Orange County Points of Interest

Points of Interest Orange County

Orange County attractions are as simple as a park with astounding oceanviews. Others include a presidential museum, seaside amusement park, sea cave, surf spot and Spanish mission. From the 1950's vibe of Old Towne Orange to the Los Rios Historic District in San Juan Capistrano, here you'll find unique Orange County points of interest and other popular attractions.

Inland Cities

Richard Nixon Library is located off Imperial Highway near the intersection of Highways 55, 57 and 91 in Yorba Linda. Certainly one of our more controversial Presidents, Nixon was known for his superb, foreign relations with countries like China and Egypt but unfortunately, will always be associated with Watergate. Richard Nixon Library exhibits include life-size statues of world leaders, a presidential vehicle, 12-foot high piece of the Berlin wall, Nixon's birthplace & burial site and much more. Learn about Nixon's repeated correspondence with Elvis Presley. The grounds include gardens and a large reflecting pool. In 2005, the 'Marine One' helicopter that Nixon used for his final flight from the White House was delivered to the museum.

Richard Nixon Library and Birthplace
18001 Yorba Linda Blvd.
Yorba Linda, California 92886
(714) 993-5075

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Old Towne Orange

Old Towne Orange is found at the intersection of Glassell Street and Chapman Avenue between the 91, 57, 22, and 5 freeways in Orange. Old Towne (also known as 'The Plaza') proclaims itself to be the antiques capital of Southern California. Dozens of antiques stores are mixed with touristy boutiques, restaurants and cafés. A walk around The Plaza is like a trip back in time with turn of the century brick buildings, a central park & fountain and an abundance of Craftsman homes. Watson's Drug Store and Soda Fountain is an historic place that still functions as it did over 100 years ago with a drug store, pharmacy, diner and still operational soda fountain. The Filling Station was an historic gas station that now operates as a café complete with antique filling pump on their outdoor patio. Old Towne Orange is among the most historic Orange County attractions.

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Irvine Park is Situated at the east end of Jamboree off Interstate 5 in Orange. There is so much to do at this park. Highlights include riding the 1/3 scale replica of a 1863 CP Huntington locomotive, water biking in the pond and pony rides. Irvine Park includes wide open fields for picnicking and softball games, and secluded picnic areas under oak trees. Don't have picnic supplies of your own? No problem because you can get everything you need at the Boat House concession stand. Bicycle rentals are available for biking the scenic paths around the park. The Orange County Zoo is also on the premises toward the back of the park. Horseback riding, hiking and mountain biking are other popular activities. Irvine Park offers several fun things to do in Orange County.

Irvine Regional Park
1 Irvine Park Road
Orange, California 92862
(714) 973-6835

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Great Park Orange Balloon

Great Park Balloon is found off Interstate 5 at the Sand Canyon Exit. Situated on the former El Toro Marine Base, the Great Park Balloon is operating as a promotion of the soon-to-be Orange County Great Park that will occupy much of the land that was formerly the Marine base. The big orange balloon is filled with helium and carries up to 30 visitors 500 feet into the air for terrific panoramic views. A high-strength cable is always connected to the balloon making it a very safe activity. The Great Park Balloon is one of many unique things to do in Orange County.

Blog Check our Great Park Balloon blog for more details regarding our experience in the big orange balloon.

Great Park Balloon
Perimeter Road
Irvine, California 92618
(866) 829-3829

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Seal Beach

Seal Beach is the northern-most beach in Orange County bordering Long Beach. Seal Beach has wide, sandy beaches and a quaint Main Street that leads to its pier. At the end of the pier is Ruby's Restaurant - great burgers and shakes and "what a view". The City of Seal Beach has taken great care in maintaining its small town appeal over the years. Walking down Main Street gives the feel of a California beach community from decades ago. The shops, bars and fish taco stands are all worth a visit. The Bay movie theater plays classic films year round for cheap. This is a great pier community for its friendly people and original laid-back feel. Seal Beach offers plenty of fun things to do in Orange County for kids and adults.

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Bolsa Chica State Beach is located off PCH between Warner and Seapoint. Bolsa Chica features a huge sand beach with fire rings, restrooms, snack stands and equipment rental. Bolsa Chica is backed by the Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve with walking trails through coastal wetlands. A 13-mile bike path connects Bolsa Chica with Sunset Beach to the north all the way down to south Newport Beach. Bolsa Chica also offers beach RV camping for self-contained units. This is a popular beach for nighttime bonfire parties. Bolsa Chica is one of the most popular Orange County beaches.

