When you think about bucket-list items in southern California, your mind probably goes more toward Los Angeles than Orange County. Los Angeles is larger by far than its neighboring county to the south, but Orange County offers plenty of things that you should put on your bucket list – including some that you won’t find elsewhere.

(Credit: Festival of Arts)

Pageant of the Masters
650 Laguna Canyon Road 
Laguna Beach, CA 92651
(949) 497-6582

Pageant of the Masters is an event that can be enjoyed even if you’re not necessarily a devotee of fine art. It’s amazing to see live versions of some of the most famous paintings accompanied by narration about the painting and the accompanying classical music. In addition to seeing people pose as paintings, the setting in Laguna Canyon makes the event even more amazing. This annual event is such a part of Orange County that it was even portrayed in an episode of Arrested Development. This event is every July and August.

(credit: littleny/shutterstock)

Mission San Juan Capistrano
26801 Ortega Highway 
San Juan Capistrano, CA 92675
(949) 234-1300

Orange County – and particularly the southern part of the county – might not be the first place you think of when you consider American history. That being said, this mission was founded right around the same time America declared its independence. The admission fee is reasonable so it’s easy to bring the whole family here to walk through the grounds and read the entire history of Mission San Juan Capistrano.

(Credit: oneinchpunch/shutterstock)

Take A Surfing Lesson
22355 Pacific Coast Highway 
Huntington Beach, CA 92646
(714) 813-2880

If you’re going to be in Orange County, it seems like the least you could do is take a surfing lesson. While there are some good places to surf in Orange County, you might as well learn in the place known as Surf City, USA (sorry, Santa Cruz). Banzai Surf School has a variety of options for surfing lessons. You can register for a private one- or two-hour session for yourself or for your whole family. You can also register for a group class where there is one instructor per every four students. 

(Credit: Scott Schmitt)

Swallows Day Parade
San Juan Capistrano, CA 92675
(949) 493-1976

Every March, San Juan Capistrano has a parade to celebrate the return of the swallows to the city. The good thing is that you don’t have to be an ornithologist or even a bird enthusiast to enjoy this parade, which is one of the largest non-motorized parades in the country. It’s also a day just to have a party in great weather. The parade begins at 11 and goes right down Camino Capistrano downtown. Parking is at a premium on the day of the parade. You can take the train, which stops right by the parade route. 

(credit: Shelby Barone)

Visit Dad’s For A Balboa Bar
318 Marine Ave.
Newport Beach, CA 92662
(949) 673-8686

Dad’s is a doughnut shop, but it also serves two things that are synonymous with Balboa Island. The Balboa bar is vanilla ice cream on a stick dipped in chocolate, then rolled in the toppings of your choice. Once you’ve had one of these, it’s hard to go back to any other kind of ice-cream bar. The other treat you’ll find here is the bananas that are dipped in chocolate and frozen. Yes, both are simple pleasures, but they are definitely part of the experience of being in Orange County. 

By Gary Schwind


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