Fullerton, California is located in northern Orange County near Anaheim and Buena Park. The urban city has a population of over 135,000 and was founded in 1887. Fullerton is home to Cal State Fullerton and Fullerton College, the Arboretum, and historic downtown.
The city of Fullerton has more to offer than tourists may believe. What brought many to the town in the late 1800s was orange groves that grew well in the Southern Californian soil. Fullerton was incorporated in 1904, formed by George and Edward Amerige, and named after George H. Fullerton. Fullerton was president of the Pacific Land and Improvement Company and promised to run a railroad through the town. With such a rich history, Fullerton has a lot to live up to. From restaurants to vibrant night-life, nature and historical landmarks, this town has hidden gems worth uncovering.
Here are a few must see spots in the city of Fullerton:
Hidden in a basement is a quirky bar with historical significance to Old Town Fullerton. The restaurant is located in the 1922 Spanish styled, Villa del Sol. Beyond the history of the building is the amazing gem of a spot known as The Cellar Restaurant. The restaurant and bar is eerily similar to one of the biggest attractions in neighboring Anaheim: Pirates of the Caribbean…
Under the candlelight, you can hear the soft music of the 1920s, and the undeniable musky smell of the Pirates ride. Here you can enjoy artisan cocktails and an atmosphere from a bygone era. The Cellar can also be rented out for special events and you can live out your 1920s dream.
Personally, this is one of my favorite hidden historical gems in Fullerton. In a college town full of typical bars and mainstream restaurants, The Cellar proves you can still find something truly special and remarkable with historic significance.
Typical of Fullerton is an unwavering nightlife but this town has much more to offer. Behind Fullerton College a few blocks from the bustling downtown is historic Hillcrest Park. Built originally in the 1920s by the Works Progress Administration, the park is notable for its brickwork and fountain which can be found near the Harbor entrance. This treasured landmark was restored in 2018.
Hillcrest park has steep hills and hiking trails, grassy areas and shade trees, picnic benches and BBQs, playgrounds, restrooms, baseball fields and three rental facilities including the Hillcrest Recreation Center, the Izaak Walton Cabin, and the Red Cross Building. Hillcrest Park is a hidden gem in an urbanized town that embodies the historical significance of Orange County and decades of work to restore and maintain its beauty. If you haven’t seen Hillcrest Park and are in the area it is truly a must see destination to add to your Orange County bucket list.
Muckenthaler Cultural Center
As with much of Orange County, there are areas of extreme historical significance nestled into day-to-day life. The Muckenthaler House was built in 1924 by Walter and Adella Muckenthaler as the center of their farming business. The property includes a beautiful atrium, a stone gazebo, and an arbor. The mansion has 18 bedrooms and served as the Muckenthaler home for four decades. It was donated in 1965 and became a cultural center. The Muckenthaler mansion was donated to provide experiences and ignite creativity within the community, all while maintaining its historical significance.
Today the Muckenthaler Cultural Center sits on 8.5 acres on Malvern Street and is home to various classes, summer camps, an art gallery, a sculpture garden, a gift shop, recording studio, movie filming, and serves as a special event venue. It is particularly popular for weddings. The Muck has won dozens of awards including the 2009 Fullerton Chamber of Commerce Quality of Life award for best non-profit organization in the city, the 2013 winner for Orange Coast Magazine’s Best Arts Education, and the 2016 Superintendent’s Award for Excellence in Museum Education for STEAM Programs, just to name a few.
Sitting on a former Orange grove is Orange County’s largest botanical garden. The Fullerton Arboretum sits on the north end of Cal State Fullerton and offers wide open spaces for all to enjoy. The Arboretum offers over 4,000 plant species to inspect including cacti, a redwood grove, and native California flora.
Step back in time at the Arboretum’s Heritage House and picture life as it was over 100 years ago. The house was built in 1894 by George Cook Clark, a doctor who lived and worked in the home with his family for over a decade. The Heritage House was built in an Eastlake-Victorian-style and made of redwood and fir.
The Heritage House property houses an 1880s outhouse, a pump house from 1895 and a windmill. The home was left in disarray and was sold to the city in 1972 when it was moved from Amerige and Lemon during a street widening project. Jorice Magg and Molly McClanahan came to the rescue of the Heritage House during this time and lobbied to save the home and move it to the botanical garden. After it was saved, the home needed work and local schools brought it back to its original glory so that it could be loved for decades to come as a historical representation of the late 1800s.
The Arboretum also serves as a destination for special events including weddings and family reunions. Bacon Pavilion is the perfect spot for large events because of its open air structure and California native habitat surrounding the building. The Wisteria Arbor is a smaller special event venue that offers a more quaint atmosphere.
This open and expansive nature preserve is one of the best places to learn about and experience nature, be sure to check out the Fullerton Arboretum the next time you’re in town.
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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.