It’s so easy to find something fun to do in South Orange
County. There are lovely little gems
right at our fingertips, that we often take for granted.
One recent Sunday morning my husband and I had to pick up our son from the San Juan Capistrano train station. We parked our van in the lot next to the train tracks.
The birds were singing and the sky was clear. It was 8:00 a.m., and it was desolate; there were hardly any people around, other than a few early morning train riders.
We ventured across the train tracks and were instantly transported back in time to 1874, with cobblestone streets and horseshoe tracks, in the oldest neighborhood in California.
Instead of chain stores, there are locally owned restaurants housed in historic structures and intimate cafes with outdoor seating, framed by beautifully overgrown plants, such as cactus, poppies and birds of paradise.
We strolled down the cobblestone street and came upon Los Rios Park, which is brand new and maintains the feel of the history of the town, but with modern luxuries such as a large parking lot, clean restrooms and a western style playground for kids.
There is a row of plaques in the park with old photographs and thrilling stories about the people who lived in the area many, many years ago. One plaque bears the mug shot of a pretty, young woman who made a public statement against the train installation by putting her laundry across the tracks. Even though she removed it before the train came, she was convicted of a felony and was sent to San Quentin for three years!
Behind the park is a lovely walking/biking path that runs parallel to Trabuco Creek. We ventured beyond that and climbed down to the creek. Though it’s not designed for pedestrian traffic (I think it should be), it was a fun place to explore. We saw egrets and a lot of fish in the water.
We thought about how the Acjachemen Indians had settled there hundreds of years ago, probably because of the Trabuco Creek. We imagined what a paradise that spot must have been, and how it was the perfect area to build the Mission. I’ll bet at that time, you would be able to see an abundance of native wildlife walking down to the creek every day; deer and coyotes and probably even bears!
IF YOU ONLY HAVE TWO HOURS TO EXPLORE:
If you only have two free hours in your day, exploring the Los Rios District is a great way to spend it. You’ll feel like you went back in time and learned a little something about history, and it sure beats watching TV.
Park your car near the train tracks and stroll along the Los Rios District. Enjoy reading the historic plaques in the Los Rios Park. If you have kids, visit the petting zoo (one of the best I’ve ever seen), then treat yourself to coffee or lunch at one of the little cafes.
IF YOU HAVE ALL DAY:
Begin in the Los Rios District early in the morning, while it’s still quiet and peaceful. Have brunch at Ramos House (my personal favorite) or one of the restaurants in the train cars next to the station.
Then, walk over to the Mission and spend a few hours there. End your day visiting the antique stores and gift shops along the main road through town.
For more information on the Los Rios District in San Juan Capistrano, visit the city website here: http://www.sanjuancapistrano.net/los_rios/
In the comments below, let us know what your favorite thing is to see at the Los Rios District of San Juan Capistrano!
Now, please, take your family out of the house and Go Explore!