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Zoomars Petting Zoo in San Juan Capistrano. Photo: Allison Jarrell
Zoomars Petting Zoo in San Juan Capistrano. Photo: Allison Jarrell

By Kristina Pritchett

Now that the kids are out of school and the weather is warming up, it’s vacation planning mode. But, vacations don’t have to be outside of South Orange County. There’s so much to do in the area that allows residents to stay local for their vacations. They don’t have to be expensive, and better yet, they can be customized for the people who are planning the day trips.

Below are some ideas for the family, the couple and the friends in Dana Point, San Clemente and San Juan Capistrano.

The Family in San Juan Capistrano

Getting Out:

The Mission—The historic landmark is just a short drive away in San Juan. The family can see one-of-a-kind artifacts, paintings, visit the iconic bell wall and catch the tradition of the bell ringing, participate in hands-on activities and more. The Mission is located at 27081 Ortega Highway, San Juan Capistrano.

Zoomars Petting Zoo—Are your kids into animals? Hop on over to Zoomars to see ponies, pigs, goats, sheep, cows and more. But, there’s more to do than just pet the animals. At the Miner’s Gulch, kids can experience what settlers experienced during the California Gold Rush while they pan for gems, fossils and gold. There’s also a mini train and horse and pony rides. Zoomars is located at 31791 Los Rios Street, San Juan Capistrano.

Los Rios Park—Do the kids just want to run around for a bit in the afternoon? Los Rios Park offers fun for the kids right in the middle of the historic city. The park is decked out in a western theme, which could spark the kid’s imagination. There are tables around the park, perfect for an afternoon lunch spot. Los Rios Park is located at 31747 Los Rios, San Juan Capistrano.

Dining Options:

Ruby’ Diner—Right in the middle of town is Ruby’s Diner and is a good spot to take a lunch break. Order a burger, fries and of course, a milkshake, while the kids enjoy the 1940s American diner theme with the booths, and the Sky Ranch Saloon. Ruby’s is located at 31781 Camino Capistrano, San Juan Capistrano.

Mission Grill—Need to fuel up for breakfast? Mission Grill serves all three meals with an American-Mexican mix of specialties that have been carried down through generations. Grab a seat under the shaded umbrella tables overlooking the hills and enjoy the meal. Mission Grill is located at 31721 Camino Capistrano, San Juan Capistrano.

3:16 Bakery Shop—Looking to cure that sweet tooth? Stop into 3:16 for cookies, cakes, pastries, gelato and frozen yogurt and more. 3:16 Bakery is located at 26762 Verdugo Street, Suite A, San Juan Capistrano.

The Girlfriends/Friends in San Clemente

San Clemente Wine Company. Photo: Allison Jarrell
San Clemente Wine Company. Photo: Allison Jarrell

If you’re hitting the town with your girlfriends or having a friend’s day, San Clemente has things to do for those who want a relaxing day.

Getting Out:

Step by Step Painting Classes—Canvas, Paint and Wine, Oh My Studio offers classes to teach how to paint different scenes step-by-step. Not only is there painting, but participants can bring snacks. For an additional cost, guests can purchase wine and snacks through The Cellar. A menu will be emailed the week of the class. Canvas, Paint and Wine, Oh My! is located at 131-B Avenida Del Mar, San Clemente.

Girl’s Night Out at San Clemente Wine Company—Every Wednesday night the San Clemente Wine Company offers drink specials, as well as a $22 wine and cheese plate for two. So grab the girls and enjoy a glass while staying in town.
San Clemente Wine Company is located at 212 Avenida Del Mar, San Clemente.

Shopping in San Clemente—Looking for new outfits? Del Mar has a variety of boutiques that’s sure to fit anyone’s style. If you’re trying to save a few bucks, grab the girls and just stroll downtown. Another option is the Outlets at San Clemente. They have a variety of stores, and for the locals looking for an enhanced visit, join the Elite Rewards program. The program allows guests to earn points, which allows participants to receive discounts and more. Shoppers can visit Avenida Del Mar or the Outlets at 101 W. Avenida Vista Hermosa, San Clemente.

Dining Options:

Ellie’s Table—With the sounds of surf as the backdrop, grab your friends and go to Ellie’s for lunch. They serve a handful of sandwiches, types of salad and delicious desserts. Ellie’s Table is located at 120 Avenida Pico, San Clemente.

Bear Coast Coffee—Need some fuel before you start your girl’s day? Bear Coast rotates the coffee they serve, so there’s always something new to try. Along with coffee, they offer a variety of delicious foods to get your day started. Bear Coast Coffee is located at 618 Avenida Victoria, San Clemente.

South of Nick’s Mexican Kitchen & Bar—Looking for good Mexican food before a night out? South of Nick’s offers authentic options for every taste bud. And who can pass up chips and salsa? South of Nick’s is located at 110 North El Camino Real, San Clemente.

The Couple in Dana Point

Whether you’re an active couple that likes to get out and move, or looking for a laid back day, Dana Point can offer different options for love birds.

Getting Out:

Wine Cruise—Set sail with Dana Wharf on a 90-minute cruise through the Dana Point Harbor while enjoying wine tastings, a sample platter of cheese, crackers, fruits and nuts and more. The sails are Fridays and Sundays at 5:30 p.m. The wine cruises are for the summer. Dana Wharf is located at 34675 Street of the Golden Lantern, Dana Point.

 Bike Rides—For the more active couples, grab a bike and ride around to see the views of Dana Point. There are lots of route options, and for those who don’t own bikes can rent surreys, cruisers, tandem bikes and more in Doheny State Beach. Wheel Fun Rentals is located at 25300 Dana Point Harbor Drive, Dana Point.

Picnic on the Beach—In Dana Point there’s a handful of beaches that offer one-of-a-kind views. Pack a basket full of delicious food, and set out to a spot. Some beaches allow bonfires, so why not make it an evening option?

Dining Options:

Luciana’s—Craving an Italian meal? With its outdoor seating and authentic food selections, Luciana’s can set the romantic mood for any date night.

Harbor Grill—When one thinks of seafood in Dana Point, they think of Harbor Grill. Head to the Harbor to try some of the restaurant’s top choices.

Chart House—Looking to add a view to your romantic evening? The Chart House is seated atop of a bluff overlooking the Dana Point Harbor. They offer seafood dishes, a happy hour and a number of appetizers. The Chart House is located at 34442 Street of the Green Lantern, Dana Point.

**For getting around each city, each city offers a free summer trolley system.

Read the rest of the 2017 Go See Do special section here:

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