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Things To Do In Orange

In the center of Orange County is the aptly named city of Orange. Right next to Anaheim, Orange is a city not to be overlooked with lots of historic charm and modern comforts. Whether you are looking to do some major shopping or get away from the city for a while, you can find a destination in Orange.

The history of the city goes all the way back to the 1870s when the area was settled as a farming community. One of the major crops grown were, in fact, oranges, along with many other crops that allowed the town to flourish and the population to grow. The history of the city is preserved in Old Towne Orange, which is full of beautiful craftsman homes, stunning old buildings, and plenty of antique shopping opportunities. Now the city has a population of almost 140,000 and attracts visitors from all over Orange County.

Here are some of the the can’t-miss locations to visit when you next find yourself in town:

Fun Things To Do In Orange

Old Towne Orange at Plaza Square

Address: 99 Plaza Square #75, Orange, CA 92866

With plenty of boutique and antique shops and restaurants of every kind, Old Towne Orange is a great destination for a weekend outing with friends or family. There’s something for everyone- a comic book shop, an army surplus store, chic coffee shops, a tea house, a pie shop, and so much more. The center of it is marked by Plaza Square Park, a perfect photo-op spot with green trees and a gorgeous fountain. To see everything that these few square blocks have to offer will take more than one visit for sure, with stores that are much larger than meets the eye and historic architectural details hiding around every corner.

Orange Circle Fountain

Orange International Street Fair

Address: 112 E Chapman Ave, Orange, CA 92866

Every September, the streets of Old Towne Orange are closed for a weekend to host the annual Orange International Street Fair. This fair is a foodie’s dream, adding on dozens of options to the already large selection of restaurants available in the neighborhood. During the event, booths line the street along with banners showcasing the many countries of the world, bringing global food all to one place. There are so many options for sweet or savory snacks, drinks, or entrees that it can be overwhelming at first glance, but once you try a few places you’ll understand why this event draws major crowds year after year.

Antique Shops at Old Towne Orange

Of course in Old Towne, you’ll find plenty of antiques. There are too many amazing shops to list them all separately, so you’ll find a small list below that includes some of the key shops to hit up next time you are looking for some vintage treasures.

  • Antique Depot– 155 S Glassell St, Orange, CA 92866
    • A large antique mall with a great variety of furniture, glassware, and jewelry, with plenty of deals to be found in the basement section of the store.
  • Antique Station– 178 S Glassell St, Orange, CA 92866
    • Another large antique mall just across the street from Antique Depot. This one is only one floor, but contains over a hundred vendors that represent an eclectic mix of cool finds.
  • Orange Circle Antique Mall– 118 S Glassell St, Orange, CA 92866
    • A sprawling, quirky shop with two levels and a jewelry store inside, featuring clothing, décor, and collectibles perfect for 70s mod enthusiasts.
  • Country Roads Antiques– 216 W Chapman Ave, Orange, CA 92866
    • A smaller shop on the block now, but still has plenty of vintage finds that will be perfect for anyone looking for a rustic farmhouse feel.
  • It’s About Time Antiques Market– 131 N Glassell St, Orange, CA 92866
    • A large shop with a wide selection of furniture and décor with many aisles packed full of treasures to dig through.

Watson’s Soda Fountain & Cafe (Permanently Closed)

Address: 116 E Chapman Ave, Orange, CA 92866

After a day of shopping and walking, one great restaurant option in Old Towne is Watson’s Soda Fountain and Café. The atmosphere of this café perfectly matches the atmosphere of Plaza Park just outside, and feels like a step into the 50’s. The history of the café stretches all the way back to the 1890s, when it opened as Watson Drug Store. The soda fountain was added in 1915 along with a menu of ice cream sundaes and American comfort food. Now the shop has expanded to include a bakery and bar and is known for its classic American breakfast and lunch menu. The soda fountain continues to operate and floats and soda water freezes are still mainstays on the menu.

Irvine Regional Park

Address: 1 Irvine Park Rd, Orange, CA 92869

Being much more than a regular park, Irvine Regional Park contains plenty of family friendly attractions for an active day in the outdoors. The 491-acre space features lots of natural beauty with its many oak and sycamore trees and views of Santiago Creek with its adjoining pond and waterfall. Activity options in the park are plenty, including walking the trail, biking, picnicking, riding the Irvine Park Railroad, renting a paddle boat, going on a pony ride, or visiting the Orange County Zoo. Each attraction does have its own fee, ranging from $6 for the train or pony rides, to $20 per half hour for the paddle boat rentals.

