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    Orange County: 9 things to do to enjoy Disneyland County and its surroundings

    Who I am
    Martí Micolau
    @martímicolau
    SOURCES CONSULTED:

    wikipedia.org, lonelyplanet.com

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    Located between Los Angeles and San Diego and framed by the Santa Ana Mountains and the Pacific Ocean, the Orange County, the smallest county in California, does not have a real defined center but rather looks like a collection of small towns. To symbolically identify this region are inevitably the large Disney theme parks, the main reason for tourist attraction, but also the beautiful ones beaches, crossed by scenic Highway 1, and a privileged place to enjoy some of the most beautiful sunsets on the West Coast.



    The beaches and towns of the Orange County they are a very used set of American TV series, especially when the subject to be portrayed is teenagers. In any case, if you find yourself passing through this sun-kissed area, the main reasons are essentially 2:

    1. you have visited Disneyland
    2. you're going from Los Angeles to San Diego (or vice versa), perhaps taking the Pacific Coast Highway.

    In both cases, you may need some information on what you can find in the surroundings, in order to better organize your itinerary. So here's what to see in Orange County:

    Index

    • Map of places of interest
    • Disneyland
    • Laguna Beach
    • Old Towne Orange
    • Richard Nixon Library
    • San Juan Capistrano
    • The museums of Santa Ana
    • Beaches for surfers
    • Knott's Berry Farm
    • Futuristic architectures: Crystal Cathedral and Segerstrom Hall
    • Where to sleep to explore the area

    Map of places of interest

    Disneyland

    Obviously, one cannot but start from Disneyland in Anaheim, the first theme park wanted and designed by Walt Disney himself and a destination that deserves to be in the Top 10 of things to do in California. First of all, a premise: it is not a single park but a good one 2 parks (if they seem too many then don't go to Orlando, where the complex of parks called DisneyWorld consists of 6 autonomous parks). The first, the historical one, inaugurated in 1955 is Disneyland Park, to be understood it is that of the Castle of Cinderella; The second one, Disney california adventure, built in much more recent times (2001), is located in the space once dedicated to the parking lot of Disneyland Park, and as a theme it is inspired by the history and culture of California.



    Which of the 2 parks to choose? How to get around to buy tickets, find accommodation in the area and organize travel? To answer all these questions we have written a detailed guide dedicated to Disneyland Park in California.

    Laguna Beach

    Laguna Beach (Victoria Tower)

    As mentioned, Orange County is a land of beautiful beaches, hidden coves and coves where nature is still pristine and sunsets are enchanting. Nothing better than Laguna Beach to test all these features: stop for example at Crystal Cove State Park, a 5 km strip of sand topped by a rocky cliff where peace and serenity reign, and where you will also find a small historic district, which has more than 40 cottages from the '30s and' 40s, or lean towards the sunny 1000 Steps Beach, with its suggestive cavern that can be crossed at low tide, or look for a way to enter Three Arch Bay Beach, where the splendid triple arched stacks will repay you for the effort, otherwise reach one of the most suggestive corners, that of Victoria Beach, where the mysterious Victoria Tower lends itself to pirate stories and legends.

    For more details and to know all the most fascinating corners of these beaches, I refer you to our guide on how to visit Laguna Beach.

    Old Towne Orange

    Old Towne, the historic district of Orange, is located 11km southeast of Disneyland and stretches for about one square mile around Plaza Square Park, the original square in the city center. here you will find many historic buildings that combine to create an "old style" atmosphere to the entire district, which is actually also a rather lively commercial district, where you will find cafes, vintage shops, antique dealers (always remember that you are in the USA) and various types. Browsing the shops along the streets is the main activity here and the walk can be really enjoyable.



    Richard Nixon Library

    Reconstruction of the Oval Office

    Whether you are passionate about history or politics, or you simply want to go and see a great museum, the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum it will make you have a really nice half day. The exhibitions set up in the building are very well-finished and, thanks to video and audio material, reconstruct in a very suggestive way the facts concerning one of the most controversial presidents in American history, Richard Nixon, who resigned during his second term due to the scandal Watergate. The exhibition rooms, in addition to retracing the events that led to the conclusion of the presidential term, also deal with other important phases of his political career, from his visit to China to the signing of the ceasefire with Vietnam. Space is also given to the first lady, whose original clothes are exhibited in a special room.

    In the gardens of the museum you will also find Nixon's birthplace, his tomb next to that of his wife and the presidential helicopter, but the most evocative setting is certainly the full-scale reconstruction of the oval study of the White House, where you can walk freely. and, why not, sit on the presidential seat.