TIP: Corky Carroll's Surf School is located at Bolsa Chica State Beach. Surf lessons include surfboards and wetsuits.

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Newport Beach

Newport Beach

Newport Beach is situated at PCH (Pacific Coast Highway, Highway 1) and the 55 Freeway. As part of the 'California Riviera', this very upscale community is a mix of pristine estuary, fun-filled harbor, thriving beach community and multi-million dollar neighborhoods. The Newport and Balboa Piers are a hub of entertainment offering restaurants, bars and touristy shops. A paved bike path spans the length of Newport Beach and bike rentals are available at the piers. Boat rentals and dinner cruises are a great way to unwind in Newport Harbor. Other activities include swimming, surfing, fishing, skating, biking, walking, basketball, volleyball and more. Board a whale watching charter out of Newport Harbor and catch a glimpse of a growing population of whales that migrate our coast each year. Rent a kayak and explore the Newport Back Bay Estuary or follow the roads and trails around it for a 10-mile loop. Fashion Island puts on the Ritz as Orange County's premier shopping venue containing many high-end retailers. Corona Del Mar State Beach offers both a large sandy beach and secluded cove and is backed by a community of impressive seaside cottages and mansions. Newport Beach offers plenty of fun things to do in Orange County for kids and adults.

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The Wedge is found at the southern tip of the Balboa Peninsula in Newport Beach. When a south swell is hitting just right, The Wedge can become one of Southern California's fiercest breaks producing waves up to 20 feet in height. Although too dangerous for amateur wave goers, it can be an awesome sight to watch the professionals ride these monsters. The Wedge actually creates a wedge of ocean between the Newport Harbor jetty and the sandy beach that causes waves to double-up on themselves. These waves break so close to shore they are not favored by surfers but perfect for bodyboarders and bodysurfers. The Wedge is among the unique Orange County attractions.

The Wedge
Oceanfront and Channel Road
Newport Beach, CA 92661

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Newport Back Bay is situated between the Newport Harbor and MacArthur Boulevard. The Newport Back Bay is a pristine estuary of marshes, swamps, bogs, mudflats and vernal pools. Expect to see fish jumping and several varieties of waterfowl including white egrets, blue herons, brown pelicans, redtailed hawks and more. A ten-mile loop around the back bay is popular with walkers, joggers and bicyclists. Requires some road connections. Popular activities include bird watching, canoeing and kayaking. Rentals are available at the Newport Aquatic Center off Whitecliffs Drive. The Newport Back Bay is one of the popular Orange County attractions for outdoor enthusiasts.

Newport Back Bay
2301 University Drive
Newport Beach, CA 92660
(949) 923-2296

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Balboa Fun Zone

Balboa Fun Zone is found on the Newport Peninsula off Balboa Boulevard. Situated in Newport Harbor, the Balboa Fun Zone features a ferris wheel, arcade games, boat rentals, restaurants, shops and the Balboa Ferry. Boat rentals include motor boats, Sea-Doos, Duffy boats and SUP (Stand-up Paddleboards). The Balboa Fun Zone is one of the best things to do in Orange County with kids.

Balboa Fun Zone
600 E. Bay Avenue
Newport Beach, CA 92661

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Fashion Island is an outdoor shopping mall in the upscale community of Newport Beach. Over 200 department stores and restaurants in an outdoor setting with a plethora of Italian-style fountains, ocean breezes. With shopping stores like Macy's and Neiman Marcus, Fashion Island is a unique shopping experience. Fashion Island is a one stop shopping destination. Fashion Island is located off Highway 1 (PCH) in Newport Beach.

Fashion Island
401 Newport Center Drive
Newport Beach, California 92660
(949) 721-2000

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Laguna Beach

Crystal Cove State Beach is found off PCH between Newport Beach and Laguna Beach. Crystal Cove features 3 miles of sandy beach, tide pools, camping and bluff-top trails for hiking and biking. Several access points offer large parking lots and restrooms. Also at Crystal Cove are the Crystal Cove Beach Cottages, an original community of beach shanty houses that have been preserved and restored as rentals. This community also includes the Beachcomber restaurant which serves appetizers, meals and cocktails on the sand. Head up the Crystal Cove Trail to Ruby's Beach Shack for smoothies, malts, shakes and other tempting snacks. Crystal Cove is one of the prettiest and least crowded Orange County beaches. It's also one of the few Orange County beaches to allow camping by the beach at Moro State Park.

