Nothing beats a great downtown, and Orange County has no shortage of downtown districts. Unique boutiques for shopping, a great selection of restaurants, and hot spots for local nightlife are just a few of the reasons people love strolling along the main streets and old towns of Orange County. Here are a few local favorites.
Anaheim Packing District
Anaheim Boulevard and Santa Ana Street, Anaheim
Anaheim Packing District is the new kid on the block. The city of Anaheim restored the Packard Building, an old car showroom built in the 1920s. It is now home to Umami Burger and the Monkish Brewing. The Packing House, built in 1919, was part of the agriculture industry where fresh citrus was washed, processed, and packed into containers for shipping via the train rails just outside the building. Today, it houses a public market, restaurants, and a gathering space that often features live music. Additional shopping and restaurants line the streets of downtown on Broadway, Elm, and Center Street Promenade. Muzeo, located on the corner of Anaheim and Broadway, is a museum and cultural center with exhibits showcasing the history of Anaheim and a variety of art exhibits.
Buena Park Downtown
8308 On The Mall, Buena Park
Buena Park Downtown is located just around the block from popular Knott’s Berry Farm. Buena Park Downtown offers visitors a modern and enjoyable location for shopping, dining, and entertainment. The downtown center hosts a variety of events throughout the year like summer concerts, blood drives, holiday celebrations, and craft festivals. Shoppers will find a variety of popular stores like Bed, Bath, & Beyond, Bath & Body Works, Ross, Vans Shoes, and many more. There is a huge selection of snack and dining options such as Dickey’s Barbecue Pit, Chili’s, Buffalo Wild Wings, and Olive Garden. Visitors can come out and enjoy family time at entertainment venues such as Big Air Trampoline Park or Krikorian Metroplex 18. Get out and explore all that Downtown Buena Park has to offer.
Commonwealth & Harbor and Surrounding area
Downtown Fullerton has undergone a revitalization process over the last several years and the SOCO District (South of Commonwealth) has become a center for dining and entertainment with unique shops, restaurants, and bars, many of which offer live music. Due to the large number of historic buildings in the area, it has an old town charm and there are several shops that specialize in antique and vintage products.
There are over 2,500 free parking spaces in Downtown Fullerton and it is centrally located near the Fullerton Transportation Center, making travel in and out of the area extremely accessible. The downtown area is also a cultural center with the Museum Center, Plummer Auditorium, and Downtown Plaza.
For nightlife, popular spots include Heroes and The Continental Room. Villa Del Sol, at the corner of Harbor and Wilshire, is a great spot for shopping. And the historic Fox Theater is undergoing renovations and will soon open for films and events. The downtown area hosts several events, including the Fullerton Market, which runs on Thursday evenings from April through August from 4:00 to 8:00 p.m.
Downtown Huntington Beach
Main Street and PCH, Huntington Beach
The city of Huntington Beach and the popular downtown area is a summer tourist destination. Just steps from the sandy beach and the California surf, It’s a great spot for shopping with many stores including Huntington Surf & Sport, Jack’s Surf Boards, and Rip Curl. Sugar Shack is a favorite local spot for breakfast, and Duke’s at the beginning of the Huntington Beach Pier is a must for visitors to Surf City.
Popular annual events in Downtown Huntington include the US Open of Surfing every summer and the Pacific Air Show, held every October. Tuesday nights from 5:00 pm – 9:00 pm, downtown is closed to vehicle traffic for Surf City Nights. The family friendly street fair and farmers market is a local favorite with vendors, street performers, and activities for kids. Every Friday from 11:00 am to 7:00 pm, Pier Plaza hosts the Art-A-Faire, showcasing vendors with handmade crafts and original artwork. Just a block north, more shopping and dining is available at The Strand, or head a block south to Pacific City for ocean view dining at popular restaurants like Ola Mexican Kitchen and Old Crow Smokehouse.
Old Towne Orange
Intersection of Glassell and Chapman, Orange
You’re taken back in time when you visit Old Towne in the city of Orange. The historic district is a local favorite for shopping and dining. Old Towne Orange is known as the “Antique Capital of California” with more than 40 antique shops in a four block area.
