South Carolina has Savannah, Louisiana has the French Quarter in New Orleans, and Massachusetts has the preserved whaling community of New Bedford, but to experience the essence of California, there’s no better location than Old Towne Orange. Just six miles from Disneyland, Old Towne Orange emulates Main Street, USA in a way that would make even Walt Disney nostalgic.
Centered on the historic Orange Plaza, Old Towne Orange encompasses one square mile of land, in which sit over 1,300 homes and buildings that are all listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Beyond this area are countless other homes that are maintained in such a way that they complement the nationally registered homes, making a walk through Old Towne Orange really something to experience.
The largest number of homes in Old Towne Orange were built between 1911 and 1920, but another significant percentage of them were built between 1921 and 1930. Some of the oldest buildings date back to 1874, and together these structures make up the second largest collection of historic buildings in California. Overseen by the Old Towne Preservation Association, all of the buildings in the historic district are held to strict standards for renovation and restoration, much to the delight of all who visit.
Locals and visitors love stopping into Watson’s Drugs & Soda Fountain, which has been in operation since 1899. Watson’s has the distinction of being the oldest drugstore in Orange County as well as the oldest on-going business in the city of Orange.
Everything about Watson’s is delightfully old school, from its ice cream sundaes at the soda fountain counter to its “house calls.” Can’t make it into the pharmacy to pick up your prescription? A member of the pharmacy staff will deliver it to your home. Stop by to ask questions of pharmacist and owner, Scott Parker, who prides himself on the individualized service provided to each and every customer.
Swing into Orange Circle Antique Mall, the largest antique shopping spot among the countless boutiques, malls, and outlets in Old Towne Orange. It’s been in business for nearly 40 years and boasts a loyal following of locals and tourists alike. At the various booths that line the two story space you can find handcrafted 1800s-era furniture, vinyl records from the ‘60s, Mid-Century Modern Danish furniture, jadeite glassware, antique books, and retro clothing.
Not everything in Old Towne Orange is from a bygone era though. The district is home to a wide variety of restaurants that offer cuisine from around the world. Ways & Means Oyster House features sustainably-caught fresh seafood and a menu that showcases seasonal ingredients. The restaurant pays homage to the classic oyster bars located around the world, with a complementing wine list to satisfy even the most discerning palates.
For a modern take on traditional Mexican cuisine, Gabbi’s Mexican Kitchen is an unparalleled eatery. Adopting an eco-gastronomic approach in an interpretation of classic Old World dishes, Chef Gabbi Patrick wows diners with truly unique offerings. Start your meal with the tlacoyo de aguacate: a toasted masa cake covered with grilled avocado, cara cara oranges, blood oranges, pickled cucumbers, and pea tendrils. The Azteca tortilla soup is the perfect complement to the spinach and shrimp enchiladas de camarones or the carnitas norteñas made from braised Berkshire pork, pico de gallo, guacamole, and served on handmade tortillas.
Gabbi’s is a feast for the eyes as well as the stomach; rustic exposed beams create a cathedral ceiling above the brick-walled dining room, and the bar is awash in hot pink indirect lighting. It’s the perfect place to meet that special someone for a night out.
In the summer months, Hart Park hosts live entertainment for the whole family. Acquired by the city in 1934, the park spans over 40 acres and features two structured playgrounds that are suitable for children five years old and up. Reserve a picnic area to host your next family reunion, where 57 tables can accommodate up to 700 guests. Public use, non-reservable tables are also available for spur of the moment Saturday afternoon picnics.
Since 1973, the Orange International Street Fair has been held in the center of Old Towne Orange on Labor Day Weekend. The unique event features 42 food and alcohol booths on 15 streets. Run by local non-profit organizations, the booths’ proceeds go directly to their individual organization. Shop for handmade arts and crafts from local artisans, and find your new favorite charity to support at one of the many community booths at the fair. Local companies are given the opportunity to promote their business there, and eight stages are scattered throughout the fair, showcasing local musicians. An added bonus for families is the entire street dedicated to crafts and games for the kids.