What to See in Orange County

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Orange County is situated on the West Coast of the USA. Southern California’s smallest county has no defined center, it’s a collection of small cities that rolls out like quilt from the Santa Ana Mountains, to the sparkling Pacific Ocean.

 

Just to the north rises dynamic Los Angeles, while to the south is laid back San-Diego, but prosperous Orange County has a distinct attitude and flavor all its of own. Home to Native Americans for thousands of years, European settlement took hold in 1776 with the construction of Mission San Juan Capistrano.

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Raided by pirates, ravaged by earthquakes, floods and droughts, this determined, self-sufficient settlement never lost faith. The mission contains the oldest Californian buildings still in use today.

 

A century later, new breeds of worshippers came nature lovers, artists, and sun seekers. In the late 1800s, Laguna Beach began to attract vacationers. By the 1920s half the residents were artists, establishing a creative community which still thrives today.

 

Laguna possesses a natural beauty, spirit, and light that one artist called, an inexhaustible source of inspiration. Just a little to the north is Crystal Cove, a time capsule of early Californian beach culture.

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Set in a state park of pristine coastline, Crystal Cove features an historic collection of classic beach shacks built from disused Hollywood movie sets, and the flotsam and jetsam of the ocean.

 

The shacks have been lovingly preserved, right down to the last detail. Further up the coastline is the upscale city of Newport Beach with its famous pier, fabulous bars, and boutiques.

 

Just a few blocks behind the beach is Newport Harbor. Once a busy maritime port, the waters here are now filled with pleasure craft.

 

Looking at the incredible homes which line the shore, it’s hard to imagine that one-acre lots were once sold here for a dollar-a-piece! Not so long ago, Huntington Beach was dotted with oil derricks; now the only oil here is suntan lotion.

 

Huntington’s excellent year round waves inspired hit songs by The Beach Boys and Jan and Dean, earning it the title, Surf City.

 

The US Open of Surfing has been held near its famous pier since 1959. The locals are crazy about beach volleyball too, and the city hosts its own pro series. But there’s another side to O.C. which truly super-sizes this county as a vacation destination- the theme parks!

 

In the city of Anaheim, only 35-miles south from L.A. stands the granddaddy of all them all- Disneyland Park.  Since the park first opened its gates in 1955,  over 600 million guests have been reminded that dreams really can come true!

 

A few kilometers away is Knott’s Berry Farm, a California classic. Starting life as a collection of relocated ghost towns this theme park has grown into a family favorite that celebrates America’s pioneering past.

 

When you’re done riding the waves and thrill-rides, Orange County offers plenty of attractions that are more on the cultural side. The Lyon Air Museum sits next to John Wayne Airport and specializes in aircraft and automobiles from the World War Two era.

 

But bring your sunglasses, some of these old birds are shiny! At the Discovery Science Center explore the inner workings of Dinosaurs and space flight.

 

Or visit the Santa Ana Zoo and count the monkeys. The zoo’s benefactor donated the land on the condition that there were always at least 50 primates in the collection.

 

The Bowers Museum, is a journey of world cultures through the arts. This dynamic museum enjoys a special relationship with the Smithsonian Institute and British Museum ensuring that the visiting exhibitions are always world-class.

 

When it comes to architecture, Orange County is full of surprises. The Crystal Cathedral is simply light years away from the county’s early adobe churches and the Segerstrom Center, the heart and soul of the county’s arts community, is a visual symphony in itself.

 

But for all its fabulous architecture, shopping, thrill rides, and culture, nothing quite compares to Orange County’s sunsets. They’re pure Californian gold, and free to everyone.

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