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10 Places To See in O.C. That Aren’t So Obvious But, Worth It.

Whether you’re a tourist or briefly visiting, there’s never a dull moment in Orange County. We have plenty of places to see or do from the beach to the mountains, shopping indoor or outdoor malls or jaunting to the nearby towns. There are always places to go. But, wait! There’s more to O.C. than the beach, the mountains or the malls. Here are places that are not as obvious according to me. 

1. Old Town in Orange.
Nestled between neighborhood homes and a well-known school called Chapman University is the largest National Historic Register District plaza in California. Some of the buildings still contain its original structures. 

Address: Plaza Sq Orange, CA 92866-1416

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2. Mission San Juan Capistrano
Founded in 1776 by the Spanish Catholics of the Franciscan Order. This place is full of history. Come and explore the grounds to see the beautiful gardens, chapels, fountains and much more.

Address: 26801 Ortega Hwy, San Juan Capistrano, CA 92675



3. The Great Park Balloon

From the 5 Fwy, in the distance, you may be able to see this huge orange balloon in the air or standing still on the ground. Previously free, this attraction has gained popularity over the years among the youngsters and also for some adults (ahem). It offers a 360-degree view of Irvine city (if, weather permits).

Address: 6950 Marine Way, Irvine, CA 92618


4. The Pirate Tower
When I first heard about it I thought it was quite strange. I have yet to see it in person but, it does exist somewhere in Laguna Beach. Don’t be fooled by the fictitious name. The “Pirate Tower” was actually built by the homeowner who lived above the cliff. There’s nothing inside it except a super cool staircase.

Address: Victoria Beach Tower Laguna Beach CA 92651


5. Back Bay Loop

This scenic 10-mile loop is perfect for those who love nature while walking or riding a bike. You can either take the paved or dirt paths whichever you prefer.  It’s also the perfect spot to watch the sunsets. 

Address: Back Bay Loop, Costa Mesa, CA 92627



6. Bolsa Chica Wetlands
A nature reserve in Huntington Beach found coincidentally right across from the beach.  There are trails around the area and a place is known for bird watching.

Address: 18000 Pacific Coast Hwy, Huntington Beach, CA 92648



7. William R. Mason Regional Park
A neighborhood park in Irvine that is split into two parts.  The east side is a bit more of a wilderness with a bike trail and a small creek. On the other hand, the west side is your typical park. It’s grassy and flat with slight hills. An artificial lake surrounds the area often with ducks, squirrels or geese.

Address: 18712 University Dr, Irvine, CA 92612



8. Laguna Niguel Lake
A lake that seems to be hidden in the middle of the town. I discovered this place through friends who suggested it to me. It’s great to spend the day picnicking and a few do fish here (provided that you have a license).

Address: 28241 La Paz Rd, Laguna Niguel, CA 92677



9. Los Rios Neighborhood in San Juan Capistrano.
I take it back. This neighborhood is popular but, it is worth checking out. I love getting lost in its quaint streets with preserved and old historic homes which, some have turned into a business for tea, gift shops, etc. My friends and I came here to meet at The Tea House. It was perfect brunch and to enjoy our morning catching up on our daily lives.

Address: 26711 Verdugo St, San Juan Capistrano, CA 92675



10. Seal Beach
In comparison to the other beach towns in the county, Seal Beach is likely not the first beach that comes to mind. However, I think it is still worth stopping by to see. They have a small city center lined with coffee shops, restaurants and/or bars that will lead towards the pier.  

Address: 26711 Verdugo St, San Juan Capistrano, CA 92675


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