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.
If the air inside one of the area's many malls seems too stuffy for you, head to Newport Pier for a day of shopping and dining right on the water. Whether you are in search of a quick buy for a day out on the beach, or are looking for souvenirs to bring back home, you can find it among the many shops and restaurants in this bustling oceanfront area. Here you can pick up an OC sweatshirt to properly emulate those moody walks by the waves, or get the kids some toy shovels to built expert sand castles. Then stop by one of the many kiosks for a fruit smoothie for the ride home, but before you go make sure to walk out to the end of the pier for some great views of Catalina Island and the surrounding beaches.
Irvine Park Railroad is located in beautiful Irvine Regional Park. The one-third scale train takes visitors on a scenic, 12-minute ride through the 477-acre park. Other park attractions include pony rides, the Orange County Zoo, walking trails, horseback riding, snack bars and more. You can rent paddle boats, bikes, and horseshoe and volleyball sets. Annual Irvine Park Railroad events include the Pumpkin Patch, Christmas Train, Easter Eggstravaganza, California History Education Program and Anniversary Celebration. School field trips are available. You can also reserve space for private parties.
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.
Pretend City Children's Museum offers you exactly what the name implies, a small "pretend" version of a city! The museum is set up to have everything a normal city would have, with displays like the Library, the City Hall and The Farm. As children go through this interesting museum the kids can interact with the displays and learn through play. Watch as your two year old has fun in the Orange Plaza while your eight year old pretends to be a firefighter at the Fire Station. Your children won't want to leave!
Once known as the "Tin Can Beach", Bolsa Chica State Beach is now a popular beach which attracts visitors all year-round. It is an ideal place to go sunbathing, play volleyball, have a family day out and try other water sports. Surf fishing of fishes like croaker and corbina are among the other activities you can partake in here. Also, on this three-mile long sandy stretch is a designated place where you can camp in your RV vans. Bolsa Chica is a great spot to sit back and enjoy everything that the beach has to offer.
Main Beach is probably the most photographed, and definitely the most visited beach in the city. Right in downtown, the location could not be more convenient. Most of the local attractions and popular eateries are within walking distance. While admiring the azure waters and sunbathing is the most popular activity, the beach park itself has a bunch of facilities such as volleyball and basketball areas, picnic tables, a children's play area, and protected tide pools where you can enjoy some of the cleanest water on the Pacific coast.
Get to know Laguna Beach by going on this interesting tour. Laguna Beach Walks is a pleasant 2 hour walking tour where you walk along the coastline and explore the downtown area. You'll see landmarks, public art, charming houses and delightful boutiques. As you walk you'll learn about the area from your knowledgeable and friendly guide. Make sure to wear your walking shoes!Please note that the different themed tours often met at different times and locations.
Laguna Beach has long been a center for art. Creative types flocked here in droves to work their magic along Laguna's pristine shores. The Laguna Art Museum continues this proud heritage with an impressive list of year-round exhibitions and programming. Within these hallowed halls, you'll find classic and contemporary works by artists both fledgling and world renowned. An emphasis is placed on artists hailing from California, but the museum's scope is global nonetheless.
Cress Street Beach is a popular beach destination for both locals and tourists. The beach is great for surfing and body-boarding when the waves are strong. However, during gentle waves, experienced swimmers can also go snorkeling or scuba diving as there is an exposed coral reef close to the shoreline. There are also some interesting rock formations on the beach that children love to climb. The best time to visit is during sunset when the crowds thin down and you can enjoy the marvelous views in solitude.
Orange County is not known for wine production. However, Laguna Canyon Winery stands as proof that with the right measure of tender loving care, enological brilliance can be squeezed from a region previously untapped. First and foremost, the operation is a small one, allowing for an attention to detail not possible in big-time wineries. Another important secret is that the grapes do not actually come from Orange County. Instead, vintners truck in the finest product from points north. Finally, the winery's fruit-forward approach to the craft results in bottles that mesh perfectly with the warm and sunny climate.
Bordered by rocky points at both ends, Woods Cove-Beach is a stunning, albeit low-lying, beach. While it fills up completely during high tide, low tide uncovers plenty of tide pools for exploration. The sharp rocks makes swimming hazardous, however, one can go scuba diving under the right circumstances.