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Lakers legend Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gigi, who died in a helicopter crash in January 2020, are memorialized with a basketball court and a butterfly sculpture in Pearson Park in Anaheim. Courtesy photo
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Celebrating Orange County, past and present

Say Anaheim and your first thought no doubt is Disneyland, but author and travel writer Melanie Walsh says that there’s a whole lot more to this Orange County city of 344,000.

“I’m a big Disney fan myself, but Disneyland is not the only thing Anaheim has to offer,” said the mother of four and author of 100 Things to Do in Anaheim Before You Die.”  “The rest of the city is magical, too.”

Learn about Anaheim’s history at the Woelke-Stoffel House, a two-story Queen Ann-style home built in 1896 and on the National Register of Historic Places. Owned by the City of Anaheim, it is part of Founders’ Park, a collection of historic buildings that doubles as a museum. Courtesy photo

A fourth-generation Anaheim resident who lives in a 100-year-old home within walking distance to Pearson Park, Walsh says, “I’ve always been connected to the history of the city.” She began blogging about it when her children numbered two, and we “(took) a chance on destinations that we wouldn’t have gone to otherwise.”

It wasn’t until after the birth of her fourth child that Walsh began writing this book, but “it wouldn’t be much of a stretch to say that I’ve been researching my entire life.”

Among Walsh’s favorite Anaheim haunts are:

Anaheim Packing House – A former Sunkist orange-processing plant has taken on new life as a hip, multilevel food hall with eclectic offerings (i.e. chicken tikka poutine or cheeseburger egg rolls), dozens of craft breweries, merchants and artisans. “If you’re a foodie, it’s must.”

Pearson Park — Just two miles north of Disneyland, the park features a picturesque duck pond, extensive succulent garden, sports fields, and an amphitheater. A recent addition: Kobe Bryant Memorial Dream Court basketball court and stunning butterfly sculpture commemorating Bryant and daughter Gigi, who died in a helicopter crash in January 2020.

In her book, left, fourth-generation Anaheim resident Melanie Walsh goes beyond Disneyland and Knott’s Berry Farm and provides readers with a comprehensive look at the best the city has to offer. Right, author and historian Chris Epting documents long-gone Orange County treasures in his book, a detailed narration with copious prints and photos. Courtesy photos

While Walsh writes about today’s Orange County, Chris Epting writes about The OC of yesteryear.

The veteran journalist, travel writer, biographer and historian was inspired to write Lost Landmarks of Orange Countyby a “deep-seated belief that Orange County’s historical and cultural contributions are often overlooked or undervalued. (I wanted) to uncover and celebrate the stories of the places that have played pivotal roles in shaping the region’s history and identity.”

Epting’s text and copious historic photos and illustrations do that and more. He gives readers a surprise at every turn of the page. Who knew that Buena Park once had an alligator-and-snake show, Santa Ana a legal drag strip and Santiago Canyon a working coal mine?

Epting’s three years of research to create this 300-page, hardcover collection of stories included documenting tales from people who had personal connections to these lost landmarks, and whose accounts “provided a rich tapestry of insights and perspectives that brought depth and authenticity to the narrative.”

Epting relocated to Huntington Beach in 1999 to work for a Newport advertising agency, “and it didn’t take long for me to develop a deep appreciation for the region’s rich history and cultural heritage,” he says. “I become keenly aware of the disappearing landmarks that had once played pivotal roles in shaping Orange County’s identity.”

Epting’s book also includes updates on some of the lost landmarks, like the many neon motel signs that illuminated the county’s roads between the 1920s and 1960s. Visitors can see them at the Museum of Neon Art in Glendale.

The Newport Harbor Buffalo Ranch, located in what is now Irvine, was a 115-acre enterprise operated by Gene Clark, grandson of Native American chief Geronimo. The herd began in 1955 with 72 buffalo (bison), and Native American families performed tribal dances for visitors. The Buffalo Ranch Café served buffalo burgers and steak. Rising land costs closed the attraction in 1960. Today, Bison Road connects Jamboree Road and MacArthur Boulevard. Courtesy photo

And while Disneyland (opened July 1955 and now Disneyland Resort) is still going strong, many attractions have long since disappeared. Epting details the whys of extinction for 26 attractions, including Country Bear Jamboree (1972-2001); Flying Saucers (1961-1966); House of the Future (1957-1967); Mike Fink Keel Boats (1955-1997); and Rocket to the Moon/Mission to Mars (1955-1992).

My once-Disneyland-fave: Adventure Thru Inner Space, which took riders through the Mighty Microscope to “explore the inner workings of the human body.”

On Epting’s list is the “beloved” La Palma Chicken Pie Shop in Anaheim, which closed in 2016 after the owner’s death. It had been open since 1955, and the shop’s neon sign also resides in the Museum of Neon Art.

By writing “Lost Landmarks,” Epting hopes that he “provides a valuable resource for both longtime residents and newcomers, because understanding the history and heritage of a place is essential for all individuals, regardless of their origins, because it enriches our connection to the community and fosters a deeper sense of belonging.”

For more discussion and photos, visit

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