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Crystal Cove and Balboa Bars

Crystal Cove
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Take a drive down Orange County’s scenic coast, peppered with romantic spots by the sea. Start by visiting Mission San Juan Capistrano, the only one of the state’s twenty-one missions in Orange County and made famous by the 1940s song “When the Swallows Come Back to Capistrano.” The history of California’s missions is part of every California schoolchild’s curriculum, but the missions’ beauty far exceeds the dry text of an elementary school textbook.

In the afternoon, visit Balboa Island, in Newport Beach, where legend says that frozen chocolate bananas were first sold. The chocolate bananas and another local favorite, the Balboa Bar (ice cream on a stick, covered in toppings), are always popular with kids and adults.

Then head over to Crystal Cove, a 3,000-acre state park, where the real gem in the area is the Crystal Cove Historic District, a stretch of beach that manages to look almost exactly the same as it did a century ago. Forty-six cottages dot the beach, all built between 1920 and 1950, with many originally built as movie sets. Thanks to the Crystal Cove Alliance, thirteen cottages are now available as highly coveted retro-cool hotel rentals.