Southern California Day Trips

Downtown Fullerton

When most people think of “Orange County” they probably think of the beach and the TV show “The OC.” Both of those are certainly a part of Orange County; South Orange County to be exact. North Orange County has a different, more eclectic vibe, and one of the best parts of North Orange County is Downtown Fullerton. Most spots in Orange County are too new to have a real downtown, but Fullerton, which was incorporated as a city in 1904, has one of the best. So, set aside about 4-6 hours to enjoy Downtown Fullerton.

Getting There:

Downtown Fullerton is accessible via Metrolink and Amtrak. Metrolink primarily runs only during the week and does not have trains that run past early evening. Amtrak has a fairly late train running most nights at 10:40 pm (heading South towards San Diego) or 11:13 pm (heading north towards Los Angeles). Trains arrive at the Fullerton Transportation Center, which has two historic depots on site: one built in 1923 by the Union Pacific Railroad, and the other built in 1930 by the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway. Both depots are on the National Register of Historic Places and worth seeing even if you don’t arrive via train. The Transportation Center also serves as the southern end point of Downtown Fullerton on the corner of Harbor Boulevard and Santa Fe Avenue.

Downtown FullertonHarbor Boulevard is a tree-lined, shaded street that serves as the main throughway of Downtown Fullerton. Most of the shops, bars, clubs and restaurants are located on Harbor Boulevard, though several are also located on Commonwealth and Santa Fe Avenues.  If you don’t take the train to Downtown Fullerton, then the way to get there is to exit Harbor Boulevard off of the 91 Freeway and head north.

Things To Do:

Things to do in Downtown Fullerton primarily consist of eating, drinking and listening to live music. Live music in Fullerton has a long history as Fullerton is where some of the best Southern California punk bands, including Social Distortion, The Adolescents and D.I., originated in the late 1970s-early 1980s.

Blackhole RecordsIf you are interested in purchasing any tunes by those bands or any of the other famous punk bands that frequently played in Fullerton in their prime, check out Black Hole Records at 108 North Harbor Boulevard. Within the same store is a vintage clothing and costume shop that is worth perusing as well called Stray Cat Vintage & Costumes.

If you prefer listening to live jazz, then the professionals that frequent Steamer’s Cafe at 138 West Commonwealth Avenue will please your ears. At Steamer’s you can listen to live jazz daily, while enjoying gourmet coffee, bagels, sandwiches, beer, and wine.

Another spot to enjoy live music or deejays on most nights is the oldest drinking establishment in the city, The Continental Room at 115 W Santa Fe. The Continental Room is a martini bar in the SOCO (South of Commonwealth) area and is  a former speakeasy. If you get there early enough, you can get your own sleek red booth and enjoy the people watching and music.

For those interested in learning some history about Fullerton and rock music, visit the Fullerton Museum Center at 301 N Pomona Ave on the corner of Wilshire Ave and one block east of Harbor Boulevard. Fender (i.e., the Fender Musical Instruments Corporation) was founded in Fullerton by Clarence Leonidas “Leo” Fender in 1946. Leo Fender pioneered the electric guitar and many believe changed the face of modern music. The Museum is home to the Leo Fender Gallery, which highlights the life of Leo Fender and displays several classic and newer Fender guitars. The Museum is closed on Monday, open every other day except Thursday from noon to 4 pm and is opened from noon to 8 pm on Thursday. General admission is $4.00 with $1.00 dollar discounts for students and seniors.

Food Suggestions:

There are several places to eat and drink in Downtown Fullerton, but if you are looking for a truly unique experience (and some of the best pizza in Orange County), then take a little extra walk north to Angelo’s and Vinci’s at 550 North Harbor Boulevard. Its founder, Steven Peck, was a Hollywood dancer, choreographer and veteran actor. The restaurant’s decor is very eclectic. The walls are covered with Italian signs, nick-knacks, statuettes and many photographs of famous stars, directors and dancers.

If pub food and soccer tickle your fancy and you don’t mind walking even further north of the main part of Downtown Fullerton, then The Olde Ship at 709 North Harbor Boulevard is where you should throw your anchor. The Olde Ship is well-known as one of the most authentic English pubs in Orange County (if not Southern California) and is where real Southern California soccer fans congregate to enjoy live matches from around the world.

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