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.
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.
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.
The area is 900 acres (364 hectares) of estuary, marsh, and coastal sage scrub habit, and it is home to several endangered bird species. Seventy species of fish use the bay and during winter migration thousands of shorebirds and ducks either visit or spend the winter here. Kayak, canoe, walking and electric boat tours are offered and a state of the art Interpretive Center is located at 2301 University Dr., Newport Beach.
For those who can make only one stop in Corona del Mar, make it the Corona del Mar State Beach. This area alone can make everyone fall in love with CdM, a laid-back multi-million-dollar neighborhood accented by the Pacific, with streets lined by palm trees and flower beds. On the bluff, three signs mark beach access: Lookout Point, Main Beach and Inspiration Point. Each point has a different view, but all share Catalina Island in the background, and Newport Bay and Balboa Island in the foreground. A few steps towards the south end of Ocean Boulevard is a secluded cove near the Robert E. Badham Marine Life Refuge, and some of the most extravagant mansions follow.
Downey History Center is an educational center that provides a wealth of historical information, preservation, education and research. Whether you are just curious about Downey's history or are a serious scholar, you will find everything you need. Resources include Downey newspapers dating from 1888, photographs dating from 1870, books and periodicals about Downey, Los Angeles County, California and more. There is also a lot of information on Downey's namesake, Governor John Gately Downey. Call ahead for varying days.
The West Coast Theatre is one of the oldest theaters of the city. It's a part of the National Register of Historic Places and is one of the must-visit places in the city.
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.