24 hours in Orange County–oogling Googie style
If it looks like it’s out of The Jetsons, it’s probably a Googie. We’re talking flying saucer-shaped buildings like the Anaheim Convention Center, glass walls, up-swept roofs and erector set A-frames. Starbursts, atomic symbols and larger-than-life cutout signs are the cornerstone to Googie design.
Mild weather, car culture and the space race merged to create the kitschy look for Southern California. Also known as “the coffee shop aesthetic,” “Populuxe” and “space age,” Googie thrived during the fifties and sixties using iconic elements to catch the eye of motorists whizzing by. Know the “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas” sign? Then you know Googie design. This design aesthetic is prevalent all over the United States but it was born in Los Angeles in 1949. John Lautner designed Googie’s Coffee Shop and, thus, named the new style. Though many Googie buildings were demolished in the ’80s, ironically because they were considered tacky, Orange County has some of the best Googie designs still in existence today.
Discovering Googie design is done best the way you’re supposed to see it–by car.
If you’ve got some extra cash lying around, have a classic caddy hand delivered to your hotel or waiting curbside at John Wayne Airport. Convertible, of course.
Beverly Hills Rent-A-Car
Pacific Christian College’s soaring, origami rooftops, giant windows and flagcrete (layered rock) walls are quintessentially Googie. This will be your guide to discovering Googie pieces on this trip. You can obtain a visitor’s parking permit at the security office.
Pacific Christian College (Hope University)
2500 Nutwood Ave., Fullerton, CA
You might catch the Googie guru, Jane Newell, if you pop into the Anaheim Heritage Center. It’s stocked with photos of now gone Googie buildings, signs and artifacts. The Muzeo is great for exhibits or to spend a moment of contemplation in the walking mandala fountain.
Anaheim Heritage Center
Disney Resort Reading Room at the Muzeo
241 S. Anaheim Blvd.
The Moonscape at Brookhurst Park is a well-kept secret. The space themed playground has cement walkways and craters simulating alien landscapes and the moon’s surface. The park also has a killer skate/bike park and tons of picnic tables.
The Moonscape at Brookhurst Park
2271 W. Crescent Ave.
The Anaheim Professional Building is a medical office building with a cheese grater facade, floor-to-ceiling windows and fifties’ mosaic tile. Make sure to go inside for the full effect.
Anaheim Professional Building
1120 W. La Palma Ave.
Wanna cruise “main” street? A drive down La Palma to Crescent then Lincoln is peppered with Googie motels, liquor stores and shops. It almost feels like you’ve gone back to the past.
The Beach-Lin Car Wash looks like a giant erector set. Have your Caddy lovingly hand washed and waxed.
Beach-Lin Hand Car Wash
126 S. Beach Blvd.
La Palma Chicken Pie Shop is in a decrepit strip mall but worth the stop. Roosters adorn every surface and wall. The diner probably has never been remodeled since it opened. You wouldn’t want it any other way. I highly recommend the Chicken Pot Pie dinner. I got the small version–it came with a pot pie, mashed potatoes, gravy, a fresh bun, soup or salad and a dessert. For $5. Seriously. And it was tasty.
La Palma Chicken Pie Shop
928 N. Euclid Avenue
Time stands (almost) still at this 24-hour bowling alley. Hopping with bowling leagues, kids and date nights, LinBrook also houses an old school diner with orange vinyl booths, the Kopa club with karaoke and a rainbow of swirly marbled bowling bowls.
201 S. Brookhurst Avenue
A drive through Brookhurst and Ball at twilight is great for glimpses of Googie styled neon signs before you pop onto Katella.
You’ll find a smattering of Googie motels as you approach Disneyland. They’ve all been remodeled but you can see some of the design fighting to stay visible.
Finish your Googie tour with the Convention Center’s arena. Its flying saucer shape and blue glowing lights makes it feel ready for take off.
Anaheim Convention Center Arena
800 W. Katella Avenue
Finally,the Sheraton Park Hotel is the prefect denouement. It’s clearly Googie inspired with its sloping roof and full glass walls. Disneyland and Downtown Disney are walking distance away.
Sheraton Park Hotel at the Anaheim Resort
1855 South Harbor Boulevard
- Sound like a local: When referring to highways, call them “freeways,” and always precede the freeway number with “the.”
- Drive with ease: If there’s more than one in a car or you’re driving a hybrid, use the carpool lane. You can merge from freeway-to-freeway without getting out of the carpool lane.
- Ski or surf? Do both in one day. It’s only two hours from the beach to the mountain. Just make sure to hit the beach at dawn or sunset for optimal surf.
- Fly into John Wayne Airport (SNA). It’s as cool and casual as an airport can be with valet parking, virtually non-existent security lines and cops on wheelies. PS-locals call it “John Wayne.”
- Space Age Googie
- Googie Tours: preservationist John English’s guided, themed tours of Googie architecture in Southern California. 213-980-3480
- Googie: Fifties Coffeeshop Architecture by Alan Hess