Why We Love O.C. | Old Town Orange and the County’s Other Classic Downtowns

Fullerton photograph by Chet Frohlich

We turned to community leaders, residents, statistics, history, and even a few former presidents to tell you something incredible about every one of the 34 cities we call home. 


Orange

The lively historic district offers unparalleled charm, dining, and antique shopping.

➜ Shopping Every antique and vintage aficionado knows: For the best hunting in the county, head to Orange. A time warp awaits with shops like Country Roads Antiques and Gardens, Joyride, and Orange Circle Antique Mall, making the city a paradise for casual browsers and serious shoppers.

➜ Fountain plaza At the city’s heart is perhaps its most iconic architectural element: a 1937 Westinghouse light-up electric fountain. The picturesque town plaza, an idyllic spot to sit and watch the world go by, is one of many Orange sites on the National Registry of Historic Places and was designated as such in 1978.

➜ Dining The variety of restaurants in Old Towne is hard to rival. Visitors can get a taste of Cuba, Italy, and France in no time by visiting just one corner of the plaza. Flavorful beef empanadas from Felix Continental Cafe, delicate macarons from Paris in a Cup, and fresh pasta from Francoli make it all possible.

➜ Architecture With strict preservation standards in place, the streets of Old Towne are peppered with buildings that make visitors feel as though they’ve taken a trip to yesteryear. The historic district covers 1 square mile to include more than 1,300 homes and buildings, representing 53 styles of architecture.


Classic Downtowns

These three cities boast vibrant nightlife, dining, and independent shops.


FULLERTON

➜ History Stroll past The Chapman Building (1923) and the Landmark Plaza Building (1904), both on the National Register of Historic Places.

➜ Eat & Shop Every jewelry, home decor, and clothing purchase at Share and Do Good benefits charities. The plush couches, strong coffee, and sweet pastries at The Night Owl make it a near-perfect coffeehouse.

➜ What’s new  Wreckless and 100 North Kitchen + Lounge are the latest hot spots. Renovation of the historic Fox Theatre might pick up with a potential $2.5 million contribution from the state.

BREA

➜ History The city was incorporated in 1917, and leaders redeveloped Brea Boulevard in the late 1990s to create a charming, walkable downtown district along Birch Street.

➜ Eat & Shop Known for whiskey flights, Macallan’s Public House offers pub‑style comfort food plus live music every weekend. Merely Sweets specializes in macarons, from vanilla bean to PB&J.

➜ What’s new The Brea Improv expects to move into its new digs later this year. The renovated space, formerly an Old Navy, will include a 500-seat theater and two restaurants.

TUSTIN

History Several buildings in Old Town Tustin, at right, date to the 1880s, their graceful red-brick facades and large picture windows shaded by tall, leafy trees.

Eat & Shop Johnny Jeans stocks essentials for a SoCal-casual look: Hudson jeans, Michael Stars T-shirts, and Free People tops. Centro restaurant offers wines and beers from owners’ Pozzuoli Winery and Archaic Craft Brewery, pairing them with panini and wood-oven pizzas.

What’s new Morning Lavender—filled with flirty, feminine fashion—opened in December and added an outdoor cafe in February.

 

 

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