Old Towne Orange
“It feels just like the movies.” That’s what one friend told me after visiting Old Towne Orange for the first time. It isn’t just like the movies, though; it’s better. Because it’s real. Old Towne Orange is the Anytown, USA of Southern California. Except you won’t find a hollow soundstage behind the facades of storefront. Places like the A La Minute icecream parlor (where ice cream is made on-demand with liquid nitrogen) actually exist — and the ice cream awesome! In the last 10 years Old Towne Orange has become an incubator of unique restaurant concepts. From the gourmet, hand-crafted Mexican cuisine of Gabbi’s Mexican Kitchen to the genesis of the Belgian waffle sandwich at Bruxie, Old Towne Orange has become a premier dining destination. But it’s also so much more than that. The restaurants bring in the people (and sadly, also the cars looking for parking spaces) but they also put Orange on the map for great events like the International Street Faire held each Labor Day weekend and the most prolific trick-or-treating in all of the OC. Car shows are a regular occurrence and there’s almost always something going on.
But perhaps the biggest gem of the community is the collection of historic homes which surround the city center. Every style imaginable, from the indigenous Craftsman Bungalow (Sears Roebuck shipped the kitcs straight to the city via railcar!) to French Country, Victorian, and everything in between. The houses range in size, too. From 2 bedroom homes under 1000 square feet all the way up to 3000 square foot mansions. Historic preservation efforts were pioneered here, and many of the homes are eligible for property tax relief to aid in the restoration and maintenance of these historic gems. The streets are tree-lined and feature big sidewalks. Old Towne Orange is one of the most walkable communities and the balance of commercial space means that many people here are able to live, work, and play in the same community. There aren’t very many places in Southern California that fulfill that dream. If you’re dreaming of the Midwestern small-town atmosphere (with SoCal weather, of course!), you’ll be hard-pressed to find anywhere more ideal than Old Towne Orange.
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