Admission to the Orange County Zoo is only $2, and gives you access to their 8-acre space containing natural habitats. At this zoo you can see black bears, mountain lions, raccoons, a bald eagle, great horned owls, peacocks, coyotes, and more. We loved seeing the newest addition, the jaguar last time we visited, and the remodeled large mammal exhibit looked amazing!

The The barnyard petting zoo area is always one of our favorite stops to feed the friendly goats. It also includes sheep, pigs, chickens, doves, and pheasants. Being a smaller and more easily walkable zoo, this is a great option for young kids with shorter attention spans or for an affordable weekend family outing.

Irvine Park Railroad

Hilbert Museum of California Art

Address: 167 N. Atchison Street, Orange, CA 92866

Part of Chapman University and just on the edge of Old Towne, is the Hilbert Museum of California Art, which features a permanent collection and rotating gallery of pieces from the California Scene art movement of the 1920-70s onward. The collection includes art of all mediums that represent the beauty of the state, both urban and rural. In visiting the gallery, it provides a comprehensive image of the ways that the land has so rapidly evolved over the last century from a rural farming state to the bustling, industrialized, and diversely populated area it is now. The museum is open to visitors Tuesday-Friday with free admission.

Santiago Oaks Regional Park

Address: 2145 N. Windes Drive Orange, CA 92869

To see some of that beautiful California scenery for yourself you can visit the sprawling Santiago Oaks Regional Park. This 1269-acre park is a nature lover’s escape with trails that take you through orange groves and mature forests featuring mountain views and a creek. The trails allow for hiking, mountain biking, or equestrians and connect to the Anaheim Hills Trail System. The variety of trail options makes this park a great choice for walks of all difficulty levels, with some shorter, flat trails for more casual strolls and longer, uphill trails for greater difficulty. Visits in the springtime are ideal, as the fields fill with picture perfect blooming yellow flowers and California poppies. This is one of our favorite dog-friendly spots for hiking, and we always make our way to the historic damn to check the water level and see if we can spot a few turtles.

Hiking At Santiago Oaks Regional Park

Orange Homegrown Farmer’s Market

Address: 303 W. Palm Ave. Orange, CA 92866

If you’re looking for a fun outing on a Saturday morning, visit the Orange Homegrown Farmer’s Market for a great selection of fresh, local produce and handmade artisan goods. The market was started in 2011 by Orange Homegrown, a grass-roots non-profit that values the health and positive environmental impact of choosing local produce. In addition to picking up your weekly fruits and veggies, you can also shop for pre-made foods made by local artisans, art from Orange County artists, and learn about various local non-profits. If you want to get involved, they also have volunteering opportunities at the weekly market and their affiliated community farm less than a block away.

Peters Canyon Regional Park

Address: 8548 E. Canyon View Ave. Orange, CA 92869

Another option for getting outdoors and hitting the trails in Orange is Peters Canyon Regional Park. Accented with a sizable (often dry) lake, this 354-acre park has several trails and two main loops that are some of the most popular in the area. The terrain includes groves of black willows and cottonwood trees as well as grassland, coastal sage scrub, and more all with plenty of local wildlife. Many of the trails are multi-use and can be used for biking or equestrians. The entirety of the park can be seen along the 5.7 mile loop, or for a shorter trip you can follow the shape of the lake for a 2.5 mile walk. There are several scenic lookout points to stop and enjoy the view, but the East Ridge View trail allows for particularly great views.

Peters Canyon

The Outlets at Orange

Address: 20 City Blvd W. Orange, CA 92868

One of the go-to shopping destinations in Orange County is The Outlets at Orange, formerly called The Block. This outdoor outlet mall has stores from all your favorite major brands including Nike, Adidas, Old Navy, Gap, Converse, Levi’s, and much more. Food options are also plentiful including Saddle Ranch, Rubio’s, Corner Bakery, BJ’s Restaurant and Brewhouse, and Buffalo Wild Wings. For entertainment there is an AMC theater, Dave & Busters, and the Vans Skatepark. With over 100 businesses, there are plenty of options for a day of shopping out in the sun.

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Heidi Deal
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. When she's not writing you can find her solo hiking and going on new adventures with her kids and pup.