Made official in 1875, Orange was once a farming community bursting with orange groves. Although Orange is still thriving, the groves have since diminished. Visitors can still catch glimpses of the past where Alfred Chapman and Andrew Glassell established the first plaza center, an area locals refer to as Orange Circle or Old Towne Orange. Now, it is a favorite weekend hangout for Orange County locals as well as popular filming location for various movies and television shows.
Orange Circle is great for antique lovers too, as you can spend the afternoon wandering through the local shops between frequent beer breaks on the many options of restaurant patios. As regulars we know all the fun things to do at the Orange Circle with kids, and we rank it as one of our favorite top 7 cheap things to do in OC. So, here’s what’s happening at the historical Orange Circle.
Here’s what’s in this article:
Unique area attractions
- Filling Station
- Felix Continental Cafe
- Tokyo Cafe
- Avila’s El Ranchito
- Haven Craft Kitchen+Bar
- Gabbi’s Mexican Kitchen
- Citrus City Grille
- Francoli Gourment
Historic sites & districts
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Kid-friendly Orange Circle Attractions
Orange Circle, most of the time, is very laid-back, but has its moments of coming alive. With all the bars and restaurants around, nights are very lively. Most days, it is nice to wonder around, pop into various shops, and enjoy some good food and drink.
Shops, shops and more shops. If you love antiques and sweet boutiques, then you’ll love Orange Circle. There are so many places to explore, that one could really spend all day and not make a dent. I never leave Orange Circle without buying some treasures. If you think this isn’t a fun activity for kids, you are wrong. Kids will love rummaging through the vintage toys, books and trinkets.
International Street Fair
The International Street Fair has been an Old Towne tradition since 1973 and was inspired by the first International Street Fair in 1910. Probably the craziest time I’ve ever experienced at the Orange Circle. There are over 40 vendors offering food and adult libations from all over the world. There is live entertainment everywhere as well as local artists selling their handmade crafts. It is quite an event and it gets real busy, but it is really fun and really yummy.
Haunted Orange County Tours & Events
307 E Chapman Ave, Orange, CA 92866
Yes people, ghost tours. It is a historical district after all and what historical town would be complete without a few ghosts floating around? With Haunted Orange County Tours, you and your family will enjoy a nice stroll through Old Towne Orange as you hear the haunted history from the antique stores, restaurants
Family Restaurants in Old Towne Orange
Filling Station Cafe
201 N Glassell St, Orange, CA 92866
Once an old gas station, it is now a popular café in the circle with a lovely shady patio. The food is always delicious and “filling.” Haha. Get it?? There is usually a wait, because it is such a popular spot, but worth it!
On the weekends Filling Station offers breakfast all day, which my kids love! If you love morning cocktails then you’ll love it too! They also have wine specials and $4 craft beers, which are fun to try on a warm day outside.
264 N Glassell St, Orange, CA 92866
Healthy and delicious? Yup. Rutabegorz nailed it. In this 1915 converted home of former citrus ranchers, Rutabegorz continues their tradition of giving new life to historical buildings. Vegetarian dishes, lean meats, low-fat dressings and tons of flavors keep the people coming back for more, including myself. Again, I tend to favor the patio, but the inside is fascinating with its funky twist on early 1900’s décor.
Felix Continental Café
36 Plaza Square, Orange, CA 92866
Known as the house of Paella, Felix serves dishes from Cuba and Spain. On Saturdays and Sundays they serve an international breakfast. Kids will love the flaky empanadas and papa rellenas!
In addition to beer and wine, libations include a variety of specialty drinks and Cuban cocktails. Although they have a patio in the plaza square, alcoholic beverages are only served inside.
161 N Glassell St, Orange, CA 92866
This is a tiny and cozy Japanese restaurant, serving up delicious sushi rolls as well as rice bowls, udon and ramen. Sit by the window for perfect views of Old Towne Orange.
Avila’s El Ranchito
182 S Orange St, Orange, CA 92866
Avila’s El Ranchito is a delicious family-owned restaurant in Old Towne Orange, located in a stunning historic church with original wood floors and stained glass windows. The Avila family have been in business for over 50 years and still going strong. Avila’s El Ranchito is a favorite for taco Tuesday, but a great choice anytime of the week.
Haven Craft Kitchen+Bar
190 S Glassell St, Orange, CA 92866
Haven is a really nice gastropub with a great menu and impressive whiskey and beer selection. The vibe is very cozy with stone walls and rich woods. Families will enjoy snuggling in a big booth near the fireplace for some comforting grub. There is a small patio located out front if you prefer to dine outdoors.