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Laguna Main Beach

Laguna Beach is situated at PCH (Pacific Coast Highway, Highway 1) and the 133. This artist community is nestled in the canyons and coastal foothills of the 'California Riviera'. Shopping, sunbathing, snorkeling, scuba diving, hiking, mountain biking, golfing, surfing and great night life are the main activities in Laguna Beach. Five star hotels and equivalent restaurants line PCH. Follow the walking path through Heisler Park, which offers panoramic lookouts of the Pacific Ocean, native gardens, picnic areas and multiple beach access points. Laguna Beach has a rich history in the arts and Harrison Ford, Mickey Rooney, Betty Davis, William Wendt, Wyland and many more once called it home. True to its heritage, every year Laguna Beach hosts the Festival of the Arts and the Sawdust Festival. Peruse the Laguna Art Museum or catch a performance at the Laguna Playhouse. Crystal Cove State Beach features an original beach house community known as Crystal Cove Cottages situated on the sand at water's edge. These cottages are available for rent and include the Beachcomber restaurant and bar. El Moro Canyon State Park features an oceanview campground and many miles of trails for hiking and mountain biking. Laguna's beaches consist of Main Beach and many large & small coves separated by rocky cliffs. Located in South Laguna, the Montage Resort is Orange County's premier resort perched on a bluff above some of the most beautiful beaches in the state. Laguna Beach has some of the most beautiful Orange County beaches.

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Heisler Park, Laguna Beach

Heisler Park is found north of downtown Laguna off Cliff Drive. Heisler Park is situated on a coastal bluff above several of Laguna's most popular beaches connecting Main Beach to Diver's Cove. A wheelchair-friendly path spans nearly three-quarters of a mile and features several scenic lookouts, picnic spots, beautiful native gardens and beach access points. The beaches here are a perfect representation of all of Laguna's beaches with white sand beaches, rocky outcroppings, tide pools and beautiful emerald waters teeming with kelp and sea life. It is not uncommon to see dolphins at play in this region of Laguna. Diver's Cove is a popular entry point for divers. Picnic Beach features wheelchair-accessible ramps to a white sand beach and a large grassy picnic area. Rockpile is a surfing beach where surfers know how to navigate through boulders and rocks. Main Beach is the hub of Laguna Beach activity with a huge sand beach, boardwalk, basketball courts, restrooms and the amenities afforded to being across the road from Downtown Laguna Beach. Watch a game of lawn bowling at the Laguna Beach Lawn Bowling Club. Access Heisler Park from Cliff Drive off the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH). Metered street parking.

Heisler Park
375 Cliff Drive
Laguna Beach, CA 92651
(949) 497-3311

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Victoria Beach Castle

Victoria Beach is located off Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) at Victoria Drive. Large sandy beach with mostly rock to the north. The highlight of Victoria Beach is medieval-looking 1926 tower that used to serve as a stairwell to the beach. Backed by cliffs with multi-million dollar homes. Access from stairway at southwest corner of Victoria Drive. No facilities. The Victoria Beach Castle is one of the more unique Orange County attractions.


Thousand Steps Beach

Thousand Steps Beach is situated off Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) at 9th Avenue in South Laguna. Although named 'Thousand Steps', it's really only about a 230 step staircase - it just seems like a thousand steps on a hot day. Thousand Steps features two large interconnected coves with large white sand beaches backed by cliffs and multi-million dollar homes. Low tide awards the opportunity to explore a giant sea cave at the south end of the beach. Access from stairway at intersection of 9th Street. Parking is available on northbound side of PCH and is limited. Restrooms, showers and water are available at the bottom of the steps. Thousand Steps Sea Cave is one of the more unique Orange County attractions.


Laguna Coast Wilderness

Laguna Coast Wilderness is found off Highway 133 in Laguna Canyon. Join docent-led hikes through the Laguna Coast Wilderness through some of Orange County's most pristine wildlands. Find ridgeline trails with ocean views, ancient sea caves, lush canyons and more. Mountain biking is allowed on many of the trails. The Laguna Coast Wilderness is among the more popular Orange County attractions for outdoor enthusiasts.

Laguna Coast Wilderness Park
18751 Laguna Canyon Road
Laguna Beach, CA 92651
(949) 923-2235

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Dripping Cave

Dripping Cave is located in Aliso Viejo off Interstate 5, in Aliso & Wood Canyons County Park. This former sea cave, also known as 'Robbers Cave', was once used as a hideout by unscrupulous characters including pirates, stagecoach robbers and cattle rustlers. The cave was officially named 'Dripping Cave' because the cave opening drips during wet seasons. From Alicia Parkway, turn west on Awma Road and park in the county parking lot. Pay parking. Follow the road behind the museum for approximately a half-mile. Turn right on the wide dirt road and look for the Dripping Cave sign another quarter-mile or so. There will be a rock formation halfway there that has several tiny caves where kids have fun playing. Watch out for mountain bikers. Dripping Cave is one of the more unique Orange County attractions.