    San Juan Capistrano

    San Juan Capistrano is a small town with a pleasant historic district but its main attraction is undoubtedly the Spanish mission of the same name. Part of the historical itinerary The real way, the mission of San Juan Capistrano was founded in 1776 as the seventh of all the California missions, Unfortunately the earthquake of December 8, 1812 almost completely destroyed it, leaving the Serra Chapel (considered the oldest building in the whole state) and the bearing walls of the Great Stone Church, which still manage to convey the idea of ​​the beauty of the original church.



    In addition to visiting the 2 most important historical remains, I also recommend that you explore the most recent section of the mission, in particular the garden, with its beautiful arcades, courtyards and fountains, the home of Father Junipero Serra, founder of this and other Californian missions, the cemetery and the soldiers' barracks. The detailed visit of this interesting historical testimony can take up to a full hour and it is time well spent.

    The museums of Santa Ana

    Lyon Air Museum

    Even in this beautiful sun-kissed region it sometimes rains but even without calling into question the bad weather, spending an afternoon in one of these 3 beautiful museums in Santa Ana can be a rewarding experience:

    • Discovery Science Center: a precariously balanced giant cube is the particular 10-storey building that houses this science museum where children can try their hand at scientific discoveries, launch missiles, conduct a space mission, take a virtual helicopter tour of the County, prepare a healthy meal, become an Ecologic Superhero and much more ...
    • Lyon Air Museum: in this museum, in addition to children, adults can also have fun. Are you ready to see some of the rarest aircraft and vehicles in the world? Airplanes and historic cars and military vehicles are the stars of the Lyon Air Museum, a real boon for aviation fans.
    • Bowers museum: History and culture are also well represented in Orange County. This museum has a permanent collection of over 100000 objects of Mesoamerican, Pre-Columbian, African and Native American origin. The ticket also includes access to the Kidseum, an interactive museum for children 2 blocks away.

    Beaches for surfers

    For surfers, the long pier beaches north of Laguna Beach have a lot to offer, for example Huntington Beach, which has earned the nickname "Surf City", Newport Beach, with the many clubs near the beach, e The Wedge, a hidden corner south of the Balboa Peninsula that surfers in search of the perfect wave jealously guard. South of Laguna Beach, on the other hand, beyond Dana Point, near the border with San Diego County, there is another beach particularly loved by wave lovers, that of Trestles.

    Knott's Berry Farm

    If Disneyland has not exhausted your desire for unbridled fun, know that a few kilometers from the Disney park you will find another one that boasts a very interesting story: at the beginning of the 30s the business of Walter Knott and his wife Cordelia was booming; the first was conquering the inhabitants of the area with a banquet of boysenberries (a hybrid fruit obtained from the cross between blackberry and raspberry) and his wife's fried chicken was selling like hot cakes. To attract even more customers they came up with a brilliant idea, that of building one finta ghost town a tema western and later rented rides and attractions from local village fairs.

    Thus in Buena Park, near Anaheim, he was born in 1932 Knott's Berry Farm, a park that still uses the Far West setting as a background theme, but which also includes a series of dizzying roller coasters and reckless roller coasters that delight those who love thrills and strong emotions.

    However, there are also rides for the little ones and for families, for example Camp Snoopy, a magical world populated by Peanuts characters, while lovers of water parks can fall back on Soak City Orange County, with many swimming pools and high-speed slides.

    Futuristic architectures: Crystal Cathedral and Segerstrom Hall

    Exploring Orange County in search of modern architecture with a futuristic design is a nice pastime. We have already seen the cube of the Discovery Science Center of Santa Ana and in addition to that I recommend you take a trip to 2 other interesting locations: Crystal Cathedral, an imposing Catholic Church in Garden Grove built of glass in 1981 with one of the greatest musical instruments in the world inside (Hazel Wright's organ), and Segerstrom Hall, Costa Mesa's innovative design concert hall where the Pacific Symphony, Philharmonic Society of Orange County and Pacific Chorale perform.

    Crystal Cathedral
    Crystal Cathedral
    Segerstrom Hall
    Segerstrom Hall

    If contemporary architecture is one of your obsessions, know that a few miles from Orange, in the heart of Downtown Los Angeles, you will find many other interesting buildings.

    Where to sleep to explore the area

    Orange County as mentioned is quite small and can be crossed by car from south to north in just over 40 minutes, so if your main interest is to explore the county you can find accommodation in any of the places of interest mentioned and move around then with a rental car. For a list of all Orange County accommodations you can click the button below:

    Orange County hotel list

    From a strategic point of view, however, the best areas to look for accommodation are essentially 2: the area of Disneyland and the area of Laguna Beach. In the first case you will be near Los Angeles, in the second you will be near San Diego County. For suggestions regarding the search for accommodation in these areas, I refer you to our dedicated advice:

    • Where to sleep in Disneyland
    • Where to sleep in Laguna Beach
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