Hot California

Family Guide to Old Towne Orange CA with kids – Where to eat, stay & play

A historical area of Orange County that is not well-known, but is the perfect place to spend a relaxing day with kids

Made official in 1875, Orange was once 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. It is where we spend many weekends when I’m not out of town.

An antique lover, Grams is often found wandering through the local shops between frequent beer breaks on the patio of one of her favorite eateries. 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.

I had lunch at the Filling Station recently and I noticed the different accents of some families on holiday. As a native Californian I sometimes forget that my everyday stomping grounds are tourist’s attraction for visitors. I’m always racking my brain for the distinct and exotic to write about, but I have plenty to share from home. So, here’s what’s happening at the historical Orange Circle.

Where to stay near Old Towne Orange

There are plenty of hotel options in and around the city of Orange, but what is really unique is living there. The Flats are sweet little apartments located above the shops and restaurants. The space is limited, but the rent is good for Orange County and the location is a dream.

Orange Circle street view

Many of the homes in the area are over a hundred years old. They are protected by the historical society, which help keep the charm of the past alive and well here in Orange. Sometimes I cruise the streets just hoping for a “For Sale” sign.

If you are only visiting Orange Circle, I recommend The French Estate. It’s a darling B&B decorated reminiscent of the past. Of course there are plenty of chain hotels and motels around the area, if you want an experience, go for The French Estate.

Where to eat in Orange Circle:

There are many great dining options to choose from, but I do have my favorites.

Filling Station:

Once an old gas station, it is now my favorite café in the circle with a lovely shady patio. The food is always delicious and “filling.” Get it?? Ha. Anyway, I’m kind of addicted to the Waldorf salad and, of course, I love to wash it down with a cold beer. On the weekends Filling Station offers breakfast all day, which my kids love and if you love morning cocktails then you’ll love it too!

Orange Circle filling station restaurant


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 1900’s décor.

Felix Continental Café:

Known as the house of Paella, Felix serves dishes from Cuba and Spain. On Saturdays and Sundays they serve an international breakfast. 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.

Cuban food at Felix continental Cafe Orange

Watson’s Drug Store and Soda Fountain:

Really kicks it back to old school. My parents love this place, because it brings them back to their youth; when you didn’t think twice about downing a burger and milkshake.

Other Great options:

  • Tokyo Café
  • Avila’s El Ranchito
  • Haven Gastropub
  • Gabbi Mexican Kitchen
  • Citrus City Grille
  • Francoli Gourment

Sweet Tooth? Try out some of my favorite places to get a treat.

A La Minute Ice Cream:

I don’t have a huge sweet tooth, but I do have a taste for this ice cream. With unique flavors like beet/goat cheese (my fav) and strawberry/balsamic (just to name a few), I keep coming back for more. YUM! Plus the way they prepare it is super cool. They pour all the ingredients in liquid form and then freeze it before your eyes with liquid nitrogen. The kids dig it!

Orange Circle with kids having ice cream

Where to grab a drink in Orange Circle:

I’m always with my kids, so I love that most of the restaurants have a great selection of beer, wine and cocktails. Even better, most (if not all) of them have happy hours! Nothing is better than enjoying a leisurely afternoon surrounded by beautiful historical buildings, while sipping an adult refreshment on the patio.

Filling Station:

Visiting Orange Circle is like taking a step back in time; a time when things were slower. Take the time to slow down and enjoy a cold one on a hot day and The Filling Station is a perfect place to fill up on some yummy food and libations. Plus there is usually a wait due café’s popularity, so don’t be in a rush. Along with special deals on select bottles of wine, they offer a $4 craft brew selection. 

drinks in orange circle


Also check out:

  • O’Hara’s Pub
  • Haven
  • Paul’s Cocktails

Fun things to do in Orange Circle with kids:

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.

Orange Circle fun with kids


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 have to give my shout-outs to a couple of my favorites. I never leave Orange Circle without buying some treasure from these two vendors.

Victoria Co.:

The tiniest little shop you’ll ever see, but filled to the brim with goodies! I love it! It excites me just thinking about this shop. The shop owner is sweet and tiny just like her store and I just love everything.

Antique Mall of Treasures:

Treasures is right! I always find something I have to have and the prices are the most reasonable around. I recently bought two Madam Alexander dolls for $5 for the set and a beautiful silver butter serving dish, some vintage Halloween décor and vintage toys for the kids. Last time I was there, I got kind of crazy. I bought myself a new desk and an old ship truck with the ocean-liner sticker still on it!!! I don’t know what I am going to do with the truck for sure yet, but I promise it will be amazing.

Orange Circle antique stores

International Street Fair:

Probably the craziest I’ve ever experienced 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.

Orange Circle with kids street fair

Ghost Tours:

Yes people, ghost tours. It is a historical district after all and what historical town would be complete without a few ghosts floating around?

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.

Have you been to the Orange Circle?

Do you have your own favorite old towns where you live?

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Orange Circle with kids



I am a busy mama with 3 delicious babies and a serious itch for travel and writing (when I am not bartending, that is)! After graduating from Cal State San Marcos with a B.A. in Communications, I decided to start a family and pursue a career in freelance writing. I created HotMamaTravel as an outlet to do what I love while sharing useful travel tips and inspiration with others. Our mission is to show parents how to master travel with kids, while keeping your Saturday-night selves. We call it "Family travel...with a twist".


  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. Pingback: Things to do in Anaheim - Family Friendly Activities - HotMamaTravel

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