ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Pricey man-made attractions like Disneyland and
Knott's Berry Farm aren't the only things that define Orange County
as a family destination. As in life, some of the best things in
Orange County are free, or next to it.
First among the low-cost options available in the county are its
Huntington Beach, Aliso Beach, Corona del Mar State Beach,
Capistrano Beach -- these and many more represent the very best in
Southern California seafront facilities, and they don't cost an arm
and a leg to use.
Many of them have children's playgrounds, picnic areas, snack
bars and barbecue pits. And some feature the kind of entertainment
that cannot be bought in most places.
Huntington, for instance, is the site of a number of pro surfing
events each year, and Corona hosts an annual sand castle and sand
sculpture contest in midsummer.
The tide pools of Corona del Mar and Dana Point are a magnet for
the younger set and, at the latter, ranger-led tours provide expert
commentary on the sea life found in them.
Bikers following the cycle paths of Bolsa Chica State Park can
visit the 700-acre Upper Newport Bay Ecological Reserve, inhabited
by blue herons and a wide variety of ducks and shore birds,
including a number of endangered species.
Orange County history at nominal, or no, cost is available in
several places -- at Heritage Hill Park just south of Irvine, for
instance, where on weekends docents conduct tours of two
turn-of-the-century houses, a church and a schoolhouse.
One of the most significant historical sites in the county is
the Mission San Juan Capistrano, built in 1776. It boasts the
oldest building still in use in California, picturesque gardens and
a large collection of Spanish and Indian artifacts.
Places like these, along with the Magic Kingdom and similar
attractions are what make Orange County a family playground.