Brea, meaning oil or tar, is an important retail hub and former oil and agricultural center in Orange County. Brea was an oil town until the 1940s when the city ultimately had to turn elsewhere for revenue.
Since the 1970s, the city has seen growth across the board. From the time oil declined until the Brea Mall opened in 1977, the city worked to become more residential while adding business buildings that were quickly filled.
Here are some of the things you won’t want to miss the next time you’re in Brea.
Carbon Canyon Regional Park
Address: 4442 Carbon Canyon Road, Brea, CA 92823
Carbon Canyon Regional Park, which was formerly the town of Olinda in the 1880s, is a hidden gem where you can find a local redwood forest. The hiking path takes you right to the three acre forest where temperatures dip slightly in the shady woodland here in the middle of Brea.
Cross Country teams, families, and experienced hikers flock to Carbon Canyon but there is so much more to see here. The park features a man made lake, fishing platforms, multiple play areas, paved walking paths, a nature trail, courts and fields for sports, and picnic areas. Carbon Canyon also backs into Chino Hills State Park to the east.
The park features plenty of parking, restrooms, and places to roam freely. In the fall and winter the park is open from 7am to 6pm, in the spring and summer the park is open from 7am to 9pm.
Olinda Oil Museum & Trail
Address: 4025 Santa Fe Road, Brea, CA 92823
Get to know more about the city’s history in oil at this 12-acre community park and trail. Here you’ll see the original Olinda Oil Well Number One, originally drilled in 1897 and still pumping. There’s also the former field office building that’s full of artifacts, a jackline pump, records vault, and assorted antique oil operation tools. Explore a 2-mile public loop trail for hiking. Enjoy panoramic views of surrounding Orange County while you retrace the steps of early oil pioneers in search of Black Gold. Interpretive signs are located along the trail.
Brea City Hall and Park
Address: 401 S Brea Blvd, Brea, CA 92821
Built in 1928, Brea City Hall and Park is a beautiful historical monument. Designed by architect, Allen Ruott and designated on the National Register of Historic Places in 1984, the park is a combination of Art Deco style and Spanish Colonial Revival. Originally the park included the Police Station and library, as well as a pool and surrounding areas but the 1970s expansion added basketball courts and a playground.
The city hosts the County Fair every year at Brea City Hall and Park which includes traditional fair activities such as games, rides, and fair food. The morning after the fair, there is a pancake breakfast, car show, dog show, parade, and swimming at the Plunge!
Brea Eagle Hills Christmas Lights Neighborhood
If you find yourself reading this during Christmas time, you are in for a treat! Brea has one of the best neighborhood Christmas decoration displays anywhere in the County. Brea Eagle Hills Christmas Lights are a great way to celebrate the season while enjoying the neighborhood all for free. Finding a non-city sanctioned free outing suited for the entire family feels like a dream and well, that dream just came true.
Residents band together and create a beautiful display for the community to enjoy. While Christmas in OC isn’t your usual powder dusted White holiday, Brea makes it a little bit brighter with this display. To get into the neighborhood, enter on East Birch and South Starflower streets at one end, or at East Lambert Road and Sunflower Street on the other side. Christmas light onlookers can either walk through the neighborhood display with their hot chocolate or driving through the neighborhood is a viable option while keeping you and your family safe and warm. Be sure to check this neighborhood out during the Christmas season for a festive treat.
Address: 330 W Birch St, Brea, CA 92821
Birch Street is the quaint Brea Downtown Center. Featuring a row of storefronts, restaurants, movie theatres, and an Improv club, enjoy the small town feel of former oil hub, Brea. Like many other cities in the area have dealt with, revamping a dead main street is an invaluable yet lofty task. In the 90s, Brea looked to become more than simply the Brea Mall and create a center for the city where locals and tourists come to enjoy a small town feel in an Orange County suburb.
When on Birch Street, be sure to take a stroll, shop a little at the local stores and refuel with a waffle sandwich at Bruxie’s or enjoy happy hour at ChaCha’s. Birch Street also features great specialty activity shops like Pinot’s Palette where you can enjoy a glass of wine while learning how to paint, or a more nostalgic, Color Me Mine where you can paint your favorite sculpture and get it baked!
Birch Street offers free parking and full amenities. If you are looking for a new place to live, there are apartments above the storefronts so you can enjoy a more upbeat lifestyle.
Seas The Day Scuba
Address: 1039 E Imperial Hwy f1, Brea, CA 92821
Sitting adjacent to the Brea Mall and miles from the ocean is Seas The Day Scuba. This dive shop is a full service, scuba diver’s dream. The shop is organized and well stocked with a variety of brands including Scuba Pro, Sherwood and GoPro. This shop also offers reasonably priced rental gear if buying isn’t in your budget.
Seas The Day also offers some of the best Scuba diving classes in the area. This shop is a PADI certified dive shop where you can learn how to dive from knowledgeable yet friendly instructors. Learning from a smaller shop like this means that you are not only supporting a small shop but you are learning from a shop that legitimately cares about their customers.
Learning from this local shop also makes you a part of the Brea dive community, so be sure to check them out if you’re in the area and on the fence about Scuba diving!
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Rebecca has an undeniable love of writing and recently graduated from Cal State Long Beach with a degree in journalism. She enjoys watching hockey, scuba diving, swimming, and working out.