After Disneyland: Other Delights in Orange County, CA
© 2011 by Aurelio Locsin
If you’re coming all the way to Orange County, CA to visit the Disneyland Resort, you might as well reserve a few days to visit the rest of the county. The area is more than just a financial support system for the famous theme park. In fact, you may welcome a break from Mickey and Minnie by exploring more reality-based amusements.
Be aware, however, that getting to these attractions requires a car. If you didn’t bring your own, ask your accommodations staff the location of the closest auto rental. Several are available Disneyland.
Attractions near Disneyland
Bowers Museum is just one of the facilities in Santa Ana's museum row.
The center of the Olde Towne Historic District in the City of Orange.
Monkeywrench Collective is a theater near the SOCO District of Fullerton.
Santa Ana Museum Row
For stimulation based less on the heart and body, and more on the mind, check out three museums that are within walking distance of each other on North Main Street in Santa Ana.
- The Discovery Science Center appeals to all members of the family with interactive exhibits that cover dinosaurs, hockey, planetary science and aerospace, among other wonders. Red-shirted volunteers are happy to explain scientific concepts to you.
- The Kidseum is dedicate to introducing hands-on art to pre-school and early elementary age children. Youngsters can dress in costumes from other lands, play tribal instruments, or create masterpieces such as dragons and headdresses that they can take home.
- More adult activities are available at the Bowers Museum. The permanent collection features art from Native Americans, Africa and the Pacific; artifacts from Orange County history; and paintings from the late 19th to the 20th century. Frequent traveling exhibits give locals a reason to return again and again.
Antique Capital of Orange County, CA
The City of Orange starts with a circular plaza that sports a grand fountain and palm trees. It then spreads into 1,300 residential and commercial structures built from 1888 to 1940. This Olde Towne Historic District took its place on the National Register of Historic Places in 1997 and boasts 50 architectural styles including Craftsman, Victorian, Mission Revival, Italianate and Art Moderne. Its arguable the only city in Orange County, CA that’s made a concerted effort to preserve so much of its past.
If you’re having trouble deciding which of the dozens of shops to enter, start with Orange Circle Antique Mall, which is the county’s largest antique mall. For architectural elements, like old doors or stained glass windows, visit the Architectural Gallery. Take your lunch break at Felix Continental Café, which has been serving Cuban food since the late 1970s. If it’s a typically pleasant Southern California day, snag an outdoor table facing the Plaza. Unfortunately, this and the area’s other restaurants are the only establishments open at night. Much of the district shuts down at 6 PM.
Fullerton SOCO District
The SOCO (South of Commonwealth) District is the closest thing to an evening entertainment area available in Orange County, CA.
- Popular reateries include Stubrik’s Steakhouse, which has one awards for its meat selections; Roscoe’s Famous Deli, with an outdoor section; and Frati Gelato Cafe, where the gelatos are crafted by a master who was schooled in Italy.
- For drinks, try Lizarran Tapas, with its selection of exotic Spanish-based appetizers; The Olde Ship, a restaurant and pub that is British-owned and operated; or Steamers Café, boasting live music every night of the week.
- The theater district is also located in roughly the same area. Fullerton Civic Light Opera is the oldest and biggest venue, concentrating on musicals. The Maverick Theater mixes in popular plays with musicals and comedies. Finally, the Monkey Wrench Collective spotlights avante-garde and edgy theater in under 50 seats.
If you’re a local of Orange County, CA, feel free to add other attractions, stores and restaurants in the Comments box.
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