Anaheim, California: Antiquing and Puttering in Old Town Orange


By Max Hartshorne
GoNOMAD Editor

Antiques and furniture at Woody's in Orange, California.
Antiques and furniture at Woody’s in Orange, California.

I love a Saturday morning putter. I love to move slowly and deliberately some days of the week.

Saturday is a great day to be in Old Town Orange, near Anaheim, California as I was just a month ago. This is the town where many of the cast of Storage Wars comes from….a city filled with shops full of bric-a-brac and used stuff of descriptions.

I look at my notes from that day’s travel–Anaheim is sunny, spread out, and past Santa Monica airport, up east on the 105 freeway.

Anaheim has the biggest convention center on the West Coast, and boasts more than 55,000 hotel rooms! They have a very responsible corporate resident giant called Disney who run Disneyland right here, employing about 25,000. The city is a place of massive entertainment, and serious conventions too.

The city boasts two professional sports teams, the Anaheim Ducks of the NHL and the Angels of MLB. The big beautiful Honda Center is where hockey and big concerts are held and the Angel Stadium, right on the freeway is where outdoor baseball and summer concerts rock the house.

The Red Lion Anaheim provides an excellent base camp to which to storm the Disneyland Castles. The breakfast roars you to life, and every staff person you interact with treats you well, and smiles. Nice.

Disneyland is at the center

Anaheim was founded by fifty German families in 1857, and now there are 336,000 residents here. Most of the city is the magical world of Disneyland.

Famous Anaheimers include Tiger Woods, singer Jeff Buckley, and Gwen Stefani.

Our Orange County adventure began with a great big plate of nachos at Heroes. We were in the town of Fullerton, north of Anaheim, home to shops that will see you a Zoot Suit, or a classic chest of drawers to keep your wild red socks in.

Bourbon Street West

Greg and Barbara Gerovac of the Anaheim Brewing Company.
Greg and Barbara Gerovac of the Anaheim Brewing Company.

It’s consignment shops and bric-a-brac, all up and down the main drag, which is called “Bourbon Street West,” by some local wags. Rock clubs, bars and 28 other businesses that sell alcohol now line the streets of this college town.

Heroes was a perfect Friday night choice, and we confronted the amazing assortment of taps by picking a local favorite, brewed just down the street in Anaheim. Though they tout the grilled artichokes on the menu, next time I’d steer clear of these and dig into the Southwestern meatloaf, which was superb.

Later we would meet the owners of Bootlegger’s Brewery, located in a back alley about five blocks from Heroes. They open up the back door and amidst giant stainless steel tanks, local Anaheimers and college kids enjoy the latest brews.

Brewing City

Belly up to the bar at Anaheim Brewing.
Belly up to the bar at Anaheim Brewing.

In another part of the city, on a broad busy boulevard, a new addition to the city’s beer scene is unfolding. We tasted beers with Greg and Barbara Gerovac, both of whom were brewing beers for other outfits when they decided to open the Anaheim Brewery. They borrowed the name from an 1870s brewery and even got the town to sell them the original bar, 52 feet long, and now installed at their brewery and tasting pub that’s set to open.

There is burger restaurant called Umami Burger set to open in front, and by spring 2012, there will be a beer garden on Anaheim Boulevard. Locals we met were excited, already they come to this ‘tasting’ on weekends where they can purchase beer in six packs and on draft but can’t buy any food.

Enjoying the brews at Anaheim Brewery.

Street view in downtown Orange, CA.
Old Town Orange street scene.

Old Town Orange is the perfect town for a lazy weekend day when all you want to do is wander through fascinating artifacts, bric-a-brac, and unparalleled ephemera.

The rabbit warrens of Country Roads Antiques, Woody’s and the Antique Station yielded fascinating finds.

I stared at a Ty Cobb signed baseball card, trying to discern if it could possibly be real. So many strange items like this, I wanted to stay all day discovering new stalls around every bend.

Sustenance on our trail of antiquing came early at the retro-styled 1940s feeling Watson Drug and Soda Fountain. Big pancakes and waitresses dressed for the ’40s made for an authentic culinary entrance into the Way Back Machine of this neatly kept town.

Jeff Cook, at the Flight Deck in Anaheim.
Jeff Cook, at the Flight Deck in Anaheim.

We stopped into another Old Town Orange landmark, Gabby’s where high-class Mexican is the fare.

Then it was time to go high….flight time at Flightdeck Air Combat Center, which provides a fighter jet experience in the form of a simulated fighter jet mission.

Jeff Cook briefed me in the control room where monitors showed a running commentary of failed pilots, who like me, had been unable to stick the landing on the aircraft carrier and were flaming out in the sea or on the runway. It takes some coordination to not crash, I later learned.

They set each of us up in our own F-16s and we began the simulated flight, trying to shoot while getting shot at.

Anaheim’s MUZEO had an exhibit about Steampunk, that mixture of modern and 1880s featuring all manner of gizmos, elaborate headgear, and strange ornate vehicles.  Click here to see the latest exhibitions at Muzeo.

Then we visited the gallery next door to find a local doctor and his wife’s amazing collection of things you can’t imagine ever being in their house. One was a clock with a Doctor Faustus figure and others were ornate walking sticks, with beautifully carved heads, and one that turned out to be a rifle.

The Filling Station is one of the most popular eateries in Old Town Orange, CA.
The Filling Station, a popular restaurant in Orange.

Anaheim is the big center of massive Orange County, and this part of Southern California is a place that calls many to vacation.

There are few places where you can do as many things all year around as big Orange County!

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Max Hartshorne
Max Hartshorne has been the editor and publisher of GoNOMAD Travel in South Deerfield Mass since 2002. He worked for newspapers and other sales positions for 23 years until he finally got what he wanted, and became the editor at GoNOMAD. He travels regularly, enjoys publishing new writers, and watching his grandchildren grow up.