California’s notable beaches, wineries and restaurants attract out-of-town visitors like a magnet. There are, however, many intriguing destinations located off the beaten path, especially in Orange County. Instead of heading to tourist attractions like Disneyland and Knott’s Berry Farm, check out the following hidden gems located in and around the OC. These destinations celebrate the things that make California a special place to be.
California Citrus State Historic Park
9400 Dufferin Ave.
Riverside, CA 92504
Although the citrus industry played a big part in Orange County’s growth, the area’s namesake fruit is not as prominent as it once was. The California Citrus State Historic Park reminds us of a time when orange groves were plentiful in the region. Visitors can see the active, producing citrus groves as well as the Varietal groves that represent most of the citrus fruit produced in California. The park also has RV access, bike and hiking trails plus a cool visitor’s center and museum. The facilities are available for weddings and picnics as well.
1900 N. Associated Road
Fullerton, CA 92831
Officially opened on Oct. 21, 1979, the Fullerton Arboretum is a great place to decompress, relax and reconnect with nature. The facility has plant collections representing the diverse species that grow across the world. Classes at the Fullerton Arboretum range from lessons in plant history and sustainability to cooking with locally-grown produce. Want a real outdoorsy spot for a wedding or corporate retreat? The Arboretum can accommodate approximately 350 people in various locations throughout the complex. The suggested admission is $5 per person, which goes towards the maintenance and upkeep of the facility.
Laguna Beach, CA 92652
One of Orange County’s most secluded beaches, Victoria Beach has plenty of fans but not a lot of available parking. Though some visitors think the stairs leading to the beach are daunting, the walk definitely is worth it. The beach boasts beautiful blue water and a stone structure dubbed the “Pirate Tower” by local residents. In truth, the tower contains a staircase constructed for State Senator William E. Brown in 1926. His family used it to reach the beach from their cliffside home, but it has long since been locked. Though totally gorgeous, please stay mindful of strong currents and riptides when exploring Victoria Beach.
Lyon Air Museum
19300 Ike Jones Road
Santa Ana, CA 92707
When heading to Orange County’s John Wayne Airport, take some time to check out the Lyon Air Museum. Founded by General William Lyon, the museum contains a collection of airplanes, military vehicles and automobiles. You can even check out the 1939 Mercedes-Benz Model G4 Offener Touring Wagon that was used by Adolph Hitler. Tickets are $12 for adults, $6 for guests ages 5-17 (children under 5 are free). Seniors and Veterans pay a discounted rate of $9. Guided tours can be arranged for parties of ten or more people.
Orange County Zoo
1 Irvine Park Road
Orange, CA 92869
Opened in 1985, the OC Zoo features plants and animals that are found in the Southwestern United States. The animal residents include black bears, coyotes, turkey vultures and pot-bellied pigs. The zoo’s educational programs cover such topics as an animal’s diet and how they keep cool. The OC Zoo also offers arts and crafts sessions and story time under the oak trees. Admission is $2 per person, but children two years of age or younger get in free.
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