Fullerton, CA: Orange County’s forgotten delight

Look behind the Orange curtain

People in LA have always held a negative view of Orange County. They think it is a hub of boring conservatives and boring cities. Really, the only time LA residents go into Orange County is when they’re going to make their yearly trip to Disneyland – which for your typical OC resident, is where you go for a churro when you’ve got some time to kill. I am from Disneyland’s neighboring city to the north, Fullerton, which is better in just about every way. If you’re looking for a unique gem of Orange County, here are some ways to make your stop in Fullerton unforgettable.

Stop and smell the flowers

Photo courtesy of Phoebe Thompson

Before you begin exploring Fullerton, park at the Arboretum. Located on the campus of Cal State Fullerton, The Arboretum is completely free and open on weekdays until 4:30 PM. In the enclosure you will find hundreds of various plant types, several species of wildlife, two large ponds, and a Victorian-style home available for tours. Beyond that, it’s a great place for all of your Instagram pictures: no filters necessary.

Take a hike

Photo courtesy of Jimmy Pablos

Fullerton is embedded with miles of trails, creeks, and spectacular viewpoints. On a typical Sunday morning, people are hiking and riding their bikes through the tree-lined trails, noting the sweet aroma of massive pines along the way. Make sure to stop on Skyline for clear views over the entire Orange County area, including the Los Angeles skyline. Don’t forget to take a lot of water and snacks, because Fullerton is known for its hills.

Treat yourself

Photo courtesy of Jimmy Pablos

Downtown Fullerton is home to over thirty small business restaurants and bars. Burger Parlor is one of the newest and most impressive restaurants in the area and they boast a commitment to supporting local vendors. The parlor has received tons of recognition and praise for their house-made beef, buns, sauces, fries, onion rings, and ice creams. It’s sure to be one of the best burger experiences in SoCal.

Grab a brew

Photo courtesy of Phoebe Thompson

Bootleggers is a casual patio-setting brewery that hosts Fullertonians from ages 21 to 70. Go with your friends and family and enjoy the murmur of laughter and conversation under warm lights, open skies, and a view of the local baseball park. Bootleggers has a massive menu that is always changing, save for the select few classics such as the Knuckle Sandwich or the Golden Chaos Belgian-style ale. The best thing about this place is the prices: Bootleggers keeps their pints at $5 and their half-pints at $3. Try to go on Wednesday for their famous trivia nights.

Go crazy for brats and beer

Photo courtesy of Kierstyn Rios

Stadtgarten is a popular German sausage joint that features the perfect balance of rich and intense flavors that are expertly produced in the production of the meat. They have classic items that should not be too unfamiliar to Americans such as polish, hot Italian, and bratwurst. But if you’re feeling adventurous, take advantage of the opportunity to taste blends of rabbit, alligator, and wild boar. What’s more, these brats would not be complete without their full and complex list of German beers. Don’t worry, if you’re not sure which to choose, they have notations next to their sausage lists that recommends which beer to pair with the meat.

Explore all the healthy options available

Photo courtesy of Jimmy Pablos

Green Bliss is another small business that locally sources all of their ingredients including their coffee and tea. Their portions are large and delicious. Even as a nonvegan, I do not mind admitting that I frequently visit Green Bliss for their incredible salads, paninis, and drinks.

Express yourself at open mic night

Photo courtesy of Jimmy Pablos

There is a visible change in downtown Fullerton that happens right around 10pm, livened by the music and comedy scene. One of the more famous open mic spots is Max Bloom’s Cafe. This place is stuck in the 40’s and that’s exactly how they want it, taking a cash only (don’t forget!) Still, they have great coffee, complimentary wifi with purchase, and everything on the menu is $5-$7. It’s a very cozy and cool spot that encourages all forms of art and expression. So go and tell some jokes, sing your song, or whatever you need to do to express yourself. The audience is always kind to beginners.

Head to the most relaxing coffee shop in town

Photo courtesy of Phoebe Thompson

If you need a spot to hide out in from the rest of the world while you study or read your book, then Cafe Veronese is it. As soon as you step under the archway you are transported to Neverland. Watch your feet as you step across the rocks in the koi pond. You are immersed in a garden where you become the focal point. The friendly wait staff will remember your name as soon as your first visit.

Give in, because one cup is not enough

Photo courtesy of Jimmy Thompson

Dripp is the newest addition to the mosaic of food options in Fullerton. These guys are experts in extracting the complex and varied flavors from coffee grounds. Their spiffy uniforms will impress you and the decor is straight out of a hipster’s dream. I should also mention that they serve up amazing ice cream sandwiches. Their patio is a great place to study or catch up with friends, so make sure you visit this place.

Meet the friendly locals

Photo courtesy of Jimmy Pablos

Beyond serving great food, the people in Fullerton are a teeming mix of students, artists, musicians, filmmakers, poets, comedians, retirees, and general life-enjoyers. Fullerton offers you excitement away from large city chaos and welcoming people who are happy to have you visit them. I should also mention that there is free parking just about everywhere.

Fullerton is the kind of place where families have stayed for generations. After you have gone away to study or travel, it’s definitely the kind of city that you will feel more than happy to come back to time and time again.