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.
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.
One area in Anaheim where you can find a different type of entertainment other than Disney is the Anaheim Garden Walk. Located right behind Disneyland across Harbor Boulevard, the complex provides dining and shopping. Most of the restaurants are well-known ones, like Roy's, Cheesecake Factory, California Pizza Kitchen and Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. Entertainment includes a Bowlmor Lanes bowling alley and the interesting U.F.O. Experience exhibition. Additionally, most of the shops are nationally known as well, from Skechers to Sunglass Hut, the selection is small but sufficient enough to merit a stroll through the center.
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.
The perfect thing to do on a bright sunny day is to head to Rancho Los Alamitos. Admire the 19th Century ranch house that houses an interesting museum about local history, then explore the surrounding area. Make sure you stop by the barn and check out the livestock, which is often the highlight for children. You can also stroll through the beautiful garden. The gift shop has interesting things to take back home too. Overall, a historical place with lots of education, along with fun thrown in.
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.
In the heart of historic Santa Ana, along West 2nd Street between Birch Park and Main Street, this little part of town is often considered a hidden gem of an upscale flea market. All along the mini walkway, traffic is closed in order for people to wander in and out of the galleries, bars and restaurants. Some of which include Lola Gaspar, C4 Deli, Grand Central Art Center, The Estate on Second and the O.C. Center for Contemporary Art. A walk here is definitely a superb way to spend the day away from the beaches and theme parks.
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.
Located in Downtown Santa Ana, Birch Park is one of thirty-five different parks scattered around this landlocked Southern California city. Its location right next to Santa Ana's Artists' Village makes it a nice spot to visit after dining in one of the many restaurants or window-peeking through the art galleries. Birch is small, but its well-manicured tree lined pathways and fitness area designed for seniors who reside in the nearby center, transform it into a place of tranquility in DTSA.
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.
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.