Gabbi’s Mexican Kitchen
141 S Glassell St, Orange, CA 92866
Gabbi’s is located in a cute building built in the early 1900’s and is owned by chef Gabbi Patrick. She grew up working in her parents’ restaurants and after going to culinary school opened her own right here in Old Towne Orange. Her menu features diverse Mexican cuisine so showcase the different regions of Mexico. The atmosphere is fun, bright and great for families. However, if you want to enjoy great California weather, choose to dine al fresco on the cozy patio.
Citrus City Grille
122 N Glassell St, Orange, CA 92866
Citrus City Grille has been around for over 20 years and serves up delicious modern American cuisine. They have a popular sunday brunch otherwise they are open for dinner. The menu has sophisticated dishes adults will enjoy like their signature Chilean Sea Bass as well as pastas and pizzas that kids will likely love. There is also a quaint patio located in front for views of downtown Old Towne Orange.
100 S Glassell St, Orange, CA 92866
This beautiful restaurant features an upscale northern Italian menu that adults will appreciate and kids will love too. The atmosphere is elegant yet casual and comfortable. Sit indoors or on the lovely patio to people watch and enjoy the California sunshine.
Historic Districts in Orange County
The Plaza Park
Intersection of Glassell and Chapman
Located right in the center of Old Towne Orange Historic District, The Plaza Park cannot be missed. Taking center stage is the beautiful 1937 white fountain adorned with terracotta tiles around the base and surrounded by blooming rose bushes. This square park encircled by historical buildings and homes is a lovely place to take a break, enjoy an ice cream and let the kids play.
Watson’s Drug & Soda Fountain
116 E Chapman Avenue Orange, CA 92866
Established in 1899, this place really kicks it back to old school. It is the oldest drugstore in Orange County and the oldest continuous business in Orange County. Watson’s has maintained its charm so nicely that the interior and exterior have been used as filming locations for various movies like “That Thing You Do” and “Stepford Children.”
Today, you can still come in and enjoy the nostalgia over a good burger and a shake. Not only will kids love it, but so will the grandparents, because it brings them back to their youth; when you didn’t think twice about downing a burger and milkshake.
Big Momma’s House
192 N Shaffer St, Orange, CA 92866
This darling home built in the early 1900’s was the filming location to “Big Momma’s House.” It is private property, but you may want to drive or walk by for fun.
In addition, the surrounding neighborhood is worth a stroll with the family as all the homes and buildings were constructed between 1874 and 1940 in over 50 different architectural styles. It is quite a sight to see.
307 E Chapman Ave, Orange, CA 92866
The Royer Mansion built in 1900 was once the home of Orange mayor, Dr. Daniel Franklin Royer. Now the home functions as the Chamber of Commerce and is the meeting place for your Haunted Orange County tour. The mayor died in 1929 and the home became a mortuary. Oh spooky, I know. That’s why it makes for a perfect starting point for a haunted ghost walk. Lots of people have had a paranormal experience here. Maybe you will too, if you are lucky enough…or unlucky enough, depending how you look at it.
121 S Center St, Orange, CA 92866
Established in February of 1915 by a Miss Lea Collins invited friends, friends and more friends to hangout in a loft space she leased and decorated as she pleased above an old school and theatre. By 1922 the Women’s Club of Orange was federated, complete with construction of a fresh building on site. Today the Women’s Club is the largest federated club in Orange County. The historic building and gardens are a popular event venue and community gathering place reminiscent of the early 20th century.
That’s a Wrap!
A day spent at Orange Circle with kids is just so relaxing. It is a historical little section of town that is quaint enough to be charming, but has enough going on that it is not boring. The streets are lined with so many exciting dining options that you could literally spend a whole day here eating. The kids get excited to try new food and then find a new treasure at the antique shops. Plus, it is so scenic! I have had several friends take their engagement photos here. I bet you’ll love it. Come check out and I’ll come over and meet you for a beer…with my kids. Ha. Check out our vlog from a fun family day at Orange Circle.
If you would like to spookier side to Old Towne Orange, check out our guide to Orange Circle’s Haunted Places.
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What a lovely little place! I bet it’s so nice to get away from the hustle and bustle and get transported back in time to a slower day 🙂 Love the idea of The Filling Station!
It is and I think that’s why we love it so much. Our lives are so busy and spent so much of the time in the city. It is nice to slow down.
What a lovely place to visit. I have always wondered how locals of exotic destinations felt about their from others so admired home. Seems like they love them but forget their awesomeness every now and then. Thanks for sharing. Nitrogen ice and wine for sure are a great combination!
Yeah sometimes you just have take time and enjoy your own part of the world and see it through new eyes.
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