Orange County, the smallest county in California, does not have a defined center. It’s a group of cities located along the Pacific coastline and inland. “OC” as it’s called by locals, is sandwiched between the vibrant Los Angeles and relaxed San Diego.
Start your Orange County sightseeing with a history lesson. Mission San Juan Capistrano, located on the county’s southernmost tip, features the oldest Californian buildings in use today, and you can tour these almost any day of the week. Just a few years later and a few miles to the north, the sleepy town of Laguna Beach attracted new types of worshippers, namely sun and nature lovers. In the late 19th century, it became a playground for the vacationing wealthy. These days, Laguna Beach is full of hills, winding streets, and creative personalities, and is the perfect place to shop for art.
If you’re looking for something a little off the beaten path, Crystal Cove is the place for you. Where else can you stay in antique cabins put together from old Hollywood movie sets? Not in Newport Beach, where sprawling, million-dollar homes line the harbor. Can you believe you could once buy lots here for $1 an acre?
Hit the waves in Huntington Beach, then head inland to explore the theme parks. The grandfather of all amusement parks is Disneyland®: it’s stood in Anaheim since 1965. Not far away is Knott’s Berry Farm®, once a collection of relocated ghost towns that evolved into a series of rides and amusements intended to celebrate the pioneer spirit.
Head over to the Santa Ana Zoo and see how far you get if you like to count monkeys. The benefactors donated the land on which it sits on the condition that there would be at least 50 primates in the collection at all times, and it’s up to you to make sure that promise is kept.
Despite its various architectural marvels, theme parks, and numerous activities, Orange County is famed for something much simpler: its sunsets. Head over to the nearest beach and watch the sun disappear into the Pacific today.