Fenders and food headline a stop in Fullerton
Fullerton is best known for two things: its railway heritage and Leo Fender, a Fullerton radio repairman who, in 1954, developed the Stratocaster, the most influential electric guitar in the world. Surprisingly, the Orange County town's rock 'n' roll roots and railway heritage can be explored just steps away from each other. The restored Santa Fe Depot (120 E. Santa Fe Ave.), with its '30s-era Spanish colonial architecture, is right across from the site of Fender's first factory, now a public parking garage decorated with murals of musical legends like Buddy Holly, Jimi Hendrix, and Bob Dylan.
The Fullerton Museum Center (closed Mon; $4, $3 students and seniors ages 62 and over, $1 ages 6–12; 301 N. Pomona Ave.; www.ci.fullerton.ca.us/museum or 714/738-6545) marks the Stratocaster's 50th anniversary with an exhibition on Orange County's rock 'n' roll history, on display from December 18 through May 22. Rare photos and artifacts, like Fender's first electric guitar, are on display. You can see more Fender landmarks, including where his original radio shop was located, by taking a Fullerton Heritage walking tour (by appointment; $5 per family; 714/740-3051). The tour will also take you to the old Pacific Electric Depot, a mission revival building that now houses Spadra Ristorante ($$; 136 E. Commonwealth Ave.; 714/447-0775), where you can admire photos of the old Red Line trolley cars over a breakfast (weekends only) of eggs Florentine.
Amble up North Harbor Boulevard and you'll find a plethora of sidewalk cafes, upscale restaurants, and mom-and-pop shops. Di Amoré (200 N. Harbor Blvd.; 714/526-2512) carries one-of-a-kind jewelry and ceramic artwork from local artists. The British Grocer (305 N. Harbor; 714/738-0229), in the historic Villa del Sol building, is an Anglophile's dream. British-made Christmas crackers, puddings, and cakes are available this month, along with treacle and bangers. In the same complex, Café Hidalgo ($$; 714/447-3202) is a good place for tapas and pitchers of sangria, and at the Brownstone Café ($$; 714/526-9123), you can enjoy a salad or sandwich in the shaded courtyard.
Then it's back to the train station, where the whistle of a distant Amtrak train sounds almost like the first notes of "Foxy Lady."
Fullerton is in Orange County, about 3 miles north of Anaheim. For information contact the Fullerton Chamber of Commerce (www.fullerton.org or 714/871-3100).