The popularity of the city of Orange may have a lot to do with the fact that some of its neighborhoods feel frozen in time. Located 30 miles southeast of Los Angeles, the architecturally significant community is graced with the types of historic homes that California is known for: Craftsman bungalows, Spanish Colonial Revival homes and Midcentury Modern gems. Drive through Southern California’s first Eichler tract and you’ll understand what the neighborhood looked like in the early 1960s. Similarly, the Old Towne Orange Historic District, listed in the National Register of Historic Places, recalls a time when you could shop for antiques, grab a meal and take in an art show, all without needing a car. Luckily you still can.
Note: If you’re not up for the drive from Los Angeles, don’t be discouraged. The Old Towne Orange part of this tour is within easy walking distance of the Orange Metrolink Station.
10 a.m. If you’re driving, begin your day with a self-guided tour of the Fairhaven historic tract, a neighborhood of about 140 homes built by acclaimed developer Joseph Eichler in 1960. Fans of Midcentury Modern design, and Eichler in particular, will find much to inspire them on South Woodland Street (between East La Veta and Fairhaven avenues), including drought-tolerant landscaping and exterior decorating ideas. With so many colorful and unique doors on display, enterprising walkers may want to borrow an idea from Modernism Week and embark on a “Door Tour” on foot.
11 a.m. Drive west on East Chapman Avenue for about three miles to Old Towne Orange, where you will encounter a charming enclave of antiques stores, restaurants, barber shops and clothing boutiques. It would be impossible to tackle the “antique capital of Southern California” in one afternoon, so start at Country Road Antiques, 204 W. Chapman Ave., a 12,000-square-foot antique mall stocked with everything from shabby chic chandeliers to vintage Bauer pottery. Standouts on a recent visit include kantha throws for $39, a bright orange 1960s-era refrigerator for $200 and a vintage wooden island on casters for $495. Don’t skip the nursery in back, which houses a large assortment of unusual drought-tolerant plants and outdoor furnishings and accessories.
Noon If you haven’t had your fill of antiques, walk across the street to MMD Antiques, 131 W. Chapman Ave., an eccentric store favored by Hollywood set decorators (“American Horror Story”) for its unique mix of rustic furnishings and textiles, vintage clothing, hats and oddities.
12:15 p.m. Walk next door to Byblos, 129 W. Chapman Ave., a family-run Mediterranean cafe that has been in business for nearly 30 years. Sit where you can watch people pass by on the plaza while you nosh on a mezze sampler or the Lebanese breakfast (fool mudammas, labneh, eggs and pita), which is served all day.
12:45 p.m. Heading west on West Chapman Avenue, take a detour through the Potting Shed by Carlisle, 401 W. Chapman Ave., an indoor-outdoor home and garden store offering water-wise plants, tillandsia, home decor and vintage items.
1:15 p.m. Just north of the nursery is the Hilbert Museum of California Art at Chapman University, 167 N. Atchison St. The museum’s emphasis on California Scene paintings is well represented in “Gifted: Collecting the Art of California at Gardena High School, 1919-1956, ” a little known but impressive collection of works by Maynard Dixon, John Frost and Donald Richard Smith, among others. Also on display through Oct. 19: “The Magic and Flair of Mary Blair” and “Sincerely Norman Rockwell: Celebrating a New Acquisition.” Feel free to bring the kids as the museum provides an art-inspired scavenger hunt to occupy them. Admission is free.