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.
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.
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.
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!
If you are driving south along the coast for the day from L.A., this gallery is ideally situated near the popular Fashion Island shopping center, not even a mile from the Pacific Coast Highway. The subject of much controversy among Orange County's art crowd over the past few years, the museum expanded to almost double its original size when the Newport Harbor Art Museum (same location) and the Laguna Art Museum consolidated to form this larger complex, scandalizing the art-loving Laguna Beach community. The permanent collection focuses on late 20th-century and California art, but the museum enjoys exhibitions that have included works from artists such as Rico Lebrun and Pablo Picasso. The Plein Air Café serves lunch, and a meal will earn you free admission to the museum.
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.
This small zoo has a lot to offer its visitors. There is a recreation of an Amazon rainforest that will awe and inspire both young and old alike. In the Children's Zoo youngsters can pet everything from a sheep to pot-bellied pigs. The Zoofari Express train offers a few thrills. Monkey Row is home to all kinds of primates, from lemurs to apes to Dusky Titi monkeys. The Australian Yard features wallabies and emus while the Endangered Species area features bald eagles and Diana Guenon monkeys. There is something to delight and educate just about anybody with a sense of curiosity about the wonderful world of animals.
The Orange County Center For Contemporary Art (OCCCA) is run entirely by artists and showcases art by both emerging and established artists. The emphasis is on local artists. It also features lectures on various subjects, performance art and musical concerts, and participates in public outreach programs that are committed to cultural diversity. The main purpose is the pursuit of freedom of expression in the arts and to provide a forum to explore and develop ideas in contemporary art.
This museum was founded in 1992 and has been committed to the art of the California impressionist period ever since. Along with preserving some of the best art from the era, the museum is also dedicated to educating the public about the state of the environment in California. The museum has taken particular interest in collecting or exhibiting art that portrays the landscape of Southern California. Featured artists include Franz Bischoff, Joseph Kleitsch, Edgar Payne, Guy Rose and William Wendt. The museum offers docent-guided tours, rental of the museum for special meetings and educational programs for schoolchildren. Admission is free.
If you are looking for the perfect place to have a picnic, look no further than Hicks Canyon Park. The 16.7 acre (4046 square meters) park two picnic gazebo areas as well as four barbecues and six separate picnic tables. Families from all over Irvine flock to this are for sporting events and fun days out with the family. The lush, green park also features two lighted soccer fields, two lighten baseball diamonds, a concessions stand that is generally open during games, and a playground that kids will love.