Aliso And Wood Canyons Wilderness Park
28373 Alicia Parkway
Laguna Niguel, CA 92677
(949) 923-2200

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Pecten Reef

Pecten Reef is situated in Laguna Hills at Alicia and Moulton Parkways. Pecten Reef is an ancient ocean reef where fossils of whales and dolphins have been found. Evidence of its past can still be discovered as hundreds of fossils of scallops that hide on hilltops, under rocks and buried within brush. Pecten Reef is a small natural area surrounded by urban sprawl. Finding the fossils requires hiking a short distance on a bike path and dirt trail, then heading off trail up rocky hillsides. Diligently search by climbing the hills and turning over rocks (careful of rattlesnakes) and you'll find plenty of fossils. To access, park along Laguna Hills Drive at Sheep Hills Park and follow the bike trail under Moulton Parkway. Make a right on first dirt trail after Moulton and hike around the hill. From there, head off trail to the top of the hill. Please only take pictures from Pecten Reef and leave your finds for others to continue to enjoy. Pectin Reef is among the lesser known Orange County attractions.

Pecten Reef
Alicia & Moulton Parkways
Laguna Hills, CA 92653

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Dana Point

Dana Point Harbor

Dana Point is found off Interstate 5 from the Pacific Coast Highway exit (PCH). Dana Point is a mix of pristine beaches, bustling harbor, active state beach, small beach communities and luxury resorts. The hub of Dana Point is the Dana Point Harbor, which features a community aquarium, fishing pier, swim beach, picnic grounds, restaurants, hotels, fishing charters, whale watching, boat rentals, boating excursions and more. The Ocean Institute of Dana Point features fish tanks of local fish species in a learning environment. Around the bend from the Ocean Institute are tide pools teeming with starfish, sea urchins, anemones and hermit crabs. Rent a Stand-Up Paddleboard to explore the inner harbor or a Sea-Doo and head out to play in the swells of the open ocean. Hop on a whale watching boat and see dolphins, humpbacks, gray whales and even the elusive but massive blue whale. Board a fishing charter and bait your line for calico bass, white sea bass, bonito and halibut. The hot sun, white sand and refreshingly cool ocean waters await at many Dana Point beaches including the pristine Salt Creek and the always active Doheny. Pitch a tent or bring the motorhome for beach camping at Doheny State Beach. There are many great seafood restaurants in Dana Point Harbor but Cannons offers a panoramic view of the entire harbor and coast. Dana Point offers plenty of fun things to do in Orange County.

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Trestles is located off Interstate 5 at Christianitos Road. Trestles is one of Southern California's best surf breaks. Park in the parking lot or on the streets at the intersection of Christianitos Road and El Camino Real. Follow the surfers back over the freeway and walk the beach trail to the south. Follow the creek and pass under the train trestle to a large sand beach. The beach becomes rock bottom at water's edge. This is mainly a surfing beach that delivers perfect rights when conditions are right and is usually breaking 1 to 2 feet higher than nearby beaches. Trestles is fragmented by several points that all deliver good waves. No facilities. Trestles is one of the best Orange County beaches for surfing.


San Juan Capistrano

San Juan Capistrano Mission is found at the intersection of Interstate 5 and Highway 74 in San Juan Capistrano. This is the seventh California Mission. It was founded on November 1, 1776 by Padre Junipero Serra. The great stone church still lay in ruin from an 1812 earthquake, but much else remains intact throughout the grounds. This California Mission is most renowned for the 'Return of the Swallows', which occurs around March 19th every year. They return all the way from Argentina where they nest for the winter. The San Juan Capistrano Mission is the most historic of all Orange County attractions.

Mission San Juan Capistrano
Highway 74
San Juan Capistrano, CA 92693

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Los Rios Historic District

Los Rios Historic District is found off interstate 5 at Highway 74 (Ortega Highway). Situated across the railroad tracks from the Capistrano Train Depot, Los Rios is the oldest neighborhood in California. Originally settled in the late 1700's by the Spanish during the building of the San Juan Capistrano Mission, Los Rios today is home to three original adobe structures and several small businesses. Sites to visit include The O'Neill Museum, Ramos House café, Zoomars Petting Zoo and more. Los Rios is among the most historic Orange County attractions.

Los Rios Historic District
31731 Los Rios Street
San Juan Capistrano, CA 92675
(949) 493-8444

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Points of Interest by Region

California by Region

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