As you read about the Orange County tourist attractions discussed below and consider them for your vacation or holiday, you may want to also consider the attractions and activities in adjacent areas (e.g., Los Angeles and San Diego), as well as the fabulous Southern California beaches, the educational and entertaining Orange County museums and the world-renowned Orange County amusement and theme parks.
Casa Romantica, San Clemente – Once the home of the city’s founder, Ole Hanson, this renovated 1928 estate offers diverse educational and cultural opportunities, including historic exhibitions and musical performances. (casaromantica.org)
Crystal Cathedral, Garden Grove – Designed by Philip Johnson and resembling a four-pointed star, there are 10,000 panes of glass covering the translucent walls and ceiling of this stunning architectural gem. Once the home of Dr. Robert Schuller’s “Hour of Power” television ministry, the Crystal Cathedral is now a Catholic church and is slated to become the headquarters of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange. (crystalcathedral.org)
Dana Point Harbor, Dana Point – The whale watching capital of the West, you can arrange catamaran excursions here or just hang out and enjoy the salt air and the wharf’s shops and outstanding restaurants. (danaharbor.com)
Fullerton Arboretum, Fullerton – Located on California State University’s Fullerton campus, this 26-acre botanical garden features an ecologically arranged collection of plants from around the world. (arboretum.fullerton.edu)
The Honda Center, Anaheim – Formerly known as Arrowhead Pond, this is the home ice for the Anaheim Ducks hockey team as well as the host venue for popular music and comedy performances. (hondacenter.com)
Los Rios District, San Juan Capistrano – Directly across the track from the Capistrano train depot, this is California’s oldest neighborhood. Closely tied to the establishment of the city’s lovely mission, Los Rios Street was originally called Calle Occidental, or “West Street,” indicating its orientation to the mission, and several adobes from the 18th century remain today. (sjchistoricalsociety.com/LOS_RIOS)
Medieval Times, Buena Park – Come feast on a four-course dinner at this entertaining Orange County tourist attractions and enjoy a night of romantic excitement in a unique, two-hour show of pageantry, horsemanship and swordplay, including an authentic jousting tournament. (medievaltimes.com/findcastles/buenapark/)
Mission San Juan Capistrano, San Juan Capistrano – Commonly referred to as “the jewel of the California missions” and open daily from 8:30am to 5pm (closed Thanksgiving, Christmas and Good Friday), the mission often hosts special events like concerts, garden shows, fashion shows and living history reenactments. (missionsjc.com/)
Ocean Institute, Dana Point – Open to the public on weekends (10 a.m. until 3 p.m.), you can enjoy ocean science-themed exhibits, see hundreds of marine animals, participate in animal feedings and, on most Sundays, tour the historic brig Pilgrim, a full-sized replica of the square-rigged vessel on which Richard Henry Dana sailed. You may also want to take a marine mammal (whale watching) cruise or a tall ship sail. (ocean-institute.org)
Orange County Fair & Exposition Center, Costa Mesa – In addition to the annual fair (spanning the end of July and the beginning of August), this center hosts a variety of festivals, car races and performances (e.g., Cirque du Soleil). (ocfair.com)
Orange County Performing Arts Center, Costa Mesa – Renowned for its asymmetrical architecture and excellent acoustics, this venue is home to the Pacific Symphony Orchestra, Opera Pacific, the Philharmonic Society of Orange County and the Pacific Chorale and often hosts touring Broadway shows and popular music and dance performances. (ocpac.org)
Orange County Zoo, Orange – Nestled within Irvine Regional Park’s majestic grove of heritage Oak and Sycamore trees, this charming Orange County tourist attraction specializes in animals and plants from the southwestern United States. (oczoo.com)
Pirate’s Dinner Adventure, Buena Park – Come enjoy a delightful dinner along with swashbuckling swordplay, aerial artistry and pyrotechnics aboard a Spanish galleon replica anchored in a 250,000-gallon lagoon. (piratesdinneradventure.com)
Santa Ana Zoo, Santa Ana – Located at Prentice Park, this 20-acre zoo focuses on Central and South American plants and animals, and its Zoofari Express is fun for kids of all ages. (santaanazoo.org)
Santa Catalina Island – Twenty-six miles off the Southern California coast – an hour by ferry or about 15 minutes by helicopter – this island is often a California vacation destination in and of itself. Most of the island is controlled by the Catalina Island Conservancy, a private nonprofit organization whose mission is “to be a responsible steward of its lands through a balance of conservation, education and recreation.” (catalinaconservancy.org)
Sherman Library & Gardens, Corona del Mar – This 2.2-acre horticultural paradise of manicured gardens is cared for by over 150 volunteers and features lovely flowers, plants and fountains. The library specializes in research about the Pacific Southwest. (slgardens.org)
Stanley Ranch Museum Historical Village, Garden Grove – A collection of historical buildings, including Garden Grove’s first post office, an old barbershop, a general store and a fire station. Of particular interest is a garage, moved to the village from North Hollywood, which served as Walt Disney’s first studio in 1923.
If that list of Orange County tourist attractions doesn’t have anything that strikes your fancy, be sure to check out the links below to information about museums in nearby Los Angeles and San Diego.
Photo of Crystal Cathedral by Sylvain Leprovost via flickr (Creative Commons); Photo of Touch Tank courtesy of Ocean Institute; Photo of Santa Catalina Island by freeloosedirt via flickr (Creative Commons).
Note: Information in this article was accurate
when it was published, but hours, prices, etc.
change constantly. Please confirm details
with local contacts before traveling.