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Best Historical Sites In Orange County

Mission San Juan Capistrano header thinkstock
(credit: Thinkstock)

The fast pace of life in Orange County seldom leaves time for reflection on the past, but the O.C. has a rich heritage that can still be discovered. These historic sites are a great place to begin learning about how Orange County came to be. Restoration efforts are helping to preserve these historic staples, but there's no time like the present to learn about the past.

Mission San Juan Capistrano
(credit: Mission San Juan Capistrano)

Mission San Juan Capistrano
26801 Ortega Highway
San Juan Capistrano, CA 92675
(949) 234-1300

Mission San Juan Capistrano is perhaps the most famous historic landmark in Orange County. The mission is designated as California Historic Landmark #200. Mission exhibits include information about life in early California at the missions as well as events leading to recent times. There are more than 10 acres of gardens and historic architecture for your viewing. Check the website for information about current exhibits.

Heritage Hill Historic Park - Interior

The Serrano Adobe
25151 Serrano Road
Lake Forest, CA 92630
(949) 923-2230

The Serrano Adobe is the only original adobe remaining on what was once a 10,600-acre rancho owned by the Serrano family in the 1840s. The family was considered wealthy, but their rancho was small compared to others of the time. When community development threatened the existence of several other historic buildings, those buildings were moved to this location. Now known as Heritage Hill Park, there are four historic buildings, some of which have period furnishings.

Balboa Pavilion

Balboa Pavilion
400 Main St
Newport Beach, CA 92661
(800) 830-7744

What better place to go for history, fun and food than Balboa? The Balboa Pavilion is designated as California Historical Landmark #959. The Pavilion has had numerous owners throughout its history that stretches back more than 100 years. Today, the Pavilion is home to businesses that provide sport fishing and ferry rides. There's also a restaurant that can accommodate large parties. Within easy walking distance, you'll find the Balboa Fun Rides, the Balboa Pier and more.

George Key Ranch

George Key Ranch
625 W Bastanchury Road
Placentia, CA 92870
(714) 973-3190

The George Key Ranch was built in 1898 and depicts life into the first half of the 20th century. The house was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1975, and the landscaped area totals 2.2 acres. The ranch is included as part of a trio of Orange County parks that are open for free guided tours on the first Saturday of each month. Those docent-led tours include the Key Ranch, the historic Yerba Cemetery and the Peralta Adobe.

Susanna Bixby Bryant Museum

Susanna Bixby Bryant Ranch House and Museum
5700 Susanna Bryant Drive
Yorba Linda, CA 92885
(714) 694-0235

Susanna Bixby Bryant built this house in 1913 and decided to create a memorial garden for her father in 1927. The Museum has about 2,500 square feet of period furnishings and historical information on a number of topics that include the Southern California water wars. The museum provides an excellent look into life from the late 1800s into the 1930s. Gardens that include species of plants originally planted when the home was built still surround the house.

Perhaps you have a favorite historic place in Orange County that wasn't covered here. Is it a place that evokes the history of the area? Please leave a comment with your suggestions. And, if you've been to one of the places covered here, share your thoughts on them in the comments section below.

Terry Ambrose is a freelance and mystery writer living in Vista. His work can be found at

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