Many buildings here, including the park and the fountain in the middle of the circle at Chapman and Glassell, are on the National Register of Historic Places. There’s a fantastic selection of restaurants and specialty boutiques. You’ll find the old fashioned original Watson’s Drug and Soda Fountain which has been located in Orange since 1899. The District Lounge is built inside what was once the city of Orange’s first post office. Locals gather here for good food, drinks, and live music.
There are many annual events here in Old Towne Orange including the International Street Fair every Labor Day weekend, the Antique Fair every February, and the Orange Plaza Classic Car Show every April. Bring the kids to Old Towne on Halloween for Treats In The Streets, a fun and unique trick-or-treating event.
Old Town Seal Beach
Main Street and Ocean Avenue, Seal Beach
Main Street Seal Beach is about as quaint as it comes in Orange County. Brick façade buildings, small boutiques, independent toy stores, and ice cream parlors line the street. Several popular restaurants on Main St. include Avila’s El Ranchito and The Hangout, but a few old classics remain like Walt’s Wharf and O’Malley’s.
In addition to great restaurants and bars, Old Town Seal Beach has many unique shops for everything from bathing suits to toys. An old favorite (especially for kids) is the shell shop. Located at 125 Main Street, you’ll find aisles of seashells, beach and nautical themed décor, toys, postcards, and more.
Don’t forget to enjoy a stroll on the pier. A fire damaged the restaurant at the end of the pier and the city is currently in the redevelopment process. We can’t wait to see what’s coming! If you have kids, take time to enjoy the playground equipment located in the sand on the south side of the pier. For more information about shopping and events, follow Seal Beach on Facebook.
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San Juan Capistrano – Historic Downtown District
Historic San Juan Capistrano’s downtown district takes you a step back in time and encompasses the Mission and the surrounding area, including Los Rios Street, the first and oldest residential street and neighborhood in California. With over 230 years of history packed into a few blocks, visitors are given the opportunity to enjoy the city’s past and present. There are even audio and guided walks that visitors can take to learn more about the area.
Shoppers can browse the many shops like the bookstore and the antique shop, or view the artwork at one of the several galleries in the area. For food and drink there are plenty of options including local favorites like El Adobe de Capistrano – a Mexican steakhouse that was originally the residential adobe of Miguel Yorba, built in 1797. The other section of the restaurant is converted from the structure that originally housed the court and jails, built in 1812. Visitors can explore the Capistrano Depot, built in 1894, or for a reasonable admission, stroll the grounds of the San Juan Capistrano Mission and learn about local history. There is plenty of nightlife, with many options for drinks and dining as well as a movie theater and a play house. Downtown San Juan Capistrano is ideal for an afternoon stroll or an evening out.
More Downtowns to Explore
Balboa Island Marine Ave
Newport Beach, CA 92662
Brea, CA 92821
1580 Disneyland Dr, Anaheim, CA 92802
Downtown Huntington Beach Harbour
16252 Countess Drive, Huntington Beach, CA 92649
Downtown Laguna Niguel (currently being planned)
Laguna Niguel, CA 92677
Downtown San Clemente
San Clemente, CA 92672
Downtown Santa Ana
Santa Ana, CA 92701
HIP District Laguna Beach
Laguna Beach, CA 92651
Dana Point, CA 92629
Lido Marina Village
Newport Beach, CA 92663
Main Street Garden Grove
Garden Grove, CA 92840
Old Town Seal Beach & Main Street
Seal Beach, CA 90740
Old Town Tustin
Santa Ana, CA 92780
Yorba Linda Town Center
18421 Yorba Linda Blvd, Yorba Linda, CA 92886
Cities such as Aliso Viejo, Villa Park and others also have town centers but were not included as downtown destinations.
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Heidi Deal is the author of the Newcomers Handbook to Living In Los Angeles & Orange County, and a children’s book author specializing in history and human rights.