with the seasons, tours in the winter and fall focus on pumpkins and Christmas trees. In the spring and summer, watermelons and their famed strawberry tours take place.
Located in Santa Ana, the Heritage Museum of Orange County is 12 acre (4 hectares) complex that features a museum, historic buildings, manicured gardens and citrus grove. Promoting and preserving the history and culture of Orange County, the museum offers unique, educational hands-on programs for both students and visitors. Public tours, fundraisers and themed events such as tea parties and more are offered throughout the year. This beautiful site is also rented out for weddings.
The Old Towne district of Orange is known for its pre-1920s buildings, and the tales of paranormal activity that surround them. Hidden behind the quaint facade and elegant beauty of these buildings, lies a dark world of mystery, horror and macabre beauty. The guided ghost walk begins at the Royer Mansion and makes its way through the town's many antique stores, historic buildings and famous sites. This tour is certainly not for the faint hearted as it offers a peak in to the dark past that often haunts these historic abodes. All those who are interested in delving in to the sometimes disturbing past of these homely buildings are welcome to join in upon the purchase of a valid ticket. The tour lasts about 90 minutes and tickets must be purchased in advance. Spooky, marvelous and downright creepy, a Ghost tour of the Old Towne is sure to be one that is filled with hair-raising discoveries and unforgettable moments.