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.
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.
Spanning 58 acres (23 hectares), the Oak Canyon Nature Center is a beautiful oasis of nature in the city. The sanctuary, flanked by three canyons is home to a diverse array of animal and bird species. Well-marked hiking trails offer a great opportunity to discover the park's many wonders. Stop by at the John J. Collier Interpretive Center to learn more about the natural features and history of the place.
Located in the historic Anaheim Colony, the district includes three principal areas, the Packard Building, Farmers Park and the original Packing House. The Packard Building houses the popular Umami Burger and Anaheim Brewery while the Packing House hosts a myriad of restaurants. The food selection is mind-boggling, from Quiche Lorraine at Pandor to Banh Mi at Saw Leaf. Farmers Park is where the market opens on weekends and oftentimes, you will see live music as well. Overall, the Anaheim Packing District is one of the most entertaining spots in a town that is mostly known for Mickey Mouse.
One of the great 20th Century luxury liners, The Queen Mary has been the centerpiece of Long Beach Harbor since 1967. The Queen Mary allows tourists to take a self-guided tour of the bridge, engine rooms and officers' quarters, while guided tours visit areas of the ship which are otherwise inaccessible. See the classic art deco interiors and learn about the vessel's interesting history. The ship is now not only a historic attraction, but is also a hotel, has several restaurants and shops, and there's even an on-site wedding chapel! Measuring 1019.5 feet (310.74 meters) in length, it features an indoor swimming pool and various conveniences and amenities characteristic of a cruise liner.
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.
Inside California's oldest courthouse, which was built in 1901 in the Romanesque Revival style, guests will find a museum, the O.C. History Center and the library of the Pacific Coast Archaeological Society. The museum presents exhibits about local history and the development of Orange County. Much of the building has been restored to its original state, including the original early 20th century courtroom and judge's chamber that are open to the public. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the building itself is a true Californian treasure.
Huntington Beach does indeed live up to its "Surf City" title as the most surfed beach in the west. Appropriately enough, this is a shrine to all those who have mastered the long board. Surfboards, surfing films, surfing music and plenty of memorabilia can be found here. The main attractions, however, are the items related to the great Duke Kahanamoku. This Olympic swimmer popularized surfing back in the 1920s, and both a bronze bust and one of his original hardwood boards can be found in the museum.