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5 Unique Destinations Near Orange County To Visit


When Orange County, California is mentioned during a conversation, the name itself brings to mind images of Disneyland, Knott's Berry Farm and Dana Point Harbor. Within each city and community, though, are lesser-known destinations that are just as beautiful and intriguing. It's simply a matter of slowing down and taking the time to look at what's out there. When you have a chance, check out the following Orange County destinations during one of those glorious Southern California weekends. 

Rubys Shake Shack
(credit: Ruby's Shake Shack)

Ruby's Shake Shack
7703 E. Coast Highway
Newport Beach, CA 92657
(949) 464-0100

Ruby's Diner has taken over the original Crystal Cove Shack Shack while maintaining its roadside charm. Ten years ago, the chain restaurant acquired the location, which has been a California landmark since 1945. There's really nothing like getting off the Interstate to enjoy a burger and shake while looking out over the gorgeous Crystal Cove. Ruby's Shake Shack remains a piece of Orange County history and a real slice of Americana.

Mike Ward Community Park
(credit: Michelle T./Yelp)

Mike Ward Community Park
20 Lake Rd
Irvine, CA 92604
(949) 724-6900

The affluent community of Irvine has been growing as construction cranes and heavy equipment dot the landscape. Yet, in this corner of Orange County, the older parts of the planned community have a distinct charm. Named in honor of former Irvine mayor and councilman Mike Ward, this park in the Woodbridge Community offers tranquil sunset views over a man-made lake as well as a volleyball pit, basketball courts and great gazebos. This also is a great place to walk the four-legged family members and just unwind after a hard day.

oc great park movie lawn
(credit: Anne M./Yelp)

Orange County Great Park
C Street
Irvine, CA 92618

Marine Corps Air Station El Toro was a big part of Orange County for decades before shutting down in 1999. Legend has it that some Marines at the base even worked second jobs at Disneyland. El Toro also was an integral part of the 1996 hit "Independence Day." These days, portions of the former base are part of the Orange County Great Park. Instead of fighter jets flying overhead, a huge balloon ride is often seen in the day and evening skies. The Orange County Great Park has a train, diversions and activities for the whole family. Park improvement also is ongoing in a 688-acre area of the land.

Related:  Best Ideas for a Unique Night Out In Los Angeles

box canyon park credit yorba linda parks and rec
(credit: Yorba Linda Parks and Recreation)

Yorba Regional Park In Anaheim
7600 E La Palma Ave
Anaheim, CA 92807
(714) 973-6615

Arguably best known for its famous theme parks, Anaheim also has a real gem in Yorba Regional Park. Created as part of the Orange County Bicentennial Project, the park is the perfect place to fish, sail boats and have a picnic with the family. It's not unusual to see several groups celebrating birthdays and other events on a Saturday afternoon. Bicyclists can enjoy the paths and, if they choose to, connect to the Santa Fe River Trail. When driving east on La Palma Avenue, Yorba Regional Park almost seems to go on for miles.

old towne orange
(credit: Old Towne Orange)

Old Towne Plaza Historic District In Orange

Given the amount of highway traffic, many OC residents prefer their own cars to public transportation. These folks might be missing out, though, on cool places like the Old Town Plaza Historic District. Easily accessible via Metrolink's Orange Station, the one-mile district contains antique and furniture shops as well as plenty of places to walk or cycle. The train station itself is the historic Atchison, Topekea and Santa Fe shared depot. It now houses a Ruby's Diner and the Streamliner Lounge, which has a model train that circles the perimeter of the ceiling.

Related: Best Bargain Hunting In Orange County

Born in St. Louis, Missouri, Steven Bryan calls Irvine, California his home. A freelance writer for more than 20 years, he has interviewed a wide range of notable celebrities, including a variety of up-and-coming musicians and artists as well. Passionate about movies and comic books, he also makes an annual pilgrimage to the San Diego Comic-Con.
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