They say looking to the past can sometimes provide insight into the future. Whether you believe that or not, there is something satisfying about seeking out history and learning new things. There’s a reason filling in our family trees has become a favorite hobby for so many. It’s where we discover who we are and where we came from, which in turn affects how we perceive ourselves. The same holds true with historic places in Orange County. You never know when you’ll stumble across a piece of history that forever changed your ancestors’ paths and possibly resulted in a ripple effect that changed your life as well.

The Balboa Pavilion

The Balboa Pavilion is a popular place for history lovers, and it’s also on both the California’s Historic Landmark Register and the National Register of Historic Places. It was built in 1905 for the sole use of bankers and investors who needed an impressive place to take people when they were trying to sell land along the beaches. It is still in use today, but if the walls could talk, you can bet they’d have a few tales to tell.

The George Key Ranch Historical Park

The George Key Ranch Historical Park was built in 1898. While not yet reopened after being damaged by the 2014 earthquake, this space encompasses more than 2 acres where many collections are displayed. A few of those collections include hand tools, farm equipment, and other gardening accessories. It’s also on the National Register of Historic Landmarks andmaintained immaculately.

Mission San Juan Capistrano

Completed in late 1776, Mission San Juan Capistrano is the seventh of the California mission chains. It’s settled on 10 acres of land and offers visitors a lovely courtyard and gardens while also offering several interpretive exhibits, all Spanish and all referred to as “prehistory eras.” The only church left standing that Father Serra said mass in is open for visitors to explore the mission walls and the stones that are its hallmark site of interest.

The Historic Yorba Cemetery

No trip to the past is complete without a visit to a cemetery. The Historic Yorba Cemetery fits the bill nicely. Located in George Key Ranch Historical Park, this 13-acre cemetery offers tours the first Saturday of the month. One of the oldest cemeteries in Orange County, this land is the permanent resting place of many, including Bernardo Yorba and decedents of first families of the 1800s. It’s currently maintained by Orange County Parks. Life stories often end on a headstone with the highlights of the deceased, and perhaps it includes one’s role in this life: father, son, husband, veteran – some of the headstones can be quite humbling, and it can be surprising how some life stories need no further space than what a headstone offers.

The Old Orange County Courthouse

The Old Orange County Courthouse is preparing to reopen after upgrades and maintenance was conducted in recent months. With its Italian design elements and Spanish influences, this beautiful structure’s exterior prepares you for the beauty found in the long hallways, the details in the staircases andthe dark, inky black gloss paint serves as framing for the building’s interior. Like other historical sites, The Old Orange County Courthouse is on the National Register of Historic Landmarks.

These are just a few of the many historical sites in Orange County. When you’re ready to take a trip to the past, consider these sites. Be sure to check the hours as some of these sites are open on certain days or during certain times.