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Best Parks in Orange County

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Stretching an expanse of land dotted with sycamore and oak groves, Irvine Regional Park is the perfect place to spend an idyllic day outdoors with friends and family. Santiago Creek meanders through the park, passing shaded hillsides dotted with picnickers, the Orange County Zoo, and group sites that accommodates all sorts of celebrations. The 475 acre park features built-in barbecue spots, restroom facilities and a biking and walking path that cuts through the park and shows off its best features. Equestrian enthusiasts can take their horses for a jaunt along the designated equestrian trail and past a lake that features a stone-work waterfall. The park also boasts the Irvine Park Railroad, which takes visitors of all ages on a 10-minute ride out to an oak grove and past several lakes. There is no entrance fee for the park itself, but there may be parking fees.

Take a leisurely walk through Orange County's past. Your path will take you through four buildings, each one a history lesson. The first is a building from the Rancho Canada De Los Aliso owned by the Serranos, who were cattle ranchers in the 1860s. Next you have the El Toro Grammar School, built in 1890, a one-room school-house just like in the Little House on the Prairie books. Then there is the St. George Episcopal Mission, built in 1891. Finally, there is the Bennett Ranch House built in 1908. The tour is free of charge, and reservations are not required unless you have a large group.

This is a non-profit botanical garden situated on 26 gorgeous acres of the California State University Fullerton. Botanical collections are sectioned into zones: the temperate zone, the tropical zone and the arid zone. There is a rare fruit grove featuring subtropical fruits like cherimoyas, kiwis, papayas, guavas and rare citrus varieties. The Children's Garden is the site for educational programs and hands-on fun. Also on the grounds is the Heritage House, an Eastlake Victorian cottage built in 1894 by Dr. George C. Clark, an early Fullerton physician, as his home and office. There is a lot of nature and a little bit of history here, making for a wonderful outing. Although admission is free, a voluntary donation is suggested.

The Bolsa Chica Conservancy was established in 1990 in order to preserve the Bolsa Chica Wetlands. It includes the Bolsa Chica Interpretive Center and is run completely by volunteers. The conservancy has several exhibits, including live reptiles and sea aquariums. Visitors can walk through the wetlands on a 1.5 mile loop trail. No dogs, bikes or horses are allowed. This is both an educational and fun outing!

Chino Hills State Park is a 14,173-acre (5,735-hectare) park in the vicinity of Santa Ana Mountains. The land was originally used for cattle grazing and visitors can see some remaining features from that time, including an assemblage of ranch houses and elegant windmills. Declared a state park in the year 1981, Chino Hills has been a popular attraction ever since, attracting adventurers from all parts of the country owing to its nearly 90 mile (144.84 kilometer) network of interconnecting trails that provide splendid opportunities for hiking, mountain biking and horseback riding. Also a great destination for wildlife watching, the park's lush landscape of woodlands and grasslands are a sanctuary for majestic red-tailed hawks, California gnatcatchers and bobcats. Chino Hill State Park is one of the few parks in the country to shelter Chaparral woodlands.

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